The transition to battery electric vehicles in mining is well underway, but there are still variables to work out as it progresses that need to be addressed.
A panel of experts discussed this bringing a wide swath of experience to the debate at the Sudbury chapter of the Canadian Institute of Mining general membership meeting Jan. 18 at the Vale Cavern at Science North.
Hundreds packed the cavern to hear what the panel had to say about their experiences and thoughts on the technology.
The panel included Shane Wisniewski, general manager of mining projects at Glencore; Brian Huff, chief technology officer of Artisan Vehicles; Mike Mayhew, mine superintendent of Kirkland Lake Gold; Raphael Tiangco, superintendent of mobile fleet management at Vale; and Maarten van Koppen, senior project engineer at Goldcorp.
The panel was moderated by Adrian McFadden, director of mine performance and mining innovation of Hatch Engineering.
Everyone on the panel agreed that battery technology is the way of the future for deep hard rock mining, citing cost savings, durability, and health and safety as the primary benefits. Tiango related his experiences underground when diesel was the dominant energy source. "I'd come up, and blow my nose, and it was black. You don't get that with electric because there are no emissions," he said.
Not only was that gross, he added that particulate had been the cause of countless cancer and respiratory problems for career miners.
There are issues plaguing battery technology; mainly heat, duration of charges, conversion of existing diesel vehicles and some safety issues.
Van Koppen, who admitted he was skeptical about battery technology at first, said electric-battery vehicles are very safe now, with many systems to monitor the internal workings for heat, currant and damage.
"Compare that to a diesel tank, which has no internal monitors," he said.
Using a rock truck as an example, once converted to battery, it has the running equivalent of about seven and a half megawatt-hours.
The downside, van Koppen said, is that employees operating electric vehicles need a lot more training to make sure they understand how they work and what repairs workers can make safely.
However, workers are embracing the technology in several projects. Mayhew said since they brought battery electric vehicles to Macassa Mine in Kirkland Lake, workers have said they prefer working with them over diesel, sometimes going as far to say they no longer want to...