Volvo Penta is powering a hard-working underground loader in an Alaskan mine — and making a striking impression with its exceptional uptime, excellent ventilation rates and low emissions.
With 30 miles of underground tunnels, the Pogo mine, located 85 miles southeast of Fairbanks, Alaska, is home to two large high-grade gold-bearing quartz veins that yield more than 2,500 tons of ore each day. In production since 2006, Pogo is one of the state’s top gold mines.
At the mine, a high-capacity load-haul-dump loader works two shifts, up to 20 hours each day, loading out of the face and into trucks. The machine was purchased in late 2013 and is equipped with a Volvo Penta Tier 4 Interim TAD1361VE engine, which has since clocked more than 1,800 hours.
The Pogo mine faces several challenges that the Volvo Penta engine has helped to address. In an area where winter temperatures typically hover around -12° F (-24° C) but can plummet to -60° F (-51° C), it’s vital to keep the inside of the mine as warm as possible. Ventilation air is heated to 40° F (4° C) year around at significant cost: the Pogo mine is the biggest user of propane in the state of Alaska.
The Volvo engine has lower air exchange requirements than a Tier 2-equipped unit the mine previously used (12,000 CFM versus 26,000 CFM), which has helped Pogo save money on the cost of heating the air while staying within MSHA (Mine Safety and Health Administration) compliance on air standards and without having to upgrade their ventilation system.
Two years ago, a compliance audit determined that the Pogo mine’s machinery was producing high levels of diesel particulate matter (DPM). The aftertreatment systems on the machines were reengineered to lower their particulate matter, but then nitrogen oxide (NOx) levels rose. Installing a Volvo Penta Tier 4i TAD1361VE, with its selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology, has reduced NOx levels by more than half.
“The engine is clean-burning — and with current legislation requirements, that’s critical,” says Paul Brunelle, general foreman of the mine.
“Not only that, it’s been running well with minimal downtime, and the operators like the ride. It’s our favorite mucker out there.”
Pogo’s local dealer is Delta Industrial, who have been in business for 17 years. The company began selling and servicing Volvo Penta products last year after receiving a surface top hammer drill that ran a Volvo Penta engine — because as president Curt Dufendach tells it, the company wanted to be able to support the machine. “Now that we have the expertise, we send out machines powered by Volvo Penta as often as possible,” he says. Mine support — including parts and diagnostics — is the biggest service Delta Industrial provides, in addition to hauling freight from Seattle to the local mines, providing equipment to construction contractors and manufacturing quick-set concrete.
“Delta Industrial’s service is one of the reasons we bought the machine,” Paul Brunelle says. “They’ve gone the extra mile with our other equipment, and we knew they would with this one, too.”
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Volvo Penta of the Americas