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Learn about the challenges of mining more than 2 km down

Dynamic Earth opens new Hydraulic Air Compressor Demonstrator

After a seven-month build, you can now learn a little something about the challenges of mining below 2.5 kilometres below the surface of the Earth.

the Hydraulic Air Compressor (HAC) Demonstrator at Dynamic Earth officially opened on June 21. 

The 100-foot high (above and below ground) industrial scale system for testing and demonstration of compressed air production is installed in a former elevator shaft at Science North’s Dynamic Earth. 

This innovative technology provides an energy efficient alternative to conventional mechanical air compression that promises up to 50-per-cent savings in lifecycle cost for mine operators and other industrial scale users of pneumatic power. 

The HAC Demonstrator project is a joint undertaking of the Ultra Deep Mining Network (UDMN) — a collaboration of MIRARCO Mining Innovation, Laurentian University, Electrale Innovation Ltd. and Reasbeck Construction. Hosted at CEMI, the network aims to resolve the challenges of resource extraction in ultra-deep (below 2.5km) environments. 

This UDMN project was combined into two phases: research and construction, with a total value of $3.375 million. 

Financial contributions included $463,000 through the province’s Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC), $499,000 from the Independent Electricity System Operator’s (IESO) Conservation Fund, and $620,000 from Electrale Innovation Ltd and MIRARCO – Mining Innovation, with contributions from Victaulic Canada and KROHNE Canada. 

Additional support was provided by Science North / Dynamic Earth, Vale Canada, the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

Among the contributors to the project, the Cambrian Innovates team at Cambrian College fabricated the air-water mixing head, a specialty item that followed a design created by Charles Havelock Taylor in 1905 for the HAC embedded in the concrete abutments of the Peterborough Lift Lock, on the Trent-Severn Canal, now operated by Parks Canada.

Hydraulic Air Compressors promise low cost, low carbon, energy efficient compressed air for all industries requiring pneumatic power, but there is a special synergy with the mining industry because the systems have great vertical extent.

The objective of the wider project is to lower the cost of energy for mine operators to help maintain the global competitiveness of the Ontario Mining Industry. One intended new use for the compressed air produced by a HAC is for refrigeration of ventilation air for ultra deep mine cooling. 

Once the facility is opened, innovators from MIRARCO, scientists and engineers from Laurentian University and engineers from the industry partners will work collaboratively to prove the energy efficiency of the systems and to investigate their feasibility for mine cooling, gas liquefaction and carbon capture. Electrale Innovation Ltd. is already exploring commercial opportunities for this energy efficient technology. 

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