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CANADIAN MINING PERSPECTIVES: Con mine to provide geothermal heating in Yellowknife

Here is an idea whose time has come: capture the energy contained in the water of a flooded underground mine to hea...



Here is an idea whose time has come: capture the energy contained in the water of a flooded underground mine to heat a city in one of the world’s coldest climates. It is cheap, clean, sustainable and going to be a boon to Yellowknife, N.W.T. There is a feasibility study underway now with the goal of doing just that.

For decades the Con gold mine was the foundation on which Yellowknife was built. Now reserves are depleted and owner NEWMONT MINING is decommissioning the site. Part of the process involves allowing the underground workings to fill with water that is naturally warmed by the high rock temperatures in the deeper parts of the mine. Air temperature in the mine during its operation was measured at 34C. It is anticipated the same temperature can be expect in the water at the same level when flooded. The feasibility study will analysis temperature issues.

Clean? Yes, because geothermal energy systems produce zero greenhouse gas emissions. Heating requirements in Yellowknife are now met by burning oil and gasoline; the town has no access to natural gas.

Sustainable? Of course. Rock temperatures are naturally elevated the deeper into the earth one digs, and the Con mine is 2,500 metres deep. Geothermal energy from the notorious Springhill coal mine in Nova Scotia has been used to heat an industrial park for 10 years.

A team, led by SAIC CANADA of Ottawa has been assembled to conduct the feasibility study, and if their work leads to a positive conclusion, a very sensible solution to northern energy costs is around the corner. Other members of the team are NEWFIELDS ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT of Vancouver, AD WILLIAMS ENGINEERING of Yellowknife and THERMAL ENERGY SYSTEM SPECIALISTS of Madison, Wisc.

The fact that mining has a part to play in geothermal energy systems should be noted as well.

(Information about geothermal energy around the world is posted at www.CERM3.mining.ubc.ca/geothermal.htm.)


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