The EV mine upside of zero diesel fine particulate emissions, lower machine total cost of ownership, and reduced ventilation requirements and costs are simply too compelling for mining companies to ignore much longer. Heat and ventilation requirements are becoming a prohibitive cost with a diesel combustion fleet, so the only economic way to access increasingly deeper, hard-to-reach ore bodies is through the introduction of electric vehicles.
Case point is the Goldcorp Borden project in Ontario, advancing through bulk sample ramp construction towards its production phase, whereas the ‘mine of the future' it will be all-electric as well as have a smaller geographic footprint, industry-leading water management practices, and partnerships with local First Nation communities to deliver sustainable economic development outcomes. Then there are Glencore's two cornerstone Sudbury, Ontario basin expansion projects - Onaping Depth and Nickel Rim Deep - that are continuing to advance through their planning phases.
So the transition to diesel-free mines to leverage ventilation savings and reduced infrastructure costs, along with the benefits of exhaust-free and lower maintenance fleets, is indeed underway. And electrification is but one step in the ongoing digitalization and automation of underground mining to improve health and safety, increase productivity, and reduce costs.
This shift will require a communications infrastructure underground that makes every piece of equipment smart and connected.
It will require automation, which has already started with LHDs and now needs to work its way through the rest of the mining cycle, with the end goal to address historically low efficiency metrics in underground mining (e.g. average equipment utilization rates less than 30%).
And it will require different skill sets both at mining companies and at the suppliers that support them - first to prepare for progressive automation and then to introduce it. No doubt programmers and mathematicians but also the human side of providing adequate training and ensuring a safety culture is entrenched within the strategic drive for improved productivity.
For MacLean, the past year was one where for the first time the company had a fleet of battery electric vehicles working underground, providing the ability to validate performance and total cost of ownership (TCO) models with real-world data (including 200 kms of ramp run trials), while at the same time continuing to build out the EV offer across the MacLean product lines.
The first five MacLean battery electric units arrived at Borden in April of 2017 (two bolters, an emulsion loader cassette, a boom truck cassette and a scissor lift), and there are nine more MacLean BEV units to be shipped in 2018, including a blockholer, the first of the company's Ore Flow suite to be electrified. In total, MacLean put seven BEV units underground in 2017, with orders that will double this in 2018.
The current situation of rising commodity prices will no doubt put wind in the sails of exploration projects around the globe, and you can expect to see this groundswell of industry optimism reflected in person at the upcoming SME Annual Conference in Minneapolis and PDAC 2018 in Toronto.
MacLean Engineering will be at both industry gatherings, carrying the message that a proven battery electric solution is available, right now, for companies looking to catch the green wave with the right mix of battery technology and EV drive sophistication, combined with underground mining mobile equipment expertise.
For more information:
MacLean EV Series video:
MacLean Innovation blog:
MacLean Innovation Report: