The movement of bulk materials in the mining industry has traditionally relied on diesel-powered haul trucks. In an underground environment, trucks require big openings and ventilation to dilute diesel emissions. However, the deeper we go, the more expensive it is to move ore and waste using these rubber-tired behemoths. The railveyor, on the other hand, is electrically powered and takes up a fraction of the space required by trucks. It climbs grades with ease, snakes up ramps, and loads and dumps on the fly. We look forward to seeing this new technology catch on and will continue to keep you posted on its progress.
This issue also includes a progress report on Mining Technologies International’s (MTI) hybrid loader technology. Armed with rave reviews for its 1.5 cubic yard hybrid loader, Sudbury-based MTI is now moving ahead with a four cubic yard unit. Battery-powered and equipped with a small, clean-burning diesel engine, the MTI hybrid addresses the tougher diesel emission standards that will come into force in the next few years and, once again, cuts down on expensive ventilation infrastructure requirements.
Over in Dryden, 1,200 kilometres west of Sudbury, RES Equipment Sales and Goldcorp’s Red Lake management team have joined forces with the Oldenberg Group to develop a battery-powered personnel carrier. Within the next five years, the Red Lake Complex hopes to have a fleet of 35 Electric Underground Vehicles that will be used by mechanics, surveyors and other mine personnel to get to where they have to go without leaving a trail of diesel particulates in their wake.
Is there a trend here? You bet.
Back in Sudbury, in the lab at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, a dozen or so PhDs, postdocs and Masters students are working on a research project aimed at producing clean-burning biodiesel from micro-algae. Led by Dr. Ashley Scott, a professor of bioprocess engineering at Laurentian University and Dr. Greg Ross, associate dean, research, at the medical school, the team plans to have a pilot plant in operation within the next 18 months. Waste heat from Xstrata Nickel’s smelter will be used to keep the micro-algae growth medium at a constant, ideal temperature through Northern Ontario’s cold winter months, while the fuel derived from the algae can be used to power underground equipment. Brilliant.
Micro-algae, it turns out, are also a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids and anti-oxidants, thus have the potential to kickstart a spin-off nutraceutical industry, hence the medical school’s interest.
The global mining industry is faced with great challenges that can only be overcome by visionaries and creative minds. Fortunately, we have our share of them here in Northern Ontario.