Apr 28, 2021

Ride the lightning - The future of electrifying mines in BC

  • Article
  • electricity
  • electrification
  • mines
  • mine design

It’s a fact: the future of mining is electric. The first step is a big one, and you may be hesitant. Of course, it can be expensive up front and mine ramp-up can be quicker with conventional methods. In this blog article, we’ll explore the steps to optimize your mine’s electrification.

  1. Electrification and new energy sources

    Over the last few years in western Canada, our news feeds have become full of buzzwords like low carbon, clean energy and reduced emissions. But why the sudden push?

    In 2018, the Government of British Columbia announced changes to meet greenhouse gas emission targets by 2030. Part of the initiative includes a focus on the electrification of transport, energy-efficient buildings and an overall green initiative.

    Of all industrial greenhouse gas producers, transport, the fossil fuel industry and heavy industry are among the largest emitters. In B.C., the estimated gross greenhouse gases produced in 2017 by heavy industry (which includes mining) accounted for 10% of the provincial total.[1]

    As part of the initiative, Clean Energy BC is planning to improve on decision-making, interconnection times and consistency in environmental monitoring standards.

    To successfully implement a switch to electric equipment, the overall effect on mining operations, electrical interconnections and environmental impacts needs to be understood.

    How can mining and electrical disciplines work together?

    The project cycle to go electric starts with defining your electrification goals. Once those goals are defined, the mining engineers can help optimize the mine design, so the equipment switch can be a seamless transformation. They can help optimize the mine design so the equipment switch can be seamless.

    For an open pit mine, the mining engineers will look at the routing and adjust the design to suit electrified equipment. For trolley-assist equipment, haulage profiles will need to be designed to ensure the grade, dimensions and structures are stable.

    For an underground mine, engineers will help with everything from substation excavations, mine services, ventilation and any planning that ties into the new equipment. As part of the process, the team will coordinate with vendors to ensure the best fits.

  2. With the fleet sizing completed, the overall required electrical load can be calculated. The electrical team will then determine the required distribution and infrastructure. BBA can provide transmission solutions to our clients, including off-site interconnections and infrastructure.

    A full cost analysis can be performed after each group has provided its design requirements. From here, multiple sensitivity analyses can be performed to ensure the best solution, or combination of solutions, is selected.

    A good example: the Copper Mountain Mining Corporation (CMMC)

    Based on its proposal to the provincial government, the Copper Mountain Mining Corporation (CMMC) has been selected to enter funding conversations under the CleanBC Industry Fund for this initiative.

    BBA was mandated by CMMC to perform a low-carbon emission study. As part of the study, our team determined whether there were economic and environmental benefits to using trolley-assisted trucks for a segment of ramp at Copper Mountain Mine.

    As a first step for the study, BBA had to determine the physical requirements for such a system. Since power lines and poles need to be installed on the ramp, the current haul ramp section needed to be reviewed. BBA’s scope included mining design changes to the ramp segment for the trolley-assist system, the civil and structural recommendations for the foundations and spacing of the poles and catenary system, the effect of the electrical distribution system, and electrical solutions based on increased power feed and supply requirements. BBA also provided design and recommendations for constructability, GHG emissions savings and completed the financial analysis for the project.

    The study helped determine the overall GHG emissions reductions that could occur over an initial ten years, with hopes to extend the trolley-assist system to other parts of the operation in the long-term.

    An experienced team!

    Do you have a mine electrification project or GHG emission reduction targets to meet? Contact our team.

    At BBA, we are members of BC Hydro’s Alliance of Energy Professionals. In addition to working with BC Hydro for many years and being a member of the energy alliance, we have experience in emissions reduction and mine electrification.

    Our electrical engineers can help determine your distribution and transmission needs, while our mining engineers can create a safe and stable design in which your electric equipment can operate. Our mining engineers also create optimized mine designs to satisfy GHG emissions reduction requirements and to better connect to the electrical infrastructure.

    [1] Provincial greenhouse gas emissions inventory – Province of British Columbia (gov.bc.ca)

This content is for general information purposes only. All rights reserved ©BBA

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