Natural Resources Canada awards $1.5 million to natural heat exchange research project

MIRARCO secures federal funding to develop natural heating and cooling technology for underground mining

Natural Resources Canada awarded $1.5 million on Feb. 11 to the Natural Heat Exchange Engineering Technology (NHEET) research project, a project between the Mining Innovation, Rehabilitation and Applied Research Corporation (MIRARCO) and other organizations such as CanmetMINING and Teck, to examine the use of fractured rocks to improve cooling and air delivery in underground mining.

The benefits of such a system were discovered over 50 years ago at Vale’s Creighton nickel mine near Sudbury, Ontario. In the 1960s, the miners realized that cool air was entering the underground mine through a large expanse of waste rock during the summer, while warm air was entering during the winter. They then began directing the air throughout the mine, allowing the miners to use both heated and cooled air, depending on the season, and carry out mining at Creighton to a depth of 2.5 kilometres without using artificial refrigeration.

The original NHEET was discovered by accident at Vale’s Crieghton nickel mine near Sudbury, Ontario. Courtesy of Vale.