Add the moniker of matchmaker to Bob Ray's title as president of RES Equipment Sales.
The Dryden mining equipment supplier was instrumental in the early development of an underground electric utility and mine service vehicle that could make its way into mines across Northern Ontario.
From his shop on the Trans-Canada Highway in the northwestern Ontario community of 8,200, Ray has been trailering a 4,320-pound EUV (Electric Utility Vehicle) to mining camps across the region to gauge interest in the market.
The whole project has come together fairly quickly over the last two years.
Ray had the idea for such a vehicle 15 years ago when he started the company. But the opportunity came up when Ray spoke to a Goldcorp maintenance manager in Red Lake about their immediate need for as many as 35 electric personnel carriers.
There is a direct need in the Canadian mining industry for electric vehicles today as mines go deeper and ventilation requirements become more costly to pump air down several thousand feet and vent diesel emissions out.
“All the mines are getting deeper, that's where they're finding the best ore bodies, so the need for this vehicle becomes more apparent,” said Ray.
He thought he could help Goldcorp since he's the Canadian distributor for the Oldenburg Group, a U.S. underground mining vehicle manufacturer of mobile rock drills, jumbos, roof bolters and utility vehicles.
Oldenburg has a long history in manufacturing electric vehicles, especially 20-ton haul trucks. However, it took some arm twisting to convince them to get involved in developing such a small vehicle. “They had the technology, but they had to shrink it to suit this.”
There weren't any mechanical or technical constraints, but the company needed some convincing of its potential.
Most of the U.S. mines Oldenburg works with are coal and aggregate mines that are only a few hundred metres deep and don't have ventilation and diesel emission issues.
“They weren't sure it was a project that could really go somewhere.”
He set up a meeting between Oldenburg and Goldcorp in December 2009 and what they came up with was the EUV 400 (electric utility vehicle) which produces no emissions, no heat and no noise.
Depending on the vehicle configuration and future attachments added, it can carry between two and seven seats for mechanics, surveyors and electricians.
The four-wheel drive vehicle is powered by a 25 horsepower electric motor with 12 batteries producing 72 volts.
With a top speed of 10 kilometres an hour, “the machine is designed to operate for five hours of operation on a 20 degree ramp with a 1,000-pound load undestanding that it has regeneration capabilties as you come down-ramp.”
The vehicle was tested underground at one of Goldcorp's mines in Red Lake.
“To the best of our knowledge, it's worked flawlessly,” said Ray.
There is no word of Goldcorp ordering any of the vehicles.
Ray bought one of the prototypes to give it exposure on a mine-by-mine basis and has displayed it at mining shows in Timmins and Sudbury.
The prototype is almost a replica of what a commercial production model will look like.
Along the way, he's discovered some keen interest in the EUV at operations in Ontario and Quebec based on the reception from mine managers, ventilation officers and underground superintendents. “It makes sense, so they wanted to see and know about it,' said Perry Neel, general manager of RES.
RES Equipment threw in its two cents on the vehicle's initial design.
“We were asked for input in theinitial design for size, seats and general capacity,” said Neel. “But when it went to technical, it was all them (Oldenburg and Goldcorp).
RES Equipment takes no part in the manufacturing or assembly, but stands to benefit from sales.
Ray said he has “some fairly intense” meetings scheduled with potential customers in Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
“This is an important product for me, but it's huge for the mining industry in general.”
RES Equipment is a remanufacturer of underground mining equipment such as load haul dump machines, jumbos, haul trucks and utility vehicles as well as serving as a distributor of many mining equipment manufacturers.
After a dry spell in exploration following the 2008 economic crash, RES is busy once again.
As commodity prices have jumped and exploration in the northwest has blasted off, Ray is benefitting from a spate of activity in northwestern Ontario, including selling excavators to Treasury Metals where it's working its high grade Goliath gold property east of Dryden.