Technology at an Arctic Diamond Mine

December 2, 2019

A mere two degrees below the Arctic Circle in Canada’s Northwest Territories lies the Gahcho Kué diamond mine, a place so remote it can only be accessed by a chartered flight landing on a gravel airstrip at the mine or an ice road that only lasts between 6-8 weeks out of the year. Because of its location, the mine is completely off the grid and self-reliant. Gahcho Kué uses five C175-16 generators to power and heat the entire mine and with temperatures regularly falling below -40 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter, losing power even for a short time could be devastating, for people and production. 

“We've spent over 90 years of engineering know-how, and hands-on experience from some of the most challenging projects to provide our customers with the best products and services today,” said Terri Lewis, technology and solutions manager for Electric Power. “For remote locations like mines, it is a requirement that they have power because there is no access to the grid.”

To tackle this unique set of challenges, Caterpillar teamed up with Finning Cat and De Beers Group to leverage Electric Power’s Remote Asset Monitoring (more info below) – a digital service to help proactively identify repair and maintenance needs for the generator sets. 

Caterpillar teams based in Mossville monitor the generator sets remotely and utilize predictive analytics to identify issues before they occur. When an issue is detected, the Caterpillar team utilizes automated alerts and notifications to contact the Finning technicians living on-site at the mine who can then proactively complete repairs before there is a significant impact on operations.  

“Early identification of product opportunities ensures we have the right technicians and parts before anything goes wrong,” said James Morrison, performance solutions leader at Finning Cat. 

In the three years Gahcho Kué has been in operation, the Caterpillar and Finning teams have successfully detected, diagnosed and safely solved multiple issues all through early detection utilizing predictive analytics. If left unaddressed or the issue persists, the total cost of downtime, parts and labor can easily add up to millions of dollars. Early detection, along with swift action, is vital to helping to ensure the mine is up and running, keeping the 300+ people who live and work there safe and, just as important, warm.  

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