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Deeper underground

July 16, 2016

At Agnico Eagle’s gold mine in Kittilä, located in northern Finland, the number one priority has always been the overall safety and wellbeing of its employees. Improving everyday operations and sustainability is also at the top of the list, with the Agilon materials management solution by Konecranes at the forefront of these efforts.

High up above the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland, Kittilä is known for its ski resorts. But this little municipality – with a population of roughly 6,400 – is also home to Europe’s biggest operating gold mine, owned by Agnico Eagle Finland Oy, which is a subsidiary of the Canadian company Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd.

The gold producer’s foremost values comprise employee safety and ease of everyday operations, which is why the company recently invested in the latest innovation in smart materials management developed by Konecranes. The Agilon provides the customer with a comprehensive service package. The system, which can handle components weighing up to 25 kilograms, combines smart information management with customers’ material flows, giving customers the ability to monitor the use of materials accurately. Inherent to Konecranes Agilon is the ability to share real-time information on the components via a web portal with various parties in the supply chain, facilitating cooperation and maintaining components stocks.

It is used in various operating environments with different challenges and demands. In the case of the Kittilä mine, the system was planted 350 meters beneath the Earth’s surface, an interesting location for an industrial internet application.

“With this particular customer, it was imperative to ensure the Agilon system’s ability to withstand external challenges such as tremors from explosions, blast waves, dust, and humidity, which are an inherent part of the mining environment,” explains Tapani Tilus, Vice President for Agilon Business at Konecranes.

Agnico Eagle saw great potential in the material handling solution’s simplicity. It also helped that it was compatible with the customer’s own production system. In use at the mine since the beginning of November 2015, the Agilon is located in a curved, tunnel-like space 10 meters wide, 25 meters long and 5 meters high; the shaft has been excavated in the rock, 350 meters underground. So far, Agnico Eagle has been very satisfied with the Konecranes Agilon.

”The real-time information on component stocks is very valuable, as is the order history, the search functions, the simple user interface and the overall simplicity of use for employees and suppliers. We also appreciate the fact that the installment does not require a significant financial investment from the customer,” says Pentti Nousiainen, Head of Materials at Agnico Eagle Finland Oy.

SECURITY COMES FIRST

A mine is a challenging environment where disseminating exact information is key for the safety of mining employees and ease of operations. With the Agilon, data is shared in real-time with both employees and suppliers, around the clock. At the Kittilä mine, the Agilon is especially useful for information and inventory management since the quarry is in a very secluded area – roughly 50 kilometers from the center of Kittilä municipality and at a considerable distance from big cities. Safe to say, there are no material suppliers in the immediate vicinity.

“Our closest supplier is about 200 km away in the city of Rovaniemi, but we have others in the whole country, also in southern Finland. The Konecranes Agilon system is very valuable from a safety perspective, since it protects equipment such as blades, hydraulics components, respiratory masks and safety gloves. In addition, it facilitates the monitoring of safety gear stocks by suppliers, and ensures stocks don’t run out,” says Mika Asikainen, Purchasing Manager at Agnico Eagle Finland Oy.

Antti Rajanen, who works as a Controller at the Kittilä mine, also emphasizes the importance of effective information flow for a well-functioning and secure operating environment.

“Through the system, we can access real-time inventory information and order history. Information related to usage and consumption can also be monitored. It makes storage management transparent, trustworthy and exact,” Rajanen explains.

LONG-TERM OPERATIONS IN A SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE MANNER

In addition to investing in solutions enhancing operational efficiency, Agnico Eagle is also keen to devote resources in its role as a forerunner in responsible mining and to further societal, economic and sustainable development in Kittilä and in Lapland. The mine has over 400 employees and about 300 contractor personnel, making the international gold mining and production company the largest employer in the region. More than 50 percent of employees hail from Kittilä while 90 percent come from the Lapland region.

Respecting the municipality and its locals and having fluent and continuous cooperation and dialogue with the community is highly valued at Agnico Eagle.

“We involve local people as well as local decision-makers and arrange open house events and meetings to get their perspectives and enhance engagement. In addition, we also support the Kittilä municipality in different ways, including funding sport initiatives such as the local football field and ice stadium, as well as different cultural events,” continues Rajanen.

For the company and its Finnish subsidiary, environmental considerations and sustainability as a whole are also essential priorities of business operations. In 2015, the Mining Association of Canada gave the Kittilä mine the Towards Sustainable Mining Performance Award for its commitment to responsible mining. The award is granted to companies that effectively manage their key social and environmental risks, and follow best practices in environmental management, safety and community engagement.

The Kittilä mine was also presented with the Environmental Contribution of the Year 2015 Award at the EuroMining opening seminar in Tampere last year. The award is given to mining industry operators that pay attention to environmental issues and do so in an exemplary manner.

“One of our main goals is to minimize the impact of our operations on the environment,” Rajanen confirms.

3 Facts

  1. The Kittilä gold mine, owned by Canadian gold mining company Agnico Eagle’s Finnish subsidiary Agnico Eagle Finland Oy, is the largest operating gold mine in Europe. The mine produced 177,374 ounces (around 5,000 kilograms) of gold in 2015.
  2. The mine, located in northern Finland, commenced commercial production in 2009. In 2014, it  increased its production capacity by 25 percent, from 3,000 tons per day to 3,750 tons of ore daily.
  3. The Konecranes Agilon modular materials management solution is used at the mine, located at a challenging 350 meters underground. This is the first time the system has been put to use in an environment of this kind.

Text: Nina Lindqvist
Photos: Pekka Takanen and Agnico Eagle

 

KITTILÄ, FINLAND

  • Kittilä is a municipality in northern Finland with a population of approximately 6,400 people. It is known for the Levi ski resort but also for hosting Europe’s largest operating gold mine, owned by the Canadian gold mining company Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd.
  • The Kittilä mine employs over 400 permanent employees and about 300 contractors. It is the biggest employer in the municipality.
  • Agnico Eagle’s four principles of sustainable development are: respecting and ensuring the safety and well-being of employees, minimizing workplace accidents and ensuring a safe operating environment, protecting the environment, and respecting the local communities.