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article imageYellowknife NWT: Abandoned Mine May Become Geothermal Energy Site

By Bob Ewing     Dec 27, 2007 in Environment
A mine on the edge of the capital of the Northwest territories, Yellowknife is being decommisoned but may well be brought back into service as a source of geothermal energy for the city.
The old Con mine sits on the edge of the city of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories (N.W.T.). Rumours have it that even in the dead of winter the mine workers used to come up from down within the mine wearing only t-shirts and shorts because the mine was so hot.
A recent CBC article says that the City is giving thought to using the heat to run a different type of mine; one which supplies a cheap, greenhouse gas free energy which the City will be able to use during the long and cold winter nights.
A study will begin next year and the results of that study may lead to Canada’s first large-scale geothermal plant.
"We've got heat resources below our community," said Mark Henry, the city's energy co-coordinator. "We just have to come up with a way to move it."
Mory Ghomshei is an engineering professor at the University of British Columbia and he feels that Yellowknife is ideally positioned to take advantage of geothermal energy; he said, "We've been working on that for the last 25 years, waiting for the right time and the right place,"
Ghomshei has already completed one report on the project for the city and is expected to bid on a feasibility study.
A former gold mine, the Con is being decommissioned by Newmont Mining, the owners. The mine’s shafts and stopes (excavations forming steps) are being allowed to slowly fill with water as part of that process.
The water in the bottom of the mine simmers at up to 50 degrees and while that's not hot enough to generate electricity, Ghomshei said it's plenty hot enough to keep downtown buildings toasty warm.
The intent is to pump hot water up from the depths and capture that heat before it's reinjected into the mine; this action according to Ghomshei's report will provide approximately 650,000 gigajoules, or 20 megawatt-hours, of heat on an ongoing, sustainable basis.
That's enough for about half of Yellowknife's 19,000 residents.
The project is garnering considerable attention in town and Henry said,” Hugely interested, I have a hard time getting through presentations because everybody's sticking their hands up."
The decision on who will conduct the feasibility study will be made early in the New Year. It is possible that Yellowknife could be drawing heat from the same hole it used to draw gold within four or five years.
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