Glencore orders full fleet of Epiroc battery-electric mining equipment for Onaping Depth nickel and copper mine in Canada


Glencore’s Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations (INO) has ordered a full fleet of Epiroc battery-electric equipment for use at the Onaping Depth Project in Ontario, Canada. The nickel and copper mine is located below the existing Craig mine and is being developed to start production in 2024.

The order also includes the capability for advanced automation solutions, including remote control.

Traditionally, mining machines are diesel-powered, though more and more mining companies are adding battery-electric machines to their fleets. The benefits with battery electrification are significant, including eliminating emissions in operations, reducing noise pollution, and lowering costs by lessening the need for ventilation and cooling when required; this is especially important as underground mines keep getting deeper.

Epiroc scored high on safety, design and testing of the entire battery system. Epiroc also offers large capacity batteries, uses a standard CCS charging protocol, has a battery swap system, and the designs are universal and compatible. Also, the batteries have integrated cooling systems and safety systems built into the design.

—Peter Xavier, Vice President of Glencore’s Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations

The ordered battery-electric equipment is manufactured in Örebro, Sweden. The 23 machines ordered include Scooptram loaders, Minetruck haulers, Boomer face drilling rigs, Boltec and Cabletec rock reinforcement rigs, and Simba production drilling rigs.


Scooptram loader


Minetruck hauler


Boomer face drilling rig


Cabletec rock bolting rig


Simba drill rig

The Simba rigs will be operated in part through tele-remote from the comfort of a control room.

All units will be equipped with Epiroc’s Rig Control System, making them ready for automation and remote control, and will also be installed with Epirocs telematics system, allowing for intelligent monitoring of machine performance and productivity in real-time.

Onaping Depth Project. Sudbury INO received full approval for further development of the Onaping Depth Project in 2017. This US$700-million deep mine project is located below the existing Craig Mine in Onaping, Ontario. When completed, Onaping Depth will provide Sudbury INO with a significant new source of high-grade nickel ore beyond year 2035.

The Onaping Depth project completed the highly customized underground headframe excavation in 2019. Work continues to be conducted in shaping the underground infrastructure for this future deep mine. The internal shaft, currently piloted and reamed to the 1915 level and finished at the 1260 level, will eventually extend to 2630 level—1,430 meters (m) of total internal shaft length.

In addition, three substantial chambers each spanning 15m wide by 20m long by 10m high, were excavated to house the permanent hoisting infrastructure: 3,400 hp double drum production hoist, 4,500hp blair service hoist, and associated sheaves, which allowed for the full mobilization of construction crews.

Onaping Depth is intended to be a complete break from the traditional idea of underground mining. Real-time remote management, monitoring, and control will be done from the surface. Innovative safety systems will be integrated into the operation. The mine will feature mine-wide Wi-Fi communication between employees and from underground to surface. In some areas, miners will be removed from the working face utilizing autonomous mining equipment.

The entire fleet of mining equipment will feature battery-powered electric vehicles, eliminating diesel emissions and reducing noise pollution. Through using EVs, Onaping Depth is expected to reduce its energy usage by 44% for ventilation systems and by 30% for cooling equipment, compared to an equivalent diesel-fueled operation.

New technology will also be applied to critical ventilation and cooling systems where the ambient rock temperature can reach 40 ˚C (104 ˚F) at depth.

Earlier, Caterpillar tested the proof-of-concept battery electric R1300 at Sudbury INO with the machine running in trials alongside its diesel equivalent. Caterpillar used the insight gained from its proof-of-concept testing to develop the R1700 XE—its first commercial battery-electric Load-Haul-Dump (LHD).


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