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The Drift: Glencore makes battery vehicle order from MacLean Engineering

Onaping Depth mine project will be an all-electric underground operation at production start in 2024
Shotcrete spraying (MacLean Engineering)
MacLean Engineering electric shotcrete sprayer at the company’s underground research facility in Sudbury. (Company photo)

Glencore’s deepest new mine in the Sudbury Basin will be populated by electric vehicles from MacLean Engineering.

MacLean’s battery electric mining vehicles (BEVs) were chosen to be one of the mobile equipment suppliers of fleet vehicles for Glencore’s Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations and its Onaping Depth mine project, now under construction.

Scheduled to come online in 2024, Onaping Depth is referred to as Glencore’s “Mine of the Future." It’s the next mine in the succession plan to replace the Fraser and Nickel Rim South mines, both of which will near the end of their operational lives by the mid-point of this decade.

First discovered in 1994, Onaping Depth is located below the company's Craig Mine near the community of Onaping in the northwest corner of the Sudbury Basin. As a new source of high-grade nickel, the mine life extends to 2035.

In a news release, MacLean said its contribution to the Onaping fleet will be in the area of explosives charging, secondary reduction, shotcrete spraying, concrete transport and utility vehicles.

The value of the supply agreement and the quantity of the vehicles were not disclosed in the mining supplier’s news release.

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Through a statement, company president Kevin MacLean was “deeply honoured” by chosen by Glencore to be one of the equipment suppliers for Onaping.

“I spent my early years growing up in Levack, when my father was working underground as a Division Foreman at the former Levack Mine, so this BEV fleet sale to Onaping Depth has special meaning for me.”

Collingwood-headquartered MacLean has a service and support branch in Sudbury with an underground research and training facility on the city’s outskirts in Lively. They employ 100 in the Nickel City.

Stella Holloway, MacLean’s vice president of Northern Ontario operations, expects their Sudbury shop and training facility will be integral to supporting Onaping over the life of its operation. 

“Onaping Depth is an example to the mining world for how to successfully develop and operate a diesel-free, deep mine, so we are keenly aware of the high bar that has been set and are excited to step up and ensure the success of the MacLean EV Series fleet as it contributes to the wider success of the Glencore project as whole.”

MacLean first turned its attention toward supplying the mining industry with battery-powered vehicles in 2015, selling its first vehicle a year later. Since then, the company has commissioned more than 40 pieces of mobile mining equipment and logged more than 120,000 working hours underground for mining customers in Canada and the U.S.

Glencore calls its $1.3-billion Onaping Depth a “complete break” from traditional mining.

Bottoming out at 2,600 metres (2.6 kilometres underground), Onaping will be brought into ore production in 2024 as an all-electric mine and a leading edge underground platform of the latest and greatest in technology in mobile fleet, communications, tele-remote and autonomous equipment operations.

The company said the “digital age will be on fully display” with mine-wide Wi-Fi communications, real-time remote management, monitoring and control from surface, and various other technologies applied to critical ventilation and cooling systems.

Since electric vehicles have no emissions, there will be less pollutants floating around in the underground environment, all the better on the occupational health and safety side for worker and better for Glencore’s bottom line with less money and electricity devoted for underground ventilation compared to an underground mine using a diesel-powered fleet.