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Kirkland Lake Gold pioneering battery-powered mining

The company is the first in Canada to utilize Artisan VS zero emission battery-powered load-haul-dump truck.

Kirkland Lake Gold is moving away from the use of diesel fuel in its mining operations, with the introduction of lithium-ion battery-powered scoops and trucks in its underground gold mines.

To date, the company has invested more than $15 million into the development of battery-powered equipment.

On Feb. 27, at Science North in Sudbury, the gold miner showed off its newest addition to the fleet: a '153' load-haul-dump (LHD) truck, manufactured by California-based Artisan Vehicle Systems.

Artisan specializes in battery-powered mining equipment, and Kirkland Lake Gold is operating about one third of its equipment fleet with Artisan battery cells.

The '153' name is derived from its 1.5-yard width and three-tonne capacity. The machine has 300 per cent of the horsepower of a diesel 2.0 yard LHD and can carry 30 per cent more load per bucket.

"This is our third unit (153) but it's the first in Canada and it will be going to Kirkland Lake Gold," said Mike Mayhew, director of sales and marketing for Artisan Vehicle Systems.

While Kirkland Lake Gold has been operating a lot of machines with Artisan batteries, this is the first piece of Artisan equipment, powered by Artisan batteries, that is being added to the company's inventory.

"We have some other pieces of equipment that are in this size range and some that are larger that are battery powered," said John Labine, regional procurement manager for Kirkland Lake Gold.

"Due to ventilation, with the battery-powered equipment there's less infrastructure required to bring in additional ventilation that you would be required to do if you were running diesel."

The 153 doesn't come with a particularly small price tag, as the machine is in the neighbourhood of around $500,000, but Labine says the tradeoffs are more than worth the purchase price.

"The obvious tradeoff with this is employee health and safety, due to zero emissions," said Labine. "And in the long run it will show cost savings as there isn't a need to install new ventilations systems as we go deeper underground."

Mayhew's position with Artisan is a unique one, as the company is on the precipice of expanding into Northern Ontario. As it stands at present, Mayhew is the lone employee in Sudbury, and he works from his home.

"There will be an Artisan office in Sudbury in the near future," said Mayhew. "That's kind of part of what tonight is about. We have reps from a number of mines (Vale, Fraser Mine, Coleman Mine, Nickel Rim) here tonight to check out the equipment, and to see what types of services we offer. All of the attention right now though is Kirkland Lake Gold: when they call, we move."

The service list is a thorough one, as Artisan provides training for Kirkland Lake Gold mechanics in order to streamline repairs on the machines, rather than having to ship them back and forth to California.

If maintenance is needed, most of it can be done underground, and getting the machine from the surface into the mine is fairly straightforward, according to Mayhew, as the 153 disassembles into three pieces for transport.

Artisan also provides charging stations, and fully charging the 153 takes just one hour.

"It takes an hour to charge up the battery, but the good thing is that these batteries can actually be changed out in about 15 minutes, so you can have one battery ready to go and you reduce down time," said Mayhew.