A manufacturing shop in Greater Sudbury has created the largest ore chute in the world, which will soon be shipped out and installed in one of the largest copper and gold mining operations in the world, the Rio Tinto Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia.
The massive steel chute, as big as a house and with built-in safety features, was manufactured at Variant Mining Technologies in Lively. It is the prototype for several other chutes that will be installed at the mine in the coming months and years.
An ore chute is a device that allows chunks of rock (muck) to be transported by force of gravity from one level of the mine to another level. The chute is used to control the flow of muck, or waste rock, so that haulage equipment such as scooptrams, ore trucks or even underground rail cars can be loaded quickly and safely.
Variant's website describes the company as a global leader in loading chute systems, which can explain why company designers decided to go so big.
"The size of the chute was driven by the size of the material they are actually processing and the tonnage that will be processed," said Variant general manager Paul Chamberland.
"It is 800 by 800 by 1,200 millimetres, which is the maximum dimension of rock we are working with, and the tonnage is an instantaneous rate of 10,000 tonnes per hour."
Despite its size, Chamberland said the entire chute can be broken down into individual modules, making it easier to be moved. He added that the dismantled components can be transported down a mine ramp or loaded onto the cage in the mine shaft. That way the chute can be bolted back together and installed deep in the mine.
The project has been a few years in the making, according to Derek Meloche, Variant's manager of business development and sales.
"So we started pursuing the client in 2016, which was our first trip to Mongolia," said Meloche.
"Strategically, we believe that to conduct business in certain countries you need representation there to do it effectively. So we went over there with the intent of finding a partner, which we have found. We have a partner in Ulaanbaatar, which is Mongolia's capital city."
He said he was pleased that Ulaanbaatar is a large manufacturing hub with enough technical and industrial expertise to carry on the work.
"Our contract for Rio Tinto is to build five of these systems. We have four them being built in parallel to this one being built in Canada," said Meloche.
He said Rio Tinto wanted the prototype put together...