René Valle
General Manager, Mexico and Central America
MacLean Engineering
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View from the Top

Disrupting the Market With Full Ev Fleet for Mining

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 11:23

Q: How does MacLean’s fleet of battery powered equipment provide a value add for its customers?
A: Our diesel-free equipment was originally created on a request from Goldcorp in Canada and this turned MacLean into a global supplier of full fleet electrification for the mining industry. In Canada we will soon have 20 units working in mines. Operators are starting to see that going diesel-free can reap many benefits. It makes operations more environmentally friendly and cuts costs on power for ventilation, which is often the second most expensive element of a mine, after labor costs, and provides lower total cost of ownership primarily due to reduced maintenance requirements. We are also innovating by implementing the use of virtual reality simulators to train employees who use the equipment. Our system even allows users to mimic hand movements and to install rigs as it would normally be done in person. It makes operations safer and lowers costs as we can teach five to seven people at a time how to react in cases of emergency, such as a fire, without having to actually make a machine malfunction. These kinds of tools make underground mining much safer.
Q: How is the Mexican market reacting to the release of an EV fleet?
A: Mining companies around the world are actively evaluating the best way to embark on the EV fleet transition. In Mexico, there are a number of mine development projects that are on pause, but as these begin to progress we feel that the opportunities for electric battery units will start to take shape.
For us, the real challenge in the Mexican market lies in the fact that we are still quite a new company in the country in comparison to competitors that have a multiyear presence. But customers are getting to know us and to trust our services. We are proving our commitment to the Mexican mining industry and breaking paradigms by talking to different suppliers.
Q: What opportunities does the company see in Mexico for underground equipment?
A: In Mexico, we see many areas of opportunity for underground mining as high-grade projects are getting harder to find and we must explore deeper underground. Most open-pit mines often transition toward underground operations so they can access more ore. We do not want to offer equipment or services that we are not familiar with and underground mining is what works best for us.
Q: How is the company preparing to expand its presence in the country?
A: We are proving our commitment to the Mexican mining industry by investing in an assembly plant in Queretaro. Our plan is to increase our ability to meet the needs of our customers by assembling the machines in Mexico instead of Canada. It also reduces the cost of shipping and importation.
MacLean is holding the plant to the highest standards not only in Mexico but also in Canada by acquiring certificates and norms. We are doing this to ensure the best quality. It also opens doors to supply the needs of not only Mexico but Latin America and even Canada in the long term. We would be the first in the country to assemble underground mining equipment. The plant will not require a large investment as it will not manufacture the pieces, only assemble them. We plan to invest between US$2-3 million and we hope to finish it by the end of 2018 or the beginning of 2019.
Q: How is the company preparing itself for the impact from a change of administration?
A: Even though 2018 is an electoral year, we expect our results will be similar to the previous year in terms of sales. Elections are always disruptive and we are prepared to withstand the worst-case scenarios by selling as much as possible before July. The industry is looking good in terms of metal prices but it is better to be safe than sorry. Any new administration could make significant changes to regulation and policies that could impact our business.