Tag Archives: MacLean Engineering

MacLean reinforces shotcrete ops with new EV sprayer, transmixer

MacLean Engineering has become renowned for its battery-electric equipment in the last four-to-five years, having announced its electrified plans at MINExpo 2016, and steadily upped its offering in line with industry demand.

Yet, it is not the only company in its field backing battery-powered production support developments underground.

Recognising the same trend that led to MacLean initiating its EV Series program in 2015, its competitors have also looked to electrify their own diesel-powered units.

Few of them to this point have clocked up the same amount of operating hours on battery that MacLean can boast; even fewer of them have gone beyond the limits of their diesel-powered predecessors with the adoption of new opex-enhancing technology and safety additions.

The company is now leveraging this experience with the launch of a new shotcrete-transmixer combination that, MacLean says, will make it the only OEM able to offer fully electrified, articulated shotcrete operations purpose-designed for underground mining applications.

Jonathan Lavallee, Product Manager – Shotcrete Equipment, got IM up to speed with developments.

“The SS5 battery-electric shotcrete sprayer is now mechanically complete,” he said ahead of the launch today. “We’ve tested it at our underground test mine and it has exceeded our expectations.”

Filling out an offering of shotcrete sprayers that includes the diesel-powered SS2 and SS3 machines, the battery-powered SS5 shotcrete unit is close to 7 ft (2.13 m) wide and is the first-ever MacLean sprayer to have a forward-facing cab for a better view of shotcreting operations from inside the cab.

In addition to a better view, the shift from mid-ship to forward-facing cab has also aided with placing the batteries and the EV components on the rear side of the machine to ensure rebound dust and particulates from shotcrete operations are not getting inside the EV components, Lavallee said.

Alongside this machine will be the 2.59-m-wide battery-powered TM3 concrete transmixer, which is based on a diesel-equivalent machine already on the market and will serve the SS5’s shotcrete needs.

Like all of MacLean’s EV Series machines, the SS5 sprayer will be able to tram on battery and connect to the power infrastructure within the mine for spraying.

This might not be all, according to Lavallee.

“Depending on the size of your heading, the battery re-generation capability on site and the air quality/quantity, there could be an option to shoot on pure battery,” he said.

Testing at the MacLean Research and Training Facility in Sudbury saw the prototype machine complete two full mixer trucks worth of shotcrete – roughly 12 cu.m – while still having enough battery power remaining to conduct a thorough wash down and washout of the equipment and tram to the nearest point of recharge, according to Lavallee.

While there was no on-board compressor fitted to this prototype – with the machine using mine air at the test facility – Lavallee is confident the commercial unit will provide the option of spraying off battery for parts of a mine where power services have not yet been established.

“Depending on the size of your heading, the battery re-generation capability on site and the air quality/quantity, there could be an option to shoot on pure battery [with the SS5],” Jonathan Lavallee says
There is more to the SS5 than battery-powered operation alone, which Lavallee, a man with shotcrete experience at Oyu Tolgoi, Grasberg, Outotec and GCP Applied Technologies, is keen to talk up.

Fitted with a “first of its kind” automatic accelerator dosing system and the company’s Auto Doser platform, Lavallee says the machine will allow operations to save money on shotcrete consumption, increase the quality of material going onto the walls and, most importantly, create a safer environment for miners.

“My mission has always been to ensure the product is 100% quality and reacts and solidifies as it is supposed to without causing any falls or damage to personnel or equipment,” he said.

Other than the new accelerator, the system will use sophisticated scanning technology for shotcrete thickness monitoring.

“That will, again, enable you to enhance the quality of the material going onto the drifts and headings,” Lavallee said. “It will also eventually help with cost reductions through reducing overshooting.”

These elements, combined, could have a significant impact on the operating cost associated with the SS5, with Lavallee hinting at 30-60% savings from the dosing system, and plus-20% savings in shotcrete consumption with the use of the accelerator and real-time scanning technology.

The Australia market will be the first to test out the new sprayer, with a unit set to be delivered to a customer site in the June quarter. Ahead of this, it is heading to the company’s branch in Elko, Nevada, for additional testing.

This unit will also be equipped with a newer type of battery MacLean is currently putting through its paces, in addition to an in-development compressor.

MacLean, again, appears to have not only electrified its mining equipment niche; but reinforced it with all the technology smarts forward-thinking miners are after.

MacLean partners with Cambrian College to accelerate BEV maintenance training

Canada’s MacLean Engineering is partnering with Sudbury’s Cambrian College to support skills and technology development for the “electric, automated, and digitalised mine of today and tomorrow”.

The MacLean Research and Training Facility in Greater Sudbury, Ontario, is set to host the practical component of Cambrian’s Industrial Battery Electric Vehicle Maintenance Course. Cambrian’s curriculum, developed in part with MacLean technical input, is designed for Heavy Duty technicians currently working in the mining sector.

In addition to delivering corporate training courses, Cambrian’s Centre for Smart Mining is also the only federally recognised Technology Access Centre specific to the mining technology sector, with funding to support technology development and acceleration, MacLean says. As such, the Cambrian-MacLean strategic skills and technology partnership will focus both on the training of heavy duty mechanics to support battery electric vehicle (BEV) fleets, as well as supporting the development of the next generation of mechatronics workers in the mining industry by providing Cambrian students with the opportunity to work directly with the MacLean Advanced Vehicle Technology team based out of the company’s Research and Training Facility.

Stella Holloway, General Manager for Northern Ontario Operations at MacLean, said: “Practical training for BEV mechanics and applied research opportunities for the next generation of mechatronics professionals to facilitate the adoption of on-vehicle technology – these are concrete examples of MacLean leveraging its test decline in Greater Sudbury to make a difference in the industry.

“This is a chance for us to walk the talk when it comes to ramping up our research and training facility to actively support long-term, positive change in mining and I’m thrilled that we’re doing this in partnership with Cambrian.”

Stephen Gravel, Manager of Cambrian’s Centre for Smart Mining, added: “Successful innovation depends on great collaboration, and I think this partnership with MacLean is a perfect example. No single educational institution or company can drive change entirely on its own, but rather it’s a spirit of cooperation that will help us drive innovation in mining of the 21st century and that’s why I’m confident we’ll succeed.”

MacLean Engineering up to the Africa mining challenge

MacLean Engineering’s investment in Africa is paying off, with multiple production support vehicle sales recently secured on the back of an increased presence in South Africa.

Having last month bolstered its largest single fleet in Africa to 11 vehicles at the Kibali gold mine, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the company is now busy assembling equipment for delivery at an underground mine in Namibia, while making manufacturing and delivery plans for a successful tender for five units that will head to a underground gold mine in Mali.

John-Paul Theunissen, MacLean’s General Manager for Africa, says recent sales could be put down to the company boosting its manufacturing and service capacity on the continent close to two years ago.

“We are now manufacturing for Africa out of South Africa,” he told IM. “Towards the end of 2018/beginning of 2019, we commissioned another 900 sq.m of manufacturing space at our South Africa facility. This means we now have 1,000 sq.m of workshop and assembly space.”

The Free State facility, the first international branch MacLean set up back in the 1990s, also offers maintenance and service support.

These attributes, plus the ability to access MacLean engineers across the globe for equipment troubleshooting, have allowed Africa-based mining companies to get comfortable with the Canada-based brand, according to Theunissen.

“We have really started to build momentum in Africa, increasing the level of service and support closer to home,” he said.

“It is this local aspect that really sells fleets, as opposed to individual machines.”

MacLean now has 1,000 sq.m of workshop and assembly space, Theunissen says

This increased local offering has arrived at just the right time.

While the stricter lockdown measures in South Africa have been lifted – the country has moved from Level 5 to Level 3, allowing mines to return to full capacity (with COVID-safe procedures in place) – companies procuring equipment for Africa are conscious intercontinental deliveries could face upheaval again if a ‘second wave’ of COVID-19 hits.

Some mining companies influenced by recent lockdowns are also making longer-term pledges to adjust their supply chains to take advantage of local expertise, at the same time reducing potential risks that come with buying machines and solutions from overseas suppliers.

This recently enlarged presence in Africa could see MacLean benefit from such moves.

Recent orders

The latest orders Theunissen mentioned could reflect this reality.

In securing a contract to supply three MacLean 3-Series Cassette Trucks (CS3) and four cassettes to the Murray & Roberts Cementation and Lewcor Mining joint venture set to establish the underground stoping horizon at the Wolfshag zone at B2Gold’s Otjikoto mine, in Namibia, the company achieved several ‘firsts’, he said.

“It’s a new customer, Murray & Roberts; a new country, Namibia; and a new miner, B2Gold,” he said.

These units will be assembled in South Africa – another MacLean first – and are due to be delivered to the mine by the end of the last quarter of the year, according to Theunissen.

And, as mentioned before, the company recently bolstered the fleet at the Barrick Gold/AngloGold Ashanti majority owned Kibali gold mine in the DRC.

The latest piece of equipment for the mine – which arrived at the end of July – was one of the company’s personnel carriers.

This adds to the three EC3 Emulsion Chargers, a WS3 Water Sprayer, a FL3 Fuel Lube Truck, and a BT3 Boom Truck – all from MacLean’s trusted Mine-Mate™ Series – that Byrnecut, the original mining contractor at Kibali, brought in from 2013 onwards.

When the Kibali mining model changed to ‘owner-operator’ under the management of Randgold (now Barrick), the fleet got bigger, with the miner adding four new rigs: another EC3, another BT3, an SL3 Scissor Lift with pipe handler attachment, and a TM2 Mobile Concrete Mixer.

MacLean says its expanding presence at Kibali, from the development phase all the way back in 2013 up to achieving record production numbers in 2019 and 2020, illustrates the “MacLean Advantage in action”.

It explained: “MacLean’s dedicated team in South Africa has worked closely with mine management and operators to provide the training, maintenance and support needed to keep Kibali running smoothly. With operations forecast to continue at Kibali through 2036, MacLean looks forward to providing dependable support for years to come.”

Tech take-up

Mines like Kibali – one of the most technologically advanced in Africa – are gradually becoming more and more automated in an effort to increase productivity and safety.

Already one of the world’s most highly automated underground gold mines, Kibali’s backbone is Sandvik’s AutoMine Multi Fleet system, supervised on surface by a single operator. This system, in a world first, allows a fleet of up to five LHDs to be operated autonomously, 750 m below the surface, within the same 6 m x 6 m production drive while using designated passing bays to maintain traffic flow, Barrick says. A similar system is used in the production levels to feed the ore passes, according to the company.

While MacLean’s production support vehicles often interact with these autonomous loaders, for the time being they are still manned by operators.

This is set to change into the future, according to Theunissen.

“The Advanced Vehicle Technology Team (AVT) in Canada is moving into the automation space,” he said. “We’re looking to integrate our own digitalised systems into those of OEMs such as Sandvik and Epiroc to ensure fully interoperable autonomous operation.”

Within the AVT, the Advanced Vehicle Technology group embedded at the MacLean Research and Demonstration Facility, in Sudbury, Ontario (pictured below), has over 20 engineering staff working on remotely controlled to fully autonomous vehicle operation, using radar, LiDAR, and vehicle monitoring technology, according to MacLean.

This team has already come up with vehicle telemetry hardware and software, and virtual reality training tools. It is also transitioning to a cloud-based platform for documentation, parts ordering, and training content called Documoto.

The Advanced Vehicle Technology group is embedded at the MacLean Research and Demonstration Facility, in Sudbury, Ontario (photo: James Hodgins)

While these technology developments will, in the future, underwrite the company’s transition to offering machines capable of fully autonomous operation, MacLean is already at the front of the pack when it comes to facilitating the industry’s electrification movement.

In Canada, it has more than 30 battery electric mining vehicles (BEVs) working underground – at 10 mine sites, across four provinces, with more than 50,000 operating hours amassed.

While Africa as a whole might not yet have the energy infrastructure in place to fully leverage these ‘green’ BEVs – many mines remain off grid and reliant on diesel power – Theunissen has seen grid-connected miners in South Africa show interest in taking on these machines.

“In South Africa there is already appetite for BEVs,” he said. “We see it coming through in the RFIs (request for information) we get on projects.”

MacLean has an advantage over some of its competitors when it comes to converting these RFIs into sales.

Not only has it got thousands of operating hours under its belt, it also has engineers in place that can calculate the total cost of ownership savings a specific mine will achieve should they bring BEVs into their fleets. Due to the increase in upfront cost currently seen when comparing diesel- with battery-powered vehicles, this type of analysis is crucial to securing orders.

“We can show them how the machine will fit into the mining cycle and provide in-house calculations on ventilation and mine design savings,” Theunissen said. “This helps assist end users when it comes to long-term decision making for the mine.”

For countries in Africa to get on board the electrification train like those mines in Canada have, Theunissen thinks governments will need to introduce incentives for mines to change their energy inputs and adopt BEVs.

Should this happen, MacLean will be equipped both within the continent and internationally to take on that challenge.

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.

MacLean ANFO loader goes underground at Pure Gold’s Madsen project

The ramp up to first production at Pure Gold Mining’s Madsen gold project in Red Lake, Ontario, continues, with the company having recently taken delivery of an ANFO loader from MacLean Engineering.

The ANFO loader, which has just headed underground for the first time at the project, is one of several new pieces of kit the company has added to its fleet as it heads towards its goal of pouring first gold at Madsen by the end of the year.

In a June 21 update, Pure Gold said procurement of major equipment was now 94% complete; a total of 1,285 m of underground mine development had been completed, with an advance rate 60% better than the mine plan; initial access development to longhole stopes had commenced; and an alimak had been installed in the existing shaft to support dewatering and shaft rehabilitation.

In the update, the company said new mine equipment delivered to date included four underground LHDs, two jumbo drills, two haul trucks, two scissor lifts, multiple utility vehicles and the ANFO loader.

One of these haul trucks is a DUX DT-26N articulated truck, while at least one Epiroc jumbo drill has been commissioned at Madsen.

Based on the 2019 feasibility study, Madsen is expected to produce an average of 80,000 oz/y at an all-in sustaining cost of $787/oz over a 12-year mine life. The operation will feature a combination of diesel and battery-powered load and haul equipment, with first gold production planned for the December quarter.

MacLean Engineering’s digital twin technology takes shape

Having witnessed – and benefitted from – the electrification and automation evolution going on in the underground mining industry, MacLean Engineering is also leveraging digitalisation to improve machine analysis and performance for its customers.

The Sudbury, Ontario-based company, over the last few years, set itself a target of creating a digital twin for every MacLean mining vehicle and, Stuart Lister, Vice President of Marketing & Communications, says the company is now at a point in its product development evolution where it can share some progress.

On the real-time analytics front, the company has a purpose-built vehicle monitoring system on its 15-unit fleet of battery-electric vehicles at the Newmont Goldcorp-owned Borden gold mine in northern Ontario, he said.

“This system streams real-time performance data (both tramming and application) to the cloud for remote analysis and better decision making for maintenance and operations personnel at site,” he explained.

This MacLean IntelliOp VMS package consists of sensors and display screens installed on each unit, supported by analytics software that “distils vehicle performance data” based on an OEM-level of product design knowledge, according to Lister.

“IntelliOp presents actionable data and provides prompts on the in-cab screen so that it offers up immediate benefits with regard to operator performance,” he said. “It also clears away the background noise of vehicle health telemetry by presenting this data in a way that enables predictive maintenance decision making, not bring about ‘decision overwhelm’.”

Lister said the company is also taking a “leap” to a cloud-based documentation platform for parts books and parts ordering as well as technical manuals. This online environment provides a high level of offline functionality and is where “almost real-time downloaded PDFs” can be created easily and quickly, he said.

“Our new ‘Documoto’ parts ordering portal will have the look and feel of a best-in-class consumer retail experience,” he said. The company is also able to layer on a library of training content, for example ‘how-to’ videos that MacLean thinks will be of great help to its customer base. “Going forward, we’re going to build this content out with training videos shot in our test mine,” he said.

Lister continued: “And, speaking of training, a great example of the MacLean digital twin philosophy taking shape is our development of a virtual reality (VR) bolter that offers up a digital simulation of a bolter environment within a headset.”

The company showed off this VR innovation at the CIM Convention, in Montreal, earlier this year, providing visitors with a hands-on experience of the immersive training world of virtual ground support installation.

Lister remarked: “It’s easy to transport and the technology is well known and well-liked by the coming generation of underground miners who are growing up with this type of technology as part of their day-to-day.”

MacLean also has plans to extend its VR capabilities to pre-op walkarounds and full simulator treatments for the MacLean Blockholer and MacLean Shotcrete Sprayer, it previously said.

He added: “The MacLean digital twin is indeed taking shape and, we’re just getting started.”

Next up for the company is connecting its real-time vehicle performance data and the cloud-based parts book and technical manuals repository with each unit’s maintenance history.

“The scenario is a mine’s service technician showing up at a piece of mining equipment, with a tablet that can instantly get a picture of the work that has been done to that unit, along with predictive maintenance suggestions – maintenance tasks and parts,” Lister said.

“This is just one example of how the rollout of the digital twin, if done right, could make a practical difference in underground mining. That’s why we’re devoting resources to pushing forward in this area.”

MacLean breaks new ground in Africa mining sector

MacLean Engineering’s secondary breakers have been proving their worth in Africa, with a number of machines safely and effectively eliminating ore flow blockages and releasing trapped reserves above the draw point.

Built for the tough underground mining environment, these machines provide the solution to attacking high boulder hang-ups without endangering mine workers, according to MacLean.

One only needs to look at the Palabora copper mine, in South Africa, for proof of this, where three MacLean hang-up rigs have been working underground for over 15 years.

Palabora endorses MacLean’s commitment to promoting safety and productivity in the underground environment, through purpose-built, rugged and reliable mine vehicles, MacLean says. The SB8 and SB12 Secondary Breakers (993MR, previously) are part of MacLean’s Ore Flow suite, a leading ore recovery fleet in global underground hard-rock mining, and these rigs have brought down thousands of hang-ups at the operation, ensuring smooth running of both the mine and its mill, and a safe and sustained block cave operation, according to the company.

For lower hang-ups in a drawpoint, or oversize rocks on the ground too large for scoops to handle and too disruptive to get rid of with concussion blasting, the secondary reduction rig, the Blockholer, solves the problem and ensures production isn’t held up, MacLean says.

The past 24 months have been exciting for MacLean’s branch in Africa.

Petra Diamonds ordered a BH3 for its Koffiefontein diamond mine, in Free State Province, South Africa, with the company’s success showcasing increased safety used as a “proof point” to secure another order for a BH2 (pictured), according to MacLean, this time from the Kimberley Ekapa Mining joint venture, in the Northern Cape. Palabora has since placed an order for two secondary breakers for delivery in 2020.

“Both Koffiefontein and Kimberley mines echo the same message of improved safety, increased production, and long-term savings in infrastructure upkeep due to the inclusion of MacLean secondary breaking units in their mining cycle,” MacLean said.

The two-stage process of their conventional approach to reduce oversize and bring down hang-ups (drill with one machine and manually load explosives by hand) has now been combined into a single-stage process with the Blockholers. This process eliminates the need for manually loading explosives, thus improving operator safety, and reduces damage to the draw point infrastructure.

“In addition, these units are used by both mines as utility drills to drill off cubbies as well as eye bolt holes due to their mobility and self-sustaining drilling capabilities of diesel power,” MacLean explained. “This versatility makes the MacLean Blockholers an invaluable tool to the mines.”

Ground support, electrification, automation, digitalisation all part of MacLean’s PERUMIN 34 showcase

The upcoming PERUMIN 34 mining convention in Arequipa (September 16-20) is providing Canada-based mining vehicle manufacturer MacLean Engineering a chance to share its latest field data and learnings from product development efforts in the areas of ground support, electrification, automation, and digitalisation.

This includes face bolting, full-fleet battery electrification, tele-remote and driver assist vehicle operation, real-time vehicle monitoring, and virtual reality training.

MacLean’s participating delegation includes a full contingent of sales and product management specialists both from the MacLean Peru branch, in Lima, as well as from head office in Canada.

The company first established a branch in Lima in 2012 to provide technical and sales support to the local mining industry. Since that time, the company has grown its in-country staffing contingent to over 50 employees, including over 40 mining vehicle technicians who provide site-level service and support to mines throughout the country.

Peru is also the first international mining jurisdiction where MacLean has sold and commissioned its latest ground support installation option – face bolting on the 975 Omnia scissor bolter – with two units currently working underground for bolting the face within the underground mining cycle. At least one of these is at the Nexa Resources’ owned Atacocha zinc-copper-lead-silver-gold operation in the Peruvian Andes (pictured).

MacLean President, Kevin MacLean, said the company’s Lima branch is at the heart of its commitment to underground mining, not only in Peru but also across South America.

Tony Caron, MacLean’s Vice President of Latin America, Quebec and Nunavut, said: “Our approach in Peru has stayed faithful to our approach to building a lasting business in other international markets, which is to establish local roots and take a long-term view, focusing on nurturing customer partnerships.

“From the Abitibi region of northwest Quebec to the nickel basin and gold mines of northern Ontario; from the Kivalliq region of Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic to Nevada, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Australia – in each of these unique mining geographies, geologies and cultures, the one constant is the importance of in-country service and support.”

MacLean’s Product Manager for Bolting, Stephen Denomme, said the MacLean bolter is the benchmark for ground support installation safety, productivity and versatility in Canadian hard-rock mines. “With our latest face bolting design, we are able to offer up to the mining industry in Latin America, a semi-mechanised bolting option where the operator is always working under protected ground, where you get best-in-class productivity for bolts and screen installed per shift, along with the versatility of multiple bolt-type installation and a deck configuration that allows for the storage of a full shift of consumables,” he said.

“This is the MacLean bolting approach and technology that we look forward to sharing with industry colleagues during the week of PERUMIN 34 in Arequipa.”

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.

Orica keen to collaborate on path to blasting automation

Orica’s Angus Melbourne told a packed Austmine 2019 crowd in Brisbane this week that the blasting specialist is committed to developing automated solutions for both the underground and surface mining sectors and is working with both customers and industry partners to make this aim a reality.

During his speech on Wednesday, Melbourne, Orica’s Chief Commercial and Technical Officer, walked delegates through a number of achievements the company had achieved over its 140-year history, but also looked ahead to how Orica is focused on revolutionising the drill and blast operations of the future.

“Blasting is one of the few processes in the mining value chain that remains largely untouched by automation,” Melbourne said. “As mines go deeper and orebodies become more remote, the case for blasting automation becomes clearer.”

Among a number of benefits of blasting automation were the ability to remove people from harm’s ways, grant access to difficult ore reserves and reduce operational delays, he explained.

“Due to the complexities associated with a typical blast operation, this is no trivial endeavour,” he said.

Melbourne said progress was already being made with Orica’s automation efforts, singling out its Orica’s WebGen™ wireless initiation technology, in particular. Launched in 2018, WebGen improves safety by removing people from hazardous situations and enhances productivity through the removal of constraints previously placed on operations by wired connections.

“Since its release, more than 130 WebGen wireless blasts have been executed globally across four industry segments,” Melbourne told delegates.

Newmont Goldcorp’s Musselwhite mine has been an advocate of the wireless initiation technology, recently saying the blasting tests it has carried out at the Ontario mine were “a decisive step on the path towards full automation of drill and blast operations in the future”.

The wireless initiation technology is leading to the development of new blasting options, according to Melbourne, who said, in the last 12 months, Orica has co-developed more than seven new techniques that are “revolutionising the way our customers are planning and executing their mining operations”.

On stage, Melbourne then played a short video from CMOC Northparkes in New South Wales, Australia, a miner that recently converted its entire sub-level cave copper mine to WebGen wireless initiation blasting; an Australia and world first, according to Melbourne.

He said Northparkes has seen significant improvements in safety, productivity and ore recovery since the transition. Melbourne’s words were echoed later that day when Orica received the Austmine METS Innovation Award for the use of WebGen at Northparkes.

Melbourne pointed to a second collaborative development that was helping shape the company’s blast automation efforts during his time on stage; this time with an original equipment manufacturer.

The company has been working with MacLean Engineering out of Canada to test the first fully-mechanised drawpoint hang-up blasting solution, he said.

Capable of drilling and charging up to eight blast holes remotely, the solution is underpinned by WebGen wireless technology and, once again, removes people from harm’s way.

“Hang-up blasting is a major issue for block and sub-level cave mines around the world,” Melbourne said. “In fact, at any one time, up to 30% of all drawpoints can be unavailable due to oversize material. All current solutions are either high risk mining activities or are highly inefficient to implement.”

He then played a video highlighting this industry-first solution, before remarking: “This is a significant step towards fully-autonomous production in underground mines. It’s an exciting time for everyone involved and is just one example of an industry collaboration to deliver blast automation.”

Melbourne concluded his presentation by saying, in the future, integrated, automated and intelligent systems will deliver the critical data necessary for executing real-time change and quantifiable impact on all parts of the value chain “through an ‘ecosystem of insight’ never seen before in mining.

“To capture the full potential of rapidly-evolving technology will require new ways of thinking, new ways of working, and a new spirit of collaboration across the industry.”