Bolting the Face – The Newest Capability of the MacLean Bolter

​As mines go deeper in pursuit of increasingly scarce ore, higher ground stress is unavoidable. To combat the safety risks that these high ground stresses bring, an increasing number of mines are adding the step of bolting the face to their development cycle. Face bolting is just what it sounds like – in addition to scaling and installing rock bolts and screen in the back and the walls of a drift, the working face is scaled, screened and bolted to provide better protection to the workers exposed to it.

While the safety benefits of face bolting are clear, they do not come without a cost. Traditionally, the extra time and effort required to bolt the face has been a major deterrent. The process of moving equipment in and out of the heading to bolt the walls and back (bolter), then wash and scale the face (scissor lift or MacLean bolter), and finally to bolt and screen the face (jumbo), meant a lot of equipment was tied up to work on one heading, and the logistical difficulties of having the equipment and manpower available in a timely manner made face bolting a headache. This challenge is one that we at MacLean Engineering decided to tackle.

The MacLean solution

At MacLean Engineering, our face bolting solution follows the MacLean philosophy that has been vital to the success of our bolters and other support equipment: provide a way for miners to do their jobs with first-rate safety and productivity. With this objective in mind and knowing that the most significant issue with face bolting is the movement of equipment in and out of the heading, a key part of our solution is the ability to carry out the entire process with one machine. This means no more time wasted waiting for equipment to become available, and no more tying up equipment that could be productively used elsewhere. Equipped with the face bolting option, the MacLean 975 Scissor Bolter can scale, bolt and screen the walls and back; wash and scale the face; and, bolt and screen the face.

Accomplishing this took some outside-the-box thinking. One of the main challenges in designing the face bolting feature was the space available on the bolting platform. Because face bolting requires the boom to be oriented straight out from the deck, the back end of the boom hangs over the rear of the deck and reduces the available space. The solution to this was to shorten the bolting control console and bolt racks, and implement an adjustable handrail system that allows for full deck space in regular bolting mode, and reduced deck space in face bolting mode to accommodate the forward-facing boom. Redesigned wings that fold down flat onto the deck to allow clearance for the forward-facing boom were also incorporated, and additional, moveable drilling lights were added to allow operators to properly illuminate the face.

Putting it to the test

After trialing the face bolting feature at a number of Canadian mines, we can now say that this is a fully commercialized option for the 975 Scissor Bolter. In the most recent trial, which involved putting split set bolts into 5x5m faces, the bolter was consistently scaling, bolting, and screening faces in less than two hours. At faces that didn’t require a lot of scaling, the time to do all this was an hour and a half or less. The efficiency of this method was obvious, with the change from regular bolting mode to face bolting mode taking less than 5 minutes and eliminating the much lengthier process of moving equipment in and out of the heading. Customer feedback indicated that there is a lot of value in being able to do it all with one machine, and the results were tangible – they were gaining extra rounds. The trials confirmed success in applying the productivity and safety of the MacLean bolter to the face.

Looking aheadAt MacLean Engineering we strive to continuously adapt our products to the evolving needs of the underground hard-rock mining industry. The face bolting feature for the 975 bolter is one result of this mission and answers the call for a more efficient way to provide a safer environment for miners working at the face. The goal in designing the face bolting feature was to integrate the additional capability of bolting the face without compromising what the bolter already does so well. Accomplishing this took some creativity, but the result is a MacLean bolter that is even more versatile than its predecessors. With this lower-cost and highly productive method, and as more mines expand deeper or into higher ground-stress environments, we are excited to see our machines bolting more faces in the future.

For more information:

Stuart Lister
Vice President of Marketing & Communications
705-241-3247 (c)

VR training – try it on

I’ve just returned from two mining conventions in Latin America, the Perumin show in Arequipa in September and the Expo Minera show in Acapulco last week, and one of the takeaways is that virtual reality technology (VR) in mining is now commonplace.

For the past year, MacLean has been test driving our ‘Bolter in a Box’ virtual reality (VR) training tool at industry gatherings like these, where booth visitors can literally ‘try on’ VR bolting as an enhanced operator training tool.

As a trade show booth magnet, the VR headset is an easy and popular addition to our booth.What we’ve seen so far is that curious conference goers tend to wear it for a few minutes and that’s all they need to get a taste of the VR simulator experience turned towards underground mining vehicle training.

The next step is to build on these initial show demos and make this highly transportable technology an integral part of the classroom portion of our bolter training offer.This will be as much for introductory safety and basic configuration training as it will be for refresher training offered to experienced operators.For the latter, this is where running critical incident scenarios like a fire or major equipment breakdowns, to measure response times, can be of clear benefit.The fire scenario critical incident and response time testing is an easy example of an underground mining situation that lends itself so well to simulation, over the real thing.

Our VR development journey at MacLean has of course focused on programming and hardware…technology…but the key learning has been that nothing replaces the actual human trainer.It’s about enhancing training by complementing, not replacing, the technical and teaching expertise of the actual real-life operator trainer delivering the course.


​If you’re interested in getting a demo of this training tool, please reach out.We want to take this tool on the road to prove its value as a teaching tool, as well as continue to improve it.

After the MacLean ‘Bolter in a Box’, next up will be extending the VR world to pre-op walkarounds and then full simulator treatments for the MacLean Blockholer and MacLean Shotcrete Sprayer.There are many potential applications to be developed, now that the VR technology fit with mining vehicle training has been proven.

For more information:
Stuart Lister
Director of Marketing & Communications
705-241-3247 (c

The MacLean digital twin takes shape

When you participate in enough mining conferences, certain themes get lots of airtime but there’s usually a major lag between tradeshow appearances and mine site appearances. Such is the nature of the underground mining industry where the introduction of new technology invariably has to navigate some combination of a logistical, technical, cost, safety, and cultural hurdle obstacle course. 

But of course, change happens, even in underground mining. Case in point is the switch to battery electrification on mobile fleets, to eliminate diesel fine particulate matter in the underground environment and get the added benefits of reduced ventilation and lower maintenance requirements. 

Electrification of mining was the buzz at the last MINExpo in 2016 and now that we’re coming up fast on the next instalment in September 2020, EV mining seems like old news. The question is no longer ‘if’ underground mining will transition to battery electric mining vehicles, even large haul trucks and scoops, it’s just a question of how fast it will happen. With the all-electric Borden project now in production, and Glencore’s Onaping Depth in its initial construction phase, the diesel-free mine of the future is already here. 

When it comes to autonomous operations underground, open pit mines have already made significant progress in this area with haulage trucks. In the underground mining world, self-driving scoops have been introduced successfully. The current industry focus is managing overall traffic flow for the traditional fleet (operator-controlled tramming) and the next step is traffic management for an autonomously tramming fleet of mining vehicles, from different OEMs. Then going beyond tramming to extend autonomous operations to the application end of production support mining vehicles across the mining cycle – mobile equipment like bolters, sprayers, water cannons, rockbreakers and secondary reduction drills that currently require an operator working in a cab or on a deck under protected ground. 

The third pillar of mining innovation after electrification and automation that gets similar airing at shows is the promise of digitalization. On that front, the creation of a digital twin for every Maclean mining vehicle is the strategic direction we’ve set for ourselves over the past number of years. We are now at a point now in our product development evolution where we can share some real progress. On the real-time analytics front, we have a purpose-built vehicle monitoring system on our 15-unit fleet of battery electric vehicles at Borden Gold in northern Ontario. This system streams real-time performance data (both tramming and application) to the cloud for remote analysis and better decision making for maintenance and operations personnel at site. 

This MacLean IntelliOp VMS package consists of sensors and display screens installed on each unit, supported by analytics software that distills vehicle performance data based on an OEM-level of product design knowledge. IntelliOp presents actionable data and provides prompts on the in-cab screen so that it offers up immediate benefits with regard to operator performance. It also clears away the background noise of vehicle health telemetry by presenting this data in a way that enables predictive maintenance decision making, not bring about decision overwhelm. 

We’re also taking the leap to a cloud-based documentation platform for parts books and parts ordering as well as technical manuals. This is an online environment that provides a high level of offline functionality, and where almost real-time downloaded PDFs can be created easily and quickly. 

Our new ‘Documoto’ parts ordering portal will have the look and feel of a best-in-class consumer retail experience. Plus, we’re able to layer on a library of training content, for example ‘how-to’ videos that we think will be of great help to our customer base. Going forward, we’re going to build this content out with training videos shot in our test mine. 

And speaking of training, a great example of the MacLean digital twin philosophy taking shape is our development of a virtual reality (VR) bolter that offers up a digital simulation of a bolter environment within a headset. It’s easy to transport and the technology is well known and well-liked by the coming generation of underground miners who are growing up with this type of technology as part of their day-to-day. 

The MacLean digital twin is indeed taking shape and, we’re just getting started. Next up will be connecting our real-time vehicle performance data and the cloud-based parts book and technical manuals repository with each unit’s maintenance history. The scenario is a mine’s service technician showing up at a piece of mining equipment, with a tablet that can instantly get a picture of the work that has been done to that unit, along with predictive maintenance suggestions – maintenance tasks and parts. This is just one example of how the rollout of the digital twin, if done right, could make a practical difference in underground mining. That’s why we’re devoting resources to pushing forward in this area.For more information: Stuart Lister  
Vice President​ of Marketing & Communications
MacLean Engineering​​
705-241-3247 (c​)

On the subject of required reading (and nothing to do with your book club)

When we launched our cloud-based MacLean-Documoto platform last year, we knew our customers would be excited about the change because it offered up accessible, secure, and user-friendly access interface to fleet documentation and online parts ordering. 

Over 1,200 MacLean mining vehicles have now been added to the e-library, which is not only a research tool for parts books, operator’s guides, and maintenance manuals, it also offers up a retail-like aftermarket online shopping environment. For maintenance planners, maintenance crews, procurement staff, and site management, it’s a one-stop-shop online where connectivity exists, and for non-connected environments, it offers up the ability to rapidly export PDF documents and take them underground. 

What we didn’t realize while planning the first phase of rollout to our Canadian customer base, was the importance of the platform in terms of addressing a gap in our risk communications process. Before MacLean-Documoto, any customer communication with safety implications, be it a high priority Hazard Alert or a lower priority, but still important, Product Service Bulletin, was distributed via email with a PDF attachment. 

Of course, adding to the mountain of unread email in the work world’s collective inbox is not what we want to be doing with our risk communications. Then along comes Documoto, where online parts shopping capability was the catalyst for our change internally at MacLean, and with it came mandatory read-throughs of newly posted alerts and bulletins, upon each and every user login. So overnight we had a way to give these types of communications the prominence they deserve and, just as importantly, the ability to track readership. 

Not exactly an unintended consequence, more like an unexpectedly substantive side-benefit! One small but important example of incremental improvement in our service and support offering. 

Do you want to know more? 

If you have not been introduced to our MacLean-Documoto portal yet, or want to know more about anything mentioned in this article, please reach out to us at: