Powering the Mining Industry

Power plays a critical role in the gold mining industry. Mobile generators supply the power to meet the electrical demands of each mine site. They help run the necessary machinery and offices needed to keep the operation going.

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It is impossible to know the exact date humans first began to mine gold. Some of the oldest known artifacts date back between 4700 and 4200 BCE, indicating that gold mining could be at least 7000 years old. Production today is increasing, despite the decreasing gold content of ores. This increase can only be achieved with industrial installations.

According to the World Gold Council, the most popular form of gold mining is through placer mines, where the gold is recovered by gravity separation. Placer deposits are composed of relatively loose material, meaning the extraction process involves the use of water or dredging. The process has been modernized, and today's mine site is home to equipment such as wash plants, water pumps, suction screens, heavy equipment, and other electric tools.

As a result, power plays a critical role. Mobile generators supply the power to meet the electrical demands of each mine site. They help run the necessary machinery and offices needed to keep the operation going. Without generators, the job could take longer and would require more money and manpower.

“Where I work, power is extremely important and we have to make all of our own power,” said Rick Ness, gold miner in Canada’s Yukon Territory. “It is important to have equipment like generators run consistently so I don't have to worry about them. They basically power my entire business, from the camp to my wash plant, and I can’t have them breaking down. So reliability is a big thing for me.”

Generac Mobile said it is important for a mining operation to have a simple and reliable generator. “A generator runs in the background,” said Gregg Eberhardt, product manager, Generac Mobile. “You don't pay attention to it until something goes wrong, so simply, it just has to run.”

Ness agrees that a generator needs to be simple. “It is important to have a machine be easy to use. If it is easy to use, workers aren't stopping and asking me questions all of the time.”

The power generation equipment ensures that any other equipment that needs electric power to run continues to work as planned. In remote areas not serviced by a main electricity grid, the electricity generated from a mobile power generator keeps all operations running smoothly.

When deciding which generator will work best on a site, there are several things to consider. The first is that it needs to be able to take a beating.

“When you open a new mine site, the road to get there can be extremely tough,” said Eberhardt. “You may have 60 to 70 miles of rough dirt roads to get to the site. The generator has to be able to make the trip.”

Eberhardt said once the generator is on site, it will then have to deal with dust and the wear and tear of extended operation.

Another important element that needs to be considered is sound. Mine sites want their generators to be as quiet as possible, not only to protect the environment, but to help protect their workers. According to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), noise is one of the most pervasive health hazards in mining. MSHA estimated that 13% of the mining population of the United States (about 37,000) would develop material hearing impairment during their working lifetime.

Prolonged exposure to hazardous sound levels over a period of years can cause permanent, irreversible damage to hearing. MSHA states that for an 8-hr. time, the average sound level a worker should be exposed to is 85 dBA and no miner should be exposed at any time to sound levels exceeding 115 dBA, even if the miner is wearing hearing protectors. Generac Mobile generators give off different sound levels depending on the size of the unit. The 25-55 kVA units range from 65-68 dBA while 75-250 kVA units range from 74-78 dBA. Generac Mobile recommends keeping a generator on a mine site below 80 dBA.

No matter your project details, keeping workers safe is the most critical component to success. Like sound-attenuated enclosures, components like emergency stop mechanisms are important, as well as features that make it easy for you to diagnose and identify other potential issues like oil levels, engine temperature, and electrical fault fail-safe.

Furthermore, mining applications are rugged heavy-duty jobs. The equipment used needs to rise up to the challenge. Generators need to have multiple weatherproof features in order to endure the projects.

"It is important to have equipment like generators run consistently so I don't have to worry about them. They basically power my entire business, from the camp to my wash plant, and I can’t have them breaking down. So reliability is a big thing for me."
-Rick Ness

“I needed equipment that can go through a range of seasons, because seasons change quickly in Canada,” said Ness. “When we showed up, it was below freezing and the first thing we did was plug in the camp generator. Then we were in spring, where everything was wet, and now in summer it gets very hot and extremely dusty. The machines definitely have to run in varying situations.”

Appropriately sizing a generator is another key element to keep the mine site powered. Eberhardt said a major issue mine sites have is they tend to get a generator that is too large for their operation.

“Generators need to run on a minimum load, usually at least 30 percent of their rated power, in order to run properly,” he said. “If the load is too small, it could lead to wet stacking.”

Eberhardt recommends that if a new site is not sure of how much power they will need, it is better to start small. “As the site gets larger and the infrastructure grows, it is better to add to the number of generators, instead of starting off too big.”

Every mine is different, therefore their generator needs will be different. It is important for mining companies to have a professional help them install and maintain the equipment to keep employees safe and their site up and working properly.