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

Image of New Gold New Afton copper mine
At New Gold's New Afton mine near Kamloops, employee energy awareness is paying off in energy savings. One small fix to a compressor valve identified by an electrician will save $12,000 a year, and that's just the start.

At New Gold, manager's morning affirmations help fuel energy savings

It may sound a bit new age, but a daily affirmation works for Andrew Cooper, energy specialist for New Gold 's New Afton copper mine near Kamloops.

"First thing every single day, I review my energy affirmations," says Cooper, who runs through a list of four. "This is my vision for New Gold in the future, where energy management is truly integrated into the culture here."

Cooper knows that daily affirmations will only get him so far: for real results, he needs to get the 400-plus mine employees just as committed to energy conservation as he is.

And his very first initiative paid off quickly. Inspired by a short session on compressed air awareness, an electrician found an easy fix to a blow-down valve on a compressor that will save the company $12,000 a year.

"It's very easy to waste energy [in compressed air systems], but it's also easy to save it," he says, noting that the systems add up to about $400,000 in annual energy costs at the mine.

Show and tell: a bike pump helps make compressed air compelling

Over a 45-day period back in 2012, Cooper met with small groups from all the different mine crews to deliver a brief, 30-minute compressed air awareness session.

To ensure the sessions were interesting and interactive, Cooper had the New Gold maintenance crew build a demonstration air system, complete with a bicycle pump "compressor" and typical air leaks. When participants pumped the compressor, they could immediately see how the leaks affected the system.

Cooper also had a BC Hydro leak tag board, leak tag cards, and an ultrasonic leak detector on hand for additional show and tell.

"Leak tag boards are great for enabling employees to participate in saving energy," he says. "Someone identifies a leak, writes up a tag about it, and puts it on the board."

Compressed air awareness can pay off personally for crews

Cooper also pointed out that when crews use compressed air more efficiently they'd get better results in drilling the ore body. And that could result in higher bonus cheques.

"It's important to work out ways that energy conservation can have a direct impact, so people take it seriously — and appealing to their pocket does that," he says.

Cooper also appealed to crew members' sense of social responsibility, pointing out that "it's the right thing to do."

Crews now on alert for leaks, other inefficiencies

Since the basic training, Cooper has had a number of crew members catch and fix a variety of leaks.

One electrician discovered that a blow-down valve on a contractor's 250HP compressor receiver was always open. The solenoid valve on the oil/water separator wasn't working — an easy fix that resulted in a small but immediate improvement in energy efficiency, and a cost avoidance of $12,000 per year.

Posters, displays help reinforce the message

Cooper also followed up on those compressed air awareness sessions by:

  • Putting up BC Hydro awareness posters in strategic locations to remind crews of what they learned
  • Working with a summer student, who went out and talked to crews again and review how the leak tag boards work
  • Creating a display on general energy management for the New Afton Open Day in September.

Hot tip for energy managers

"Get in front people. Become visible. Talk to everyone. Find out what interests them and make energy efficiency relevant to their interests. Be the physical representation of the company's commitment to energy management."

The most popular initiative so far? "The LEDs we handed out during the Open Day. It also reinforces the message that energy efficiency is important at home, too."

Next steps in energy efficiency for New Gold

Cooper's plans at New Gold include:

  • Using funding from NRCan to implement an ISO50001-compliant Energy Management System
  • Implementing an Energy Management Information System, "to make energy management visible to all levels of the organization"
  • Completing a range of energy-saving measures identified in the New Gold Strategic Energy Management Plan, developed with help from BC Hydro
  • Embarking on further work with the New Afton mine's cross-functional Energy Team to ensure energy awareness remains high on everyone's radar.

What's the role of those daily affirmations?

"Energy awareness is intangible, touchy-feely," says Cooper. "It's not like an energy-efficiency project, where you make this piece or that piece more efficient and you see results right away.

"You can't measure energy awareness in the same way, so you can easily get discouraged. That's why I repeat those affirmations every morning. I want to stay focused on my vision."

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