Trolley assist in Europe – Boliden Aitik trial will utilise four Cat trucks

Boliden has initiated a pilot and demonstration project for the electrification of in-pit truck transports in Aitik – Sweden’s largest open pit copper mine – together with key partners in industry and academia. The project will develop, install and operate an electric transport route with electric trolley lines and four electric mine trucks.

For the two-year project, Boliden has joined forces with Eitech and ABB to supply electrical infrastructure; Pon Equipment and Caterpillar for truck modifications; and Chalmers University with supporting research on system aspects of the electrification. The project is supported by the Swedish Energy Agency.

IM understands that four trolley kits have been delivered to Boliden by Cat and that the four trucks concerned are 795F electric drive models. Aside from this Aitik trial, Boliden has also stated in a 2017 FEM presentation that trolley assist is also a promising technology to lower diesel consumption in the Kevitsa nickel/copper open pit. The FEM presentation in addition stated that the first Aitik trolley line will be 700 m long and save 830 m3 of diesel per year but that future trolley lanes will be even more profitable; and that the trial will see investment in a DC substation with 10 MW capacity.

The technology developed will be a key enabler for Boliden’s mines’ strategy to move away from fossil fuel dependence. Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of up to 80% on the transport segments where implemented are expected. There is also potential identified in transport electrification related to increased productivity.

Erik Brandsma, Director General for the Swedish Energy Agency, sees this project with its potential for radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from mining as a further step towards reducing carbon dioxide emissions from industrial processes. “Reduced emissions from mining processes are important in order to produce future vehicles in a sustainable manner for example. In that context, this project is complementing the new ‘green’ Northvolt battery factory also supported by the agency.”

The electric transport route will be in operation in the fall of 2018. Peter Palo, Project Manager for the system installation in Aitik says: “To manage the challenges of building the new infrastructure in the mine without interfering with running production or put safety at risk is critical. During the construction, we will have more than 30 workers active in the project at the same time.”

Jonas Ranggård is Manager for Boliden Mines Energy Program. “The diesel transport is the main source of greenhouse gas emissions as well as local emissions influencing the work environment in the mine. Electrification is, as we see it, the enabler to move away from diesel and rely on renewable electric energy.”

While electrification by trolley is not new, there are still many challenges to solve before the solution is proven. Rikard Mäki, Project Manager for the R&D project says: “To prove the technology in the climate we are in and with the size of vehicles we operate, it is critical to establish partnerships. We are proud to have a strong consortium in place with global leaders from both the needed industry sectors as well as academia. The support from the Swedish Energy Agency to the project gives the team confidence that we are doing the right thing, as well as puts us under healthy pressure to meet expectations and share the results to the community and industry.”