“Injection hoisting technology would eliminate the need for haul trucks, and eliminate the need for a major hoisting plant. If you are accessing from a shaft you would still have a hoist to bring personnel and equipment up and down, but you would not need the large rock and ore hoist that we typically put in.”
In February 2020, Cementation Canada was awarded the Northern Ontario Heritage Corp. grant for its innovative way of transporting ore and waste rock from underground mines to surface. Can you explain injection hoisting to us?
Traditionally there a number of ways to bring ore from an underground mine to the surface, including haul trucks, hoists, or conveying. Injection hoisting is about pumping ore to surface through pipelines, which lends itself to the concept of continuous mining rather than batch mining. It involves crushed material, which is pumped through a pipeline in a medium, and our original proposal was to use a mud-style medium (a viscous material instead of water) that lifts the ore to surface. Once the ore reaches surface, it is separated from the medium and then goes on to the processing plant, and the medium is saved. The pipeline gives you a continuous loop, where ore is entered at the bottom, injected into the system, and then separated at the top. The next step to develop the technology is a full-scale demonstrator model, and we would like to find a partner to put this technology in a mine and test it.
If injection hoisting becomes popular, how would it change underground mines?
The technology would eliminate the need for haul trucks, and eliminate the need for a major hoisting plant. If you are accessing from a shaft you would still have a hoist to bring personnel and equipment up and down, but you would not need the large rock and ore hoist that we typically put in.
What are some of the standout projects Cementation Americas has worked on in the last 12 months?
Glencore’s Onaping Depth in Sudbury is a standout project for the company. We first worked on the engineering of the project in 1998, and the shaft is actually being sunk now. Cementation has been working in partnership with the Kitikmeot Inuit community from Nunavut for 15 years, starting and still working at Diavik for Rio Tinto, and now working with them at Hope Bay for TMAC and Amaruq for Agnico Eagle. We also completed Resolution Mining’s deep number 10 shaft, and have been brought back to work on the number 9 shaft.
Within the Cementation umbrella, Merit, our construction management group, has been involved with the construction management of Continental Gold’s Buriticá project in Colombia, and Terra Nova Technologies (TNT), which works with large-scale material handling systems, have developed very efficient systems to move dry-stack tailings. Cementation and TNT recently combined forces to carry out a successful material handling system project for Newmont at their Musselwhite mine in North Western Ontario. The concept of providing a wider range of service offerings to clients also provides the opportunity for turnkey and design build solutions.
Considering mining is as an essential industry, and governments will be eager to revive economies, do you think we could see more streamlined processes to move from exploration through to production?
Canada has some unique challenges. Mining works under both provincial and federal law, so the rules are different depending on the jurisdiction. Perhaps the most high-profile case of challenging project development is the Ring of Fire, which has been on the table for many years and involves a lot more than just a permitting process. Infrastructure, indigenous partnerships and community impacts all come into play. Location is particularly important. If you are looking at a drilling program in a well- established mining community, that is one thing, but areas like the Ring of Fire are not as simple.
While every jurisdiction would like to speed up processes, if I take off my mining engineer’s hat and think as a father or grandfather, we do not want to speed things up to a point where mines are rushed and mistakes are made. Furthermore, as a taxpayer, why would I fund a mine where the stock holders and senior management are going to make all the money? Québec decided to take a stake in projects instead of simply funding them, which is an interesting approach from the perspective of a taxpayer.