Canada invests in underground battery-electric conversion & natural heat exchange tech

A statement today from Canadian natural resources ministry Natural Resources Canada said: “Sudbury’s mining and minerals industry is a leader in clean growth. This growth is vital, as developing Canada’s natural resources in more sustainable ways will create good jobs, increase competitiveness and reduce pollution as we move toward a clean energy future.” To support this growth, Paul Lefebvre, Parliamentary Secretary to the Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, accompanied by Marc G. Serré, Member of Parliament for Nickel Belt, have announced a C$3.5 million investment in two projects that are helping to green Canada’s mining industry.

This investment includes:

  • C$2 million to FVT Research, a BC-based manufacturer of battery-electric drive systems for the design, development and testing of a 14 t battery-electric vehicle for underground mining activities. This project will convert one of the largest pieces of underground mining equipment from diesel to battery power
  • C$1.5 million to the Mining Innovation Rehabilitation and Applied Research Corporation (MIRARCO), a Sudbury-based non-profit, to develop a Natural Heat Exchange Engineering Technology (NHEET), which is a method for the engineering of natural heat exchangers using fractured rocks to improve air delivery in deep underground mines. The project’s goal is to leverage previous collaborative research between MIRARCO and Vale on the natural heat exchange system at Vale’s Creighton Mine, to determine how the benefits of this system can be replicated at other mine sites. The NHEET partnership also involves Laurentian University, CanmetMINING and Cambrian College/OCE. Vale’s Creighton Mine has a unique natural heat exchange system that has been in operation for over 50 years, providing both heating and cooling of ventilating air. Due to this natural heat exchange, mining is carried out at Creighton to a depth of 2.5 km without any artificial refrigeration, and is projected to continue to a depth of 3 km. Vale and MIRARCO have worked collaboratively over several years to better characterize and operate the Creighton system. Replicating these benefits would displace the capital and operating costs of a refrigeration plant and heating system, while also reducing the use of electricity and natural gas. This results in both environmental and financial benefits

Both projects are funded through Natural Resources Canada’s Clean Growth Program, which invests in clean technology research and development projects in Canada’s energy, mining and forest sectors. The program is a C$155 million investment fund that helps emerging clean technologies further reduce their impacts on air, land and water while enhancing competitiveness and creating jobs.

The program also provides federal laboratory support for innovators under the Science and Technology Assistance for Cleantech initiative, intended to help bring Canadian clean technologies to market by providing federal research expertise, facilities and equipment. “The federal government is pleased to support these projects with the Ontario Centres of Excellence in order to help Canada to meet its climate change goals, create economic opportunities and expand global-market opportunities. The Government of Canada will continue to support energy projects that create a clean, sustainable, competitive natural resources sector that cuts pollution and acts on climate change.”

Lefebvre said: “Our government continues to invest in projects that are positioning Canada’s mining industry to lead the clean energy future. Through ingenious ideas and dedicated partners, we are promoting competitiveness and helping ensure good mining jobs in Sudbury for years to come.”

Serré adds: “I commend our government for supporting innovative technology development by supporting local organizations like FVT Research and MIRARCO. Investments like this one help ensure that Nickel Belt – Greater Sudbury’s mining industry remains at the forefront through the development and adoption of innovative and green technologies for a cleaner future. ”

Todd Pratt, CEO at FVT Research commented: “FVT Research look forward to bringing our Canadian technologies to the underground mining industry and improving the world’s environment, the work environment and the profitability of the industry.”

Jennifer Abols, President and CEO, MIRARCO said: “We are grateful for this opportunity to partner with Laurentian University, CanmetMINING and Cambrian College. With a successful project outcome, NHEET systems will contribute to safer working environments in deep mines, exploiting a natural heat exchange mechanism that displaces costly artificial refrigeration and heating. Mining companies that would like to participate in this project are warmly invited to contact us.”

Bill Best, President of Cambrian College commented: “Cambrian College consistently ranks among Canada’s top applied research colleges, and these two projects are the latest example of how we are being sought out by industry partners to use research to find solutions to real-world, real-time challenges. Applied research is great for our community partners, our faculty and research staff, and especially our students.”