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


BEV introduction partnership approach ‘paves the ramp’ for New Afton’s first, important step towards broader fleet electrification

In July of 2020, New Gold’s New Afton copper and gold mine near Kamloops, BC introduced their first battery electric mining vehicle (BEV) to their mobile fleet. A MacLean BEV BT3 Boom Truck was delivered from MacLean headquarters in Ontario to take part in a trial that stretched throughout the summer and fall, directly comparing its performance to its diesel counterpart. The unit logged over 300 hours over the course of three months and was subsequently purchased by New Gold.

Image of the MacLean BEV BT3 Boom Truck on the surface at Afton Copper, lifting a skid of mining material.Key to the successful introduction of this new technology was both the length of the trial combined with the amount of commissioning and customization work done in close partnership between New Afton and MacLean. Ensuring the BEV unit was customized to meet its specific duty cycle for material haulage ramp runs at this block caving operation, as well as ensuring the New Afton operators and mechanics were properly trained to use and repair the mining vehicle, were critical to the successful adoption of this technology underground. While BEVs contribute to a working environment with reduced emissions, less noise, and lower vibration, their successful implementation at a mine can depend on a number of factors unique to the site.

Image of the MacLean BEV BT3 Boom Truck parked on the surface at Afton Copper.The New Afton example of carefully and methodically approaching the introduction of their first BEV unit underground, in direct comparison to the performance and operator experience on an existing diesel version of the same model, is a good example for other mine sites looking to incrementally and successfully grow their zero emissions mining fleets to support cleaner, safer, more efficient, and lower cost operations.

“We’re excited to have taken this first step toward electrifying our entire C-Zone production fleet. In addition to the speed improvements tramming uphill, this BEV Boom Truck helps us reduce GHG emissions and health and safety hazards related to the exhaust produced by this unit’s diesel counterpart.” – Peter Prochotsky, Mine Manager, New Afton January 2021

EV Series Fast Facts – New Afton BT3 BEV trial (July – September 2020)

Productivity improvement:  One (1) MacLean BT3 BEV Boom Truck material haulage trip was able to replace five (5) IT (Integrated Tool Carrier) trips

Total electrical energy used:  8.2 MWh
Electricity taken from grid:  6.1 MWh
Electricity regenerated:  2.1 MWh (25%)
Estimated saved diesel:  4,800 – 5,000L

Estimated carbon for electricity: 0.18 tCO2e
Estimated saved diesel carbon: 13 tCO2e
~98% Carbon savings, excluding possible ventilation savings