Tag Archives: monorail

Riino: changing the way we mine

“There is nothing like the Riino in the mining market or, in fact, in any other industry,” Aaron Lambert, President and CEO of Riino, told IM.

That statement is worth unpacking, which Lambert does by sharing the industrial influences that has resulted in the zero-emission monorail concept he is now looking to turn into a reality for both underground and open-pit mining.

“The concept has come from my past experience in mining and using different technologies,” he says, referencing stints at underground mines in the Sudbury Basin of Canada as a contractor and a period with another innovative rail haulage company that saw him help design and install three installations of the rail-based mining system.

“A lot of the things that I have incorporated into this design come from monorails,” he said. “The rail structure is very similar to a rollercoaster design; it also incorporates components from a subway system; and the rail element is also very modular like an Alimak raise climber – it is pre-constructed and bolted together.”

The obvious reference point mining companies will look to when evaluating Riino is Railveyor – which is comprised of a light rail train propelled by stationary drive stations.

The two have applications in underground and open-pit mining, but Lambert was keen to emphasise the uniqueness of the two technologies as opposed to the similarities.

“The only real similarities between Riino and Railveyor are the fact both systems elongate the payload with a low profile, and both are rail-based that can travel on inclines.”

The resemblance to monorail trains comes in the form of each Riino locomotive – of which there are several making up a system – having internal, train-mounted motors. This aspect, according to Lambert, enables the company to apply a large amount of driveline power across the system. It also allows it to add or remove locomotives in line with the inclines navigated or required payload, all without compromising on power.

The resemblance to monorail trains comes in the form of each Riino locomotive – of which there are several making up a system – having internal, train-mounted motors

The rollercoaster analogue relates to the way the wheels have full attachment to the rails – via load-bearing, side-attachment and under-attachment wheels. This eliminates the potential for train derailments, according to Lambert, saving potential system damage as well as downtime.

The inclusion of a Busbar able to provide 750 V of DC power comes out of the subway and surface transit space, meanwhile.

“It also has auxiliary on-board batteries,” Lambert explained. “This means you eliminate a significant amount of electrical infrastructure – you’re not running power cables to every drive motor, adding additional sub-stations, etc. You are only converting the mine power supply to a third rail busbar and the trains take it from there.”

The assortment of influences aboard Riino is tied to the need for the system to tick off a list of 50 criteria Lambert started with early on in the R&D process. The list was designed to provide a solution that fundamentally shifted the efficiency and productivity associated with haulage, while getting mining companies to pause for thought before simply adding rubber-tyred vehicles to every mine haulage design profile.

While the goal is to “change the way we mine”, the design reflects the realities of the infrastructure miners already have on site.

The power requirements are based off existing specifications for both open-pit and underground mines, and the standard 120-t (18% grade) or 400-t payload numbers quoted will fit into many existing underground or open-pit mining profiles.

The Sudbury-based company can also tailor the solution to the client’s specifications, thanks to the aforementioned modularity.

Yet Lambert is trying to ‘walk before he can run’ with technology, acknowledging that the Riino proposition will require some new thinking from a historically-conservative mining sector.

“Most trucks underground are from 30-60 t and, on surface, from 100-400 t,” he said. “I wanted to get a design that could be scaled up and down with a default configuration.

“I have completed a feasibility study where we can carry 120 t on a standard 18% incline road/ramp; we know the speed and power consumption associated with this and we know we can plug it into the existing mine power infrastructure and get it going immediately.”

The road width required for the Riino is only 1.8 m, while the minimum turn radius is 7.6 m. Offering speeds of up to 80 km/h, Riino can transport material lump sizes of up to -700 mm.

Offering speeds of up to 80 km/h, Riino can transport material lump sizes of up to -700 mm

Lambert has been working on Riino for several years, with the initial plan to produce a system that is both capex- and opex-efficient. The headline numbers associated with this are a targeted 50% reduction in capital expenditure compared with “competitors” and a 50-80% cut in haulage operating costs.

As time has gone by, the zero-emission element has created a further selling point, encouraging mining companies to consider Riino alongside a host of other ‘green’ haulage alternatives to the standard diesel-powered truck and shovel fleet.

Lambert has been making significant headway of late on backing up these numbers with a practical example.

The company recently teamed up with the Canada Mining Innovation Council (CMIC) within its Surface Mining Alternative Haulage project to collaborate and co-develop the technology. This could see a full-scale machine built, which is able to demonstrate the technology’s credentials on a Sudbury-based test site.

To this point a consortium of companies, including two mining houses, have agreed, in principle, to back the CMIC-aligned project.

Trevor Kelly, Innovation Manager at CMIC, said of the project: “The Riino project has raised significant industry interest. CMIC continues to communicate this collaborative project opportunity, both inside and outside our CMIC membership. We feel that this is a great opportunity for others to learn more about Riino and to share the costs and reap the reward going forward.“

Lambert says the CMIC-backed project – which will see the final build design completed, with a full-scale prototype fabricated and demonstrated – could last 24 months and result in operational testing at a mine site owned by one of the consortium members.

This testing is set to push the machine to the limit, going beyond the headline numbers to gauge how revolutionary the Riino could prove if fully embraced.

“The original concept of designing Riino is around changing the mine design and changing the way we mine,” Lambert said. “Mining has evolved over the last hundred years: from horses pulling carts underground; to train locomotives underground; and that turned into the rubber tyred equipment.

“Now is the time to have a re-think about the most effective and efficient mine design principles, and I think Riino should be considered as part of the process.”

Muckahi monorail-based tech removed from Torex’s Media Luna plans

Torex Gold has decided to move forward with “conventional development and mining methods” for its planned Media Luna project in Mexico, following the outcome of various risk assessments, extensive comparative financial analyses, and the results to date of the Muckahi test program at El Limón Deep (ELD), the company said.

In the company’s June quarter results – which saw “solid operational performance” of 118,054 oz of gold produced, adjusted EBITDA of $122.1 million and generation of $21.9 million of free cash flow – Torex said the monorail-based technology would no longer be used in the Media Luna feasibility study currently being worked on and expected to be published in a technical report in the March quarter of 2022.

It explained: “After an analysis of the results to date of the Muckahi test program at ELD and an assessment of business risks, the board has approved a decision to pursue the Media Luna feasibility study on a conventional mining basis. While the monorail-based technology has progressed since the beginning of the ELD test program, testing to date of the individual components operating as an integrated system demonstrates that additional process and equipment engineering is required to achieve desired advance rates, cycle times, and associated cost efficiencies, and that there is insufficient available upside in using the technology as it relates to financial or schedule considerations for Media Luna.”

The use of the Muckahi technology, invented by former President and CEO Fred Stanford, would also leave the company with “no alternative readily available once the decision is taken to drive the two steep ramps at Media Luna, since there would be no access to the ore via any other method without considerable investment and schedule disruption associated with driving conventional ramps”.

Apart from the technical risks, there are additional business risks that require time and consideration such as permitting and regulatory compliance given there is no precedent for the technology, Torex added.

The company believes the use of a conventional mining process is a more prudent approach to mitigate operational and financial risk to the business given Media Luna will be its primary source of feed at the Morelos property after mid-2024.

It did leave the door open for use of the Muckahi technology in the future, saying aspects of the monorail-based technology were currently being deployed for development of the Guajes Tunnel.

“Management will consider including a preliminary economic assessment-level study to utilise monorail-based equipment to develop the smaller EPO deposit near Media Luna as part of the overall technical report to be released in Q1 (March quarter) 2022,” it said.

Potential deployment of the technology at EPO, which hosts an inferred resource of 1.01 Moz of gold-equivalent, would allow for additional testing of the integrated system within a live production environment.

The Muckahi system was engineered by MEDATech in close collaboration with Stanford.

The monorail mining system is billed as providing a surgical way to mine narrower orebodies more efficiently. It involves three logistical paradigm shifts: steep ramps (a quarter of the length of conventional ramps), roof-mounted monorails and equipment to run on them and minimal underground infrastructure.

The technology is expected to significantly reduce capital expenditure, operating expenditure and cut time-to-revenue by as much as 80%, according to Stanford. It will also produce 95% fewer underground greenhouse gas emissions.

The Muckahi technology was included in the Media Luna preliminary economic assessment, but the company always noted that it was experimental in nature and had not yet been tested in an operating mine.

When publishing its 2020 financial results in February 2021, Torex noted: “Since the date of the technical report, the majority of the components of the Muckahi system have been tested by Torex and their functionality demonstrated. Although, the components have not yet been tested together as a system to demonstrate the rates per day in which tunnels can be excavated and material removed from long hole open stopes.

“Testing of the integrated system will continue and is expected to be completed in the second (June) quarter of 2021. Drill and blast fundamentals, standards and best practices for underground hard-rock mining are applied in the Muckahi system as described in of the technical report, where applicable. The proposed application of a monorail system for underground transportation for mine development and production mining is unique to underground mining. There are existing underground mines that use a monorail system for transportation of materials and equipment, however not in the capacity of Muckahi which is described in detail in the technical report. The mine design, equipment performance and cost estimations involving Muckahi in the technical report are conceptual in nature, and do not demonstrate technical or economic viability.”

At the same time as updating the market on its plans to use conventional development and mining methods at Media Luna, Torex said its Board had approved a pushback of the El Limón open pit, which is anticipated to add around 150,000 oz of gold production and extend open-pit mining to mid-2024. This would align with first production from Media Luna in 2024.