Photo courtesy of Epiroc Media Gallery © Epiroc: A Powerbit Underground machine works its way through an underground hardrock mine.

Mesabi® Radiators Power Nevada Gold Mining Operations

In the unforgiving landscape of underground mining, machines need the most durable, most serviceable, and most reliable heat exchanger available. For Nevada Gold Mines, it’s Mesabi® radiators or bust.

Golconda, Nevada – Within the Basin and Range Province in northern Nevada, an incredible city of activity flourishes underneath the unassuming slopes of the Osgood Mountains. Twenty-four hours a day, a fleet of heavy-duty machines made by Caterpillar (CAT), Komatsu, Sandvik, and more creep through underground tunnels that snake thousands of feet below the earth.

© Sandvik: A low profile loader snakes through the walls of an underground hardrock mine.
© Sandvik: A low profile loader snakes through the walls of an underground hardrock mine.

This underground ecosystem is Turquoise Ridge Mine, a gold mine owned by Nevada Gold Mines. In 2019, Nevada Gold Mines’ current owners, Barrick Gold Corporation and Newmont Corporation, launched a partnership that solidified Nevada Gold Mines as the single largest gold-producing complex in the world.

The mine itself has two different shafts: one reaching to 543 meters below surface and the other extending 554 meters below surface. Nevada Gold Mines began site preparation of a third shaft in 2017 after discovering a new vein of gold in the mountain. The new concrete-lined shaft will have a diameter of 7.3 meters and a have a 990-meter total depth.

According to Larry Swanson, sales representative at L&M Radiator, the industry-leading manufacturer of Mesabi® radiators, these tunnels are made by identifying where ore deposits lie using an underground map, drilling, then blasting the earth. In areas where the rock may be fractured, a remote-control loader enters the newly formed tunnels and shores the tunnels using a method called shotcrete. This method involves spraying concrete onto the tunnels’ walls at a high velocity. If the walls are particularly fractured, the mine installs rock bolts to secure the tunnel walls.

“Until the tunnels are shored up and reinforced where necessary to where they’re safe for humans, all the operating happens from a chair up above ground with a remote,” said Swanson. “Sometimes, the earth will cave in on the loader, which is not abnormal. To bring the machine back to safe ground, they have a hook on the back of the loader that is attached to a cable. When an operator pulls the cable, the brakes release and they can drag the loader out.”

But having to withstand the weight of hundreds of pounds of earth may just be the least of a machine’s worries.

Underground Mining: A Hard Knock Life for a Machine 

In underground mines such as these, machines are tasked with doing a lot more with a lot less. Meaning, though the conditions are uncompromising and rugged, the machines themselves must be incredibly compact to fit through the underground labyrinth.

Photo courtesy of Epiroc Media Gallery © Epiroc: A Powerbit Underground machine works its way through an underground hardrock mine.
Photo courtesy of Epiroc Media Gallery © Epiroc: A Powerbit Underground machine works its way through an underground hardrock mine.

For context, the engine life of an underground machine can be less than half of what it normally is above ground. Limited airflow inhibiting the free movement of dust particles out and away from machines and roads lined with thick mud are just two factors that contribute to this shortened lifespan. On top of it all, these machines must be designed to operate incredibly low to the ground. This means that any mud that a machine dredges up often goes right into its cooling system. Caterpillar (CAT) R1600 or R1700 underground loaders are among the most common machines one will find on this site.

Once a machine is underground, it is unlikely that it will be brought back to the surface, as it would take an incredible amount of time and labor to get it above ground again. This means that all maintenance must occur underground. But, when downtime on a truck or loader can cost a mine up to $10,000 an hour – any loss of time is not something to be taken lightly.

A drive to reduce downtime necessitates a system that allows for swift serviceability of a product – one that can only be delivered by a genuine Mesabi radiator made only by L&M Radiator.

“In the underground mining world, we are the preferred radiator. This is largely due to our serviceability and durability. If a conventional radiator breaks down, maintenance personnel must pull it out of the machine and send it above ground again. There’s not anything that can be done underground to repair it,” said Swanson. “With a Mesabi radiator, in the event that a rock or otherwise happens to go through the radiator, maintenance personnel can simply replace the tubes that are damaged and then keep going, often within the hour.”

When it comes time to clean a Mesabi radiator, there is no need to bring it above ground again. Just spray the radiator with high-pressure water to remove any build-up and be on your merry way.

With these advantages, it is no surprise that Mesabi is Nevada Gold Mine’s number one radiator of choice.

“Nevada Gold has been using Mesabi for quite some time now. It is to the point where they’ve told me they want Mesabi radiators on everything,” said Swanson. “A Mesabi radiator is more durable than a conventional radiator. It’s repairable underground. It’s serviceable. That’s why they choose us time and time again.”

L&M Radiator: Bring Reliability to Your Underground Operations

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