The Borden Mine, located near Chapleau, Ontario, is an example of an industry shift toward greener operations. In an increasingly competitive sector facing mounting pressures to embrace sustainable operations, Goldcorp has committed to eliminate diesel fuel, powering all of its Borden underground mining vehicles using electric power.

“This is a fundamental shift in the way we operate, and will provide a better, safer work environment for our employees, and reduce our energy use,” says Brent Bergeron, Goldcorp’s Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Sustainability. “This initiative is the first of its kind in Canada, one of the first worldwide, and there’s significant interest from other mining companies in what we are doing.”

Goldcorp’s leading work in the use of clean technology will have an incredibly positive impact not only on the health and safety performance of the mine but also on its environmental footprint. The electrification of underground mine equipment is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at their Borden site by 50 percent. Maintenance and energy costs will also be reduced, as the mine will require just half as much ventilation as a conventional site that uses diesel-powered equipment.

Driving the introduction of new technology

To accomplish this feat, Goldcorp is teaming up with its suppliers to provide battery-powered underground vehicles and equipment for the site, including drills and blasting equipment, electric bolters, personnel carriers, and ultimately 40-ton haul trucks.

“Some of the technology doesn’t currently exist. For example, there are no electric haul trucks of that size on the market, but our suppliers are keen to work with our requirements and are working to accelerate development of this new equipment,” says Bergeron. “We’re excited to introduce leading-edge practices that are environmentally sustainable and will change how mining is done.”

Mining is a capital-intensive business, and so despite the upfront costs of electrifying the Borden site, the benefits to health, safety, and the environment have provided the incentive to move forward with this initiative. For Goldcorp, it’s the right thing to do. Bergeron says that as this new technology becomes available and is put in use, Goldcorp will see how additional battery-powered machinery can be integrated into its other existing sites.

More efficient operations and a greener environment

Mines are large consumers of energy, with as much as 15 percent of site operating costs coming from power consumption. Thus, Goldcorp is continually looking to see how it can be more efficient with its energy use, rather than simply looking to expand power supply. By moving away from using diesel at the Borden mine and by achieving other reductions associated with the use of clean technologies, Goldcorp can reduce carbon emissions by more than 7,500 tons, eliminate the use of three million litres of diesel fuel and one million litres of propane, and save 35,000 megawatt hours of electricity every year. This is good for the bottom line and for the environment.

“It’s important for us to be industry leaders in clean technologies, health and safety, and we’re partnering with suppliers and government to achieve this,” says Bergeron. “Using the latest technologies will also increase the overall acceptability of our projects with governments and the communities where we operate.”

The first battery-powered piece of equipment will go into operation at Borden in the latter half of this year, during the advanced exploration phase of the project. This is the mine of the future, and it’s being developed right here in Canada.