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Sandvik consolidates regional mining electric vehicle servicing in Sudbury

After Artisan acquisition, supplier says Kirkland Lake shop no longer necessary

Sandvik says shutting down its Kirkland Lake facility will mean more efficient service for the battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) currently operating at nearby Macassa Mine.

The Swedish mining vehicle manufacturer announced on Oct. 29 it was closing its Kirkland Lake service shop – managed under the Artisan Vehicle Systems division – and consolidating operations with its facility in Lively, an outlying community of Sudbury.

Peter Corcoran, vice-president at Sandvik Canada, said the opportunity to streamline operations revealed itself following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last March.

“With the past seven or eight months here with COVID, we’ve identified that operating from the home office and operating from remote facilities is actually quite productive, and we’ve seen productivity increase,” he said.

Left largely unused in the previous three months, Corcoran said, the Kirkland Lake shop was deemed superfluous to operations, as batteries for the BEVs are stored at the mine site, and vehicle servicing takes place underground.

Sandvik’s BEV technicians will continue to work from home, or on equipment in the field, and the facility and its assets have been divested, with any proceeds from the sale of office equipment being donated to the local branch of the Salvation Army.

“Anything we bought in the community stayed in the community,” Corcoran said.

One existing employee in Kirkland Lake opted to leave the company to pursue another opportunity, and Sandvik has hired three new technicians to service the Artisan line of vehicles.

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The Kirkland Lake facility is a holdover from 2017 when California-based Artisan announced its arrival in Canada to be closer to its primary client, Kirkland Lake Gold, which was the first company to purchase and put into use Artisan’s Z-40, a 40-tonne electric haul truck.

At the time, Artisan revealed plans to build a 60,000-square-foot manufacturing plant and research and development facility, with the promise of creating 60 jobs over two years.

In preparation, the Town of Kirkland Lake invested $375,000 to extend municipal infrastructure services into the town industrial park, where the plant was anticipated to be built.

But those plans never materialized, and a little more than a year later, Sandvik purchased Artisan and its assets.

Following the acquisition, Corcoran said, a new plant was no longer needed, since Sandvik has its own service facilities and in-house expertise.

“When we bring all of the new equipment in from our factories around the world – being California for the BEV Artisan trucks and loaders – they arrive in Lively where they get a full check and service of the machine, and that means we can drive them on our ramp and our brake-testing facility in Lively, which we do for all our diesel equipment as well,” he said.

“Once that’s done, we can actually break the machine down and then ship it to the likes of Macassa or the other customers now in Ontario that have taken on BEV technology.”

In Lively, some existing diesel vehicle technicians have been retrained and requalified to service BEVs, which Cocoran said may open up additional opportunities for new hires.

They won’t necessarily be based in the Sudbury area, however, since Sandvik’s approach is to “hire the people to service the equipment closer to where the equipment’s being used,” he explained.

Before ever acquiring Artisan, Sandvik had already been manufacturing battery-electric underground drilling equipment, and, for years, had wisely been training technicians in both electrical and mechanical applications.

But as more mines adopt battery-electric technology – and more equipment manufacturers start producing BEVs – the company expects the need for BEV service technicians to grow as well.

That’s why, in October, the company signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Northern College to serve as subject matter expert in the development of the Timmins school’s new battery-electric vehicle service technician course.

Kate Burns, Sandvik’s manager of marketing, intelligence and strategy, said Sandvik is currently reviewing the proposed curriculum to ensure it best reflects what BEV technicians need to learn in order to service a BEV safely.

Though a schedule for rolling out the program hasn’t yet been determined, Burns said ideally it would happen sooner rather than later.

“We understand that this is a requirement of the industry right now and is only going to grow, so as soon as possible, really,” she said of the timeline. “But we don’t have a hard date yet until we’ve got that curriculum finalized.”

Corcoran said these developments within Sandvik all fit nicely into the company’s 10-year sustainability plan, which guides the company in ways of reducing its carbon footprint.

That involves everything from closing redundant facilities like the Kirkland Lake plant to switching to LED lightbulbs at its operations.

But it also means educating more mines about the advantages of purchasing battery-electric vehicles to reduce diesel consumption and the production of harmful emissions.

At Macassa, at least, it seems they share that message.

“They’ve actually acquired more battery equipment, so they’re confident that we’re going down the right direction in Kirkland Lake with Macassa,” Corcoran said.

“So they’re continuing to grow in their BEV install base of equipment, and we’re happy to say that it’s with Sandivk at this present moment, so we’re doing something right. So that’s good to see.”