Vale and Glencore team up for electric mining vehicle safety

Greater Sudbury miners realized that safety goals could be better achieved by working together rather than tackling problems alone

Sudbury’s two major mining companies are working together on the transition to battery electric vehicles (BEVs) to make it safer to use these vehicles in open pits and underground mines.

The partnership between Vale Canada and Glencore was revealed at the Maintenance, Engineering and Mine Operators conference held this week in Sudbury. This was one of many sessions held in the Innovation and New Technologies category.

The presentation was made by Raphael Tiangco, Superintendent of Mobile Fleet Management at Vale and Steve Holmik, Glencore Mobile Equipment Specialist at Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations.

Tiangco said in 2019 it was realized that while original equipment manufacturing (OEM) companies know how to design and build mining vehicles, they don’t know mining company demands or specifications. .

Holmik said specs have changed and improved significantly over the past two years and he said that’s thanks to OEMs and mining companies being open and sharing.

Tiangco said Sudbury-area mining companies have been using different types of electric vehicles since 1976, in various configurations and for extensive equipment testing.

For the past 35 to 40 years in the Canadian mining industry, diesel-powered equipment has been the norm, primarily because diesel machines are rugged and economical in many ways.

Battery-powered vehicles are becoming the new norm as batteries are finally powerful enough to meet the demands of mining, while being quieter and safer in terms of zero exhaust emissions. It also means that the cost of ventilating a mine with massive electric fans will be significantly cheaper.

Both Tiangco and Holmik said the future of battery-powered vehicles is now and they are here to stay.

“Yeah, a few years ago when I got into this I was like, ‘OK, well, what’s the future of electric vehicles in mining? Is it just a night thing? But (I) realized pretty quickly that “No, BEVs aren’t just a makeshift thing,” and we need to start looking at the successful adoption of BEVs in the mining industry,” Holmik said.

Tiangco said they knew there were a lot of things they didn’t know.

“I’m talking about all the internal stakeholders, both at Vale and Glencore, who have acknowledged that we know we don’t know much about battery electric vehicles and the inherent risks of using them in a mining environment.” , Tiangco said.

“We needed to do detailed risk analyses,” he added.

Vale uses a risk management tool known as Bowtie to map risks and solutions.

Tiangco said the concern was what to do about the possible risk of fire or electric shock. He said team members from Vale and Glencore spent hours, days and weeks looking at possible scenarios where a fire or electric shock hazard could occur. Tiangco said detailed information from their bow tie analysis has been forwarded to OEM companies for their input.

Tiangco said he was surprised that OEMs were reluctant to talk about their risk management procedures for their battery-powered vehicles because much of this information was proprietary. Most of the information was a trade secret.

He said the companies had looked at the scenarios proposed by Glencore and Vale and came back with the assurance that the concerns had already been addressed and that safety measures were already built into the batteries and vehicles they had designed. .

“So before we came to talk to our OEMs, they had already done this work and they had shown us, you know, here are the things that we did to prevent these things (fire, electrocution) from happening. And as a benefit secondary some of the things they told us about, we actually incorporated them into our specs,” Tiangco said.

Mining companies have also learned that BEVs need coolant to keep the batteries from getting too hot.

Holmik recounted a few incidents over the past few years where fires have broken out on battery-powered mining vehicles.

One happened in Sudbury, the other “in the North”. In one case. the coolant was conductive and came into contact with electricity. In the other case, during a maintenance intervention, a fuse was not correctly reinstalled on a piece of equipment. Instead, a shunt was used where a fuse was supposed to go. A power surge occurred and a fire broke out.

Holmik said we learned that there are unusual risks and how to deal with them.

Tiangco said the partnership has enabled Vale and Glencore to develop specifications for the BEVs that are better than anything they could have developed working alone. He said another benefit was the partnership itself.

“We have developed very good relationships, both within our companies, with other companies and with our OEMs that we are to this day, continuously leveraging to improve the introduction of this new technology into our environments. “, said Tiangco.

Len Gillis covers mining and healthcare for Sudbury.com.

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