An image of one of the Rokion Mining Vehicles
Image: Rokion

After successful early tests, Canadian-made personnel carriers and utility vehicles part of a fleet of at least 20 EVs to be deployed at five different mines

By the end of this year, Vale Canada, a subsidiary of Brazilian mining giant Vale, expects to have “upward of 20 battery-powered vehicles” operating in five of its Ontario mines — including a number supplied by Canadian electric mining vehicle manufacturer Rokion.

“EVs certainly complement the efforts of the business in terms of greenhouse gas and carbon reduction,” says Alex Mulloy, mining engineer, base metals technology and innovation, according to a recent story in Vale News. “It’s a great technology. Not only does it enable operational benefit and improvement, it also contributes to our greater goals of reducing our emissions and the impact on the environment.”

The vehicles, which are still being evaluated on a trial basis, range from personnel carriers to larger loaders and hauling trucks. Along with Rokion, which makes personnel and utility vehicles, the other manufacturers are Sandvik and Epiroc, both based in Sweden.

Improvements in three areas

A handful of EVs have already been tested at the company’s Creighton and Coleman mines. The new rollout will see EVs added at its Copper Cliff, Garson and Thompson sites.

According to Vale Canada, tests to date have demonstrated improvements in three areas: health and safety, operating and capital costs, and environmental impact.

Specifically, says Mulloy, EVs are quieter than diesel vehicles, produce less heat and have no exhaust emissions — all pluses for operator comfort. Meanwhile, cost savings stem primarily from reduced ventilation demands, while the biggest environmental benefit is a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

The company says the new vehicles are part of Vale’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, which includes goals of being carbon neutral by 2050 and achieving a 33 per cent reduction of emissions by 2030. In this context, it also says the information gathered from the vehicle tests will be used to “steer business investment decisions in the years to come.”

Large vehicles put to the test

“Over the coming months, a number of large prime mover vehicles will be delivered,” says Mulloy. “When those vehicles arrive, it will be an exciting step in the journey because most of the question marks around the performance of EVs relate to the large vehicles, so that’ll be a chance for us to really put this technology to the test.”

Vale isn’t the only mining company using Candian-made EVs in Canada. MacLean Engineering has been testing its vehicles at a site in Sudbury since 2015, with deployments that include Newmont’s nearby Borden gold mine.