MacLean engineering bolter at work in an underground mine
Much of the equipment needed to electrify Borden, like MacLean Engineering’s bolter, didn’t exist in 2016.

The all-electric gold mine in Northern Ontario is greening the mining industry, with the help of homegrown expertise and the province’s end-to-end supply chain

In 2016, when Newmont announced that it would build the world’s first all-electric underground gold mine near Borden Lake in Northern Ontario, the global mining industry took notice.

“For a number of reasons going all-electric at an underground mine makes a lot of sense,” says John Mullally, Newmont’s Senior Director of Sustainability and External Relations. “When you’re operating hundreds, even thousands, of metres below the surface, electric equipment significantly improves working conditions by eliminating diesel particulate matter and other gases from the air—reducing energy costs, protecting employee health and minimizing impacts to the environment.”

Newmont, convinced that all-electric is the way to cleaner, quieter, safer and more profitable mines—that are also inclusive of the communities around them—was determined to get a leg-up.

Aerial view of Newmont’s border mine
With its ground-breaking technologies, Newmont’s Borden gold mine is invisible to nearby cottagers and First Nations communities.

The Colorado-based mining giant knew there would be myriad challenges, from mine design to infrastructure and equipment. The Borden mine, which is small by Newmont’s standards, presented the perfect prototype, allowing for the development, testing and deployment of new technologies, many of which didn’t even exist at the time. Once they were commercialized, Newmont could scale them up for other sites around the world.

Made in Ontario mining expertise

It wasn’t just Borden’s size that attracted Newmont: Ontario offered the world’s largest gold mining company a number of critical advantages, starting with access to expertise in all aspects of underground mining. Whether it’s manufacturers, engineers, miners or energy producers, Ontario has all the components in the value chain.

“Ontario has developed a cluster of mines and mining expertise that is leading the world in underground electrification,” says Mullally.

Home-grown companies like MacLean Engineering, Miller Technology and Kovatera—as well as international players like Sandvik with operations in the province—are designing and building custom-made solutions for some of the biggest names in mining, including Glencore, Kirkland Lake Gold, Vale—and Newmont. And they’re as committed to the vision of a profitable, all-electric mine as Newmont is.

Ontario also offers access to a deep pipeline of talent. Nineteen of Ontario’s 22 universities and 24 colleges have world-class mining, geology and engineering programs, and the industry is supported by a number of R&D institutes focused on underground mining.

Says Mullally, “Although this area of Northern Ontario is new to mining and processing, we’ve had lots of interest from potential employees.”

Government committed to the future of “green” mining

Rounding out the province’s advantages is strong government support.

“We worked closely with the Ontario government in collaboration with local First Nations communities to permit the mine, and we were able to bring it in on time and on budget.”

Because Ontario is determined to be at the leading edge of the low carbon economy, Newmont was also able to access funding for the Borden mine from the TargetGHG Program. Operating through the Ontario Centre of Innovation, TargetGHG supports collaboration between industry emitters and innovation companies providing solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Newmont qualified because its electric mining equipment will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70% over a comparable diesel mine.

Mullally says that in addition to the government and its partner companies, MacLean Engineering and Sandvik, Newmont has benefited from close collaboration with all three neighbouring First Nations, as well as other mining companies in Northern Ontario with which it’s shared information.

Production at the $250 million mine began in November 2019, and today, Mullally says that Borden is 85% of the way to its goal of complete electrification. The one exception is the 40-tonne production truck that carries the ore from underground to the surface, but the company is still committed to its all-electric vision.

As for whether other global mining companies are following Newmont’s lead, Mullally maintains, there’s a very strong business case to go all-electric as we continue to dig deeper for “gold.”

Looking to electrify your mining operations or procure underground battery electric vehicles? Please contact the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines.

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