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Company floats hot idea to city (3/02)

By Ian Ross Officials at Kinross Gold Corp.

By Ian Ross

Officials at Kinross Gold Corp. believe the City of Timmins is sitting on a gigantic heat source, and are floating the idea of converting two of its abandoned water-filled mines near the downtown core into one huge heating convection system.

As part of its rehabilitation plans for the legendary McIntyre and Hollinger mines, the mining company is seeking funding to put together a conceptual proposal to consider piping heat to different public properties around Timmins.

Groundwater levels at the two sites were nearly reaching the surface and Kinross workers plumbing the depths of the main shafts noticed the water being pumped out was unusually warmer than expected, typically in the 13 degrees C range.

Rod Cooper, Kinross' technical services manager at the Hoyle Mine, overseeing the Timmins Geothermal Energy project, has no estimate of how much water the mines hold. Nor does he know the economic value of such a project, or the specifics of who would run the operation once the properties revert back to the Crown.

But the project is worth further investigation, he says.

With tens of millions of tons of ore having been removed over the years, both mines contain extensive workings going down 6,800 feet below ground at McIntyre, and more than 4,000 feet at Hollinger.

Since Kinross will foot the cleanup bill before the property reverts back to the Crown, why not generate some economic value from it, Cooper says.

"All these old mining properties have ongoing costs...whether it be fence maintenance, security, ongoing monitoring of environmental concerns," says Cooper.

"But if the properties could be returned from liabilities to assets and generate a stream of income that could offset long-term costs, Kinross would not have to invest money into the perpetual care of these properties. They would pay their own way in long-term maintenance costs."

Kinross is one of the city's largest property owners, controlling about 60,000 acres of land.

Cooper discovered a similar proposal in use in Springhill, N.S. where warm water from an abandoned coal mine is being extracted for use in a business development park. The competitive advantage they offer tenants is savings of up to 60 per cent in energy costs, he says.

Together with Carleton University, Kinross conducted a pre-feasibility study last year to determine if there is any potential in pursuing the project.

"The results came back favourable and we discussed it with the City of Timmins energy committee and they're quite enthused about this," Cooper says.

The commercial aspect of the project has yet to be discussed, says Cooper, but with the city's sponsorship, they hope to partner with the Timmins District Hospital to complete a more detailed feasibility study outlining what economic benefits can be obtained for some of the public buildings operating near the mine sites.

"What all the parties around the table would like to verify is the pool of value to be shared. Once we've demonstrated that, we would have to decide the commercial terms to work around."

They hope to have a document of their findings finished by the end of February in preparation for a funding application to cover the $200,000-cost of a feasibility study.