Electricity-powered vehicles go underground in Ontario

Goldcorp is testing two electric underground mining vehicles.

by Peter Caulfield
The Marmot electric vehicle, designed for underground hardrock mining

The Marmot electric vehicle, designed for underground hardrock mining — Photo courtesy Prairie Machine & Parts Mfg. Partnership

Goldcorp Inc. is testing two electric underground mining vehicles at its Musselwhite Mine in northwestern Ontario.

The two vehicles are the Minecat UT150-eMV, which is made by Industrial Fabrication Inc. of Sudbury, Ontario, and the PapaBravo Marmot, which is manufactured by Prairie Machine and Parts Mfg. Partnership of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

The purpose of the test is to determine if Goldcorp can replace some or all of its existing fleet of diesel-powered vehicles at Musselwhite.

“We would like to reduce vehicle emissions, fuel consumption and the cost of vehicle maintenance,” said Dwaine Gaudette, the Musselwhite Mine mobile co-ordinator.

The mine face is located 1,100 metres below the surface. Gaudette said it takes about 20 minutes to make the trip.

The mine is a busy place, with 550 employees and more than 100 contractors on-site at any time.

“We use about 40 vehicles to move mining and maintenance personnel between the surface and the mine face,” Gaudette said.

The tests will run until the end of December 2015.

“We'll make a decision after that,” Gaudette said. “We don't want to introduce more risk into the mine. We want to make sure we're making a good decision.”

About the vehicles themselves, David Semko, sales manager of Prairie Machine and Parts, said the Marmot's engine can handle steep grades because it is designed for travel on mine ramps.

“They're clean and quiet, and they produce no emissions,” he said. “As a result, it costs less to maintain the Marmot than diesel-powered vehicles.”

Semko said the Marmot, which is manufactured in Saskatoon, can charge to 65 per cent in one hour and completely in two hours.

“On one charge, with four passengers with a full cargo of 2,400 pounds, it can run for 65 kilometres,” he said. “With one passenger, it can run for 130 kilometres.”

The batteries that power the Marmot are not the kind you put in your flashlight.

“Batteries, which cost about $30,000, are about one-quarter the cost of the vehicle,” Semko said.  

In addition to the Musselwhite Mine, the Marmot is being used at Agrium's Vanscoy potash mine and at Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan's Rocanville and Cory mines.

“And we just received an order from the Mosaic Esterhazy mine,” Semko said. 

Industrial Fabrication's UT150-eMV electric vehicle

Industrial Fabrication's UT150-eMV electric vehicle. — Photo courtesy Industrial Fabrication Inc.

Marcel Demers, Industrial Fabrication's sales manager, said the Minecat's electric drive system is a brushless traction motor.  

The lithium ion phosphate battery assembly is located under the vehicle's hood in place of the diesel engine, and the on-board charger takes the place of the fuel tank.

“The mines normally run a full shift before charging,” said Demers. 

Demers said Minecat has many benefits: no diesel exhaust, reduced noise and vibration, increased operator comfort, lower fuel requirements and reduced maintenance costs.

In addition to Musselwhite, the Minecat has been tested at Vale’s Creighton 3 and Creighton 9 shafts. 

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