Tag Archives: Steve Durkin

Safescape’s battery-electric Bortana EV makes a splash in WA nickel country

Following a four-month test at Kirkland Lake Gold’s Fosterville mine, in Victoria, Australia, last year, Safescape’s Bortana EV is starting to woo miners in Western Australia’s renowned Kambalda nickel district.

The Australia-based METS company, which manufactures and supplies safety products to the mining industry globally, took its battery-electric vehicle on a tour of Kambalda at the end of February and Safescape has already started receiving positive feedback.

A battery-electric vehicle designed to handle the aggressive operating environment of underground mines, the Bortana EV uses the chassis of a diesel-powered Agrale Marruá, electric technology from 3ME and Safescape’s design and engineering expertise.

The first stop on the tour was Mincor’s Long nickel mine. Mincor has a long history of nickel production in the prolific nickel belt and, with a lack of new nickel sulphide projects and prices projected by many to climb – in part due to the rise of lithium-ion batteries using nickel sulphate – the company is preparing to reinvigorate its Kambalda mines. These assets include the first greenfields discovery in the region for over 20 years – the high-grade Cassini project.

There are strong arguments for battery-electric equipment in underground mines that include improved health and safety outcomes (especially with no diesel emissions), efficiency gains and reduced maintenance and operating costs. While the deployment of this technology in mining is in its early stages, Mincor is not prepared to wait in the wings. Mincor’s Managing Director, David Southam, said as recently as October 2019, that the restart of its nickel mines in Western Australia would act as a “global showcase” for all-electric underground light vehicles when the mines reopen in the next few years, and Mincor, last month, became the first miner in Western Australia to host the Bortana EV.

Mincor COO, Dean Will, said: “Long is a large mine that is currently on care and maintenance, but with plans to be back in production as part of Mincor’s restart of nickel mining.

“We were able to define a course through the [mine] workings taking the vehicle from surface to 1,100 m underground via a range of road conditions including an area we were able to moisten down to create extremely slippery conditions that would challenge any four-wheel-drive vehicle.”

He added: “The performance of the vehicle generally, and in particular through the worse road conditions, far exceeded our expectations.

“The Bortana includes onboard 1,000 V charging capability, which was tested multiple times throughout the trial period. We also love the angle that the Bortana EV battery contains a high content of nickel and we are planning on utilising these vehicles underground to mine our high-grade nickel which is ultimately destined for the EV market.”

Martin Kime, COO of 3ME Technology, which supplies the batteries and electric drive train for the Bortana EV, was in attendance during the Long trials.

He said: “The opportunity to present the vehicle to several groups from leading mining and contracting companies over a short period in Kambalda was incredible. Because this technology is so new it is difficult to explain it without some physical reference point. Companies were able to experience the Bortana vehicle in realistic terrain and then ask questions about how we are able to deliver such smooth and efficient operation.

“3ME typically works directly with our OEM customers to create electric vehicles but it’s important that our team understand the application and, as such, we’ve all attended various underground and open-pit mine sites supporting Safescape. We find all of these mines want the same thing: safer, healthier mine environments with improved costs but without adding new risks or hazards to their operation.”

Safescape’s Managing Director, Steve Durkin, was also in attendance, saying one of the best parts of his job was visiting mine sites and seeing “experienced professional miners exposed to a piece of new technology that they want to understand but have reservations about”.

He explained: “The process of transformation over one or two hours driving in and snooping around the Bortana is awesome to watch. The entire team at Safescape get a kick out of this and we’re really looking forward to continuing the journey to familiarise more miners with EV technology.”

Safescape plans to begin production of the 5.7 t GVM Bortana EV in the September quarter of 2020 and grow with customer demand.

“Whether it is the Bortana, Tembo, Voltra or Kovatera, battery-electric light vehicles for mining is inevitable,” Durkin said. “The benefits are just too large. We will look to do our part and continue to wish our coopetitors around the world the best of luck. This is a big job and together we’ll put a dent in the DPM issue underground.”

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.