Goldcorp debuts “all-electric” mine—eliminates diesel usage

by Keith Powell
Picture of battery-powered underground vehicle.

Goldcorp is teaming up with Sandvik Mining and MacLean Engineering to provide battery-powered underground vehicles. — Photo: Goldcorp/Sandvik

The days of diesel fuel use on mine sites are numbered as Goldcorp looks to electricity to power its underground mobile fleet at Borden Gold.

Goldcorp’s ambitious plan will significantly improve the health and safety performance of the mine and reduce its environmental footprint. In an increasingly competitive sector that is facing greater emissions regulation, making the site more operationally efficient – in addition to environmental and health benefits – is a big win. Eliminating diesel will make a huge improvement to working conditions by removing diesel particulate and other gases like NOX and SO2 from the workplace.

To make this vision a reality, Goldcorp is teaming up with Sandvik Mining and MacLean Engineering to provide battery-powered underground vehicles for almost all the requirements at the site. Goldcorp’s new mining technology will range from battery-operated drilling and blasting equipment, to electric bolters, personnel carriers and ultimately a 40 metric tonne battery powered haul truck.

The company’s battery and electric mobile equipment will eliminate all greenhouse gases (GHGs) associated with the movement of ore and waste rock, equal to roughly 50% of the total GHGs on site, or 5,000 tons of CO2 per year, and will reduce maintenance and energy costs. With the decrease in emissions comes a reduction in underground ventilation needs. The use of an efficient on-demand ventilation system will provide added benefits - the Borden Mine will require 50% less ventilation than a baseline diesel underground mine.

“At Goldcorp, one of our core values is to embrace innovation. Mines are large consumers of energy. As much as 15% of site operating costs come from consumption of electricity, diesel, propane and natural gas so focusing innovation efforts toward a big cost driver makes obvious business sense,” said Brent Bergeron, Goldcorp’s Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Sustainability.

“Electrifying Borden means more upfront capital cost, however with the additional benefits to health, safety, and environmental performance, there is an even stronger business case to proceed with this ambitious mine design.” Moving away from diesel and by achieving other reductions associated with the use of clean technologies, Goldcorp can avoid more than 7,500 tons of CO2 and eliminate 3 million litres of diesel fuel, 1 million litres of propane and 35,000 megawatt hours of electricity every year.

Borden will rely on digital and smart controls, including tele-remote technology to maximize equipment use for continuous mining, and will also consider renewable energy such as biomass for heating. Goldcorp is hopeful that demonstrating the numerous benefits of an all-electric site at Borden will be an example of leadership in innovation, clean technologies and health and safety that will be adopted by other mining companies. The company aims to generate new awareness that the ‘mine of the future’ leads to improved economic performance and increases net asset value.

“Other mining companies are studying electrification as an option, but so far no one has put it into practice in Canada,” adds Bergeron. “We want Borden to not only showcase our commitment to safe, sustainable and responsible mining, but also that embracing innovation is a smart business choice that will keep our sector competitive.” The first battery powered piece of equipment goes into operation at Borden in the second half of 2017, during the advanced exploration phase of the project.

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