Leading companies in the mining industry are taking real steps towards decarbonisation. Over a dozen mining and service companies have joined forces to create the new Electric Mine Consortium with the ambition to accelerate progress towards the fully electrified zero CO2 and zero particulates mine. Similar to EMESRT for safety but focussed on electrification, the initial Electric Mine Consortium members include State of Play, Sandvik, Epiroc, OZ Minerals, South32, Gold Fields, Safescape, Dassault Systemes, Energy Vault, Hahn, Horizon Power, 3ME, IGO and Barminco.
It has been built out of the State of Play report from 2020 simply titled Electrification. The State of Play platform was initiated by VCI in partnership with The University of Western Australia in 2011 and is now the largest mining research platform on strategy and innovation in the world. It was sponsored by The Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre, METS Ignited and Project 412. The report covered extensive research aimed to understand the drivers and barriers of mine electrification, identify the key enabling technologies and enable collaboration to accelerate its adoption.
State of Play co-founder, Graeme Stanway, says while the industry as a whole understands these benefits, when it comes to individually implementing them as an organisation, cost becomes a key hurdle. “Our data shows renewables, all electric systems and batteries will help fuel the change towards a healthier, economically viable future of mining, but uncertainty remains when it comes to which area to invest in first, and how. Here in Australia, we have an abundance of renewables that the industry is tapping into, particularly in our most remote operations. Local mine sites have the opportunity to install solar, wind and battery energy storage systems to power their operations at a much cheaper cost than many global players.”
That report also said that of the industry executives surveyed, 57% expect the energy transition is the global trend that will have the biggest impact on the industry over the next 15 years; 89% expect mine sites will electrify within the next 20 years; 61% expect the next generation of mines will be all electric; 83% expect renewable energy technologies will significantly change mining operations over the next 15 years; and 98% view mine automation is the technology that will benefit the most from electrification.
The new consortium states: “The way the we generate, store and harness energy around the globe is undergoing a period of major change. A global ecosystem has begun to emerge to underpin the innovation and scaling of electrification technologies. A rare trifecta, electrification will provide economic, health and environmental value for the mining industry.” They add: “Electrification creates enormous opportunities for operational cost savings, innovative mine designs and resilience against uncertainty. It will reduce the exposure to carcinogenic diesel particulates and reduce scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 100%. The value upside of this not only increases productivity in existing assets, but also improves a company’s ability to unlock deeper and more remote ore bodies.”
Key executives at some of the member companies outlined key goals. “Currently there is a lack of understanding on the supporting infrastructure requirements for all electric equipment and vehicles. This working group aims to establish OEM agnostic charging standards by prototyping a potential open charging system,” said Rob Derries at Gold Fields.
“Whilst they are available, the economic and operating assumptions for light BEVs on site are unclear. This working group will progressively convert a light vehicle fleet to battery electric across multiple consortium mine sites,” said Michelle Keegan at South32.
“Heavy BEVs are not yet commercially available at the larger end of the scale or technically viable underground. This working group aims to establish a greenfield electric mine, convert a full ancillary fleet to all-electric and test selected brownfield heavy EV applications,” said Peter Campain at Barminco.
“Traditional asset design does not enable to realisation of the full benefits of mine electrification. This working group is simulating a range of mines and mining methods to establish electrification performance benchmarks, a business case and future mine designs,” said Brett Triffett at OZ Minerals.
“Mine scale energy storage technologies are not yet operationally or economoically proven in mining. This working group aims to test mine scale remote energy storage through installation of multiple technologies across 5+ sites,” said Michael Hegarty at IGO.
The announcement also included a joint statement by the mining and mining contractor company member CEOs saying: “We share the objective to accelerate industry progress towards electric, zero emissions and zero particulates mines. Electrification of mine sites, powered by clean energy, offers our industry the option to operate our mines in line with our individual commitments to decarbonise our operations. It also provides the ability to improve the working environment for our employees by eliminating the use of diesel in underground mines. Electrification of mine sites is a key technical foundation for the automation of our equipment which will provide a large step forward in productivity and safety. Electrification offers the potential to drive improved economics with simplified, interoperable, electric-drive equipment resulting in lower mining and energy costs. We have chosen to join with over a dozen other mining and service companies in the ‘Electric Mine Consortium’ to achieve these goals. The consortium will allow us to collaboratively: 1. Resolve key technology choices 2. Shape the supplier ecosystem 3. Influence policy, and 4. Communicate the business case. By working together, we plan to accelerate progress using our joint scale and influence.” This was signed off by Andrew Cole of OZ Minerals, Graham Kerr of South32, Paul Muller of Barminco, IGO’s Peter Bradford, and Stuart Mathews from Gold Fields Australia.
Robert Piconi, CEO and Co-Founder of Energy Vault says he believes minimising CO2 and diesel particulates through innovative technology choices, such as energy storage, is essential to the Electric Mine Consortium “as it pursues the goal of fully electric mines and we’re pleased to become a founding member of the organisation. Our unique, long duration storage technology is especially well suited for use in mines given that it provides the opportunity for the beneficial re-use of waste tailing materials as well as other localised materials, avoiding cost disposal and environmental hazard. Importantly, Energy Vault’s solution also economically deals with severe weather environments, in particular high ambient temperature climates, with an unprecedented, low operating cost sustainably.”
CEO of Geovia Dassault, Michelle Ash comments: “For the country to fully realise the opportunity of zero emissions mines we also need to be able to effectively test and implement new technologies. To do this rapidly we need to be able to model and simulate them in the virtual world so we can then de-risk in the real world. We need to modernise our regulatory framework and consider what skills our sector will need across the entire workforce, from trades, technicians and university graduates, through to our scientists and PhDs.”