While it has plenty of experience developing and operating open pits, the Hollinger project will be the first one adjacent to a downtown core.
The 250-acre fenced property houses the former Hollinger Mine which was shuttered in the late 1960s.
Its underground workings have created sinkholes and subsidences in the area and millions of dollars have been spent filling them. Creating an open pit operation will remove the underground hazards and the land will be useable once a closure plan is complete.
“The reason we are mining Hollinger again is for safety concerns which is part of the closure plan. We can do something with the property and return it back to the community to be used,” said mine manager Marc Lauzier.
“We are lucky the price of gold is high and we can pay for those activities through our mining. If you compare us to Osisko (in northwestern Quebec), which is an 11-million ounce (of gold) pit, we are a one-million ounce pit so it's not going to be a big economy of scale.
The main reason we are doing this is because we want to reclaim the property and make it safe for activities.”
Goldcorp currently processes about 11,300 tonnes a day at its mill, with 20 per cent of that coming from underground feeds (900 tonnes from Hoyle Pond and Dome Mine) and the remaining stockpile from open pits. The Hollinger pit will supplement that feed with 900 tonnes per day.
Its current workforce of 700 (plus 400 contractors), will grow to about 800 next year with the additional manpower needed for the new operations.
Work has begun on a haul road which will connect the pit to the Dome Mill. Two crossings – Gold Mine Road and Vipond Road – will consist of large culverts to allow the haul trucks to drive over them and not interfere with local traffic.
Once construction begins on the open pit, expected some time this summer, an environmental control berm will be constructed around the property using rock from the open pit operations.
“We are busy doing our final selection on the surface contractor to start the stripping and building of the berm,” said Paul Miller, surface operations superintendent. “The contractor will remain until the end of the year and then our crews will take over.
We are also just finalizing our dewatering which is happening through the McIntyre (Mine) property.” Once closed, after an expected mine life of about eight years, all affected areas will be revegetated so that new growth will be self-sustaining.
For the past five years, Goldcorp has been advising the community on its plans for the Hollinger project through open houses and other activities.
“We have hired a community liaison co-ordinator to deal with feedback and opened up a Hollinger Information Centre,” said Dominic Rizzuto, manager of human resources and corporate social responsibility.
“We also have a citizens' committee, called the Hollinger Project Community Advisory Committee, to advise us on feedback in regards to our activities and soliciting ideas.”
A website is available that provides the company with instant feedback from the community on anything related to Hollinger.
“Dust, noise and vibration are the three areas we expect the most feedback on from the community,” said Patricia Buttineau, communications co-ordinator.
“The website will generate an instant email and we will be able to deal with the issues in real time rather than having to wait. Overall, the community support has been very positive.”
Lauzier said Goldcorp is doing its best to address the public's concerns and is including their suggestions into policies.
Dust, noise and vibration coming from the mine operations will be monitored and monitoring stations will be placed around the pit.
“We have an agreement with a company that supplies the monitoring equipment,” said Miller. “We will be able to minimize or change activities to reduce those levels based on thresholds we have established. “This will be real-time data and when a level is approached, an automatic alert will go out through a dispatcher or supervisor who will know where it was and then follow up. If it is onsite, and it is dust, we can get the water truck out.
If it is noise, we can relocate the equipment.” Goldcorp will not manage the equipment but it will have access to all the data and a website will also post the levels.
Being close to residential areas and commercial operations requires those working in the pit to be aware of the proximity and how to deal with any concerns.
“We have lots of experience working with old voids and doing it safely,” Miller said. “The change for us is managing it in an area within the city.
It is important to make everyone understand how we are operating so we are doing all we can to minimize the impact.”