Propelling bolter product development in the underground environment


Innovation is a word that you hear all the time in the mining industry, where the quest to get safer and more productive is never ending. In pursuit of this goal, MacLean has ramped up its innovation efforts over the past number of years. A major milestone in this effort was acquiring an underground R&D facility in Sudbury in late 2018.

Right from the mine


The Rig MacLean Omnia 975 EV Bolter 
The MineMacLean Research and Demonstration Centre, Sudbury, OntarioThe MacLean Research and Demonstration Centre allows the company to develop and test new underground mining technologies completely in-house. The underground space/test mine consists of a one-kilometre decline (at an average grade of 15%) that branches into multiple headings and testing areas. The facility comes with additional shop and office space that combine to give MacLean engineers and operator trainers the ideal setting for putting mining innovation theory into practice.
The IssueThe need to safely and efficiently test out new features
on flagship MacLean mining vehicle – the 975 Omnia EV Bolter
One of the first times the Research and Demonstration Centre was put to use was for bolter testing on the EV bolter. This unit featured all the latest technology from MacLean, as well as some features that were still in development. The goals of the testing were threefold: Try out the new features underground in an authentic operational setting (i.e. bolting a round); identify screen handling process improvements for an international customer; and, internal and external training of MacLean personnel and MacLean customers, partly by capturing various parts of the bolting process on video.
The SolutionWhile trying out the various new and in-development features on this bolter, the value of doing so in a real-life underground mine setting was evident. MacLean engineers could see first-hand and in real time how their designs interact with the operation of the bolter, and several small fixes were identified much easier than they would have been in an above-ground shop. Being able to verify new features in a controlled underground environment while operating the machine makes the innovation and design process much smoother.The second goal was to find and document an improved method of handling rolled screen used by an international customer. With the participation of a team from one of the company’s international branches, MacLean was able to identify, verify, and document a safe and productive method within hours.The third goal was training for both internal personnel and external end-users of the bolter. Internally, there was a group of MacLean operator trainers who were learning about the new features on the bolter. They were able to get on the machine and try out these features while bolting a heading, allowing them to achieve a level of familiarity that would have taken much longer to develop without a test mine. For external training purposes, there was a videographer filming various processes while MacLean operators were bolting. These videos will help MacLean demonstrate features of the machine to customers, as well as show proper operating procedure to trainees before they physically get on the machine.“The first large-scale equipment testing done in the MacLean test mine was a success that showed us just how valuable and versatile the facility can be. We achieved multiple goals – testing, process improvement, and training – that would have been much more difficult and time consuming to solve without the facility. But the best part is, this is just the tip of the iceberg. We have an R&D pipeline that is filled with everything from remote operating technologies and automation, to entirely new vehicles, and we’re excited to develop and refine it all in this new facility.”—Kevin O’Halloran, Bolting Product Line Manager. 

For further information, please feel free to contact –

Kevin O’Halloran, Product Manager, Bolting
MacLean Engineering, Collingwood, ON, Canada