Greater Safety, Lower Cost, Less SpaceWed, 10/18/2017 - 14:37
According to many, mine operators have three main objectives at the moment. The first is analyzing the ore they can process per year and finding strategies to increase the quality. The second is reducing costs and the third is the pressure to boost production. These are compounded by the fact that the creation of a safe working environment can distance companies from their objectives because it can mean further costs and slower production speed. Batteries can provide a solution, says Mike Kasaba, CEO of Artisan Vehicle Systems.
The manufacturer produces an electric battery system that creates a safer and healthier work environment because there are no poisonous diesel fumes. This technology, Kasaba says, can also have an impact on the operators’ wallets. “Without the battery pack, Artisan’s machines cost about the same as a comparable diesel unit. When spreading the cost of the battery pack over time, it compares favorably to the operational expense of diesel fuel. Our ultimate goal is to come close to the cost of a diesel machine and we are not far off,” he says.
With Artisan technology, new developments require fewer ventilation shafts because battery-powered machines do not release diesel fumes. “Ventilation can raise operating costs by millions of dollars,” he says. “Deep mines are also hot and require cooling plants on the surface. Studies show that the cost of cooling plants, the installation of which alone can reach millions of dollars, can be reduced by as much as 40 percent when using battery-powered machines.”
Kasaba maintains that Artisan machines are designed for maximum efficiency and the savings go right into the pocket of the mining companies. He uses the example of a project Artisan carried out with Kirkland Lake Gold, which needed to reach a mineral reserve that was adjacent to its ore body.
“To get to it, it would have had to sink additional ventilation shafts at an expense of around US$100 million,” says Kasaba. “Although our battery systems are still expensive, they came nowhere close to the capital expenditure of the offset ventilation expenditures.” Today, Kirkland Lake Gold’s operations rely on battery power.
It is extremely rare for new technology to arrive that can make mines safer while radically impacting the core metrics of a company in a positive manner and in this way Kasaba believes Artisan’s technology is truly transformative. “We will look back in 10 years’ time and be amazed that a poisonous element such as diesel was ever used in underground mines,” he says. Artisan primarily works in Canada but now has a mine that is using its equipment in the US and Kasaba hopes the Central and South America markets will receive the equipment just as favorably
It would be difficult for companies in Mexico to overlook the benefits. Compared to diesel machines, Artisan equipment has three times the power in the same size class due to the density of the powertrain system. An electric motor is relatively small and is able to power the entire machine while a diesel motor must be significantly larger to reach a similar capacity. “The machine is 2m shorter than a similar diesel machine, which is important given that these machines operate in narrow vein operations,” says Kasaba. “Not only does the machine have more horsepower but it also has greater torque. Diesel machines are less maneuverable in small spaces while our machine has a much tighter turning radius for better handling in tight spaces.”
Kasaba says that several benefits offered by Artisan equipment are often overlooked by competitors. “Many of Artisan’s competitors include a torque convertor in their designs, which was necessary for diesel engines, but is not for electric motors,” he says. “Torque converters make a powertrain about 30 percent less efficient and waste valuable battery power.”
Battery packs are costly and he says it is important to efficiently use every kilowatt-hour in the battery pack and to minimize heat creation. “We also have noticed that some competing machines use lower voltage,” he continues. “The lower the voltage, the higher the current needed to reach the necessary power. This creates electrical inefficiency and substantially reduces overall performance.” According to Kasaba, companies need machines with low current and high voltage to achieve high power and the best performance.