* Goldcorp says operations at Musselwhite still halted
* Co says too early to estimate potential output impact
* Co says surface infrastructure largely unaffected
* Other mines, projects in the area not impacted by fires
By Euan Rocha
TORONTO, July 21 Forest fires that forced
Goldcorp (G.TO) to evacuate employees from its Musselwhite gold
mine in northwestern Ontario are still having an impact on
operations at the site, a company executive said on Thursday.
"We are still in the midst of a significant fire situation
in northwestern Ontario near the mine," Goldcorp's head of
investor relations Jeff Wilhoit said, noting that it was too
early to assess the impact on 2011 production. "It is
improving...but we still have quite a few fire fighters in the
The Canadian gold miner evacuated the majority of its 380
employees and halted mining operations at the mine a week ago,
switching to site-based generator power, as the fires destroyed
a section of the transmission line that supplies power to the
The Musselwhite mine, nearly 500 kilometers north of
Thunder Bay, Ontario, is in a remote part of the province and
workers at the site are typically flown in and out.
The mine produced nearly 260,000 ounces of gold in 2010 and
accounted for about a tenth of Goldcorp's output.
Wilhoit said the company hopes to provide more details on
the potential impact to production when it reports
second-quarter results next week.
"The surface infrastructure has by and large been
unaffected by the fires," said Wilhoit. "There has been some
superficial damage, some charring of electric poles and some
damage to electrical lines, so clearly restoring power to the
site is our priority from an operations perspective."
Wilhoit said the company hoped to be able to begin to ramp
up operations over the next couple of weeks as support staff
start to return.
Northwestern Ontario is also home to Red Lake, Goldcorp's
largest mine by far. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
has said crews are also fighting fires in the Red Lake area,
although operations at the Red Lake mine are not impacted.
"We don't expect those fires to threaten the mine." said
Wilhoit, noting that operations at its Porcupine mine in the
region have also not been impacted by the fires.
Both Barrick Gold (ABX.TO), which operates the Hemlo mine
in northern Ontario, and Detour Gold (DGC.TO), which is
developing the Detour Lake deposit, said operations have not
been impacted by the fires.
Over 300,000 square kilometers of Ontario forestland have
been damaged by the fires, triggered by dry weather and strong
winds. That compares with 150 square kilometers damaged in
2010, according to Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources data.
Media reports indicate that nearly 4,000 people have been
evacuated from their homes.
(Editing by Janet Guttsman)