The process to operate an open pit mine
adjacent to Timmins' downtown core has been a long and difficult one.
Goldcorp's Hollinger project involves a
250-acre fenced property housing the former Hollinger Mine, which was
shuttered in the late 1960s. It is expected to begin operations this
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 company received city council's
unanimous approval late last fall, along with the support of the
Hollinger Project Community Advisory Committee (HPCAC).
“We can't kid ourselves, any project
like this is hard,” said Marc Lauzier, Porcupine Gold Mines general
manager. “The public process was a difficult one, and we learned a
lot throughout that process.”
For the past five years, Goldcorp has
been advising the community of its plans for the Hollinger Project
through open houses and other activities. A community liaison
co-ordinator was hired to deal with feedback, and a Hollinger
Information Centre was opened. The co-ordinator and office will
remain for the duration of the eight-year project.
“The biggest challenge for us – and
I have lived this in other communities – is that you call public
meetings and a few people show up. It’s hard to get good honest
feedback up front because people are busy,” he said. “When you
get close to the mining activity, things heat up and people care and
show up. The feedback you get in the last three weeks is the feedback
you probably wanted three years ago.”
Timmins also has an acceptance of
mining in the community, which makes it a good place to do it, but
which also makes it more difficult to get constructive feedback at
Feedback has been given by the advisory
committee, which is headed by Rick Dubeau of Schumacher.
“I got involved in the committee
because all kinds of rumours were going around, including that
Schumacher was going to be a big hole. I want to protect my quality
of life here,” he said.
The group supported the open pit
project and it didn’t want to stop the company from moving ahead on
it. But, there are some lingering concerns and questions the members
feel still need to be addressed.
One of them is that not all the best
practices from similar projects close to residential areas are being
utilized by Goldcorp.
Dubeau said in Malartic, Que., where
Osisko Mining Corp. is operating an open pit gold project, the
company moved or bought all homes from within 300 metres of the pit.
Rubber tracks were installed on the heavy equipment to minimize noise
and drills were converted from pulsating to rotary.
“We feel that some of these practices
should be instituted,” he said. “Some homes will only be 150
metres from the pit.”
The 150-metre setback was approved by
city council in a bylaw allowing a mine to reactivate an historical
site as long as certain conditions were met.
“The ministry (of the environment)
guidelines say a mine should not be within 300 metres of any
residential or business areas,” Dubeau said.
Goldcorp said the Hollinger Project is
often compared to Osisko’s pit in Malartic, but the mine manager
said it is unfair.
“Osisko’s is a larger scale pit
than ours and much more profitable since they are taking big
deposits. Our pit isn’t being mined in the most productive manner,
but in a way that mitigates risks to the community. Because of that,
we are slowing down the mining rates and are drilling smaller holes
and doing smaller blasts. Our primary goal is to reclaim the land,”
Instrumentation for noise and vibration
have been installed and the results will be available publicly on a
“If there is a warning or an
exceedance that is triggered, it alerts our staff and they can
actually go and listen to the clip and determine what the noise was,
and if necessary, begin an investigation,” said Paul Miller,
operations superintendent at Goldcorp.
Blast warning signs have been erected
in some areas that will inform the public of when to expect them.
“There are two prescribed blasts a
day, which may not happen. It’s the only time we can blast and they
will occur during the day shift. We can’t just blast at will,” he
A voluntary pre-blast inspection was
done on homes, businesses and city infrastructure located 300 metres
from the pit. In the event damage is claimed from the operations, a
third-party engineer will determine the cause. If it is from the
company’s activities, it will compensate for the damage or do
A berm will be constructed around the
perimeter of the property, and two haul roads have been built to
truck the ore to the South Porcupine mill. It will employee a total
of 180 people.
The final plans for what will remain
for public use from the open pit project have not been finalized.
There will be a lake that will take
several years after the operations to fill up.
“There are a lot of open holes and
glory holes now. We will try to reclaim as much as we can since it
has to be safe for our employees and the public. We will return
whatever we can for public use afterwards but there will be much more
land than there is now,” Lauzier said.