Tag Archives: Don MacLean

Global underground mining pioneer Don MacLean passes away

MacLean Engineering has announced the passing of founder and Chairman, Donald MacLean, referring to him as a visionary leader that left an indelible mark not only on the company but also on the global mining fraternity.

A professional Mining Engineer, long-time miner and entrepreneur, Don built his namesake company into a global force for hard-rock mining innovation on the back of flagship, industry-changing products. One such product is the MacLean Scissor Bolter, a product that turned 30 in 2021 and has gone on to ship more than 500 units.

In 2014, Don was inducted into the International Mining Hall of Fame. In 2023, he was honoured with the ‘Safety Leadership’ award by the Canadian Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum association in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the mining community. This includes his continued focus on ore flow conditioning at the drawpoint in the underground mining space.

The MacLean Engineering statement said: “Don led with grace and wisdom, guiding us to new heights. For the past five decades, his vision for safety and innovation has served as the bedrock of our company, and it will undoubtedly continue to do so in the years to come. His legacy will forever resonate within our organisation. Our thoughts are with his family during this difficult time. May Don MacLean rest in peace, and may we continue to uphold the values he instilled in us.”

Don founded MacLean Engineering in 1973 and had been in the mining equipment business since the early 1970s. He was a professional mining engineer who early in his career worked for Inco in Sudbury. Looking back at our citation for Don’s Hall of Fame induction: “Although not a mechanical engineer, Don brought ideas and concepts that could be turned into useful products. He spearheaded drawpoint obstruction clearance machines, known as Blockhole Jumbos, in the late 1970s that, although a very simple concept initially, became dependable and irreplaceable tools for underground bulk mining.”

Don MacLean with one of his machines in development in 1978

The citation continued: “It was his belief in the importance of ore flow conditioning at the drawpoint and his willingness to foster and adapt new technologies that enabled his company to go from being a regional manufacturer to one having an international impact on the underground mining equipment scene.”

Moving to the late 1990s, Rio Tinto, Anglo American and Palabora went in search of a machine that would ensure that drawpoints and drawbells at the conceptual Palabora block cave mine could and would be kept free of obstructions. Drawbells were initially designed at a 16 m height and subsequently increased to 20 m. “The major global manufacturers all passed on the request but MacLean stepped up and developed the High Reach Rig (HRR), a diesel-powered mobile unit that could reach up 20 m, drill multiple 75 mm holes, charge them with re-pump emulsion explosives and arm the holes with a detonator. The operator controlled the machine via radio-remote controls from outside the drawpoint, sitting in a detachable track-mounted unit that docked with the mother rig for transport around the mine.”

These are just two examples of his innovative and problem solving approach. Of course, he also oversaw the globalisation of the company not just in the Americas but also the opening of offices in South Africa, Australia and elsewhere. And he took MacLean firmly into the future of mining, continuing as Chairman as the company became a pioneer in battery electric and zero emissions solutions with its EV Series product line. In 2016, MacLean sold its first battery electric vehicle unit and by the end of 2019, it had sold 31 battery electric vehicle units, across five separate model lines. Often the MacLean units have been the first electric machines onsite, before any production fleet equipment.

Since then it has only been onwards and upwards, including the incorporation of greater automation to enhance operator safety in deeper underground mines – in the company’s 50th year, 2023, MacLean unveiled the 985 Abi-Bolter which included the integration of autonomous robotics into the bolting and screening functions of the MacLean scissor bolter.

Don said at the time: “The world has changed since our founding in 1973, and so has mining. MacLean is right there on the frontlines of that industry evolution, helping to shape and propel it forward.”

A Celebration of Life will be held at the Georgian Bay Hotel, 10 Vacation Drive, Collingwood, Ontario L9Y 5G4 on Thursday, January 18 at 1:30 p.m EST.

MacLean battery-electric support fleet set for Odyssey gold mine

A fleet of MacLean battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) are set to operate at the Odyssey Mine, one of Canada’s largest underground gold mining projects, after the OEM and Canadian Malartic Partnership agreed on a fleet order.

The mine, currently under construction, is owned 50:50 by Yamana Gold Inc and Agnico Eagle Ltd. The partners have already said it is expected to be one of the most modernised electric underground mines, with all major mobile production equipment (such as trucks, scoop trams, jumbos, bolters, and longhole drill rigs electric powered).

The MacLean BEV fleet at Odyssey Mine will be used for ground support installation, explosives charging, materials transport, and construction and maintenance, the OEM said.

The Odyssey Mine, located near the Town of Malartic in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region of northern Quebec, will extract ore from an orebody that lies underneath the historical East Malartic Gold Mines, whose Mine Manager from the late 1930s to late 1940s was none other than ‘Ducky’ MacLean, father of Don MacLean, who founded his namesake mobile equipment company in 1973 and spent close to a decade of his childhood in the Malartic mine camp.

Don MacLean’s son Kevin MacLean now leads the mining vehicle manufacturer, having assumed the role of company President in 2009. He said: “Every fleet order is special but this one has particular resonance because it connects the MacLean family past with the MacLean company future in the form of battery-powered mining vehicles. The underground project of the partnership provides a perfect opportunity for MacLean mobile equipment to return to East Malartic in support of diesel-free operations.”

Don MacLean added: “I’m thrilled to see underground mining coming back to Malartic and grateful that the partnership has put their faith in MacLean BEVs to get the job done safely and productively.”

Tony Caron, MacLean VP of Quebec, Nunavut, and Latin America, said: “The fact that the MacLean fleet in Malartic will represent a return to Don’s childhood roots adds a special dynamic to this story, one that everyone at the MacLean branch in Val-d’Or will keep at heart as we dedicate ourselves to supporting the success of Odyssey Mine.”

The partners approved construction to transform the Odyssey Project into the Odyssey Mine over the coming years in February, spelling out plans to extract 19,000 t of ore at an estimated grade of about 2.75 g/t Au and roughly 5,000 t/d of waste rock during peak operation. It will be accessed by a ramp and a shaft estimated to be 1,800 m deep.

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.