Dec '16/Jan '17

Safety, ventilation the focus of MEMO 2016

By Kelsey Rolfe

Electric vehicles, health and safety, and reducing ventilation demands as mines go deeper were the talk of the town in Sudbury, Ontario, during the 2016 Maintenance, Engineering and Reliability/Mine Operators Conference (MEMO), held from Oct. 16 to 18.

The theme of the annual conference was “Leading and Managing in a Volatile Economy,” and delegates used it to discuss how new technologies could improve both health and safety at the mine and a company’s bottom line.

Craig Harris, a senior electrical engineer at Glencore, said in a presentation that the company’s future fleet of 80 electric vehicles at its Onaping Depth project would create $41 million in capex savings and $7.7 million in opex savings, and pointed to ventilation savings as being “by far” the biggest gain for the site. “Mining has the most to benefit from electric vehicles,” Harris said. “It’s almost a no-brainer.”

John Gravelle, CFO of Artisan Vehicle Systems – which has its electric motors in equipment at Kirkland Lake Gold – said he sees underground mine expansions like Onaping Depth as a big opportunity for adoption of battery-powered vehicles. “As you expand, ventilation problems creep in,” he said. He also pointed out that, although companies have held off from replacing their fleets during the commodities rout, “now is a good time to look at batteries.”

Gravelle acknowledged in his presentation on the increasing use of battery technology that there are still hurdles to overcome. “Mining companies are looking for more comprehensive offerings, and a common charging platform,” he said. “The main concerns are the cost and the uncertainty around battery life.”

Safety was also a popular topic among delegates and presenters. Rod Steele, the founder of mining advisory firm TesMan, presented on a new technology, soon to be commercially applied at Vale’s Coleman mine, that allows tunnel cleaning and loading to be done from a safe distance, keeping miners away from the face. Kirk Rodgers, vice-president of mine productivity at the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI), discussed a “mine development canopy system” the centre is working on, which will protect the face drills and drill carriers from falling rock, as well as ground support equipment and operators working behind the drilling equipment.

The conference also hosted a Diversity and Inclusion panel at Sudbury’s Science North museum, where Vale Canada CEO Jennifer Maki, indigenous employment counsellor Ron Sarazin and Anna Tudela, Goldcorp’s vice-president of diversity and regulatory affairs, discussed inclusion efforts around women, immigrants and visible minorities, Indigenous People, and disabled people.

MEMO 2017 will be held in Saskatoon from Sept. 24 to 27.

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