Extreme Conditions: Mesabi Radiators Put to the Test on Baffin Island — Just a Few Hundred Miles South of the North Pole

Mesabi® Radiators Prove Their Reliability in Keeping Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation Operating Year-Round

Baffin Island, Nunavut Territory, Canada — All over the world, in the harshest conditions imaginable, you will find Mesabi radiators cooling heavy-duty equipment and diesel generators. It’s here that Mesabi radiators thrive — ready and willing to stand up to Mother Nature where other competitors whimper, and fail, when the going gets tough.

Manufactured by L&M Radiator in Hibbing, Minnesota, on Minnesota’s legendary Iron Range, Mesabi radiators and coolers are relied upon by the world’s leading mining and oil and gas operations. So, it came as no surprise when L&M Radiator received a call several years ago from a representative for Cummins Eastern Canada about the need for Mesabi radiators at an iron ore mining operation located in Canada’s Arctic region. Radiators supplied by another manufacturer could not meet the demands of the utility-scale generators used to power the mining operation and a shipping port and nearby airfield on Baffin Island, the largest island in Canada and the fifth largest island in the world, located north of the Hudson Bay.

It’s here that Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation (BIMC) operates the Mary River Mine, one of the most northern mines in the world. It has among the richest iron ore deposits ever discovered, consisting of nine-plus high-grade iron ore deposits that can be mined, crushed, and screened into marketable products.

Baffinland needed the radiators to be replaced immediately with a custom solution that could withstand an average winter temperature of -27 degrees Fahrenheit with temperatures as low as -67 degrees Fahrenheit. The radiators, along with the generation sets, operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to supply power to operate the mining operation, which is located 62 miles inland on Baffin Island, along the Mary River, as well as the shipping port located at the mouth of the Mary River where it meets Baffin Bay, within the Arctic Ocean.

Welcome to Baffin Island

What draws anyone, much less a major mining company, to such a harsh place as Baffin Island?

The answer is iron ore. But not just any iron ore. Identified several decades ago, the iron ore found on Baffin Island is 64 percent pure iron – some of the purest iron on the planet. Baffin Island lump and fine iron ore is so pure it does not need to be processed and there are only two steel-making plants in the world able to use such pure iron ore to make steel.

The iron-ore deposit was first surveyed in the 1960s. Extraction activity did not begin until 2016 because the deposit was located in a highly remote location with no infrastructure, which is also a culturally and environmentally sensitive location as well.

Over the years, awareness and understanding has grown about remote parts of northern Canada, as well as other remote places on our planet. While these places may look barren, they are far from it. They are wild areas with their own unique terrain, soil, animals, plants and yes, people. Baffin Island is part of the Nunavut Territory and is home to about 14,000 Baffin Island Inuit (also known as Nunatsiarmiut).

Years in the making requiring millions of dollars in investment and negotiations at every level of government, including with the Inuit people of Nunavut, the BIMC finally took shape and today mines 6 million tons of ore per year.

Supporting BIMC Mining Operations

Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation (BIMC) is a Canadian mining company, mining iron ore at the Mary River operation in the Qikiqtani region of North Baffin, Nunavut, Canada. It is jointly owned by The Energy and Minerals Group and ArcelorMittal and operates a high-grade iron ore mine.

What makes Baffinland’s operations different than many other mines is the company crushes and screens the ore onsite, and then ships it directly to markets in Europe. No concentrating or processing is needed, and therefore no tailings are produced.

While the Mary River property consists of five high-grade iron ore deposits and numerous drill-ready prospects, BIMC has been focusing on mining Deposit No. 1. Over 157,000 feet of drilling, in more than 260 drill holes, have been completed across the five deposits to date.

The operation’s two primary sites are connected by a two-way, heavy-duty, 62-mile long tote road, which has been graded to enable safe and efficient transportation of ore from the mine site to Milne Port with Western Star 690XD haul trucks and B-train trailers. Milne Port has been fully developed to accommodate a 3.5-million-ton iron ore stockpile, an ore dock, maintenance facility and associated infrastructure for the operation of the port facilities.
BIMC uses a conventional drill, blast, load and haul method at the open pit mine for ore extraction. Once blasted, Baffinland mines out the materials using hydraulic excavators and large front-end loaders, which load the iron ore into 90-ton and 212-ton haul trucks. Ore is delivered to nearby portable crushers, while waste material is transported to a dump location on site.

Once at the port, BIMC stockpiles the iron ore, which is loaded onto bulk carrier ships during the ice-free summer season, typically around July-October. Most of the ships travel across the Atlantic Ocean to European ports where the iron ore is transported to steel makers in continental Europe.

Supporting Baffinland with Critical Power Needs

Two power plants of 4.2 kV were installed to provide the sites with the required operational energy. Eight Cummins QSK50-Series diesel generator sets, each supplying 1.4 MW of power, provide electricity for the mining camp, and the six Cummins QSK50-Series generators supply power for Milne Port. These diesel generators meet the power needs of the entire operation – providing heat, lighting, and electricity (note: from about Nov. 13 – Jan. 28, it is completely dark 24 hours per day).

The Cummins generators are critical to the operation of the mine and the comfort of the 200 workers who work at the mine and port throughout the year. The selection of the right equipment cannot be understated, considering the harsh conditions of the environment. Stable operating temperatures for the engines are crucial, and BIMC must rely upon the efficiency, reliability and durability of its Cummins generators.

Unfortunately, BIMC originally purchased a conventional core cooling package as part of the initial procurement process. After exposure to the harsh weather conditions of Baffin Island, it became apparent within a couple years of the mine’s opening that new, and different, radiators would be required. Waiting any longer could jeopardize not only the operations, but the people who work there.

Cummins Eastern Canada, the regional service support distributor to BIMC, contacted L&M Radiator to discuss a suitable Mesabi cooling package to resolve the reliability issue. The first question they asked: Could L&M Radiator design, build and deliver a suitable number of units before the situation deteriorated further?

The answer from the L&M engineering team was an unequivocal “Yes!”

Using finite element analysis (FEA) to simulate the conditions that a Mesabi radiator would face at Baffinland Iron Mine, Cummins and L&M engineers collaborated to develop a custom solution. I am struggling with the start of first sentence a little, it was more than FEA leading to the design – including our past experience as stated in the next paragraph. The Mesabi radiators, about 7-feet high by 7-feet wide, could only be transported by ship to Baffinland Iron Mine, which put additional pressure on the team to not only design a solution but build the radiators and get them to a BIMC-approved ship during the three-month shipping season.

Based on L&M Radiator’s experience in supplying radiators for other mining operations located near or above the Arctic Circle, L&M recommended developing a custom-built Mesabi radiator (P/N 120812) designed for heavy-duty equipment operating in extreme cold. Custom designed for the Cummins QSK50-Series diesel generators, the Mesabi radiator solution features two radiators that incorporate copper M-tubes. One radiator, the HTC (high temperature core), is designed for the jacket water (cools the engine block and heads) section of the engine. A second radiator, called the LTC (low temperature core), cools the turbocharged air in the aftercooler on the engine. The LTC is placed upstream in the airflow from the jacket water radiator.

For the Cummins generator sets, L&M Radiator engineers spec’d its Arctic seals. These seals, pressure rated to 50 psi, are especially designed to withstand the Arctic cold.

Because of the remoteness of BIMC, these Mesabi radiators can be easily cleaned externally with high-pressure air or water, and individual tubes allow for easy in-the-field repair.

Once the Mesabi heavy-duty 120812 radiators were on site, Cummins Eastern initiated a program to remove and replace the failing radiators with a minimum of disruption to BIMC. L&M Radiator sent its own team of engineers, who flew to the mine on a BIMC-approved aircraft, to provide technical assistance and to train BIMC maintenance crew on maintaining and repairing the Mesabi radiators to minimize downtime.

Replacement Coolers for CAT 777 Haul Trucks

In addition to replacing the radiators on the Cummins generator sets, L&M Radiator also was called upon to provide Mesabi replacement radiators for six Caterpillar 777 haul trucks used at the Mary River mine site to load iron ore onto the B trains. For these haul trucks, copper M-tube radiators featuring arctic seals were incorporated into the design by L&M Radiator. The unique design of these radiators increases truck availability while reducing maintenance time because they’re so easy to clean.

Six Years Later

Six years after the Mesabi radiators were installed, the Cummins generator sets continue to meet the rigorous needs of Baffinland Iron Mine with nothing more than routine maintenance. In addition, the mine has had no additional issues with the coolers supplied for the Caterpillar® 777 haul trucks.

Meanwhile, BIMC continues to extract and ship record tonnages of iron ore used to make steel the world depends upon.

Do you need a custom solution for your mining operation?

Learn more about Mesabi custom solutions here. By partnering with L&M Radiator, Inc., you have the benefit of more than 60 years of experience designing, manufacturing and supporting top-of-the-line heat transfer solutions. L&M’s focus starts at understanding the customer’s needs. L&M then works to design and manufacture the best heat transfer solution to solve a customer’s problem. L&M Radiator designs, builds, and tests all equipment to meet exact customer and engine manufacturer specifications.

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