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Liebherr advances Zero Emission Program with help of ABB, ENGIE

Liebherr, on the back of an increased industry focus on GHG emissions reduction, has announced at MINExpo 2021 that it is accelerating the implementation of its existing low carbon solutions and triggered future projects to offer completely fossil fuel free mining equipment options.

While much of this development will occur in house, the company has confirmed it is partnering with ABB on trolley assist infrastructure and ENGIE on integrating different renewable energy solutions into loading, hauling and dozing processes.

Liebherr Mining’s strategy to reduce GHG emissions will mainly focus on the operational phase of its machinery, as studies showed that more than 90% of GHG emissions over the complete lifecycle of the equipment occurred during this phase.

Liebherr Mining’s Zero Emission Program, which was established to develop these future solutions, is well aligned with the values of the Liebherr Group as an independent and responsible, family-owned company, it says.

The Liebherr Group has existing in-house core competencies, across all 13 product segments, in electrification, batteries, internal combustion engines, injection systems and alternative renewable fuels. Building from this experience, the Zero Emission Program has clear targets and a roadmap to achieve low carbon solutions for the full range of off-highway trucks and excavators in 2022, and fossil fuel free solutions for the majority of applications by 2030.

The Zero Emission Program strives to deliver long-term sustainable products and services, providing different options centred on environmental sustainability, safety, cost, flexibility and maintainability. Modularisation, along with an energy-type agnostic approach to drivetrains, are key elements in Liebherr Mining’s strategy, easing the transition for customers with the possibility to retrofit modules.

2022 target: Liebherr’s low carbon emission technology

Liebherr Mining has developed and offered electrification solutions for many years and is now about to finalise all initiatives to achieve its first 2022 target to offer low carbon emission solutions for its complete digging and hauling range.

The technologies, including the haul truck Trolley Assist System and electric excavator range, are consistently achieving proven results in the field to lower carbon emissions, according to the company. The newly introduced in-built Liebherr Power Efficiency control system has also shown excellent results since field operation began in 2019, the company says.

Trolley Assist System for Liebherr haul trucks

With the T 264 trolley components production-ready in 2022, all Liebherr trucks will be available with Trolley Assist System, providing a low emission solution for customers.

The Liebherr Trolley Assist System is, the company says, an effective first step on the road to zero emission mine sites of the future. Using an overhead pantograph or trolley bars to connect the electric-drive system to the electrical network, the Trolley Assist System offers increased truck fleet productivity, or reduction in fleet size, while maintaining yearly production when compared with standard trucks. A significant reduction of diesel fuel consumption is also made possible with the Trolley Assist System along with a reduction of the truck fleet CO2 emissions. However, this of course depends on the percentage of renewable energy content in the grid supplied power.

Oliver Weiss, Executive Vice President R&D, Engineering and Manufacturing, Liebherr-Mining Equipment SAS, outlined some of the company’s trolley assist operations at MINExpo 2021 today

Liebherr delivers proven field experience with 39 T 284 units fitted with the Trolley Assist System currently in operation on two different sites, with more to be commissioned in 2022. Liebherr is also the first company to run a 100 t truck under trolley, with a fleet of T 236 trucks running on a 5 km trolley line in Austria at the Erzberg mine – the longest trolley line in the world, according to Liebherr.

‘The largest range of electric excavators’

The Liebherr Group has over 30 years of experience in electric driven machines for earthmoving, material handling and mining applications. Today, Liebherr Mining says it is the OEM offering the largest range of electric driven excavators on the market. Ranging from 130 t to 800 t, the R 9150, R 9200, R 9250, R 9350, R 9400, and R 9800 are all available as electric drive versions. The electric drive R 9600 will soon be available.

Liebherr electric excavators are existing and already proven solutions helping customers to build future sustainable mine sites, it says. Focusing on reliability, maintainability and maximum safety, Liebherr’s engineering teams strive for solutions requiring minimum change to existing energy infrastructure and operational behaviour on customer sites. Thanks to 70% of parts commonality with diesel versions, Liebherr also offers complete retrofit options for existing machines.

To offer better machine mobility and safety for the workforce on site, Liebherr has developed a cable reel option for all electric drive excavators either in backhoe or face shovel. The cable reel is completely autonomous and has a capacity of up to 300 m depending on the excavator type. Furthermore, Liebherr proposes an operational concept for excavators with cable reel in backhoe application, particularly in double benching operations.

Liebherr Power Efficiency

Liebherr says it is continuously improving and upgrading its standard machines to enable the transition to emission reductions. Liebherr Power Efficiency (LPE) is the most recent built-in technology upgrade making this productivity and sustainability contribution.

Starting with Generation 7, all Liebherr mining excavators will be equipped with LPE as standard. This specific engine and hydraulic management system drastically reduces fuel consumption by up to 20%.

The system:

  • Adapts piloting processes according to operator requirements;
  • Electronically controls pressure and oil flow;
  • Has increased efficiency of the control valves and the new Liebherr pumps;
  • Has a fully integrated engine control system;
  • Reduces hydraulic losses and load profile of the engine for increased component lifetime; and
  • Reduces energy consumption without impact on the machine performance.

Based on research and development, Liebherr is able to provide size-equivalent machinery with higher production rates and less fuel consumption.

“In fact, the combination of LPE together with the improved productivity of the R 9600, has shown 29% less fuel consumption per tonne of produced material over a one-year production study, compared to its predecessor, the R 996B,” Liebherr says. “Expressed in fuel efficiency, tonnes per litre, this corresponds to a 40% better utilisation of the fuel.”

These efficiencies allow Liebherr excavators to set new benchmarks in its respective classes and are a very important enablers for any kind of future drive train, as they significantly reduce the effort for cable handling or refuelling and storage of alternative fuels, the company says.

Pathway to zero emission solutions

As second step, Liebherr is now targeting to offer completely fossil fuel free mining equipment for hauling, digging and dozing by 2030. This development will take into consideration the GHG emissions over equipment’s full lifecycle, as well as the overall well-to-wheel energy ecosystem. The company is also taking into account the operational mining process conditions that influence the right energy type choice.

Liebherr will develop three drivetrain options to achieve near zero emissions for its off-highway trucks: battery power module, internal combustion engines powered by renewable fuels, and H2 fuel cell-battery power module.

Drivetrain electrification through battery combined with trolley assist is already underway, according to the company.

Despite some challenges, Liebherr sees also an opportunity that the propulsion energy can be provided by using hydrogen fuel cell-battery hybrids.

Research and development for internal combustion engines operating with renewable-based alternative fuels is progressing very well within the Liebherr Group, with Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (HVO) as an approved fuel for machines powered by Liebherr engines as a first step.

Hydrogen combustion engines are also currently being tested in Liebherr’s factory in Switzerland. The methanol combustion process has been developed for large displacement engines and is ready to move towards serial engine industrialisation based on market demand, according to the company. Additionally, the ammonia combustion process is under investigation, with Liebherr seeing high potential in the usage of ammonia for heavy mobile, high energy demanding machines and gensets.

Liebherr mining excavators and dozers will also both have the option to be powered by internal combustion engines running on alternative fuels, along with the already existing electric drive version for excavators.

To achieve near zero emissions for the mining dozer and excavator, it is also crucial to use the most efficient drive system to reduce fuel consumption. The Liebherr hydrostatic drive system already achieves up to 20% improved fuel efficiency compared with mechanical competitor products, it says.

Despite this, Liebherr is currently in the process of comparing efficiency of an electric drive on a dozer prototype with hydrostatic drive efficiency. Given Liebherr’s expertise in both hydrostatic and electric AC drive systems, the company says it is in the best position to choose the most appropriate option for the best drive system for the near zero emission solution.

To accelerate the process and ensure the best solutions will be offered, Liebherr is partnering with industry experts for its Zero Emission Program.

ABB, a leader in power and automation technologies, develops state-of-the-art technology and equipment for overall electrification of mine sites and supports Liebherr’s customers and the company with a particular focus on trolley assist infrastructure deployment.

ENGIE, a renewable hydrogen, low-carbon energy and services company, will jointly with Liebherr evaluate the different renewable energy solutions, in particular renewable hydrogen and hydrogen-derived fuels, for loading, hauling and dozing processes. This cooperation ensures that an integrated well-to-wheel approach is basis to define the best solutions for the mining industry, Liebherr says.

With concept studies nearly finalised for trolley-battery hybrid, and ammonia and methanol for internal combustion engines, Liebherr expects to undertake field validation from 2024-2026, followed by the integration of proven fossil fuel free solutions from 2026-2030 into the entire range of mining machines.

Talga deepens electrification partnership with ABB on Vittangi Anode project

Following successful completion of its detailed feasibility study on its Vittangi Anode project, Talga Group Ltd has extended and expanded its Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with ABB.

Talga is constructing an ultra-low emission battery anode production facility and integrated graphite mining operation in northern Sweden, using 100% renewable electricity to supply greener anode for lithium-ion batteries.

According to a recent Life Cycle Assessment prepared by Hitachi ABB Power Grids, the production process of Talga’s flagship anode product Talnode®-C emits 96% less CO2 equivalent than the anode material most commonly used in electric vehicle batteries today. This is equal to a reduction of approximately 2.9 million tonnes of CO2-eq per million electric vehicles, according to the company.

Talga says it aims to electrify its underground mining operations when it reaches the expansion phase of its Swedish battery anode operations. This electrification strategy will be explored by ABB and Talga under the expanded MoU, focusing on the ABB Ability™ eMine portfolio of solutions that ABB launched last week.

Under the MoU, ABB will also extend its industrial automation and electrification expertise to include next-level production and process control solutions for Talga’s initial operation. In addition, ABB will work with Talga on front-end engineering and design (FEED) for the development and construction of commercial 100,000 t/y graphite concentrator operations at Vittangi, a 19,500 t/y anode production plant at Luleå and earlier ramp-up stages/production qualification modules.

The commercial FEED stages are due for completion June 2022, with the intent to execute binding agreements with ABB for subsequent construction and operations.

Commenting on the ABB agreement, Talga Managing Director, Mark Thompson, said: “We are very pleased to deepen our relationship with ABB in the development of what will be the largest integrated lithium-ion battery anode production facility in Europe. The pursuit of innovation towards zero-emission mining is a goal we share with ABB, and we are excited to continue the expanded partnership towards construction of the Vittangi Anode project and future expansions.”

Björn Jonsson, Hub Division Manager North Europe, Process Industries, ABB, said: “Following a detailed planning phase, we had the opportunity to collaborate with Talga on all aspects of the Vittangi Anode project. Now, we can extend our industrial automation and electrification expertise to production and process control solutions, for a successful FEED stage. Together, we will explore the role of ABB Ability eMine, our portfolio of solutions that will help accelerate the move towards a zero-carbon mine, in Talga’s future expansions.”

ABB and MEDATech team up to tackle mine decarbonisation

ABB says it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with MEDATech to jointly explore solutions to decarbonise mining operations through charging solutions and optimised electric drive systems in battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) for heavy-duty applications.

The two companies will share expertise and collaborate in bringing solutions to market that will reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with heavy machinery in mining, they say.

Technology provider ABB and MEDATech bring complementary expertise to designing and building electric heavy mobile equipment. The collaboration could involve exploring further development and possible technologies for high power and automated charging and connector systems to facilitate the adoption of BEVs in industries with heavy machinery.

“We are very excited to be working with ABB in this new and dynamic field of electric vehicles and will bring our advanced drive train technology to the forefront alongside ABB’s advanced charging technology,” Rob Rennie, Founder and President of MEDATech, said. “Collaborating to accelerate the adoption to emission-free transport systems enabling cleaner operations is truly at the heart of our company.”

The collaboration with MEDATech, which largely works across the mining, construction and energy sectors, is the latest in a series that ABB is developing with OEMs and technology innovators to accelerate the transition to all-electric mines.

Mehrzad Ashnagaran, ABB’s Global Product Line Manager Electrification & Composite Plant, said: “Within the ABB Ability™ eMine framework, ABB is increasingly working with OEMs and technology innovators to fast-track the development of new emissions-reducing systems through the electrification and automation of the whole mining operation. Strategic collaborations, such as with MEDATech, provide solutions that support responsible mining operations. The aim of our combined solutions is to enhance the efficiency and flexibility of customer businesses, contribute to the reduction of CO₂ and the realisation of a sustainable society.”

Nic Beutler, ABB’s Global Product Manager Power System & Charging Solutions, added: “The mining sector has set clear and ambitious targets to decarbonise operations for a more sustainable future. To meet or even exceed productivity targets while not compromising on safety, new thinking and technological solutions are required. ABB and MEDATech are an ideal match for exploring the steps needed to reach net zero emissions for heavy-duty industrial machinery.”

ABB recently launched ABB Ability eMine, an approach, method and integrated portfolio of electrification and digital systems designed to accelerate the decarbonisation of the mining sector. Included within this was the eMine FastCharge solution (prototype pictured) and eMine Trolley System.

MEDATech, meanwhile, recently launched what it says is the “Deswik of underground fleet electric vehicle electrification” with its Electric Vehicle Fleet Optimization Software (EV-FOS).

The agreement with MEDATech will complement ABB’s engineering and technology expertise on-board and off-board mining vehicles and allow for much needed and lasting solutions for the industry, it said.

MEDATech provides its ALTDRIVE drivetrain technology to OEMs and end users while consulting and developing optimisation tools to realise the efficient and cost-effective implementation of electric fleets, according to ABB.

Based in Ontario, Canada, it has built extensive know-how and expertise in designing, building and testing of prototype systems and vehicles since 2003. It launched the 100% electric mining haul truck, the Western Star 4900XD (pictured below), which has ultra-fast charging capability, accepting a charge power of 600 kW.

With ABB’s charging capability matching charging cycles to the production, charging times of less than 15 minutes can be achieved, according to the company.

XEMC, ABB, 3ME, BluVein, Hitachi and more make Charge On Innovation shortlist

The Charge On Innovation Challenge, formally launched on May 13 as a push for industry, OEMs and other stakeholders to come up with workable solutions for faster charging of large surface electric mining trucks and spearheaded by Austmine, has shortlisted 21 vendors to progress to the next phase of the challenge.

These 21 vendors are matched by 21 mining companies who have joined as patrons. This includes founding patrons BHP, Rio Tinto and Vale, alongside Roy Hill, Teck, Boliden, Thiess, Antofagasta Minerals, Codelco, Freeport McMoRan, Gold Fields, Yancoal, Barrick Gold, CITIC Pacific Mining, Evolution Mining, Harmony Gold, Mineral Resources Ltd, Newcrest Mining, OZ Minerals, South32 and Syncrude.

The 21 vendors to have made the cut were selected from more than 80 organisations that submitted expressions of interest.

The list of companies to make it to the next stage (one of which who declined to be named) includes:

  • 3ME Technology;
  • ABB;
  • Altreonic-Kurt.energy;
  • Ampcontrol/Tritium;
  • Australian Turntables;
  • BluVein;
  • DB Engineering & Consulting with Echion Technologies;
  • Farmboro Consulting;
  • Hitachi Group;
  • Infosys;
  • InvertedPower Pty Ltd;
  • IT & ES Industries (OZ) Pty Ltd;
  • L&T Technology Services;
  • Midwest Energy Pvt. Ltd;
  • Mitsui & Co. with Forsee Power and AVL;
  • Saft;
  • Shell Consortium;
  • Siemens;
  • Solar System Resources Corporation Sp. z o. o.; and
  • Xiangtan Electric Manufacturing Group Heavy-Duty Equipment Co. Ltd;

The next phase of the challenge will comprise of a pitch session followed by a deep dive into the innovative solutions proposed to charge haul trucks powered by battery instead of diesel, Austmine says.

ABB launches eMine portfolio with FastCharge and Trolley System highlights

ABB’s efforts to accelerate the move towards a zero-carbon mine have been strengthened with the launch of its ABB Ability™ eMine portfolio of solutions and the unveiling of its eMine FastCharge solution, billed by the company as the world’s fastest and most powerful charging system that is designed to interface with all makes of electric mining haul trucks.

eMine comprises a portfolio of electrification technologies to make the all-electric mine possible from mine to port and is integrated with digital applications and services to monitor and optimise energy usage, ABB says. It can electrify any mining equipment across hoisting, grinding, hauling and material handling.

From 2022, it will include new ABB Ability eMine FastCharge, which provides high-power electric charging for haul trucks and is currently in pilot phase. It also incorporates the ABB Ability eMine Trolley System, which can reduce diesel consumption by up to 90%, significantly lowering energy costs and environmental impact.

“The global mining industry is undergoing one of the most significant and important transformations of our generation – and that is to become zero-carbon,” Max Luedtke, Global Head of Mining at ABB, says. “ABB Ability eMine is an exciting milestone to help convert existing mining operations from fossil fuel energy to all-electric. Mines can become even more energy efficient with vastly reduced levels of CO₂ emissions, while at the same time staying competitive and ensuring high productivity.”

eMine FastCharge can serve as a cornerstone of the transition to fully electrified mines across the industry, according to ABB.

This flexible and fully automated solution is being designed for the harshest environments, can be installed anywhere and can charge any electric truck without human intervention at up to 600 kW, ABB says.

Charging time will depend on the battery capacity on-board the haul truck and the operational profile, however, in many instances, a suitable state of charge could be reached within 15 minutes, the company claims.

“With eMine, ABB is extending its capabilities to the electrification of mining trucks and technologies for the full mining process,” the company said.

“eMine provides integral design planning and thinking to maximise the value of electrification, helping to design the hauling process in the most optimised way with electrical solutions that match mine constraints and help meet production targets.”

ABB says it helps mine operators map their journey towards an all-electric mine from phasing out diesel to embedding a new mindset and new team skills.

“By fully integrating electrification and digital systems from the mine to the port, eMine further reduces overall costs and improves mine performance while significantly lowering environmental impact.”

ABB extends and expands hoist service agreement with LKAB at Kiruna

ABB has signed a long-term agreement with LKAB to provide service to 12 mine hoists and, now, hoisting motors at the Kiruna iron ore mine in northern Sweden.

ABB has provided LKAB Kiruna with maintenance and hoist cycle optimisation to maximise efficiency and increase capacity at the mine since 2010. The new contract extends these services to the end of 2023, plus adds hoisting motors into the mix, with an agreement that LKAB may sign up for a further three years on a rolling basis, ABB says.

Most of the ore mined at Kiruna is at depths of more than 1 km, with large solid slabs of iron ore extending several hundreds of meters down into the ground. Local ABB engineers, supported by ABB globally, have worked on site at Kiruna to increase hoist capacity through a reduced hoist cycle time to optimise production. They have improved equipment use, balancing capacity and wear and tear of the hoist equipment, the company said.

Peter Ylivainio, Senior Maintenance Engineer at LKAB, said: “LKAB places great emphasis on refining every element of the underground mining process, in order to make it as efficient as possible. Mining ore at great depths is a logistical challenge that places demands for a well-functioning infrastructure and safe and resource-efficient production, with well-developed production methods and processes vital. We have a long successful relationship with ABB and their local presence, global expertise and remote operations technology support our goals.”

Erik Kjellgren, Strategic Account Manager, ABB, said: “This new agreement means ABB will ensure optimal capacity, greater efficiency, lower energy consumption and extended equipment lifecycles across control systems, motors, drives as well as the hoists up to 2023 and beyond. Our experienced team of engineers provides regular support to LKAB and we look forward to seeing increased benefits for our customer in terms of insights and actions to optimize equipment performance.”

The hoists are the main artery of the production flow at the Kiruna mine as they raise the ore hundreds of meters from the sublevel to ground level. Their continuous operation is critical for safety and to prevent costly interruptions to production, according to ABB. LKAB’s extended service agreement with ABB is designed to ensure the maximum reliability and availability for the hoist control system, motors and drives located both above and below ground.

Australia’s IMARC mining event rescheduled to January 2022

Due to ongoing travel and gathering restrictions, and the rise of COVID-19 infections around Australia, Beacon Events, the organisers of the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC), has today announced its decision to reschedule the 2021 edition.

IMARC 2021 will move to the new dates of January 31-February 2, 2022, with the hybrid event taking place in-person at the Melbourne Showgrounds, and online for those that cannot attend in-person.

IMARC Managing Director, Anita Richards, said that while it is disappointing that the event has had to be postponed from 2021, it is the responsible action to take under the circumstances as the health and safety of IMARC’s participants is our number one priority.

“The rescheduling comes after much deliberation with our founding partners, and in consultation with our sponsors, exhibitors, supporters and various Victorian Government agencies who have been very supportive of the decision,” she said.

Victorian Government’s Head of Resources, Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, John Krbaleski, added: “IMARC is a home-grown industry event that has become a major international resources conference. There is significant interest in IMARC and it’s clear that industry is keen to see it go ahead in January 2022.”

Austmine CEO, Christine Gibbs Stewart, said: “Considering the health and safety of our members, delegates, and staff members, we support postponing IMARC 2021 until January 2022. We know how important this event is to our members who are exhibiting and attending, as well as the METS sector overall, and we encourage everyone to consider this as an opportunity to refocus your efforts and support the event in 2022.”

AusIMM CEO, Stephen Durkin, added: “We’re looking forward to reconnecting with our mining community at IMARC in January 2022. The rescheduled event will provide an opportunity for delegates to network with leaders and experts from across the sector and take part in thought-provoking conversations about the future of our industry.”

BHP, MMG, Newcrest, Mitsui, OceanaGold and Kirkland Lake Gold have all confirmed their continued support for IMARC in January 2022, with their executive leadership teams confirmed to speak within the conference program, Beacon Events said.

In addition to the Federal Minister for Resources, the Hon Keith Pitt, and major sponsors METS Ignited, Caterpillar, ABB and World Gold Council who have also confirmed their support and participation.

IMARC 2021’s new dates are aligned with the expected easing of restrictions from all states across Australia, allowing for strong domestic representation, according to Beacon Events.

Richards said: “Holding IMARC at the start of 2022 helps create a unique opportunity for the industry to kick off the year with new conversations, develop existing relationships and create business opportunities for the coming year. With better weather comes opportunities for outdoor events and networking, alongside some major events at that time of year here in Melbourne.”

There is an expectation that when IMARC returns in 2022, from October 17-19, there will be greater international travel freedoms, allowing for the conference to attract a large domestic and international audience in-person once again, Beacon Events said.

International Mining is a media sponsor of IMARC

Nordic Iron Ore enlists the help of ABB to ‘future proof’ Blötberget project

Nordic Iron Ore says it has appointed ABB to scope process control and management systems for a “future-proof and fully-digitalised mining operation” at the Blötberget iron ore mine project, in Sweden.

ABB, in this context, has provided mine design consultancy and recommended scope of supply for the opening of the old Blötberget mine near Ludvika in the Dalarna region of Sweden.

The Blötberget iron ore mine is expected to be operational in 2024. Iron ore was mined until 1979 when it was closed due to low iron ore prices. Nordic Iron Ore was formed in 2008 with the main aims of resuming mining operations in Blötberget and Håksberg and conducting exploration of the expansion potential of the Väsman field, together forming the Ludvika Mines, in southern Dalarna.

ABB’s recommendation addresses automation, digital and electrification for long-term, safe, sustainable and efficient mining operations at the site. ABB analysed a detailed feasibility study by Nordic Iron Ore and made significant advancement on the definitions and scope of supply of the automation and electrification aspects of the mine, it said. ABB also looked at electrical infrastructure requirements for the Blötberget mine, including surface and underground containers, switchgears and transformers.

Lennart Eliasson, Managing Director of Nordic Iron Ore, said in the latest press release: “Mining and the support industries are a significant part of the Swedish economy, with some of the most advanced and efficient mining operations anywhere in the world. There are many challenges when opening a new mine. We want to draw on the strong technology knowledge that exists in Sweden to open a mine with low environmental impact and footprint and that is also competitive and safe. The early involvement from ABB, which has a track record of working with innovative mines in Sweden, ensures that the construction, design and planning for the development of the mine can take a significant step forward and with improved costs and benefits forecast accuracy.”

Just last month, Nordic Iron Ore’s Technical and Marketing Advisor, Paul Marsden, told IM that there was potential for leveraging the technology learnings on projects such as LKAB’s Kiruna and Konsuln mines, Boliden’s underground operations and Lundin Mining’s Zinkgruvan operation to make Blötberget “future ready”.

He added: “We cannot automate and electrify it all from the off, but we can lay the groundwork to eventually automate and electrify just about everything in the mine.”

Björn Jonsson, Hub Manager, Process Industries, ABB, said: “ABB can provide assistance at an early stage in mine development for electrification and automation and routinely collaborates with mining companies from initial feasibility studies through to full deployment. Swedish mines are already benefiting from ABB solutions, using ABB Ability™ System 800xA distributed control system and the integrated ABB Ability™ Ventilation Optimizer.”

Nordic Iron Ore and ABB will continue the development of the project and have recently signed a memorandum of understanding for further collaboration at Blötberget.

ABB agrees to divest Dodge mechanical power transmission division to RBC Bearings Inc

ABB has signed a definitive agreement to divest its Mechanical Power Transmission division (Dodge) to RBC Bearings Incorporated for $2.9 billion in cash.

The transaction will create a leading manufacturer of highly engineered, performance-critical bearings and motion control components serving the aerospace, defence and industrial markets.

For more than 140 years, the Dodge business has been a leader in the design, production, and marketing of mounted bearings, enclosed gearing and power transmission components. It offers one of the broadest portfolios of mechanical power transmission products in the market, selling to industries including surface mining. It has roughly 1,500 employees worldwide and achieved revenues of approximately $600 million for the last 12 months ending June 30, 2021.

It produces at six manufacturing sites – five in the US and one in China – and its headquarters is located in Greenville, South Carolina.

“We are delighted that Dodge has found an excellent new home with RBC Bearings, where it can continue its exciting growth story,” ABB CEO, Björn Rosengren, said. “This transaction further strengthens ABB’s balance sheet. In line with our capital allocation priorities, we plan to first use the proceeds from the transaction to fund organic growth, pay a rising sustainable dividend per share and make value-creating acquisitions. Furthermore, we will give an update on our plans for the Turbocharging exit and possible listing of our E-Mobility division in due course.”

RBC Bearings Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Dr Michael J Hartnett, said: “The combination will enhance RBC Bearings’ capabilities, footprint, and customer access while increasing our exposure to Dodge’s attractive end markets. Our businesses are highly complementary, with Dodge bringing new offerings, new end markets, and more scale to the combined organisation. The combined company will have an attractive position in the aerospace, defence and industrial markets with a diversified client base and expansive geographic footprint.”

The transaction is expected to be completed by the end of the year 2021, subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory review.

Nordic Iron Ore plotting entry into steel’s circular economy at Blötberget

With the world’s first hydrogen-reduced sponge iron having just been produced, most of the globe’s iron and steel companies are evaluating how they can continue to play a role in the steel-making industry of the future.

The HYBRIT project milestone in Sweden has global ramifications for a sector that is among the three biggest producers of carbon dioxide, according to McKinsey. Incorporation of fossil-free technology to produce ‘green iron’ that can lead onto ‘green steel’ is viewed as one of the ways the sector can clean up its act and stay relevant in a society that is increasingly focused on greenhouse gas emissions and sustainability.

Nordic Iron Ore, the owner of the Blötberget iron ore project in the Bergslagen mining region of Sweden, is one of a few companies blessed with the potential to produce higher-grade magnetite that could fit into this brave new steel-making world.

Paul Marsden, Technical and Marketing Advisor for Nordic Iron Ore, explains: “There is a lot of investment interest in Sweden and elsewhere for projects associated with these goals. We’re looking at how our place in that might work, but, as we have demonstrated that we can make products in excess of 71% Fe, I would suggest that we can definitely fit the bill.”

It is not only the grade of iron Nordic Iron Ore intends to produce that is in its favour in this regard; the asset it intends to extract ore from is a past producer, having last closed up shop in 1979.

The old headframe in Blötberget

The most recent estimates state that the company could produce upwards of 4 Mt/y of high-quality iron ore at full tilt from an underground operation. The initial development, Blötberget, is planned as an underground post pillar cut and fill (PPCF) mine using backfill to reduce surface impact and maintain the high-grade of the run-of-mine ore after extraction. Construction is envisaged to take around two years, with an aim to use as much of the project’s magnetite resources as possible.

“At the moment, we’re still going to be a niche producer with low tonnages,” Marsden told IM. “Phase one is likely to start at around 1.65 Mt/y, but phase two and three could get us up to 4-5 Mt/y of high-quality products.

“At the same time, we see ourselves fitting into a changing European steel scene where you have got to be looking at lower carbon output, higher productivity per unit and a move into pelletising or DRI (sponge iron) as a high priority.”

How the company will do this is still to be confirmed, but some of the recent agreements Nordic Iron Ore has signed indicate there is intent behind the ambitions.

It has enlisted the help of Paterson & Cooke to evaluate alternatives for its waste management process (fine tailings were previously anticipated to be deposited in an existing tailing dam) that “significantly reduces the environmental impact of the mining operations but is also attractive from an economic standpoint”.

It has enlisted the help of Sweden-based VB Energi to supply electricity to the site from renewable sources.

Nordic Iron Ore took part in the Smart Exploration project, an EU-funded collaboration between universities and companies from eleven countries. One of the project’s aims was to develop environmentally-friendly methods of geophysical exploration, with Smart Exploration teams conducting several evaluations at Ludvika Mines (part of the Blötberget project) using prototype equipment producing more accurate measurements primarily in the fields of seismology and electromagnetics

It has also signed an MoU with Epiroc Sweden, with the two companies cooperating on the mining project development.

Nordic Iron Ore’s CEO, Lennart Eliasson, said this OEM partnership, in particular, was important to the company’s aims of operating a modern mine able to deploy the latest technologies for high productivity and safety, and long-term sustainability.

Marsden provided a bit more background on this agreement: “The definitive feasibility study we had previously completed with Golder Group by the end of 2019 was what you would consider a ‘traditional mine’ – it included diesel-powered loading and haulage with operators. It wasn’t really what we were aiming for, but it gave us an economic study to go to market with.

“We have since had conversations with the likes of Epiroc, ABB and others at the forefront of pushing new technologies like automation, electrification and digitalisation. They are interested in producing a ‘showcase mine’ for Sweden.”

Marsden says there is potential for leveraging the technology learnings on projects such as LKAB’s Kiruna and Konsuln mines, Boliden’s underground operations and Lundin Mining’s Zinkgruvan operation to make Blötberget “future ready”.

He added: “We cannot automate and electrify it all from the off, but we can lay the groundwork to eventually automate and electrify just about everything in the mine.”

What the company needs now is backing from investors to solidify its plan for Blötberget.

Some $8-10 million should allow the company to assess improvements – the potential to access old resources close to a planned underground decline, earlier revenue generators such as toll treatment of high-grade concentrate, and right-sizing the process flowsheet – and bolster the team to see it through mine construction.

After that, it will be a matter of aligning with offtake partners intent on sustainable steel production with a premium iron ore concentrate that suits the industry’s ‘green’ sentiment.