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Sudbury conference emphasizes safe electric vehicle use in mining


A conference in Sudbury on Thursday focused on the risks associated with battery electric vehicle use in the mining industry.

The event was organized by Workplace Safety North (WSN), and was a combination of in-person and online.

Mike Parent from Workplace Safety North said the event started small in 2019 with only 40 participants.

Now, with the increase in BEVs, the conference saw a high number of attendees, some tuning in virtually from Switzerland, Chile and Peru.

“What we saw was an explosion of technology in the mining sector and then some bad things happening that we hadn’t predicted would happen,” Parent said.

“Now we have manufacturers working with mining operators to be able to share information so that we can all learn, and all of them work together to make sure battery technology used in the mining will be safe.”

Fires are a consistent concern for underground workers. While BEVs are considered much safer, there are still unique risks.

“The most common cause of equipment fire is oil spraying onto a turbo or an exhaust,” said Andre Barriault with Epiroc.

“With a battery-powered machine, those things don’t exist.”

However, Barriault said if a battery is involved in a fire, the way it’s handled is different compared to a diesel-powered machine.

“If your battery is the victim of a fire, there’s different things you need to do than you would do for a diesel, a regular fire. There’s different aspects of those fires that need to be handled in different ways,” he said.

Tom Welton from WSN presented the results of a risk assessment conducted on BEVs. One risk identified was a concern for collisions.

“They’re quiet. Compared to a diesel, a loud diesel engine, which industry has been used to for many, many years,” Welton said.

“And because of that, there’s a high potential of injury to a pedestrian and a collision with a battery electric vehicle.”

Parent said education is key to safe operation and that BEV use in the mines is the way of the future.

“If we look at diesel-powered equipment, the emissions that come out, these are really unfriendly to persons,” Parent said.

“Whereas battery-electric technology, we reduce the noise and we reduce the airborne hazards that come from equipment like diesel-powered.”

Welton said increasing safety will involve taking advantage of the new information as it becomes available.

He said there will be advanced training modules specifically on BEVs so that workers know how to operate them safely. Top Stories

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