Two employees discussing efficiency of equipment at GoldCorp

Energy conservation a growing part of Goldcorp’s winning corporate culture

Organizations that subscribe to responsible business practices not only contribute to the economic well-being of the communities where they operate, they also strive to minimize their environmental footprint – a dual aspiration reflected in Goldcorp’s vision: “Together, creating sustainable value.”

Over the last four years, the gold producer’s energy and environmental performance received a substantial boost from a partnership with the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), the organization that manages Ontario’s power system. Elissa Williamson, a full-time energy management coordinator who joined Goldcorp’s Red Lake Gold Mine as part of IESO’s Save on Energy program explains, “Energy and the environment go hand-in-hand, and our goal is to build a strong energy conservation culture within the organization and reduce our energy cost.”

One of the world’s most prolific gold-bearing regions, Red Lake, Ontario, has a long history of mining and Goldcorp started its local operation by restructuring existing mines. Through its long-standing presence in the Red Lake community, the company has built strong connections with First Nations and other partners to identify key priorities, one of which is environmental sustainability.

In 2014, a performance review undertaken by the Red Lake Gold Mine’s Operational Excellence department, led by Trevor Krawchyk and Kent Cook, emphasized the goals of optimizing operating efficiencies and reducing costs, says Williamson. “At the time, energy was one of the highest operating costs, and improving energy performance was recognized as a significant opportunity.”

IESO marketing advisor Derek Roldan says, “From a business perspective, there are many reasons to pursue energy upgrades, including lowering energy costs and improving environmental performance. We also often see a range of unexpected benefits, such as higher efficiency and productivity, and a more conducive and safer work environment.”

To achieve measurable results, however, companies must commit to undertaking directed and sustained efforts, notes Roldan. IESO has created a range of programs and resources designed to help businesses of all sizes improve their energy performance.

Instilling energy awareness into company culture

To help infuse a spirit of energy conservation into its corporate culture, Goldcorp drew on its expertise in integrating safety protocols, says Williamson. “We’ve been extremely focused on creating a good safety culture for a number of years, and today, you'll never hear anybody talk about production without saying ‘safe production.’” 

“This experience of building  a culture of safety into the business can serve as a model for fostering an energy conservation culture,” she says. “Whether it's about safety or energy, you need a certain level of engagement throughout the company.”

For Goldcorp, part of the process is making energy efficiency a consideration in the purchase of new equipment, according to Williamson. “We are getting more technologically advanced, which has a positive impact on energy consumption,” she says. “But we are also asking people to keep energy in mind when they do their day-to-day tasks. When we conserve energy wherever we can, it all adds up.” 

Cultural change doesn’t happen overnight. “There has to be repetition and the issue has to always be top of mind for everyone,” says Williamson. “While this can be a long process, we’ve already made great strides. Employees are conscious of the energy consumption at their workplaces and engaged in energy conservation initiatives that take place throughout the site.”

Buy-in at every level

Today, energy savings at Goldcorp come from a range of measures, for example, effectively managing peak demand; the use of LEDs and solar lighting; underground ventilation optimization and compressed air leak management, says Williamson, who credits staff for the improvements.  

“Our success is the result of our employees getting engaged,” she explains. “The energy manager sets conservation targets, tracks the progress and writes reports and energy incentive applications. An energy manager proposes, initiates and supports various projects but everything else is done by employees.”

For example, “electrical planners are leading lighting upgrades, ventilation engineers are upgrading fans and ventilation systems, and maintenance crews are working on compressed air efficiency projects,” says Williamson. “Everyone is supporting our energy conservation culture.” 

“Our site and corporate leadership teams are very supportive of energy management,” she adds. “When you have buy-in at every level, it’s easy to be successful. We have close to 1,000 employees and contractors, and if everyone is doing something – even if it’s small – just imagine the impact.” 

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The power of collective efforts

Williamson learned about the results one person can drive when she received a note about a mechanic who had launched “his own personal war on compressed air leaks," she says. “I ran the numbers and saw that we realized about $115,000 of annualized savings from this one employee [initiative] alone.”

Other measures for achieving substantial energy savings include the optimization of energy-intensive underground ventilation. “We have over 525 fans underground that are moving air and clearing blasts,” says Williamson. “When people working underground shut off the fans as they leave, that has a huge impact. When you shut off one small 50-horse-power fan between shifts, that can save $25,000 a year alone.”

Creating awareness of costs associated with energy consumption can inspire energy-saving habits, she believes. In these efforts among others, Williamson is supported by an energy management committee that consists of 23 people from different areas of the site." 

Satisfaction and sustainable results 

Williamson says the enthusiasm with which the program has been embraced came as a welcome surprise. “I talk to many employees from different areas of the site and they have been eager to share their knowledge and ideas on how to reduce energy costs and ultimately become more sustainable. 

“When people see that you are listening and trying to incorporate their ideas, it means a lot to them,” she says. “It gives them satisfaction to know they’re not only doing their job, but they’re also improving the way we do business.”

While behavioural change can be difficult to measure, Williamson has been able to see the impact at the end of the year in a reduced energy bill and lower energy demand. Since hiring a dedicated energy manager in 2014, Goldcorp’s Red Lake Gold Mines facility has seen energy savings in the range of tens of millions of dollars.

Roldan believes the outcomes speak for themselves, and Williamson earned the prize for Industrial Accelerator Program-CIPEC Energy Manager Leadership Award, the first-ever joint award given by the IESO and Natural Resources Canada. 

“Such examples can inspire further efforts within the company,” he says. “They can also motivate other businesses to make energy management a priority.”