First all-electric mine set to start production in 2019
Goldcorp Inc. is in the process of building the world’s first all-electric mine in Chapleau, Ontario hundreds of feet below the lush boreal forest. In a heavily diesel-dependent industry, the concept of near-silent, battery-powered machines is a multi million-dollar experiment that could profoundly change the world of underground mining.
Adam Ladouceur, a jumbo drill operator at the Borden project, northwest of Toronto explains that the lack of noise is “amazing” in comparison to the 23 mines where he previously worked.
After a multi-year slump in commodity prices which began recovering in 2016, the mining industry remains desperate to keep operating costs down, but also catch up with the rest of the world in terms of technology. Going electric could slash energy expenses, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Approximately $9 million will be saved annual on diesel, propane and electricity with the new shift. Productivity gains are also a possibility. Having equipment that can keep working while gas from dynamite blasting clears is just one example of potential productivity gains.
Health is also another benefit of having electric equipment. Studies show an elevated cancer risk for underground miners exposed to diesel exhaust, classified as a carcinogenic by the World Health Organization. Having electric equipment will help to avoid this.
Health issues are commonly a problem in long-running underground mines with older equipment. Now battery-powered scoops and vehicles, underground workers will wear tags linked to a ventilation-on-demand system, moving air only where required.
Many near-surface mines around the world as becoming more and more depleted, and production is moving deeper underground, where high temperatures and ventilation costs make diesel impractical. All the more reason to make the change to electric!
Earlier this year, global miners Glencore and Vale approved projects more than 5,000 feet below ground in Sudbury’s nickel belt. Mining companies may soon find that going electric appeals to the millennials needed to replace an aging workforce.
"Mining needs a revolution to avoid retention or employment issues. Working with stone-age technologies is not sexy for technicians or engineers coming out of school."- Michel Serres, vice president at mine supplier ABB Ltd. Source: theweathernetwork.com,chem.info