Sudbury

Laurentian prof says it's time for the '40% mine'

Energy conservation is the key to maintaining the viability of older mines and ensuring the profitability of new ones, Prof. Dean Millar says.

Reducing energy usage by 60% has multiple benefits, Dean Millar says

Energy conservation is the key to maintaining the viability of older mines and ensuring the profitability of new ones, a professor at Laurentian University says.

Dean Millar, who was recently named a distinguished lecturer by the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum, will be touring the country to spread the word that employing modern technology in the age-old business of extracting minerals from the ground has multiple benefits.

"The 40-per-cent mine is shorthand for the idea that we could reduce energy consumption to support mine production to a level of 40 per cent of what it currently is by the year 2040 by using renewable energy technologies, by embracing energy efficiency and the state of the art in poly-generation (the sequential production of electricity and thermal energy in the form of heat or steam, or useful mechanical work, such as shaft power, from the same fuel source) and other modern technologies which are routinely used in other industries and bring them to mining," said Millar.

People in the industry scoff at the notion initially as a "load of rubbish," Millar said.

"But then I sit down and explain how you could do it and what technologies you'd have to build into your designs — typically for new mines, developing mines -- that would radically reduce the amount of energy consumed by them."

Electric-powered vehicles

As an example, Millar says, "a switch to electrically powered vehicles could help a great deal for a couple of reasons."

"Firstly, if you're not using diesel underground, you don't have as many airborne contaminants to dilute with fresh air, so you can ... reduce the amount of air that needs to go underground. With ventilation being 40 to 80 per cent of electricity costs for a mine, just being able to turn down ventilation ... can be rapidly converted into a financial benefit."

However, change can take time, Millar said. The design process for a mine can take years, and major factors that have to be considered before deploying cutting-edge technology include its reliability and the safety of the workers using it.

That's why Millar sees 2040 as a target date for the widespread arrival of the "40-per-cent" mine.

with files from Jenifer Norwell

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