As mining companies transition to battery electric vehicles (BEVs) to improve performance, cost, health and safety underground, Epiroc and Collège Boréal are partnering to ensure workers have the skills to continue to operate effectively.
The equipment manufacturer and the Sudbury college are preparing to introduce the first class cohort of its BEV maintenance program, the first of its kind to be developed in Canada.
Julie Nadeau, director of business development at Boréal, said the program was born after consultation with industry stakeholders.
“The motivation, really, behind the development of the BEV program was a direct request from industry,” she said during a presentation at the 2022 Maintenance, Engineering and Reliablility/Mine Operators (MEMO) conference. ‘ICM, held September 18-21 at Science North in Sudbury.
“We have been approached by several mining companies who have asked us if there is training. When they realized that wasn’t the case, they also realized that they really needed to invest in their workforce.
Boréal announced the launch of the program in February 2020 and Epiroc became an industrial partner the following year.
The program will serve two purposes: it will train existing truck mechanics in battery-electric techniques, while also training new entrants to the job market, she noted.
While developing the course, Boréal’s content developers met with a dozen industry employers – from mining companies to equipment manufacturers – to find out exactly what they wanted their employees to learn, said Nadeau.
Employers told them that in addition to the basics of the BEV, workers needed to be familiar and comfortable with maintaining a BEV. They stressed the importance of practical training.
“This step was really critical, which is why our partnership with Epiroc was really important to us,” said Nadeau.
“The program team has a direct link to this privileged relationship. This therefore allows the college to keep abreast of all new practices, new technologies, and therefore our program and our test bench will always be up to date with new technologies.
This resulted in a three-part, 160-hour program that focuses on three main areas – battery technology, battery safety standards and battery maintenance – which is offered in English and French.
The basic course takes place over a 40-hour period, followed by instructor-led intermediate and advanced courses, which take place in the Boréal workshop using test rigs developed by Epiroc.
Learners will also complete an internship as part of the course and each participant will receive a certificate of achievement from Boréal at the end of the program.
It is intended for electricians, millwrights, heavy maintenance workers and technicians working for equipment manufacturers.
But Nadeau said there is additional interest from project managers and industry financial officers who want to better understand BEVs and how they work.
Sweden-based Epiroc, with locations in Sudbury, has been a leader in BEV technology, offering a range of drill rigs, backhoe loaders, haul trucks and other equipment since 2016.
Among the benefits of the technology, BEVs produce fewer emissions, less heat and less noise, which translates to a cleaner working environment in general, noted Marquis Martel, project manager in the Rocvolt division of ‘Epirock.
That’s why so many of the company’s customers are now looking to add BEVs to their fleets.
But new technologies mean that operators and technicians must develop an entirely new skill set.
“We’re talking about integration between mobile mechanics, electricians and operator feedback,” Martel said.
“At Epiroc, it is very important for us to collaborate with electrical services, mobile services, so that we can create this platform to best meet our underground equipment or mine needs. »
In addition to offering feedback on the development of the program, Epiroc also built the test rigs that the students will use during the hands-on portion of the program.
Each bench replicates the operation of a full-size BEV, using real components and operating like a BEV, but on a smaller scale, Martel said, so students get real-world experience with the technology.
He expects the benefits of the program to be felt industry-wide.
“It not only benefits us as an OEM (original equipment manufacturer), but it also benefits the Vales, the Glencores, the MacLeans, the Toromonts, the whole industry as a base,” he said. -he declares.
Despite a pandemic-related delay in rolling out the course, Nadeau said the college plans to begin offering the core program this fall, with the intermediate program beginning in January.