Mike Kasaba foresees the day when diesel no longer fuels underground mining. The chief executive officer of Artisan Vehicle Systems, a company that supplies battery-powered, electric powertrains for mining equipment, Kasaba predicts that within five years all new equipment purchases for underground mines will be zero emission and diesel equipment will be progressively phased out.
He delivered his forecast during a recent Toronto conference of the Mining Diesel Emissions Council. To prepare for diesel’s demise, his company recently opened a 60,000-square-foot battery development centre and production facility designed to boost production levels by 10 times, in Camarillo, California.
“The driving force behind the expansion is this opportunity and urgency in underground mining,” said Mark Dunseith, general manager of Artisan’s Canadian operations.
Artisan’s electric powertrains drive 14 underground machines, including 3.5-yard scoops and 20-ton haul trucks, at Kirkland Lake Gold’s Macassa Mine. In 2012, Kirkland Lake Gold adopted the technology as a way to increase production while avoiding the high cost of new mine ventilation.
“It’s worked well,” said Dunseith. “It’s allowed them to continue development of new orebodies without the massive expenditures of capital for new ventilation.” The mine was able to use existing ventilation, change its equipment and develop an orebody that it would not have been able to get to otherwise, he said.
The battery-powered machines, supplied by RDH Mining Equipment of Alban, are more powerful, quieter, cleaner and cooler than diesel equipment. The switch to battery power is part of a trend in the mining industry to identify renewable energy solutions. Energy consumption is one of the highest operational concerns in underground mining, said Dunseith. In most mines, 40 per cent of energy costs are spent on underground ventilation and cooling, he estimates.
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