It has been all change underground at Sukari for Centamin, with a switch to the owner-operator model – from contractor-led operations – likely to be followed by a transition towards an electric fleet at the gold operation in Egypt.
Having successfully grown the underground reserves by 200% in 2021, extending the life of mine in the process, the company made the decision to make the owner-operator switch last year. This move, it says, delivered cost savings and increased mining flexibility. The company went on to produce just over 440,000 oz of gold from the combined open-pit and underground operation in 2022.
Ahead of this change a detailed study on the underground operation was completed. This included assessing the benefits and limitations of using battery-operated equipment within Sukari Underground, according to a company spokesperson.
Within the underground operation, Centamin currently operates 15-t-payload LHDs and 63-t-payload trucks. These, the company says, are the predominant source of heat and diesel particulate matter.
The spokesperson told IM: “At the time [of the study], proven battery-operated equipment commercially available ranged from comparable 14-15 t loaders and smaller 42 t-50 t haulage trucks. As such, we are assessing a staged approach from conventional diesel units to hybrid diesel-electric units in the interim and then to full battery-operated loading and haulage units.”
The basis for this staged approach was driven by technology (availability and advancements), location (country and existing infrastructure), and timing (lead times, technology, infrastructure, current fleet life and underground resource expansion potential), according to the spokesperson.
“Discussions with OEMs are ongoing, not just on the fleet electrification but also to understand the future pipeline of decarbonisation technology, as this continues to be at the forefront of our operating philosophy,” the spokesperson concluded.