Diesel still rules, but the beginning of a transition to battery-powered vehicles in underground mining appears to be underway.
Industrial Fabrication, a Sudbury-based manufacturer of underground utility vehicles, has three Minecat UT150-EMVs in operation – one at Vale’s Creighton Mine, one at Glencore’s Fraser Mine, both in Sudbury, and one at Goldcorp’s Musselwhite Mine 480 kilometres north of Thunder Bay in northwestern Ontario.
The Sudbury manufacturer first looked at battery power in 2004, but backed away because “at that time we felt the technology wasn’t ready for underground,” said Industrial Fabrication vice-president Daryl Rautiainen. By 2011, it was a different story.
The company started off with a data logging exercise using a diesel-powered Minecat UT99 utility vehicle “to collect as much information as possible about the distance travelled per shift, the speed, how much on grade and how much on flat,” said Rautiainen. “That allowed our engineering department to size the battery and drive train.”
Key customers were invited to Industrial Fabrication’s new 34,000-square-foot manufacturing facility to take the prototype for a spin and all were duly impressed.
Arrangements were made for further testing at Vale’s Creighton Mine, where it chalked up 3,700 kilometres over the course of a one-year trial.
“It was very successful,” said sales manager Marcel Demers. “We had a few challenges, but not one breakdown.”
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