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Nutrien Using Latest Mining Technology to Keep up With Global Potash Demand

Nutrien is at the forefront of pioneering advanced tele-remote mining technology in Saskatchewan, marking a momentous leap into the future of mining. This  initiative holds the promise of a transformative impact on mining operations, bolstering safety and efficiency.

Nutrien’s tele-remote mining technology, presently deployed at the Cory Mine near Saskatoon, empowers operators to remotely control mining vehicles from distances of up to 20 kilometers. This groundbreaking achievement is heralded as the initial stride towards automated mining, a concept poised to revolutionize the mining industry.

Safety is the driving force behind Nutrien’s investment in this technology. Traditional mining work often involves physically demanding conditions, with miners operating in close proximity to the mining front, which inherently carries risks. The tele-remote approach significantly alters these conditions, relocating operators away from the front lines to a more comfortable and ergonomic environment.

Leon Boehm, General Manager of Nutrien Cory Mine, underscores the benefits of tele-remote mining, explaining, their latest innovations center on tele-remote mining and progress toward autonomous mining. This essentially means they can operate mining machinery, bridges, and associated equipment from remote locations. This enhances efficiency and safety.

This technology has also transformed the working conditions for mining operators. Rather than traditionally being situated on the mining machines, operators now work in an office-like setting. Boehm elaborated saying operators work in a station set up above ground. They sit in office chairs, removed from the noise, dust, and exposure of the active mining face. The technology provides them with full control, vision, and hearing of their surroundings a kilometer below.

Beyond safety, this technology has proven to be a catalyst for cost-efficiency. With operators stationed in climate-controlled offices, shift changes no longer result in downtime, leading to a substantial increase in productivity.

Nutrien developed all this technology in-house and sourced the mining machines from Prairie Machine, a local Saskatoon company.

Prairie Machine has a rich history of servicing potash mines in the region since 1977. They have engineered, designed, and constructed mining vehicles for over two decades and have recently expanded their electric vehicle division, known as Rokion, supplying vehicles to mines in countries as diverse as Australia and Mexico. These state-of-the-art mining vehicles, while a significant investment, play a crucial role in the primary ore extraction that Nutrien provides to the global market.

Kipp Sakundiak, CEO of Prairie Machine, emphasizes the impact of their machines in the mining industry, and shared that each miner takes 20,000 man-hours to assemble, with 2,500 unique parts and half a million pounds of steel and materials in just one machine. They have a retail price of around 9 million dollars, but pricing is negotiable. Sakundiak points out that all of Prairie Machine’s vehicles are fully electric, contributing to improved air quality within mines. These vehicles have found markets in Australia, Mexico, England, South Africa, and the USA, marking a significant milestone for the local company.

The shift toward tele-remote mining holds a promising future for both the mining industry and its workforce. As the world seeks more sustainable and safer mining practices, the collaboration between Nutrien and Prairie Machine in Saskatchewan exemplifies the potential of technology to enhance mining efficiency and, most importantly, safety for all those involved.

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