Natural Heat Exchange Engineering Technology for Mines


An economical and environmentally friendly heating and cooling ventilation air solution exists at Vale’s Creighton Mine in Canada by utilizing a volume of broken rocks, which allows for mining to occur at a depth of 2.5km without requiring artificial refrigeration. Creighton’s natural heat exchanger provides 17.5 MW of coolth by exploiting seasonal temperature patterns whereby the rockmass stores the winter cold for summer use and summer heat for winter use.

Vale and MIRARCO have a collaborative relationship that includes developing a better understanding of and operating Creighton’s natural heat exchanger.


MIRARCO’s NHEET project is a funded collaborative research effort between Natural Resources Canada, Vale Canada Ltd, and Teck Resources Ltd, whose purpose is to develop an engineering methodology for implementation of natural heat exchangers at mine sites across Canada and internationally. Experimental and computational efforts have established an enhanced understanding of the science and capability to design an optimized system. An outdoor prototype heat exchanger is currently being constructed at NORCAT to validate the research.

Benefits of NHEET

  • Low operating cost
  • Low capital cost
  • No maintenance
  • Reduced energy consumption
  • Reduced GHG
  • Reduced Carbon chain of products (transportation of fuel, burning fuel, etc)
  • Reusing waste rock, reducing material handling and storage – reducing mining footprint

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