Newmont Cripple Creek & Victor preparing for Cat early learner battery truck

In its 2023 Sustainability Report just out, gold mining giant Newmont says that its commitment to operational excellence, safety and sustainability is driven by cutting-edge technology and innovation. “Our cross-functional efforts evaluate a wide range of technological solutions and systems that improve safety, reduce emissions, mitigate impacts and enhance productivity.”

Highlights include its efforts to achieve an automated, electrified mining ecosystem: Newmont and Caterpillar Inc joined forces in 2021 to “revolutionise mining by developing a comprehensive set of standardised, all-electric and autonomous surface and underground mining solutions.” The collaboration, initiated at Newmont’s Cripple Creek & Victor operation (surface) in Teller County, Colorado, US; and the Tanami operation (underground) located 540 km northwest of Alice Springs in Northern Territory, Australia , aims to progress Newmont’s decarbonisation goals while enhancing safety and operational efficiency.

It adds: “This strategic alliance serves as a real-world proving ground for the mining ecosystem of the future. We will begin evaluating electrified autonomous haulage at CC&V and Tanami beginning in 2024 and 2025, respectively.”

Newmont says it is investing $100 million in the alliance with Caterpillar looking at innovative solutions for emission reduction. This partnership includes testing early learner battery electric trucks, autonomous vehicles and other technologies. Highlights in 2023 included with collaboration and support from Newmont, Caterpillar successfully completing its first prototype of a battery electric underground mining truck. Newmont: “This milestone represents a crucial step toward demonstrating progress in our collaboration. The ongoing collaboration between Caterpillar and Newmont aims to establish a fully connected, automated and zero- carbon-emitting mining system, enhancing safety and sustainability across our operations.”

The gold miner says it commenced groundbreaking and pre-work for the Electric Operating Zone at the CC&V operation in 2023, finalising the infrastructure design and layout and beginning the construction phase. “This preparation is essential ahead of the expected arrival of the first battery electric haul truck, scheduled for the second half of 2024, marking a significant milestone.” This truck will be one of the mentioned Caterpillar’s early learner program units.

Despite the progress being made at CC&V, however, it may soon have a new owner, as in February 2024, the mine was included in a list of operations Newmont intends to sell. All in all it intend to divest six non-core assets including Éléonore, Musselwhite, Porcupine, CC&V, Akyem and Telfer, as well as two non-core projects including Havieron and Coffee. It said this was to focus management efforts on portfolio of Tier 1 assets and emerging Tier 1 assets. The obvious assumption would be that the focus of the surface electric program would move to a different Newmont open pit gold mine but this is unlikely to be spelt out until a sale of CC&V actually goes ahead.

Newmont also spelt out other modernisation plans for its operations aimed at mitigating safety risks, reducing emissions and enhancing efficiencies. Newmont has successfully deployed modernisation solutions such as autonomous haulage systems, automated load-haul-dump (LHD) vehicles, fully remote operations and next-generation fleet management solutions at various mining sites.

In 2023, Tanami became the first underground stope mine to initiate testing and validation of Caterpillar’s MineStar Fleet for Underground, a next- generation mine control platform. The platform it says is expected to significantly advance mine control and operational visibility for underground mining applications when it becomes the operation’s primary production system in mid-2024.

Newmont also began replacing the legacy mine control system at Ahafo South in Ghana with the current generation MineStar Fleet system. “Leveraging our strategic alliance with Cat, we deployed the current generation Fleet mine control solution on next-generation hardware, facilitating field testing and scalability for the upcoming mine control solution. This system development initiative will continue through 2024.”

In 2022, Cerro Negro became the first underground mining operation in Argentina to use an automated LHD vehicle. Controlled and supervised by an operator in a control station, this autonomous solution Newmont says has improved safety, operator comfort and efficiency. “Through 2023 and into 2024, we are expanding the fleet of autonomous LHD vehicles at Cerro Negro, with one unit currently operational and four more coming online in 2024. Additionally, we have introduced two autonomous drills at Cerro Negro that are controlled remotely. Further expansions for both LHDs and drills are planned in the near term.”

In 2023, Tanami deployed three autonomous systems for its LHD equipment and ordered five more autonomous LHD machines. These five new diesel-electric machines Newmont says have a notable 31% improvement in fuel efficiency, increased payload capacity, a redesigned bucket for quicker cycles, reduced maintenance needs and extended component life. “When paired with automation, these higher efficiency and more productive machines are expected to result in tangible safety and productivity improvements at Tanami.”

Finally, Newmont continues to evaluate and work with key suppliers to understand lower-emission emulsion/ammonium nitrate-fuel oil, grinding materials and reagents; battery technology; and power conversion and carbon sequestration solutions.