TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – Forest fires near Goldcorp's Musselwhite mine in north-west Ontario could result in a one- to two- week production halt for the mine, but it is still too early to say for certain, a company spokesperson said on Friday.
Goldcorp evacuated more than 300 people from the site overnight and on Friday morning, leaving a skeleton crew of 48, including the mine general manager.
The fire is advancing from the north, heading south-west, with prevailing winds towards the mine site. It was 30 km from the site on Thursday evening, and had since moved closer, Goldcorp VP of investor relations Jeff Wilhoit said on Friday.
“It should be a pretty vigorous burning day today, it's hot and dry and the winds remain on the same tack, putting the fire on a direct advance towards the mine site,” he said in an interview.
Goldcorp has forecast production this year of 265 000 oz from Musselwhite, an underground mine that operates as a fly-in/fly-out operation.
“Nothing that we are seeing at this point would cause me to move away from that forecast,” Wilhoit said.
Musselwhite is located on the southern shores of lake Opapimiskan, and reports from the site are that smoke from the fire is now visible across the lake.
The only power at the operation is being provided by an on-site generator, after a section of the transmission line supplying electricity to the mine was damaged by a fire.
Authorities have indicated it could take roughly a week to restore the power supply, although the situation is complicated by the fact that fires are still burning in the area, Wilhoit said.
“And the second issue will be remobilising 330 odd people to resume work.
“We're hopeful that we are looking at a one to two week disruption at this point, but we don't know enough.”
Once the fire has passed through and power is restored, it should be a “relatively quick” process to resume production, he said.
“We don't anticipate significant damage to the surface infrastructure, given that we have access to lots of pumps being a mine site, and lots of ability to deliver water. So we can create buffer zones for essential infrastructure.”
Firefighting crews, which spent the night at the mine camp and are basing their operations from the site, were scheduled to conduct an aerial ignition today, to produce a controlled burn ahead of the fire's path.
“That will protect the mine site, at least from the east,” Wilhoit said.
Fire marshals and crews would also be arriving at the mine with crews from British Columbia to start setting up fire protection for the site, he said.
Goldcorp, Canada's second-biggest gold producer and number-two in the world by market value, has mines in Canada, Argentina, the US, Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala.
Group production is forecast at between 2.65-million and 2.75-million ounces of gold in 2011.
Goldcorp shares were down 0.68% on Friday afternoon, at C$51.40 apiece by 14:24 in Toronto.