Charging ahead: The move to battery-powered underground mining fleets is gathering speed – by Peter Braul (CIM Magazine – April 23, 2018)

It is also opening up miners to a new realm of possibility.

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs), once considered fringe, have rapidly come onto the radar of every OEM in the underground mining industry. Almost all of them are working on new battery-driven models or ways to convert existing products to electrical power. That shift might seem a little outsized, given the number of mines that have actually deployed battery electric technology to full effect.

But Goldcorp’s vice-president of corporate affairs and energy, John Mullally, predicts that the rate of adoption of BEVs will accelerate rapidly over the next five years and expects many underground mines built in Canada will choose battery-powered vehicles over a diesel fleet, and even underground mines already in operation will consider a shift to an all-electric underground fleet.

“By moving away from diesel and by achieving other reductions associated with the use of clean technologies, Goldcorp can avoid more than 7,000 tons of CO2 and eliminate three million litres of diesel fuel, one million litres of propane and 33,000 megawatt hours of electricity every year,” said Mullally, who also stressed the positive impact on air quality and noise level that has already been noted by the development miners at the company’s all-electric Borden mine near Chapleau, Ontario.

The project is one of three in the province on the leading edge of mine electrification. The others include Kirkland Lake Gold’s Macassa mine in Kirkland Lake and Onaping Depth, a development project in the Sudbury basin that Glencore fully approved in January, which plans to use an all-electric fleet.

It is an unfamiliar place for miners: most technologies used in the business have not changed significantly in decades, if not longer. Now Glencore, one of the world’s largest miners, is earmarking $700 million to build a mine based on equipment that does not exist yet.

Kirkland Lake: tech incubator

Key elements of an all-electric fleet are still in development by most OEMs: large 40-tonne capacity trucks and 14-tonne LHDs are on the horizon, but not yet available. In early March, Artisan Vehicle Systems launched the world’s first 40-tonne battery electric truck at its new manufacturing facility in Kirkland Lake.

For the rest of this article: