"Deeper reserves and varying climatic conditions in Canada are now making refrigeration indispensable for mine operations."

Stephen Hardcastle & Morné Beukes

MANAGING DIRECTOR (SH) AND DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS (MB), BBE CANADA

November 22, 2023

Can you introduce BBE Group to our audience?

MB: BBE Group (BBE) was founded in 1989 to address cooling and ventilation challenges in the South African ultra-deep mines. Over the years, BBE expanded globally, establishing offices in Canada, South Africa and Australia. Our service portfolio evolved, now encompassing comprehensive engineering, procurement, construction and maintenance services. This includes the construction of critical facilities such as refrigeration plants and main fan stations. BBE's Canadian office recently designed and commissioned multiple cooling plants in Canada and Mexico.

In addition to cooling solutions, we expanded our services to include heating solutions for mines operating in colder climates. Our diversification extends to occupational hygiene, emergency response, fire management, emergency preparedness, risk analysis, and various facets of the underground working environment, including radiation protection.

SH: In response to the Canadian mining industry’s shift towards deeper mining operations with many reaching 3 km or more, we established our Canadian office in 2016 and saw substantial growth. Deeper reserves and varying climatic conditions in Canada are now making refrigeration indispensable for these mine operations. Our scope of responsibility also covers all of the Americas. We participated in projects with notable companies like Vale, Glencore, Agnico Eagle, and Rio Tinto, among others.

In Canada, some mines require both cooling in summer due to their depth and heating in winter due to the climate.

Has the uptick in battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in mines impacted the demand for ventilation?

SH: BEVs do not produce diesel particulate matter (DPM) and generate less heat than their diesel equivalents. Each mine can have unique circumstances, and ventilation systems must consider multiple factors in their design. Despite technologies like BEVs generally reducing ventilation needs, other aspects may negate some of the advantages. While BEV technology should be a considered choice for new projects, transitioning existing operations with extensive diesel equipment fleets will require careful planning.

MB: BBE is seeing an uptick in mining companies asking us to assess the tradeoffs between BEVs, diesel vehicles, or mixed fleets. Numerous older, deeper mines already have established diesel-based infrastructure in place, garages, etc., and would now require the introduction of battery charging stations.

How will the new regulations in Ontario related to exposure limits impact mine ventilation?

SH: Ontario Mining regulations have recently updated the dilution requirements to be more specific, recognizing the impact of newer, cleaner-burning diesel engines, fuels, and emissions controls, while reducing the exposure limit for workers to DPM. The advancements in diesel equipment have been remarkable since the introduction of the 0.06 m3/s requirement. Many of today’s diesel machine engines are Tier 4F or Euro 5 compliant with dramatically reduced gas and particulate emissions. This benefits both workers and the mining companies.

These recent regulatory changes in Ontario are, in part, a catch-up acknowledging the technological strides, while also recognizing the additional health concerns. The recent adjustments in regulations in Ontario mark a positive step towards embracing more global standards. It is crucial to emphasize that while these regulatory changes represent progress, they alone cannot guarantee safety in all underground mines. BBE’s experience can help our clients ensure minimal impact on operations while being fully compliant with new regulations.

What does the future look like for BBE Canada?

MB: BBE Canada envisions substantial growth on the horizon. The mining industry in the Americas is rapidly evolving, pushing mines to even greater depths. As a result, the demand for ventilation and refrigeration systems is on the rise, and we anticipate BBE playing a pivotal role in meeting these requirements. Our commitment to the Canadian market remains unwavering. Here we have established a robust presence and are engaged in several promising projects. New and existing client projects in the US are coming to fruition, and we are bolstering our capacity to deliver services in Spanish.

What truly distinguishes BBE is our global presence and adaptability. Across three continents, we possess a diverse range of skills that we can readily harness. This interconnectedness enables us to pool resources and provide holistic solutions. Our independence is a source of pride; we do not bind ourselves to any specific OEMs or equipment types. Instead, we source the best equipment that is tailored to the unique needs of each mine.

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