Tag Archives: Borden

COVID-19: the catalyst for driving sustainability in the metals and mining sector

COVID-19 has been a game-changer for many industries, with an inconceivable amount of companies closing or temporarily stopping their work, report Pat Lowery and Dr Nick Mayhew*.

The metals and mining industry has been no exception. By April this year, almost 250 mine sites in 33 countries had been disrupted by the virus with government-mandated shutdowns and hundreds of thousands of workers sent home either because they had contracted the virus or for their safety.

While the global pandemic has proved to be a severe crisis for the mining industry, severe crises force change, and the mining industry has been forced to commit to change and to new goals to survive.

At first, it seemed that companies might give up complying with sustainability and ESG (environment, social and governance) goals. However, the outcome was in fact the opposite. The pandemic has demonstrated that sustainability is now a permanent, key driver across the world, which will not be forgotten by governments nor the private sector.

Pat Lowery is Former Technical Director at De Beers and Group Head at Anglo American

The European Council made this clear by highlighting that it will not abandon its ‘Green Deal’ as part of its fiscal response to COVID-19. While in the US, New York State passed legislation which accelerated the construction of clean energy facilities as a way to spur economic recovery and fight climate change. As for investors, according to the COVID-19 Investor Pulse Check report, published by the Boston Consulting Group in May 2020, 51% of investors say they want CEOs to continue to fully pursue their ESG agenda and priorities.

COVID-19 not only set the records straight on a commitment to sustainability, but it provided a much-needed stimulus to spur the innovation required to achieve this desired goal. The metals and mining sector traditionally had a reputation for being slow to embrace new technologies – it ranked 30th out of 53 sectors in terms of R&D investment in the 2018 Global Innovation Study 1000 – however, it had no option but to react quickly to the crisis.

For instance, BHP created a COVID-19 tracking app and its Atacama mine in Chile developed a tool to remotely check stock levels for critical site materials – ensuring employee safety as well as a quick response.

Now, according to the Axora Insights COVID-19 survey, despite a significant drop in revenue after the pandemic caught the industry off-guard, experts expect the metals and mining sector’s investment in digital innovation to grow about 10% year-on-year. By using innovative technology, the industry will overcome the challenge of converting traditional mines into smart, sustainable ones with social commitment, responsibility and care towards their workers and their rights.

Dr Nick Mayhew is Chief Commercial Officer of Axora

Rio Tinto’s vast iron ore operation in Australia’s Pilbara region, for example, is the world’s largest owner and operator of autonomous trucks, having announced last year that 50% of its entire haulage fleet was automation-ready, providing safer and more cost-efficient sites. In Chile, Teck Resources is using remote smart sensor technology to gather data on the local water and identify hourly fluctuations in water quality, enabling the company to share 24/7 real-time water quality data with the local community. Nornickel in Russia is installing data transmission devices on load-haul-dump vehicles and self-propelled drilling rigs to enable remote-controlled operations, as well as developing drones to take video deep inside the mines and robots for high-quality 3D mine surveying.

Meanwhile, the Borden gold mine in Ontario, Canada, and the Agnew mine, in Western Australia, have faced their environmental challenges head-on by introducing electrification and renewable energy to their sites. The Borden mine’s electric and battery-powered fleet has eliminated diesel emissions completely and is expected to halve the total emissions on site by around 5,000 t of CO² a year. Whilst the Agnew mine met up to 60% of the site’s energy needs by running remote, off-grid operations with solar, gas, wind, and battery power, proving that such operations need not compromise reliability or productivity.

COVID-19 has escalated the need for a more sustainable and resilient metals and mining sector. There is a need to protect in the longer term, for example, against future pandemics, to ensure worker’s safety, to implement rapid recovery systems and to de-risk operations. Shifting global priorities are putting a greater emphasis on health, social and community issues; responsible partnering with the government; and pressure on companies to demonstrate fast and responsive action to current issues.

The global pandemic has provided metals and mining companies with the downtime to improve their innovative solutions and enable ‘smart’ and sustainable mines. From being a vague term, sustainability has become a real goal as COVID-19 has pushed companies to put the priorities and goals in the right order and to drive forward their businesses.

*Pat Lowery is Former Technical Director at De Beers and Group Head at Anglo American, and Dr Nick Mayhew is Chief Commercial Officer of Axora

Sandvik gears up for battery-electric drilling revolution in southern Africa

Southern African mines will soon begin the transition from diesel-driven to battery-powered drill jumbos, with the introduction of the world’s first highly-automated underground electric drill rig by Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology, according to the mining OEM.

Saltiel Pule, Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology’s Business Line Manager for Underground drilling in southern Africa, says the Sandvik DD422iE rig has already seen enthusiastic take-up in mining countries with strict anti-pollution regulations such as Canada, with the innovation having been in development for the past three years.

“The key benefits of the battery concept in underground drill rigs are zero emissions and much less heat, making for safer and healthier working conditions,” Pule said. “There are many other advantages to this technology, however, including increased drilling productivity, reduced operating costs and better energy efficiency.”

One of the first mines to have received the DD422iE was the all-electric Borden mine in Ontario, Canada. Since then, Barrick has trialled a unit at its Hemlo underground mine, also in Ontario.

The Sandvik DD422iE’s electric driveline, with an electric motor mechanically connected to axles for high torque and high efficiency, allows the rig to tram independently between working areas. The unit’s high-precision inverter delivers exact control of the tramming speed, according to Sandvik.

“The rig only needs to be connected to mains power during the actual drilling, at which point the electric motor is connected onto hydraulic pumps,” Pule says.

Improved drilling power of up to 20% is achieved by an active power compensation system which draws reserve power from batteries during peak loads, according to Sandvik. Battery charging is carried out during those phases of the drilling cycle when power intake is low, such as during boom movements. There is, therefore, no waiting time to charge up batteries.

In pursuit of zero-harm safety standards, the unit uses sodium nickel chloride technology – regarded as one of the safest battery systems for underground conditions.

Sandvik also offers a battery rental option to customers, taking responsibility for battery inspection and maintenance, as well as responsible disposal at the end of battery’s life, the company says.

“The battery therefore becomes an operational cost for the mine, rather than a capital expense,” Pule says. “This option also gives the customer the certainty of predictable operating costs while adopting a new technology.”

In addition to zero emissions and less heat generation, the electric drill rig produces less noise, making communication easier and working conditions less stressful, Sandvik added. There is a reduced risk of fire, as there are no fuels exposed to hot surfaces – as can happen with diesel engines.

“The range of indirect savings that customers achieve when they move from diesel to electric includes lower ventilation costs underground, no need for diesel storage and diesel pipelines, and more control over operating costs,” Pule says.

MEDATech speeds up battery-electric mining charge

The potential for electric drivetrain specialist MEDATech Engineering Services to add another high-profile client to its list of mining company references is high given the developments the Collingwood-based company is currently working on.

Having helped Goldcorp (now Newmont) and several OEMs realise their vision of an all-electric mine at Borden, in Ontario, MEDATech is energising more electrification projects with its ALTDRIVE system.

The company has been developing electrification technology for heavy-duty, off-highway vehicles for about six years. Its current drive train technology, MEDATech says, is capable of being scaled for most heavy haul applications in mining and other industries.

These last six years have seen it help fellow Collingwood resident MacLean Engineering convert underground roof bolters, graders, water trucks and many other production support vehicles for Canada’s underground mining sector. MEDATech has also helped Torex Gold and its Chairman, Fred Stanford, develop the necessary equipment to take the Muckahi all-electric underground mining concept to testing phase. Similarly, it has played a role in Nouveau Monde Graphite’s all-electric open-pit mine vision as part of a Task Force Committee developing studies for the Matawinie project, in Quebec.

Aside from the Muckahi project, the ALTDRIVE system, having been engineered to replace internal combustion engines, has been the driving force behind this work, according to Jeff Taylor, Managing Director of MEDATech Engineering.

The powertrain consist of a hybrid, or completely electric means of propelling the machine with industrial batteries, and can be adapted to heavy equipment such as commercial trucks, tractors, excavators, buses, haul trucks, light rail and – most important in this context – mining vehicles.

ALTDRIVE leverages battery systems from Akasol and XALT, chargers and power electronics from Bel Power Solutions and Dana TM4’s electric motors. The balance of the power electronics, control systems and sub systems, thermo management systems, VMU (a software component critical to the power management of the battery, electric motor charging and regenerative capabilities), and integration engineering is developed by MEDATech.

Taylor says it is the battery chemistry and charging philosophy of the ALTDRIVE technology that differentiates it from others on the market.

“The battery chemistry is really quite advanced and is all based on the future of fast charging,” he told IM. “In this scenario, we don’t want the batteries to be brought down to a high depth of discharge (DOD). We instead want operators to carry out quick, opportunity charging on the go.”

Most of the machines the company has been involved in manufacturing to date have been equipped with 25-100 kW on-board chargers, yet Taylor thinks its new breed of fast-charge battery-electric solutions could eventually require up to 1 MW of power and be charged through an automated system.

Such powerful charging systems may be the future of MEDATech’s ALTDRIVE drivetrain technology, but for now it is focused on leveraging the system for the conversion of a diesel-powered Western Star 4900 XD truck (pictured).

Part of a collaborative project with a Western Star dealer in Quebec where the dealer (Tardif) has donated the truck and MEDATech has provided its materials and engineering expertise, the truck is equipped with a 100 kW capacity on-board charger, 310 kWh of battery capacity, loaded gross vehicle weight of 40,824 kg and 25% more horsepower than its diesel-powered equivalent.

Loaded, the truck can cover 85 km (0% grade) on a single charge (80% DOD). This vehicle is ideal as a pit master unit for short run material moving, road maintenance, water hauling/spraying and snow plowing activities, according to the company. The truck can be on-board charged (2.5 hours) and fast charged (1 hour) during idle periods (at 80% DOD).

The machine will be ready for demonstrations at a gravel pit around 15 km away from the company’s Collingwood headquarters in September, and it has already caught the attention of some major miners.

According to Taylor, Anglo American (Chile), Teck Resources (British Columbia) and Vale (Ontario) are scheduled to see the BEV 4900 XD unit in September at the Collingwood facility. “Each company is looking at an electric machine(s) for their operations,” he said. “They might end up with a different truck, built to their exact specifications, but they want to test this machine out to experience a battery-electric conversion.”

After the 24 t payload truck, the company has eyes on converting a 40 t payload Western Star 6900 XD diesel truck to battery-electric mode.

“This will just be a bigger conversion on a bigger truck,” Taylor explained. “We’ll have extra room on the truck for placing batteries and the extra motor that will be required. It will also be an all-wheel drive vehicle, as opposed to the real-wheel drive of the 4900 XD, which will need some extra engineering.”

While Taylor said work on converting this 40 t machine would not start until the all-electric 4900 XD had been tested, he saw plenty of opportunities for scaling up and down the ALTDRIVE technology to create more customised ‘green’ vehicles for the mining industry.

“If you look at any mine site in Canada, there are five or 10 vehicles you could replace with electric versions,” he said.

ICMM looks to align mining industry on cleaner, safer vehicles

When the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) launched its Innovation for Cleaner, Safer Vehicles (ICSV) program just over a year ago, some industry participants may not have realised how much progress could be made so quickly by taking a collaborative approach.

The ICMM has proven influential across the mining industry since its foundation in 2002 in areas such as corporate and social governance, environmental responsibility, and stakeholder relations, yet it has rarely, until this point, engaged directly as an industry group with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and service providers.

Close to 12 months after being established, it’s clear to see the program and the council itself has been successful in bridging a divide.

It has been able to corral a significant portion of the mining and mining OEM market players into a major industry discussion on core focus areas set to dominate the sector for the next two decades.

Now 27 of the world’s leading mining companies and 16 of the best-known truck and mining equipment suppliers are collaborating in a non-competitive space “to accelerate the development of a new generation of mining vehicles that will make vehicles cleaner and safer,” the ICMM says.

The ICSV program was created to address three of the most critical safety, health and environment performance issues in the ICMM’s mission towards zero harm and decarbonisation. Achieving this goal would involve the industry introducing and adopting the next generation of equipment to respond to the challenges.

More specifically, the program aims to:

  • Introduce greenhouse gas emission-free surface mining vehicles by 2040;
  • Minimise the operational impact of diesel exhaust by 2025; and
  • Make collision avoidance technology (capable of eliminating vehicle related collisions) available to mining companies by 2025.

In all three, it seeks to address the industry’s innovation challenge of ‘who motivates who’ or the chicken and egg analogy, according to Sarah Bell, Director, Health, Safety and Product Stewardship for the ICMM.

“You can imagine a mining company saying, ‘we can’t adopt technology that doesn’t yet exist’ or an OEM saying, ‘we can’t invest in development because we’re getting mixed market signals’. This is, of course, why this program has been set up in the way it has,” she told IM. “Bringing both the mining company and OEMs together, they have been able to work through these normal innovation challenges and align on defining the direction of travel and critical complexity to be solved for each of the ambitions set.”

High-level participation

The list of companies the ICMM has been able to involve in this program is impressive.

It is being guided by a CEO advisory group of six; three from the mining community – Andrew Mackenzie (CEO, BHP), Mark Cutifani (CEO, Anglo American) and Nick Holland (CEO, Gold Fields) – and three from the mining equipment supply side – Denise Johnson (Group President of Resource Industries at Caterpillar), Max Moriyama (President of the Mining Business Division at Komatsu) and Henrik Ager (President of Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology).

On the mining company front, ICMM membership makes up around 30% of the total metal market share, with some 46% in copper, 27% in gold and 42% in iron ore. Participating OEMs and third-party technology providers, meanwhile, include the three majors above, plus Cummins, Epiroc, Wabtec Corporation (formerly GE), Hexagon Mining, Hitachi Construction Machinery, Liebherr, MacLean Engineering, MTU, Modular Mining Systems, PBE Group, Nerospec, Future Digital Communication and Miller Technology.

Bell says the high-level participation builds the “widespread confidence” needed to accelerate investment in these three key areas”, while the ICMM’s focus on the leadership side of the technology integration equation and change management has proven “absolutely key”.

She clarified: “This collaboration operates under anti-competition and anti-trust rules. Our role is to convene the parties, motivate action and promote solutions.”

The program offers a “safe space for the OEMs and members to work openly in a non-competitive environment”, she added, explaining that the aim is not to come up with “preferred technologies”, but define the “functional and operational pathways required to meet the ambitions set”.

Vehicle interaction (VI)

Some of the ambitions look easier to achieve than others.

For instance, collision avoidance and proximity detection technology has made huge strides in the last decade, with the ICMM arguing its 2025 target is like a “sprint”, compared with the “10,000 m race” that is minimising DPM underground by 2025 and the longer-term aim to introduce GHG-free surface mining vehicles by 2040.

“There are regulations that require implementation of collision avoidance and proximity detection technology by the end of 2020 in South Africa,” Bell said. This will undoubtedly provide a catalyst for further developments to speed up.

The ICSV program is also leveraging the work of the Earth Moving Equipment Safety Round Table (EMESRT) in its development of fundamental functional/performance requirements for operators and technology providers.

These requirements were updated and released by EMESRT in September and are known as ‘PR5A’.

Credit: Hexagon Mining

Bell delved into some detail about these requirements:

“The EMERST requirements are designed around a nine-level system that seeks to eliminate material unwanted scenarios such as – equipment to person, equipment to equipment, equipment to environment and loss of control,” she said.

“The fundamental change with this newly released set of functional requirements by EMESRT is that the mining industry users have defined the functional needs for levels 7-9 (operator awareness, advisory controls, and intervention controls). That stronger level of collaboration hasn’t necessarily been there.”

EMESRT and its guidelines have been given an expanded global platform through the ICMM’s ICSV, with the program, this year, providing the convening environment for users and technology providers to help finalise these updated requirements, according to Bell.

With all of this already in place, one could be forgiven for thinking the majority of the hard work involved with achieving the 2025 goal is done, but the working group focused on VI knows that while OEMs continue to retrofit third-party vehicle collision and avoidance systems to their machines the job is not complete.

“Let’s think about the seatbelt analogy: you don’t give buyers of vehicles a choice as to whether they want a seatbelt in their car; it just comes with the car,” Bell said.

“At the moment, by design, vehicles don’t always have this collision and avoidance systems built in, therefore there is a big opportunity for collaboration between OEMs and third-party technology providers.”

Underground DPM goals

“The DPM working group have recognised that, in the case of the DPM ambition, ‘the future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed’,” Bell said.

“Bringing together the OEMs and the mining companies this year through the ICSV program has enabled the group to explore the variety of existing solutions out there today,” she added.

These existing solutions include higher-tier engines, battery-electric equipment, tethered electric machinery, fuel cell-equipped machines for narrow vein mining and solutions to remove DPMs and other emissions from the environment like Johnson Matthey’s CRT system.

And, there are numerous examples from North America – Newmont Goldcorp at Borden, and Glencore and Vale in Sudbury – South America – Codelco at El Teniente Underground – and Europe – Agnico Eagle Mines at Kittilä (Finland, pictured) – to draw from.

Bell also mentioned some examples from Australia where regulatory changes have seen miners apply existing technology and carry out changes in their work plans and maintenance practices to minimise DPM emissions.

Haulage and loading flexibility, battery charging and mine design have all come under the spotlight since these new generation of ‘green’ machines have emerged, so achieving the 2025 goal the ICSV stated is by no means a foregone conclusion.

“There remains more work to do in achieving diesel-free vehicles underground,” Bell said.

The interested parties are aware of this and the program’s DPM maturity framework is helping miners and OEMs plot a course to reaching the target, she explained.

“The DPM maturity framework promotes existing solutions available today that would enable a mining operation to reduce their DPM emissions to a level that would meet the ambition level (shown as Level 4 – transition to zero),” she said.

These frameworks are useful for starting a “change conversation”, Bell said, explaining that mining companies can assess within their organisations where they currently sit on the five-level chart and discuss internally how to move up the levels to meet their goals.

These same frameworks look beyond minimising “the operational impact” of DPM emissions underground, with Bell explaining that Level 5 of the maturity framework involves “non-DPM emitting vehicles”.

GHG-free surface mining vehicles

Even further in the distance is the longer-term target of introducing greenhouse gas emission-free surface mining vehicles by 2040.

This ambition, more than any other, is less clearly defined in terms of technological solutions across the industry.

While battery-electric solutions look like having the goods to reach DPM-free status underground with expected developments in battery technology and charging, the jury is still out on if they can create a GHG-free large-scale open-pit mining environment.

The world’s largest battery-electric haul truck – eMining’s 63-t payload eDumper (pictured) – may have proven its worth at a Ciments Vigier-owned quarry in Switzerland, but the world’s largest open-pit mines require a solution on another scale altogether.

As Bell said: “There is a lot of work to do to develop batteries at scale for surface fleet that suit the different operating conditions.

“That’s a key point because that lends itself to the fact that we don’t want one solution; we will need multiple solutions. We don’t want to stifle innovation; we want to encourage it.”

ICMM member Anglo American has hinted that hydrogen power could be one solution, and the miner is looking to show this next year with the development of its hydrogen-powered 300-t payload haul truck.

There has also been in the last 18-24 months a mini renaissance of trolley assist projects that, ABB’s Gunnar Hammarström told IM recently, could, in the future, work in tandem with battery-powered solutions to provide a GHG-free solution.

The ability for industry to pilot and validate technology options like this “within the boundaries of anti-competition” is crucial for its later adoption in the industry, Bell said.

She said a key enabler of industry decarbonisation is access to cost competitive clean electricity, which would indicate that regions like South America and the Nordic countries could be of interest in the short and medium term for deploying pilot projects.

It is this goal where the industry R&D spend could potentially ramp up; something the ICMM and the ICSV is aware of.

“For the OEMs and mining companies to effectively minimise capital expenditure, optimise R&D expenditure and reduce the change management required by the industry, there needs to be a careful balance of encouraging innovation of solutions, whilst managing the number of plausible outcomes,” Bell said.

In terms of encouraging the development of these outcomes, carbon pricing mechanisms could provide some positive industry momentum. Vale recently acknowledged that it would apply an internal carbon tax/price of $50/t when analysing its future projects, so one would expect other companies to be factoring in such charges to their future mine developments.

Industry-wide GHG emission caps could also provide a catalyst. In countries such as Chile – where up to 80% of emissions can come from haul trucks, according to ICMM Senior Programme Officer, Verónica Martinez – carbon emission reduction legislation could really have an impact on technology developments.

Forward motion

While 2019 was a year when the three working groups – made up of close to 50 representatives in each work stream – outlined known barriers or opportunities that might either slow down or accelerate technology developments, 2020 will be the year that regional workshops convened to “encourage first adopters and fast followers” to move these three ambitions forward take place, Bell said.

A knowledge hub containing the previously spoken of maturity frameworks (delivered for all three groups) will allow the wider industry outside of the ICMM membership to gain a better understanding of how the miner-OEM-service provider collaboration is working.

Bell said the ICMM already has a number of members testing these group frameworks on an informal self-assessment basis to understand “how they are being received at an asset level and feedback insights to the group in an effort to understand how we may portray an industry representative picture of where we are today”.

Such strategies bode well for achieving these goals into the future and, potentially, changing the dynamic that has existed between end users and suppliers in the mining sector for decades.

Bell said: “The feedback that we got from OEMs is that mining companies had completely different objectives, but they have now greater confidence that we are aligned on the direction of travel towards the ambitions set.”

Eldorado Gold weighing BEVs, vertical haulage tech for Lamaque expansion

With production at the Lamaque gold mine, in Quebec, Canada, now in full swing, Eldorado Gold is looking at a potential expansion underground that could involve the use of battery-electric vehicles, or vertical haulage with conveyors, according to Chief Operating Officer Paul Skayman.

Speaking to IM last week, Skayman said the company, following the declaration of commercial production at Lamaque earlier this year, was in the process of working on a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) to expand Lamaque. This study will evaluate increasing throughput from an average of some 1,800 t/d to 2,500 tpd, with a resultant boost in annual average production to 170,000 oz, from close to 130,000 oz.

The expansion PEA is expected to be completed by the end of year and, subject to the results, a prefeasibility study on the expansion will begin, due for completion in the second half of 2020.

While the expansion is over a year away, Skayman said the deepening of the mine could see the company look at the potential for either battery-powered haulage or vertical haulage with conveyors. This would see the mine install a decline to access the orebody, as opposed to sinking a shaft.

Skayman said the provincial government offered incentives to employ such technologies at mine, while power was relatively inexpensive, “so, we are in the right place to be looking at this”. Indeed, Agnico Eagle Mines has employed a Rail-Veyor system at its Goldex mine in Quebec, while MacLean Engineering has delivered at least one battery-powered unit to an underground gold operation in the province.

Eldorado is not currently running any battery-powered units, instead, waiting for the technology to mature to a point where machines can run for a whole shift and the charging infrastructure has been proven, according to Skayman. He said the company was watching projects such as the recently opened Borden mine in Ontario to see where miners were pushing the “technology envelope” in the electrification arena.

Eldorado has other underground operations across the globe, but Skayman said Lamaque was the prime candidate for the use of battery-powered equipment.

“[This technology] is probably more likely to be used at Lamaque than our operations in Europe; Lamaque is a vertical stacked set of lenses and the deeper sections we know of go down to 1,500 m,” he said. “We’re nowhere near that in Turkey at Efemçukuru, which is relatively mature. We eventually get down to deeper sections at Olympias, but nothing like the depth at Lamaque.”

Newmont Goldcorp’s ‘all-electric’ Borden mine reaches new milestone

Close to a week after cutting the ribbon on its Borden mine, near Chapleau, Ontario, Newmont Goldcorp has achieved commercial production safely, on schedule and within budget at the ‘all-electric’ mine.

The mine features state-of-the-art health and safety controls, digital mining technologies and processes, and low-carbon energy vehicles – the latter provided by the likes of Sandvik and MacLean Engineering.

Tom Palmer, Newmont Goldcorp President and Chief Executive Officer, said: “Consistent project delivery and disciplined operational execution remain cornerstones of our business and are central to creating long-term shareholder value. Borden joins the next generation of Newmont Goldcorp mines and leverages our leading land position to anchor this new gold district in Ontario.”

At 1,000 sq.km, Borden’s land package represents additional exploration upside as the deposit remains open at depth in a favorable mining jurisdiction, according to the miner. Ore from Borden is processed at the existing mill at Porcupine, in Timmins, profitably extending operations at the gold mining complex.

In recognition of Borden’s contribution to the future of safe and sustainable mining, the Canadian and Ontario governments each granted C$5 million ($3.8 million) towards electrification of the mine.

 

MacLean Blockholer to keep ore flowing at all-electric Borden gold project

The flagship unit of MacLean Engineering’s Ore Flow suite is now ready to join the equipment manufacturer’s battery-electric fleet at Newmont Goldcorp’s Borden project, in northern Ontario, Canada.

The MacLean Blockholer is a “versatile warrior”, according to Viv Bhatt, Product Manager – Ore Flow, Drill & Blast at MacLean Engineering.

“We call it a Blockholer, you may know it as a secondary reduction drill, but either way it comes down to the same thing…a critical tool for making sure the ore flows in underground mining,” Bhatt said, adding that there are more than 125 success stories from across the globe that attest to this.

MacLean’s battery-electric fleet at Borden, billed by its owners as being the world’s first all-electric mine upon start-up (expected later this year), has been steadily growing over the past year or so. The company said back in March that the delivery to Borden of the Blockholer would see its fleet hit 15 units, comprised of six bolters and nine utility vehicles.

On the Blockholer specifically, Bhatt said: “Whether it’s a low hang-up in a drawpoint, or oversize rock on the ground that’s too large for scoops to handle and too disruptive to get rid of with concussion blasting, it’s your secondary reduction rig that solves the problem and ensures that production isn’t held up.

“And when it’s not tasked with this mission, it can be put to use for ancillary drilling for mine services.”

Bhatt listed off five reasons why the self-contained blockholer drill could become the workhorse of hard-rock underground mining fleets:

  • “Improved safety – In dealing with low hang-ups, runs of muck remain a potential risk. Remote-controlled drilling and loading explosives from a safe distance is a much safer option than manual loading of concussion blasts, and this is precisely what Blockholer drills deliver;
  • “Improved production – One mine went from 700 tons per day (635 t/d) off a mucking horizon to 3,000 tons/d after the introduction of a Blockholer. Another had a pillar blast break poorly and they were unable to make 50% of schedule prior to acquiring a Blockholer. (In this instance the unit was paid for entirely with the savings in secondary blasting explosives.) Also, pulling the wrong boxhole because of a hang-up or because it is choked with large muck results in improper draw leading to dilution and/or loss of metal vis-a-vis calculated reserves;
  • “Reduced Scooptram maintenance costs – The safe and efficient treatment of oversize improves scoop availability (ie it increases tonnage) and, at the same time, it reduces parts costs especially for major items in the drive train such as planetary gear boxes, drive shafts, and differentials, and in the mucking action for cylinders, linkages, and buckets;
  • “Reduced blasting powder and rehab costs – Over and above the safety benefits, self-contained blockholer drills deliver substantial cost savings with regard to the use of secondary blasting powder, as well as reduced detonation effects on ventilation air. Elimination of concussion blasting in drawpoint throats (especially with powder packs wedged between a large chunk and the brow) also significantly reduces the need for brow repair and re-bolting, as well as damage to mine services like air lines, water lines, power cables, ventilation doors, vent ducting and fans”, and;
  • “Versatility for mine support – Blockholers can also efficiently and safely perform mine service support functions such as drilling for the installation of ventilation doors, dams, fans, pipelines, power cables, etc. This is particularly beneficial when installing or repairing services in remote or high-traffic areas of a mine.”

And, of course, the Blockholer is equipped with MacLean’s latest EV Powertrain, providing zero emissions, low noise and low heat operations, Bhatt concluded.

CEEC’s latest workshop to examine new gen energy options for miners

With more and more mining sector interest in energy efficiency and uptake of renewables, the global not-for-profit communication hub for energy efficient mineral processing, CEEC, says it is running a series of workshops to share the latest developments in this field.

The next one-day Mineral Processing and Innovation Workshop on Energy Curves, Productivity and New Gen Energy, will be held at the National Wine Centre in Adelaide on June 19.

This event is due to kick off with a keynote address from OZ Minerals CEO and MD, Andrew Cole, who will share his vision for steering smart energy and productivity for sustainable mining, processing and communities.

Marc Allen, CEEC Director and Technical Director at engeco, said there was a worldwide trend towards new-generation energy options such as solar, battery-electric power and hydrogen – not only in the sector but for global power generation to combat climate change.

“The paradox is that these low carbon technologies are minerals intensive, and metals such as copper, nickel, lithium and cobalt will be required in greater volumes to make this transition possible,” Allen said.

“The shift towards a decarbonised energy future has significant ramifications for the global mining industry, particularly given the energy intensive nature of comminution and mining, coupled with the remoteness of most mineral deposits.”

Allen said renewable energy sources with low carbon energy backup options and/or energy storage were becoming more and more common in mines, with one leading example being the solar project at Degrussa Copper-Gold Mine in Western Australia.

Sandfire Resources’ Degrussa Solar project, commissioned in 2016, is reported to be the world’s largest integrated off-grid solar and battery storage facility. It supplies about 20% of the mine’s annual power requirements and has reduced emissions by close to 12,000 t/y of carbon dioxide, according to CEEC.

“South Australia is also leading the way with adopting new-gen energy. BHP is trialling zero-emission light electric vehicles at its Olympic Dam mine and has plans to progressively replace diesel fuel with lithium-ion batteries,” Allen said.

Canada’s first all-electric mine (Borden) is also on the cards, being constructed by CEEC sponsors Newmont-Goldcorp, Sandvik and MacLean Engineering.

Allen said: “Newmont-Goldcorp’s target is to increase energy efficiency by 15% over five years and source 5% of its energy from renewables. It’s pleasing to see that other major mining companies are fast following suit, introducing bold targets to shrink their carbon and energy footprint.”

Another standout country is Chile, with reports of nine companies, including copper miners Codelco and Antofagasta Minerals, introducing renewable energy such as wind and solar power.

In addition to transitioning to clean energy technologies, mining operations are striving to improve the energy efficiency of comminution. In Australia, alone, copper and gold mines’ comminution processes consume 1.3% of national electricity production, as well as being key constraints to site productivity, value and mining footprint.

Speakers and panellists at the CEEC Mineral Processing and Innovation Workshop in Adelaide on June 19 will share the latest technologies and methodologies being employed to boost energy efficiency, value and productivity in processing plants and mine sites, according to CEEC.

Keynote speaker Cole will be joined by leading mining, METS and research experts from across Australia, including Energy Curve researcher Dr Cathy Evans, Senior Research Fellow, University of Queensland Sustainable Minerals Institute; Professor Stephen Grano, Executive Director, Institute for Mineral and Energy Resources, University of Adelaide; and Professor Bill Skinner, Research Leader, Future Industries Institute, University of South Australia.

With data science and AI also being key drivers for improving operational efficiency and dispatch of electrical energy, workshop participants will hear from PETRA Data Science’s Managing Director, Dr Penny Stewart, and Technical Director, Dr Zeljka Pokrajcic.

Innovative METS leaders, including Greg Lane, Ausenco; Sandy Gray, Gekko Systems; and Bear Rock Solutions’ Dr Ted Bearman and Adjunct Professor Rob Dunne, will present practical advances in comminution technology.

Insights into South Australia mining and mineral processing innovations will be provided by Joe Seppelt, OZ Minerals Processing Manager at the Carrapateena copper-gold project, north of Port Augusta, and Enzo Artone, BHP Area Manager, Mill and Process Minerals, BFX Project, Olympic Dam.

To register or find out more about the workshop, which will be held at the National Wine Centre, click here.

MacLean focused on Borden, battery-electric milestones and automation

MacLean Engineering says its near-term focus in the first half of 2019 is the completion and delivery of its first battery-electric Ore Flow unit to Goldcorp’s Borden gold project in Ontario, Canada.

Reflecting on a year of developments in 2018, the production support vehicle specialist said this unit – made up of an EV BH3 Blockholer with MacLean remote control – would bring its electric vehicle fleet at the site, near Chapleau, to 15 units. This comprises six bolters and nine utility vehicles.

Borden, which currently has 950,000 oz of reserves, is scheduled to begin commercial production in the second half of 2019.

The year 2018 was a significant one for MacLean. Not only did it acquire Anchises Equipment and the former MTI test facility in Sudbury, it also filled out its order book and completed fleet orders for new mining regions such as Nunavut, Labrador, Ecuador, Colombia and the Dominican Republic, Don MacLean, Chairman and Founder of MacLean, said.

As fleet orders have continued to come in, the company has increased the size of its Owen Sound, Ontario, plant – which is now handling mining equipment as well as municipal vehicles – and expanded the size of its existing facility in Queretaro, Mexico, he added.

“This investment in MacLean Mexico will bring us closer to our Latin American customer base while also helping to alleviate production bottlenecks at our Canadian plants,” Don MacLean said.

During 2018, the company was able to put one of its electric vehicles to the test at an underground ramp trial at a gold mine in Val d’Or, Quebec.

A battery-electric boom truck (BT3-EV) was run alongside its diesel equivalent, carrying out the same work on the same section of the underground mine ramp. The results were compelling.

“The key finding was that the battery-electric truck used 88% less energy than the diesel truck and, it did so with greater operator comfort (zero emissions, less noise, less heat, less vibration), and higher speeds up-ramp with the unit fully loaded,” Don MacLean said.

He added: “We can now say with confidence, over two years into our fleet electrification programme launched officially at MINExpo, back in 2016, that our battery bolter and battery support vehicles (boom truck, cassette truck, scissor truck) are proven, high-performing, lower total cost of ownership options for companies looking to make the switch to emissions-free mining.”

And, while the Sudbury-based firm has been successfully making inroads into the battery-electric vehicle space, it also said it has big plans when it comes to automation.

Last year, MacLean acquired Anchises Equipment and hired its design team to deliver MacLean “a proven remote-control technology, along with in-house R&D and remote-control circuit board manufacturing capacity”, the company said, in 2018.

In its latest report, Don MacLean said: “This team is now driving MacLean’s progressive rollout of semi- to fully-autonomous operation product offers, all designed and built within our own manufacturing ecosystem.”

MacLean Engineering’s Jeff Anderson will be appearing in a joint talk on the Borden gold project at The Electric Mine conference, in Toronto, next week. To hear more about the event and secure one of the last remaining delegate places, click here.

Goldcorp’s Borden all-electric underground mine moves towards production

Those watching the all-electric Borden gold project in Ontario, Canada, will have been pleased with the takeaways from Goldcorp’s latest financial results.

In the September quarter, ramp development reached 1,884 m, on schedule, with a corresponding depth of 314 m, while bulk sample extraction began in August, two months ahead of schedule, with a first zone of extraction on levels 225 and 240.

The company said early results from the bulk sample were confirming the geological model and all operating permits were expected to be obtained by the end of 2018.

All of this indicated Goldcorp could increase the pace of development of the project, as well as construction of the remaining critical mine infrastructure including a ventilation raise and secondary egress, meaning the mine could be in production somewhat earlier than expected.

On the benefits of the project itself, Goldcorp said: “With an all-electric underground mine operation, it is estimated that operating costs will be reduced by over C$9 million ($6.9 million) per year due to the elimination of approximately two million litres of diesel fuel, and with reduced ventilation needs, a decrease of approximately 32,000 MWh of electricity and a corresponding decrease in propane required to heat the ventilation.”

As well, a reduction in annual greenhouse gas emissions of more than 7,000 t, or 70%, over a baseline mine is expected, according to the company.

Based on these numbers, it is hardly surprising the Government of Ontario has agreed to invest C$5 million into the deployment of the all-electric fleet through its target greenhouse gas programme.

The fleet is composed of state of the art mining equipment, including Sandvik DD422IE automated battery/electric jumbos and MacLean Engineering 975 Omnia Bolter battery bolters as well as Sandvik LH514E electric LHDs. All services vehicles are electrified, including a conventional Caterpillar 12M3 grader which was converted into a battery-operated unit by MEDATECH Engineering.

The project, which currently has 950,000 oz of reserves, is scheduled to begin commercial production in the second half of 2019.