Discussed in depth in our forthcoming March 2012 issue, the use of rail in underground mining is still widespread. It is also not standing still in terms of new technology. Vehicle Projects of Golden, Colorado and Anglo American Platinum in South Africa are collaborating on a project to build five fuel cell mine locomotives to be demonstrated in mid-2012 at Amplats’s Dishaba underground mine in Limpopo province, South Africa. The purpose of the innovative vehicles is to mine platinum in a more economical, energy-secure, and environmentally-benign manner. The locomotives will not require any electricity from the grid to function, and will not emit any noxious gases.
Vehicle Projects, as prime contractor, is executing engineering design, fabrication, and testing of the fuel cell power plant and reversible metal hydride storage system in its state-of-the-art facility in Golden. The entire power-dense locomotive power module – fuelcells, batteries, hydride storage, cooling system, and power electronics – requires only 1 m3 of volume. Upon completion of testing of the power module (expected in March – April 2012), the unit will be shipped to Vehicle Project’s locomotive project partner Trident South Africa in Johannesburg, for integration into a Trident 10 t New Era locomotive.