RDH Mining Equipment builds on track record for innovation
RDH Mining Equipment, a manufacturer of underground mining equipment in Alban, Ontario, 50 kilometres south of Sudbury, has sold three battery-powered, six-yard load-haul-dump machines to a mine in Russia.
A global leader in the development of battery-powered underground mining equipment, RDH began manufacturing electric scoops in 2011 for Kirkland Lake Gold. Since then, it has sold the Ontario gold miner 12 battery-powered three-yard loaders and three haul trucks.
The three drivers for the mining industry’s interest in battery power are rising ventilation costs, heat issues and exposure to diesel particulate, which is now classified as a carcinogen, said RDH president Kevin Fitzsimmons.
Switching from diesel to battery power underground reduces ventilation requirements, cuts down on heat and eliminates harmful emissions.
The lithium iron phosphate battery on the six-yard scoop holds a charge for 3.8 hours, noted RDH chief operations officer Gustavo Portalier. A spare battery can be installed at a battery exchange station with an overhead crane in 10 to 15 minutes.
“With the charger we’re using, it takes two hours to fully charge the battery. Then it’s ready again for another 3.8 hours,” said Portalier.
“The life of the battery depends on the amperage you put into it – the higher the amperage, the less life you will get. Now, with the charger we have, we get between 4,000 and 5,000 cycles depending on usage. That’s about 15,000 hours, which is about the amount of time a diesel machine would be ready for a rebuild anyway.”
RDH also supplies its own battery management software.
The three six-yard scoops were put through their final testing and shipped to Russia in September. Fitzsimmons wouldn’t reveal the identity of the customer for competitive reasons, but noted that it’s a new mine and that the operator wants to go all-electric.
“They’re also interested in trucks if the scoops work well,” said Fitzsimmons. “The way everything has been testing so far, we’re expecting they’re going to run great and next year we’ll see a bunch more orders.”
The battery-powered scoops are “way better” in terms of power, he said. “When you go into the muckpile, they don’t lose any torque at all. They just keep pushing and trying to get the muck into the bucket. You don’t see a drop-off (in power). A lot of times (with diesel) when you go into the muckpile, you can hear the engine working hard under load. With battery power, there’s no difference.”
RDH continues to manufacture diesel powered scoops and trucks, but prides itself on being leading edge. At MINExpo 2011, the company exhibited a scoop with a cleaner burning Tier 4i diesel engine, but Tier 4 diesel hasn’t been made mandatory for underground operations and has its share of challenges.
“The package is two times the size if not bigger, so you have to re-engineer all of your equipment,” said Fitzsimmons. “It’s also more expensive. Right now, you just have to buy the engine. With Tier 4, the engine manufacturer has to supply the exhaust system as well so it’s Tier 4 compliant.
“We ended up selling the loader at MINExpo to Russia, but we had to replace the Tier 4 with a conventional diesel engine because the diesel fuel over there is so bad, the Tier 4 wouldn’t be able to burn it.”
RDH’s battery-powered equipment is attracting a lot of interest in Canada as well.
“We’ve had people from 15 mines here in the last four days to see our six-yard scoops in operation,” said Fitzsimmons. “Nobody has sat down and tried to make a deal with us, but a lot of people are interested, so it’s wait-and-see.”