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Technology, alternate energy sources part of mining company's net-zero plan

Kirkland Lake Gold is aiming to balance its emissions by 2050 or sooner
2021-11-12 Tony Makuch MH
Kirkland Lake Gold's Tony Makuch at the Timmins Chamber's State of Mining event at the Dante Club.

With a goal of having a net-zero carbon footprint by 2050, Kirkland Lake Gold is actively looking at alternative sources of energy and taking advantage of technology, says president and CEO Tony Makuch.

This week, Makuch talked at the Timmins Chamber's State of Mining lunch, which was held in person for the first time since before the pandemic began.

In the region, Kirkland Lake Gold operates Detour Lake Mine near Cochrane and Macassa in Kirkland Lake.

In September, the company entered a merger agreement with Agnico Eagle. This week, Institutional Shareholder Services recommended that Kirkland Lake Gold shareholders vote for the merger of equals. The combined company would operate under the name Agnico Eagle Mines Limited.

Agnico Eagle has three mines in northwestern Quebec — Canadian Malartic and Goldex near Val-d'Or and the LaRonde Complex — as well as operations in Finland and Mexico.

“Kirkland Lake Gold right now, we came from a junior gold company in 2016 to an industry-leading senior gold producer — lowest cost, profitable gold producer, no debt, a very strong balance sheet and a strong track record of both responsible mining, whether it’s how we treat people, the environment and our communities," said Makuch.

With the merger, he said they'd be the third-largest gold company in the world behind Barrick Gold.

For the region, a big part of the merger for Makuch is consolidating northeastern Ontario and northwestern Quebec.

"The company produces 3.4 million ounces a year of which 1.7 million, or half of that, will come from in the Abitibi from a combination of the Detour Lake mine and Macassa mine in Kirkland Lake,” he said.

Makuch also sees a lot of potential for exploration and discovery. If a new production operation is built in Kirkland Lake, he said it could mean 500 to 750 new jobs in the next few years.

Work is also being done to be more environmentally friendly. 

Kirkland Lake Gold, said Makuch, has a commitment to have a net-zero carbon footprint by 2050 or sooner. 

"Our commitment to be there is not based on us mining out our ore bodies, we are still going to be exploring aggressively and look to extend these mines beyond that. Our goal is to look at alternative sources of energy that we have at our sites and we’re looking at a lot of different options. One is electrification, more electrification, but we’re also looking at investing in innovation and digitization,” he said.

At Detour, he said the biggest impact is diesel trucks.

Over the next 12 months, Makuch said the company is planning to do trials. One example he gave is seeing if they can reduce some diesel requirements for trucks by electrification and building a trolley line.

“It will be a small trial, but doing that could lead into a bigger picture where we can look at alternative sources of energy for Detour over the next five to 10 years,” he said.

Upgrading technology is also part of the plan. 

Through a partnership with Rogers Communication, Makuch said a private area network is being built at Detour. They are also working to extend the public cell network from Detour to Cochrane.

“And that gives us the ability to take advantage of technology, combine that with alternative fuel so it should be more efficient in terms what we can do in and in terms of more responsibly producing gold,” he said.