Canadian gold miner Goldcorp is looking to eliminate diesel consumption at its mine sites, explaining that this will hugely improve working conditions by removing diesel particulate and other gases such as nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide from work areas.
Goldcorp has started implementing its plan by introducing an electrically powered underground mobile fleet at the Borden gold mine, in Ontario, Canada, and aims to significantly improve the health and safety performance of the mine, while reducing its environmental footprint.
“Other mining companies are studying electrification as an option, but, so far, no one has put it into practice in Canada,” adds Goldcorp corporate affairs and sustainability executive VP Brent Bergeron, noting that the company wants Borden to not only showcase its commitment to safe, sustainable and responsible mining, but also embrace innovation as a smart business choice that will keep the sector competitive.
The company notes in a November media release that, in an increasingly competitive sector facing greater emissions regulation, ensuring that the Borden site is more operationally efficient – in addition to achieving environmental and health benefits – will give the company a great advantage.
To make its vision a reality, Goldcorp is partnering with mining equipment supplier Sandvik Mining and underground mining equipment manufacturer MacLean Engineering to provide battery-powered underground vehicles for almost all the requirements at the Borden mine. Goldcorp’s new mining technology will range from battery-operated drilling and blasting equipment to electric bolters, personnel carriers and, ultimately, a 40 t battery-powered haul truck. The first battery-powered piece of equipment goes into operation at Borden in the second half of 2017, during the advanced exploration phase of the project.
The company’s battery and electric mobile equipment will eliminate all greenhouse gases (GHGs) associated with the movement of ore and waste rock, equal to roughly 50% of the total GHGs on site – or 5 000 t of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year – as well as reduce maintenance and energy costs. With the decrease in emissions comes a reduction in underground ventilation needs. The use of an efficient on-demand ventilation system will provide added benefits – the Borden mine will require 50% less ventilation than a baseline diesel-powered underground mine.
“At Goldcorp, one of our core values is to embrace innovation. Mines are large consumers of energy. As much as 15% of site operating costs [are related to the] consumption of electricity, diesel, propane and natural gas, so focusing innovation efforts on a big cost driver makes obvious business sense,” says Bergeron.
“Electrifying Borden means more upfront capital cost; however, with the additional benefits to health, safety and environmental performance, there is an even stronger business case to proceed with this ambitious mine design.”
By moving away from diesel and achieving other reductions associated with the use of clean technologies, Goldcorp can avoid more than 7 500 t of CO2 and eliminate three-million litres of diesel fuel, one-million litres of propane and 35 000 MWh of electricity every year.
Borden will rely on digital and smart controls, including tele-remote technology to enhance equipment use for continuous mining and will also consider renewable energy such as biomass for heating.
Goldcorp is hopeful that demonstrating the numerous benefits of an all-electric site at Borden will be an example of leadership in innovation, clean technologies and health and safety that will be adopted by other mining companies.
African underground operations – South African operations in particular – need to address the use of ageing diesel locomotives that transport ore and people through mines, says South African mining machinery and equipment supplier CMTI Consulting.
CMTI reports that previous estimates indicate that there are about 1 000 outdated underground diesel locomotives in South African mines that are in dire need of replacement, having been designed as far back as the 1970s.