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Energy awareness at Taseko Gibraltar Mine starts with burgers

Image of Dave Jaeger, Gibraltar Mine
Dave Jaeger, energy coordinator for Taseko Gibraltar Mine north of Williams Lake, managed to get more than 95% of the mine's 500 employees and 200 contractors to attend an Employee Energy Awareness event. Offering burgers really helped.

With electricity costs of $15 million a year, efficiency needs to be on the menu

There's no one-size-fits-all format for an Employee Energy Awareness event, but food is always a good draw, especially when money for splashy prizes is tight.

That's why Dave Jaeger, energy coordinator for Taseko Gibraltar Mine, decided to make his first event, in July 2012, a barbeque.

"We had a limited budget," says Jaeger, "but we managed to pull it off with a caterer on site and some good giveaways, plus the BC Hydro Outreach Team was there to field questions."

Considering the mine site north of Williams Lake, B.C., is massive — it's the second largest open pit mine in Canada and covers more than 100 square kilometres — Jaeger is extremely happy with the turnout for that first event. About 95% of the more than 500 employees and 200 contractors took the time to check it out.

"Some employees don't care too much about saving the company money, so I think you have to make saving energy valuable to them in other ways, by appealing to their sense of social responsibility or by simply making sure they get a public pat on the back," says Jaeger.

With annual electricity costs of $15 million, and an expansion that will add about another $8.5 million to that number, engaging employees on energy efficiency pays off. Back in 2010, the mine won a Power Smart Excellence Award for introducing a stirred-mill grinding technology that cut their electricity bill by more than $325,000 annually.

The way to an employee's mind is through the stomach

"They talked about the food more than anything," says Jaeger, looking back on the barbeque. "But the event as a whole was really well received.

"Lots of positive feedback, and people had really great questions about energy efficiency and gave us great ideas to explore."

The talk of energy efficiency wasn't limited to electricity. It turns out that there are at least 15 different ways to save on diesel fuel consumption, including where fuel tanks are placed, how long trucks idle and how roads are built.

"One truck driver told me that if we just took out a small curve in the road, where all the drivers have to slow down, we'd save fuel on every trip," says Jaeger. "And it's ideas like those that I've been collecting for saving electricity, too."

Lots of interest, little time

Jaeger also used the July event to introduce the mine's new energy management team, which includes everyone from the general manager to materials management reps.

This large and diverse group is committed to energy efficiency but hampered by busy schedules and distances between work sites. Jaeger says his goal is to use team members most effectively, and to spread the word about the importance of energy efficiency to other groups.

Mine for ideas, then follow up

Jaeger says he'll make it a priority to get back to everyone who came up with an energy-saving idea at the barbecue.

"You have to get back to everyone, whether you use their idea or not," he says. "I collected over 50 ideas from the barbecue and I will get back to everyone."

Next steps: energy reports and more discussion

The barbecue may have been a one-shot deal, but Jaeger plans to integrate energy awareness into other events, such as a family day in the park. He will also be sending out regular energy reports that team members can use to discuss with their crews.

"What I'd like to see, the point I'd eventually like to reach," he says, "is where employees are constantly pushing forward ideas to me and the team, and eventually over time to change the culture in such a way that energy awareness is integrated into daily activities, without managers pushing it forward."

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'Touchy-feely' energy awareness paying off at Kamloops-area mine