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Taking a Closer Look at the Onaping Depth Project

Author: Glencore Canada | Date: 16/03/2020

The future of Sudbury INO is deep mining and its ability to adapt to it. Since receiving full approval for further development of the Onaping Depth project in late 2017, the team has been working on its development and finding ways to power its future.

This US$700 million deep mine project is located below the existing Craig Mine in Onaping, Ontario. When completed, Onaping Depth will provide Sudbury INO with a significant new source of high-grade nickel ore beyond year 2035.

So, what will this mine of the future look like? In a word: innovative. 

Onaping Depth represents a complete break from the traditional idea of underground mining. The digital age will be on full display with real-time remote management, monitoring, and control from surface. Innovative safety systems will be integrated into the operation. The mine will feature mine-wide Wi-Fi communication between employees and from underground to surface. In some areas, miners will be removed from the working face utilizing autonomous mining equipment. The entire fleet of mining equipment will feature battery-powered electric vehicles, eliminating diesel emissions and reducing noise pollution. New technology will also be applied to critical ventilation and cooling systems where the ambient rock temperature can reach 400 C at depth.

Pouring the foundation for the hoist
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Digging deeper into the current phase of project development

The Onaping Depth project completed the highly customized underground headframe excavation in 2019. Work continues to be conducted in shaping the underground infrastructure for this future deep mine. The internal shaft, currently piloted and reamed to the 1915 level and finished at the 1260 level, will eventually extend to 2630 level – or 1,430 metres (m) of total internal shaft length. In addition, three substantial chambers each spanning 15m wide by 20m long by 10m high, were excavated to house the permanent hoisting infrastructure – 3,400 horsepower (hp) double drum production hoist, 4,500hp blair service hoist, and associated sheaves, which allowed for the full mobilization of construction crews. 

Creative design and engineering, including the application of new and existing technology define the future of Onaping Depth. More importantly, they help ensure many more years of high-value nickel ore in a safe and cost-effective environment. Sudbury INO continues to work with a few major Original Equipment Manufacturers to advance battery technology for the project, test a number of battery vehicles, and eventually develop battery electric technology that will be practical, powerful and cost effective.

Hoist installation
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In 2019, the first components of a unique all battery electric fleet of vehicles were also delivered to the Onaping Depth project site, with four vehicles already in regular operation. Two battery electric flat decks are currently in operation, with one serving as the water truck for ramp maintenance. In addition, two utility vehicles have been made available for project personnel movement throughout the mine.

It is estimated that within a few years, most new mobile equipment purchased for underground will be battery electric, with zero emissions. The benefits of battery electric power in an underground mining operation are numerous. Zero diesel emissions result in a smaller environmental footprint and fewer health concerns for employees. There will also be greater energy efficiency in operating our fleet of mobile equipment. When it comes to ventilation and cooling, normally one of the biggest portions of a mine’s overall energy cost, the savings will be substantial.