Tag Archives: Safescape

Macmahon contemplates underground shift to battery-electric utility vehicles

One of Australia’s leading contract miners, Macmahon, says it is considering the use of the battery-electric Bortana EV model for its greater underground operations in the future.

The company made the admission after announcing the arrival of two Agrale Marruá AM200 light utility vehicles for its underground mining contracts (pictured). One of these – the dual cab version – is already in use and on site at BHP’s Leinster nickel operation in Western Australia.

Originally built for the Brazilian army, Macmahon has previously trialled these Tier 4 diesel engine utility vehicles, saying they are equipped to deal with what the underground mining environment throws at them.

“With the body, doors and tray all made from galvanised steel, along with a heavy-duty chassis, these corrosion-resistant vehicles are built to withstand the harsh underground environment,” it said.

Macmahon’s previous vehicles had a lifespan of 3-5 years, and it is expecting an operating life of up to six years minimum with Marrua, predicting these AM200s could last 8-10 years.

“This means, over time, we will have reduced maintenance and run cost due to the heavy-duty driveline components,” it said.

The company added: “Looking to the future, we’re also considering the electric Bortana EV model for our greater underground operations.”

The Bortana EV, which has a chassis of a diesel-powered Agrale Marruá, electric technology from 3ME and Safescape’s design and engineering expertise, has been trialled all over Australia. This includes a stint at Kirkland Lake Gold’s Fosterville mine, in Victoria; a test at Mincor’s Long nickel mine, in Western Australia; and a try-out at IGO’s Nova operation, also in Western Australia.

3ME and Batt Mobile Equipment showcase new 20 t battery-electric loader

A new underground mine electric vehicle (EV) has been showcased in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, promising a “rEVolution for mining operations”.

The ‘TRITEV is believed to be the first fully battery-electric retrofit 20 t loader suitable for deployment into underground hard-rock mines. It has been developed in Australia for the mining industry alongside Safescape’s Bortana EV, launched in 2019.

A collaboration between 3ME Technology and Batt Mobile Equipment to deliver the fully operational TRITEV prototype is anticipated to represent a successful shift away from diesel-run vehicles for Aeris Resources and its Tritton copper project in New South Wales.

With the TRITEV now complete and operating with a capability that meets or exceeds the diesel variant, 3ME Technology believes the platform will be a key player in the drive to decarbonise, and eliminate the issue of diesel particulate matter underground all while saving on the high operating costs associated with mine shaft ventilation and the running of an ageing diesel fleet.

The electric vehicle has been developed under the METS Ignited Collaborative Project Funds, which bring together Australian METS companies, global suppliers, mine operators, research organisations and capital providers to support the improved productivity, competitiveness and innovative capacity of the Australia’s leading METS sector.

Justin Bain, 3ME Technology’s CEO, who unveiled the TRITEV at this week’s event, said: “The TRITEV has been the result of a heavily collaborative effort. Whilst it’s been a challenging integration process, we’ve enjoyed working closely with all parties and we are now in position to replicate these models at scale.

“It’s been an absolute pleasure working with the team at Batt Mobile Equipment. Their industry knowledge, vehicle design expertise and mechanical acumen is second to none. We felt today would be the perfect time to announce we have formalised our partnership, which we believe will mark the Hunter [Valley] as a powerhouse in the battery-electric mining space.”

METS Ignited CEO, Adrian Beer, said the showcase highlights the immense capability of Australia’s METS sector to deliver technologies to improve sustainable mining practices.

“METS Ignited Industry Growth Centre is pleased to support the commercialisation of technologies enabling safety improvements for Australia’s mining industry and potential global partners,” Beer said.

3ME Technology COO, Martin Kime, said the TRITEV is already receiving strong interest from the underground mining industry.

“With hundreds of these platforms in mines across Australia, we have seen significant interest from other miners in the battery-electric retrofit of existing platforms,” Kime said. “From the conversations we’ve had, what is driving the orders we’ve received is the recognition that there is an absolute need to remove diesel and many miners realise that by getting in early they will secure access to the platforms.

“Given the demand, we look forward to bringing jobs to the Hunter, helping with the COVID recovery whilst creating next-generation, clean-battery technology!”

With a range of additional mining vehicles out there to be electrified, building on the success of the ‘Project EVmine’, it is anticipated the METS Ignited, Safescape, Aeris Resources, 3ME Technology, Batt Mobile Equipment partnership will continue with its quest to electrify underground mining to increase the standards of workplace health and safety for the miners, benefit the environment while allowing miners be more competitive on the global market via significant savings to operating expenses, METS Ignited said.

Safescape soars above expectations with Laddertube installation

Traditional means of escapeways have played a valuable part of the past but as the mining industry grows and innovative thinking steers the industry in a new direction, conventional designs are being replaced with systems that are built specifically for the harsh mining environment.

All mines are affected by corrosion to some degree, with Safescape Laddertube escapeways designed using polyethylene and stainless steel so they are not subject to the same corrosion issues traditional ladders face.

A fully-enclosed product, the Laddertube is not impacted by water, salt or other mineral deposits, Safescape says. It requires minimal upkeep, fits comfortably within a 1.1 m raisebore and provides for the ultimate in user safety, according to the company. To date, over 42,000 m of Safescape Laddertube has been supplied to over 120 mines across the globe.

“While the introduction of Safescape to the industry has not been without its challenges, the opportunity to work with innovative and progressive clients to provide a safer product for miners has been, in itself, rewarding,” the company said. “Additionally, Safescape has been able to work with its clients to solve challenges above and beyond day-to-day challenges.”

Following a routine inspection at a client’s mine site, a 160 m section of the site’s oldest steel ladder, extending from the old open-pit mine down into the underground workings, had been deemed unsatisfactory due to excessive corrosion. It is at this point the mine began searching for suppliers to replace the existing compromised steel ladderway. Most options were either unsuitable for the length (over 150 m of ladder) or would take up to six weeks to fabricate and deliver. As the mine was forced to close until the ladders could be replaced, a short turnaround to replace this ladder was critical.

As a supplier of escapeway ladders, Safescape is adaptable to the needs of mining companies in terms of tight delivery windows because escapeways are often installed on the critical path to production, the company said. In this case the mine was on standby until a new escapeway could be delivered and installed.

Fortunately, a similarly sized order for another Safescape customer was awaiting shipment and, therefore, the ladders were available to be delivered within days. The production team at Safescape’s Perth, Western Australia, facility worked through the weekend to replace the initial order to meet the sailing date as planned for the other customer. Safescape installers were immediately allocated to the job and mobilised to site along with the installation equipment.

The next step for the Safescape installers and the mine site was to install the Laddertube safely and efficiently. However, a further challenge for this project was that no vehicle access existed to enable delivery of the Laddertube modules into the pit.

“Sometimes to get a job done it requires thinking outside the box,” Safescape said.

Site personnel searched the country and found a helicopter that was both capable and available to lift the ladders and installation equipment into the pit. The helicopter delivered five Laddertube modules at a time into the pit for installation. While this work was going on, site personnel undertook the dangerous task of removing the compromised ladderway. They did this by undertaking a risk assessment and re-securing the old steel ladderway from top to bottom and then removing in sections, bottom up, thereby mitigating the risk of a major failure occurring during the removal process.

“During this downtime on site, all personnel involved in re-instating the ladderway worked as a well-oiled machine to deliver this incredible feat,” Safescape said. Meanwhile the rest of the site team worked to get ahead of maintenance, planning and training so that none of the time taken away from production was wasted.

The Chief Operating Officer on site commented: “This was a truly exceptional outcome and provided a classic example of the support needed from time-to-time in this industry.

“We were fortunate that the ladders were available and are relieved that Safescape were, with the assistance of their dedicated workforce, still able to meet their original order for the ladders sent to the US. It was not only the ladders that they provided but a full installation system to Australian Standards, meeting all the regulators requirements and saving further time.

“A big thanks also goes out to United Aero Helicopters, who were able to supply the helicopter required to lower all equipment and infrastructure into the pit, and to all those involved and providing support in the installation process. Nine days from order to installation complete under normal circumstances is a great effort, but under the circumstances for this job, it can only be described as fantastic.”

The Safescape team pride themselves on their ability to complete fast and safe installation of Laddertube and this situation was no exception. The Laddertube escapeway was installed safely and efficiently in nine days and site was permitted to continue with normal operation.

Electric underground light vehicles coming to Kambalda, Mincor’s Southam says

Mincor Resources’ David Southam said the restart of the company’s Kambalda nickel mine in Western Australia will act as a “global showcase” for all-electric underground light vehicles when it opens in the next few years.

Southam, the company’s Managing Director, made such a statement at the Paydirt 2019 Australian Nickel Conference in Perth, Western Australia, this week.

The company is currently running a definitive feasibility study (DFS) at the project, at the same time as completing drilling to add resources to the property. First site works could occur in the March quarter, according to Southam.

So far, Mincor has built up a 4.7 Mt resource base grading 3.7% Ni for 175,300 t of contained nickel. The company hopes to deliver initial throughput of between 400,000-600,000 t/y of ore over an initial four-to-five-year period, which it will sell to BHP’s nearby Kambalda operations as part of an offtake agreement with the major miner.

Southam said the company’s decision to restart underground nickel mining operations using new light electric vehicles such as Safescape’s Bortana EV (with system integration from 3ME Technology and Agrale) would reduce ventilation costs and diesel particulate counts.

The Bortana EV, specifically, has had a prototype undergo local mine site testing in Newcastle, New South Wales, before an extended trial with Kirkland Lake Gold’s Fosterville mine in Victoria.

Southam also said the company had a longer-term aim to transition larger mining vehicles to electric once infrastructure was established.

“This mine restart will be a global showcase for this new and more environmentally-friendly mining technology,” he said.

Safescape, 3ME and Agrale’s Bortana electric vehicle ready for mine site trial

Safescape, 3ME Technology and Agrale are celebrating the launch of the new Bortana electric vehicle (EV), with the partners now preparing to dispatch a prototype for a three-month trial at a gold mine.

The launch, taking place at Mt Cotton Training Centre on May 24, followed a successful exhibition at the Austmine conference, in Brisbane, Australia, Safescape said.

The project, partly funded by Australia’s METS Ignited industry growth centre, has seen the three companies design a purpose-built battery electric utility vehicle for the mining industry that, METS Ignited says, offers a significant increase in sustainability and durability compared with the existing options.

The Bortana EV uses the chassis of a diesel-powered Agrale Marruá, electric technology from 3ME and Safescape’s design and engineering expertise.

3ME Technology CEO, Justin Bain, said a vehicle of this nature is needed in the Australian mining landscape.

“Vehicles used in underground Australian mining operations have faced issues of corrosion, durability and emissions for a long time – there is a sore need for a better solution.

“The BORTANA EV was developed for the harsh environments of Australian mine sites and we’re really excited to see this vehicle in action. We have focused on achieving the highest levels of safety and compliance whilst delivering superior performance and efficiency.”

The application of battery-electric vehicles in underground mining provides several key benefits over traditional diesel-powered engines, with the new vehicle producing minimal heat, minimal noise and, most importantly, no diesel particulate matter exposure for workers within confined spaces. “This also means reduced costs in ventilation and maintenance for mine operators,” METS Ignited said.

Supporting the Bortana EV during the launch was the Agrale Marruá with both a single- and dual-cab vehicle on display. This vehicle is traditionally used in the Brazil army and mining industry, with Safescape selecting the chassis due to its corrosion-resistant body and ability to withstand the harshest of conditions.

The vehicles are future-proofed; equipped for integration with current autonomous and future artificial intelligence developments, according to METS Ignited, which provided A$500,000 ($343,700) for the project under its Collaborative Project Funds, in 2018.

Following the three-month trial at the gold mine – which Bain previously confirmed to IM was Kirkland Lake Gold’s Fosterville operation in Victoria, Australia – the prototype will have further exposure to other mining companies and contractors, METS Ignited said.

“The trial will test the battery-electric vehicle’s ability to achieve mining duty cycles and provide superior drivability, safety, corrosion protection, reliability and maintainability in comparison with the current underground diesel light vehicle fleet,” Bain said back in January. “The EV will initially be integrated into the Fosterville fleet as a supervisor vehicle and undertake all tasks required by the diesel light utility vehicles. An operational risk assessment of the BORTANA EV has been conducted with Fosterville to ensure the vehicle will meet its mine site compliance requirements.”

METS Ignited General Manager Industry Engagement, Peter Clarke, said: “We are pleased to support 3ME Technology and Safescape in developing a great solution for Australian mining operations. The safety benefits and cost savings achieved by implementing these vehicles onsite will make a significant difference for miners.

“This is a great example of how funding and support for collaboration pays off for the sector.”

Safescape Managing Director, Steve Durkin, thinks the Bortana EV will offer the right mix of capability and longevity in the mining environment.

The lack of tail-pipe emissions, plus reduced heat generation are just some of the benefits underground mines are likely to realise with the use of the Bortana EV, he said.

“We believe that the Bortana EV will have a lower total cost of ownership than any other comparable production vehicle in the mining environment,” Durkin concluded.