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Newmont’s Musselwhite Mine has huge potential!

Oct 28, 2020


Musselwhite Mine General Manager, Don Burke
Interview with: Musselwhite Mine General Manager, Don Burke

It has been a challenging year and a half for Newmont’s Musselwhite Mine, located nearly 500km north of Thunder Bay. On March 29th of 2019, the company’s conveyor system caught fire, grinding production to a complete standstill. Then, to protect local First Nations communities from COVID-19, the mine was placed on care and maintenance on March 22, 2020 less than 1 year after the fire rendered its underground conveyor system inoperable. “All of the ore travels to surface via the conveyor system where it gets stockpiled for the mill. On March 29th, in between shifts, the conveyor caught fire due to a failure of an underside roller on the conveyor and when the belt stopped rolling in between shifts, the belt caught fire,” explains Musselwhite General Manager, Don Burke in an interview with Mining Life.
“Luckily no one was underground so there were no injuries, but approximately 3km of conveyor was burnt and our drifts were damaged as well,” he added. Utilizing the newest technology, the new conveyor system will have industry leading safety and fire controls.During the production shutdown and COVID-19 care and maintenance period, the company kept everyone employed.
“I’m pretty happy to say that during the fire in 2019 we kept 100% of our employees all the way through that, so I’m pretty proud of the fact that we managed to find work, valuable work for everybody all the way up to present.”  
“We started to rebuild the mine, even with COVID we will have the conveyor completed by the end of 2020” said Burke.
Burke has been with the company for 24 years, 19 in Red Lake and the rest in Timmins. He started with Musselwhite in January 2019. March 29, 2019 is when the big conveyor fire happened. “Since establishing the secondary egress a couple of months after the fire, we’ve been in limited production mode until we get the conveyor back up and running.
At that time, our conveyor was our secondary egress out of the mine and in Ontario you can’t operate without a secondary egress so we had to put a plan together to focus on three key areas: flood control (because electric systems were damaged); restore power back into the mine; and re-establish our secondary egress,” said Burke. “We were also completing a material handling winze system underground which is now scheduled to come online at the exact same time as the new conveyor, so come December 2020, we’ll be 100% operational with the new COVID reality,” said Burke.
Burke says during the fire, Newmont kept everybody on site for development and stoping.
“The crews underground did a fantastic job of doing all the rehab remediating that area, and at the same time, we have the project group coming up.
”Then in March of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the company temporarily suspended operations given concerns from their First Nations partners that the mine could be a conduit for the virus.
“We had many conversations with our First Nations partners and we made a joint decision to  put the mine on care and maintenance’ Employees were sent home and the company paid 100% of wages from March all the way through August and September when the mine came out of care and maintenance. As of now, the mine is right back at 100% complement of employees. (560 employees plus 120 contractors). All of this was happening at the same time Musselwhite had a new parent company. 
In April 2019, Newmont acquired Goldcorp including the Musselwhite mine.  “I have to say hats off to Newmont for recognizing the potential of the mine - a lot of companies would have said we’re done – that was a huge investment to put back into the mine.”
“Musselwhite has an extremely bright future ahead of us. We are mining two zones and within the next couple of years we are working toward establishing two entirely new zones and working on a third to fill the mill.”
Over the next 3-5 years Musselwhite could dramatically increase production. The exploration budget is around $11 million. “There are really good exploration results every day and we will be adding new ore  in the future.
There is a huge amount of optimism for Musselwhite especially considering the fantastic workforce, great exploration results, strength of our partnerships with First Nations and the resource we have.”
Newmont introduced its community support fund in the early stages of COVID to sustain communities near its mine sites.
Musselwhite Mine was able to direct some of those funds to the First Nation communities of North Caribou Lake, Cat Lake, Wunnumin Lake, Kingfisher Lake and Mishkeegogamang as well as the communities of Pickle Lake and Thunder Bay, where most of Musselwhite employees come from.
At the time of this writing, the company had contributed close to $460,000 to various communities and stakeholders.  
Musselwhite has a formal agreement with First Nation communities and councils in the vicinity of the mine: North Caribou Lake First Nation, Cat Lake First Nation, Kingfisher Lake First Nation, Wunnumin Lake First Nation, Shibogama First Nations Council and Windigo First Nations Council.
In addition to revenue sharing, the agreement includes targets for employment, training and business development opportunities.
Musselwhite has an additional cooperation agreement with Mishkeegogamang First Nation.

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