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RDH showcases battery power at MINExpo

August 22, 2016
by Norm Tollinsky
In: Technology

A 1.5-yard Muckmaster 150EB LHD and a Liftmaster 600EB scissor lift

RDH Mining Equipment, a Sudbury area manufacturer of loaders, trucks, jumbos and utility vehicles for underground mining, is bringing two battery-powered machines to MINExpo in Las Vegas, September 26 to 28: a 1.5-yard Muckmaster 150EB LHD and a Liftmaster 600EB scissor lift.

RDH prides itself as the first mining equipment manufacturer in the world to introduce battery-powered equipment to the underground hard rock mining industry.

The company delivered its first three-yard battery-powered loaders to Kirkland Lake Gold in late 2011 and now has 12 battery-powered three-yard loaders and three 20-tonne trucks in operation at Kirkland Lake Gold’s Macassa Mine, 300 kilometres northeast of Sudbury.

It has also sold three six-yard battery-powered loaders to a mine in Russia and has orders for an eight-yard loader from a mining company in the U.S. and a telehandler from a potash mine.

“We will probably see a lot of battery-powered equipment at MINExpo, but if mining companies want to go with a supplier with proven battery technology, we’re at the top at that food chain,” said RDH president Kevin Fitzsimmons.

“There’s a lot of interest in battery power now compared with five, six years ago when we started, but people aren’t rushing to put out purchase orders yet. They’re interested in trying to gain more information and knowledge about what’s available, what’s been proven, and to see how our customers like them. Hopefully, in the next few years we’ll see more orders, but so far, it’s a lot of tire kicking and information gathering.”

The 1.5-yard loader the company will be exhibiting at MINExpo was built on spec, but Fitzsimmons is confident that he’ll be putting a “sold” sign on it in no time.

“There are a lot of narrow vein mines with ventilation issues, so having something this small is beneficial,” he said. “We don’t have a customer for it yet, but we’ve talked to several people who have expressed an interest in it.”

RDH uses lithium-iron-phosphate batteries, a proven, cost-effective solution. There are other types of batteries available, but they’re two to three times more expensive, he noted.

The batteries can either be plugged in at a recharge station or swapped out using a crane, depending on tramming time and work cycles. According to Fitzsimmons, it takes approximately one hour and a half to recharge a battery pack and only 15 minutes to swap out.

“The mucking time at Kirkland Lake Gold is approximately 2-1/2 hours, so when they finish their mucking, they back the loader into a charge bay and plug in. For the trucks, they built a change bay with an overhead crane to swap out the battery packs.”

“We’re now looking at different ways of swapping out the packs,” said Fitzsimmons. “To date, we’ve had a full enclosure around them for their protection. Now, we’re looking at having a pullout side, so a forklift can lift out the pack instead of having to use a crane.”

Scissor lifts don’t usually tram as much as loaders and trucks, so the four-hour life of the battery pack on the RDH Liftmaster should suffice for an entire shift.

Kirkland Lake Gold began to see cell deterioration after two to two and a half years of service because of the hot, humid conditions at the Macassa complex, but improvements in battery design and chemistry should provide up to four tofive years of service.

Fitzsimmons and his team were not impressed when Atlas Copco put out a press release in May announcing their introduction of the world’s first battery-powered loader. The press release ran in several mining journals around the world, but RDH contacted each one of them to point out the error and request a retraction.

“It just burns you when they come out with a statement like that,” said Fitzsimmons.

Large multinationals like Atlas Copco have deep pockets and much more in the way of resources, but it took two companies in Northern Ontario – a small equipment manufacturer like RDH and a small mining company like Kirkland Lake Gold – to be the first to make the transition from diesel to battery power in the hard rock underground mining industry.

It’s a real tribute to the innovative thinking and entrepreneurial spirit of Northern Ontario mining cluster,” said RDH co-owner Neil Edward.

 

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