CHAPLEAU, Ontario/LONDON (Reuters) – Hundreds of feet below thick boreal forest blanketing the Canadian Shield, a squad of near-silent, battery-powered machines are tunneling toward gold in a multimillion-dollar mining experiment to ditch diesel.
Goldcorp Inc (G.TO) (GG.N) is building the world’s first new all-electric mine, a high-stakes gambit to replace noisy, fume-belching equipment being closely watched by a diesel-dependent industry.
A rough-hewn tunnel, some 800 feet underground, seems an incongruous setting for revolutionary technology, but front-line workers call it a game changer.
“It would be a challenge to go back,” said jumbo drill operator Adam Ladouceur, noting the air quality and lack of noise at the Borden project, northwest of Toronto, is “amazing” compared to the 23 mines where he previously worked.
Stung by a multi-year slump in commodity prices that began recovering in 2016, miners remain desperate to keep operating costs down. Going electric could slash energy expenses, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.