Underground electric haulage comes full circle as Epiroc, ABB & Boliden announce battery trolley project at Kristineberg

There is a long underground trolley haul heritage in mining that really took shape at the Kiruna iron ore mine in Sweden in the 1950s after which the Kiruna Trucks are named, then continued at sites like Zinkgruvan, also in Sweden, and which can also be seen in the industry with the trolley trucks still operating at Vale’s Coleman and Creighton nickel mines in Canada. These were mainly 50 t class trucks. The Kiruna Trucks are electric trolley trucks – originally a DC design which was later converted to AC operation in the 2000s. They still have a diesel engine for off-trolley duties such as loading, dumping and turning – though interestingly the early models did have a large, heavy battery.

Epiroc, Boliden and ABB have now announced a joint collaboration to develop an all electric battery trolley truck system based on the MT42 Battery truck for underground mining, “taking yet another step on Boliden’s journey towards fossil free mining.” The move is an interesting full circle given that ABB was instrumental in the development and design of the Kiruna Truck, which was also for some years part of GIA Industri, which went on to be acquired by Epiroc.

Kiruna Truck operating at Vale’s operations in Canada

Epiroc, Boliden and ABB will develop and demonstrate an electric trolley truck system on a test track in the underground polymetallic Kristineberg mine in Sweden. The electric trolley truck system is a vital component in enabling heavy transportation with electric driven battery vehicles. “This development project will lower CO2 emissions, improve work environment and contribute to Boliden’s vision to be the most climate friendly and respected metal provider in the world. All three partners have clear corporate goals that support more sustainable operations, aiming to help mines improve sustainable production and meet growing metal demand across the world.”

The statement said “the electric trolley assist concept is highly suitable for long haul ramps and builds on Epiroc’s proven Minetruck MT42 Battery. Battery electric vehicles improve operator health and safety, reduces CO2 emissions and lowers total operating costs. The zero-emissions mine truck will be joined by a trolley pantograph, which in turn is connected to an overhead contact power line.” ABB’s contribution includes design of electric trolley truck systems, definition of standards and vehicle interface, as well as rectifier substation for the test track. The electrical infrastructure is part of the ABB Ability ™ eMine portfolio of integrated portfolio of electrification and digital systems designed to accelerate the decarbonisation of the mining sector. The project is supported by funding from the Swedish innovation agency Vinnova.

We are very proud to enter this collaboration and are excited to jointly take the next steps on Boliden’s journey towards a fossil free, automated underground mine. Our electrification solutions are well proven globally and contribute to substantial reduction of CO2 emissions, leading to a smaller environmental footprint,” says Lars Bergkvist, Global Key Customer Manager with Epiroc’s Underground division. “As part of the eMine™ framework and commitment, we build partnership and combine expertise to successfully integrate electrification in mines. We contribute with solutions that further reduce overall costs and improves mine performance while significantly lowering environmental impact,” says Björn Jonsson, Hub Manager, Process Industries at ABB.

Boliden targets full scale electric trolley system implementation in the Rävliden mine, a satellite orebody and extension of the Kristineberg mine, in northern Sweden. The Minetruck MT42 Battery is part of Epiroc’s new generation zero-emission offering. Since earlier this year, Boliden is also testing Epiroc’s Scooptram ST14 Battery loader and the automated Minetruck MT42. Epiroc will offer its complete fleet of underground mining equipment as battery-electric versions by 2025. In Canada, Vale also said recently that it is working to develop a battery trolley truck of 40 t class at Creighton.