07/14/2011 09:18 EDT | Updated 09/13/2011 05:12 EDT

Musselwhite Mine Evacuation: Goldcorp Removes North Ontario Miners Due To Forest Fires


THE CANADIAN PRESS -- MUSSELWHITE, Ont. - Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) has removed most of its 380 employees from the Musselwhite mine in northwestern Ontario due to forest fires in the area.

A fire that late Thursday was about 30 kilometres away from the First Nations community located some 480 kilometres north of Thunder Bay was advancing with prevailing winds toward the mine site.

"There are fires in the area that we've been cautiously watching," said Goldcorp spokesman Jeff Wilhoit.

"The wind shifted and two small fires joined up and started to advance toward the mine site."

The company has ceased mining operations and electricity is being provided by generator power as the fire destroyed a section of a transmission line providing power to the site.

"Every precaution is being taken, our people are certainly safe," Wilhoit said.

A crew of 50 employees, including the mine's general manager will remain at the site to maintain and monitor operations and co-ordinate with firefighters. An evacuation route has been set up for those workers.

"Even in the worst case scenario, we're fortunate that the mine site is adjacent to a lake," he said.

The company said it would provide updates as soon as the situation changes.

Musselwhite is an underground gold mine and processing plant that produces approximately a quarter-million ounces of gold annually. It began commercial production in 1997 and is one of its top-producing mines.

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources says that 81 fires are actively burning in the province's northwest.