Tag Archives: battery-electric equipment

Automation, electrification, alternative haulage weighed for GSR’s Wassa UG expansion

A preliminary economic assessment (PEA) on the potential expansion of Golden Star Resources’ Wassa gold mine in Ghana has flagged the potential for applying alternative underground haulage methods, and autonomous and battery-electric equipment at the operation.

The PEA provides an assessment of the development of the Southern Extension of Wassa and the increase in mining rates to fully use available process plant capacity. While the study itself represents a conservative plan that excludes exploration opportunities from the scope and adopts the current mining practices and equipment, the “opportunities” section of the technical report outlines some more innovative approaches to expanding mining rates and filling the plant capacity.

Wassa, which Golden Star owns 90% of, produced 168,000 oz of gold in 2020 using the sub-level longhole open stoping method.

The PEA is focused on the development of the large inferred mineral resource (just over 7 Moz) which comprises the Southern Extension zone. Around 50% of the total resource was included in the PEA inventory, which showed off a life of mine of 11 years, with total gold production of 3.5 Moz. Average annual gold production of 294,000 oz represented an approximate 75% increase on the current production rate.

The mine plan considers a production rate targeting the processing capacity, at or close to 2.7 Mt/y run-of-mine material, after a five-year ramp-up period. The plant has previously operated at these rates with feed from both Wassa and the Bogoso-Prestea operation (since sold).

Mining would be by underground trackless decline access (1:7 gradient), with access from duplicate access ramps and independent ventilation infrastructure on each side of the deposit to support the increased mining rate and provide efficient access across the mineralised footprint (circa-850 m along circa-300 m across strike). Truck haulage will utilise the dual access ramps.

The mining method proposed for the expansion is bottom-up long hole open stoping with 25 m level spacing and nominal stope sizes of 25 m length x 30 m width x 25-100 m height with cemented paste backfill. Stopes will be mined in a primary-secondary sequence down to around 1,000 m depth, transitioning to pillarless retreat below that point to account for increasing in-situ stress, which will need to be further investigated in future work.

The PEA assumes average recovery of 94.8%, which is supported by current plant performance and metallurgical test work on a small number of samples that suggest processing performance for the Southern Extension feed will be similar to material currently treated. This will be evaluated in the next phase of work.

Capital expenditure is expected to total around $790 million over the life of the PEA mine plan. Of this total, 29% is growth capital and 71% is sustaining capital. The PEA mining method relies on paste fill, with Golden Star confirming the paste fill plant was constructed in 2020 and commissioning is expected to be finalised this quarter. Capital has been allowed for an expansion of the paste fill system in the PEA mine plan.

Based on a $1,300/oz gold price, the expansion project is expected to generate a post-tax net present value (5% discount) of $452.2 million.

So far, so conventional…

The company said it planned to complete option and trade-off studies to optimise the project plan ahead of a feasibility study on the expansion, due in early 2023.

Just some of the innovations being considered in these trade-off studies include the use of automation, electrification and alternative haulage.

In terms of increasing machine productivity through technology, the study listed off the potential use of semi- or fully-autonomous vehicles to increase shift operating time and remove operators from hazardous areas. It said the highest likelihood applications were in production drilling and drawpoint loading.

Golden Star confirmed current projects included in its in-development technology roadmap were the introduction of tele-remote loading and digitalisation of production data.

In terms of haulage infrastructure opportunities, Golden Star said it was considering the replacement of truck haulage with an infrastructure system like shaft hoisting, conveyor, or Rail-Veyor. The capital demand for such options would be offset by a large reduction in operating costs with automated systems, reduced diesel consumption and reduced ventilation demand, it noted.

These haulage options were being studied to design different systems, estimate capital and operating costs, then complete a trade-off analysis, the company said.

The current mine design assumes loaders digging from open passes to load trucks, but Golden Star said feeder systems could be installed to automate loading, increasing efficiency and reducing operating costs.

And, of course, the company said it was considering options for clean energy technology applications, particularly battery-electric trucks. As part of this, it was assessing available systems and developing fleet selection criteria. This will have knock-on benefits to the mine’s ventilation requirements.

Kittilä mine leverages SIMS electrification experience as Boltec E Battery units start-up

Having tested out Epiroc’s battery-electric vehicles over the past two years as part of the SIMS project, Agnico Eagle Finland’s Kittilä gold mine has now started up its own Boltec E Battery bolting units.

The European Union-funded SIMS project and the related field tests of Epiroc’s battery-powered mining machines turned the eyes of the mining world to Kittilä, in northern Finland.

As part of the project, which took place during 2017–2020, Epiroc’s ‘green machines’ – the Boomer E2 Battery, Scooptram ST14 Battery and Minetruck MT42 Battery – were put through their paces.

Andre Van Wageningen, Manager of Technology and Development at the Kittilä mine, said: “The collaboration with Epiroc has been great and Epiroc has taken away all the concerns we had regarding battery-electric equipment. I believe that we also have supplied a very good test site.”

Tommi Kankkunen, General Manager of the Kittilä mine, added that the benefits with battery-electric equipment are obviously the reduction of fossil fuels and the reduction of carbon footprint, but also major advancements made to health and safety for its employees.

After the tests, the mine purchased its first battery-powered rigs, Boltec E rock bolting rigs selected as the first battery-powered units in line with the mine’s investment plan. The important drivers behind the decision were sustainability of the rigs and the opportunity to create a better work environment, according to Epiroc.

The first bolting rig arrived at the Kittilä mine in early November, with another similar bolting unit joining the club a couple of weeks later.

According to Jari Kolehmainen, Production Manager at Kittilä, the first messages were very positive: “The performance of the machines is at least at the same level as that of diesel machines. Productivity has improved with the development of equipment.”

The arrival of this new equipment will also benefit operators’ wellbeing at work as exhaust fumes, heat, vibration and noise have decreased.

“For example, a rock bolting rig is moved several times during a shift, and, in the past, it has always meant starting diesel engines and blowing up an exhaust cloud,” Epiroc said.

Also, in terms of maintenance, the equipment lacks a large component (diesel engine), and, as a result, oil and filter changes are omitted. Also, for fire safety, the use battery-powered machines mark a step forward in the absence of hot surfaces of the diesel engine and moving oils.

Air quality improves piece by piece when diesel-powered equipment is replaced by battery-powered equipment, according to Epiroc.

Kolehmainen said: “Especially on the loading and haulage side, the change in air quality is clear. In the future, we want to reduce our carbon footprint and move towards zero-emission technology, as well as move forward in wellbeing at work.

“The SIMS project showed that battery technology has made great leaps forward.”

In terms of infrastructure requirements, the mine’s electricity network should accommodate the electrification of the equipment. Battery-powered machines also require a battery replacement location.

Epiroc added: “Agnico Eagle Finland’s Kittilä mine wants to profile itself also towards the introduction of other new technologies in addition to battery-powered equipment. A remote control room has been completed for the mining office, from which several machines are controlled simultaneously.

“Since the beginning of October, it has been a permanent turn for two people to operate mining machines remotely. The mine firmly believes that investing in new technologies will bring long-term benefits.”

Tembo 4×4 e-LV expands battery-electric retrofit range

Tembo 4×4 e-LV has added a new option to its line-up of battery-powered equipment for the underground mining industry, with an extra-large 10 personnel carrier joining the portfolio, according to one of its distributors.

The new conversion kit is specifically targeted for applications where a maximum number of people are required to be transported at once.

The more spacious supervision vehicle option, which comprises forward-facing six personnel carrier, will also be available as a battery-electric conversion kit.

Last year, Tembo signed an agreement with the GHH Group to include the electric off-road light duty vehicles within its product offering and its worldwide sales and service program. As part of the agreement, GHH offers the vehicles in Germany, Turkey, Greece, Russia, India, the USA, Mexico, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, the CIS states and Latin America.

The conversion kits are for both mechanical and electrical service vehicles, which are based on the enhanced, flatbed platform designed to take any special equipment like a crane or workshop machinery or service equipment for servicing mining machinery, GHH says.

The first Tembo Electric Cruiser came on the market in 2016. The company’s approach to turning the Toyota Land Cruiser and Hilux series into fully-fledged electric multi-purpose vehicles, especially for construction and mining industries, has been well received, with Boliden’s Tara mine, in Ireland, the first to trial one of its ‘green’ machine.

The Tembos correspond largely to the series standard of Toyota, but are equipped with an electric motor with 65 kW of power and 250 Nm of torque, a special 1:3 transmission and a powerful battery designed for at least 10 years or 8,000 charging cycles. They can achieve 80 km run time with a 28 kWh battery pack and 200 km with a 72 kWh battery pack.
In two-and-a-half hours the vehicles are charged from 20% to 80% with the single-phase charger. Using a three-phase charger, this charge time decreases to only one hour.

No external infrastructure is required for operation as a 15 kW charger is also on board with the single phase and a 22 kW with the three phase. Battery recuperation is in place and a charging cable wallbox can also be supplied with the vehicle, if required.

The vehicles reach a top speed of 80 km/h and can climb gradients of up to 45°, GHH says.

Automation and battery-electric efforts awarded by Epiroc

Teams behind automation and battery-electric equipment projects have become the latest recipients of Epiroc’s two annual awards.

The United in Performance Award and Inspired by Innovation Award recognised close collaboration with a mining company that strengthened the customer’s productivity through automation, as well as the development of battery-electric equipment that brings multiple benefits to the mining industry, respectively.

The United in Performance Award, which honours exceptional customer collaboration, was presented to Olav Kvist and Per Holmberg of Epiroc’s Underground division and Johan Broström of the Technology & Digital division, as well as to mining company Boliden.

Epiroc explained: “Their extensive collaboration on automation has increased productivity significantly at two of Boliden’s mines in Sweden. For example, at the Garpenberg mine, the automated and teleremote operation of Epiroc’s Simba ME7 C production drill rig (pictured) has boosted drilling productivity by roughly 30%.”

The work is part of 6th Sense, Epiroc’s package of digital solutions that optimises customers’ processes, thereby strengthening their productivity and safety, the company said.

The Inspired by Innovation Award, which recognises Epiroc’s most innovative technical development that has become a proven commercial success, was presented to Anders Lindkvist, Patrik Roth, Markus Rantakeisu, Robert Lejonberg, Jan Fransson, Erik Svedlund and Fredrik Martinsson. The seven employees have been instrumental and represent a team of passionate people in developing Epiroc’s world-leading battery-electric mining equipment, the company said.

“The new generation battery-electric mining machines are the result of the team’s hard work and dedication in bringing significant benefits to customers including improved health and safety, lower total cost of operation and higher productivity,” Epiroc said. “The advantages are especially significant for underground operations where mining companies traditionally must invest heavily in ventilation to air out the diesel fumes.”

Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, congratulated the winners, saying they are representative of “Epiroc’s innovative spirit and dedication to improving customers’ operations”.

She added: “We are proud to be on the forefront of automation, digitalisation and electrification as these technological shifts are making mining and infrastructure companies more productive, safe and environmentally friendly.”

MacLean Blockholer to keep ore flowing at all-electric Borden gold project

The flagship unit of MacLean Engineering’s Ore Flow suite is now ready to join the equipment manufacturer’s battery-electric fleet at Newmont Goldcorp’s Borden project, in northern Ontario, Canada.

The MacLean Blockholer is a “versatile warrior”, according to Viv Bhatt, Product Manager – Ore Flow, Drill & Blast at MacLean Engineering.

“We call it a Blockholer, you may know it as a secondary reduction drill, but either way it comes down to the same thing…a critical tool for making sure the ore flows in underground mining,” Bhatt said, adding that there are more than 125 success stories from across the globe that attest to this.

MacLean’s battery-electric fleet at Borden, billed by its owners as being the world’s first all-electric mine upon start-up (expected later this year), has been steadily growing over the past year or so. The company said back in March that the delivery to Borden of the Blockholer would see its fleet hit 15 units, comprised of six bolters and nine utility vehicles.

On the Blockholer specifically, Bhatt said: “Whether it’s a low hang-up in a drawpoint, or oversize rock on the ground that’s too large for scoops to handle and too disruptive to get rid of with concussion blasting, it’s your secondary reduction rig that solves the problem and ensures that production isn’t held up.

“And when it’s not tasked with this mission, it can be put to use for ancillary drilling for mine services.”

Bhatt listed off five reasons why the self-contained blockholer drill could become the workhorse of hard-rock underground mining fleets:

  • “Improved safety – In dealing with low hang-ups, runs of muck remain a potential risk. Remote-controlled drilling and loading explosives from a safe distance is a much safer option than manual loading of concussion blasts, and this is precisely what Blockholer drills deliver;
  • “Improved production – One mine went from 700 tons per day (635 t/d) off a mucking horizon to 3,000 tons/d after the introduction of a Blockholer. Another had a pillar blast break poorly and they were unable to make 50% of schedule prior to acquiring a Blockholer. (In this instance the unit was paid for entirely with the savings in secondary blasting explosives.) Also, pulling the wrong boxhole because of a hang-up or because it is choked with large muck results in improper draw leading to dilution and/or loss of metal vis-a-vis calculated reserves;
  • “Reduced Scooptram maintenance costs – The safe and efficient treatment of oversize improves scoop availability (ie it increases tonnage) and, at the same time, it reduces parts costs especially for major items in the drive train such as planetary gear boxes, drive shafts, and differentials, and in the mucking action for cylinders, linkages, and buckets;
  • “Reduced blasting powder and rehab costs – Over and above the safety benefits, self-contained blockholer drills deliver substantial cost savings with regard to the use of secondary blasting powder, as well as reduced detonation effects on ventilation air. Elimination of concussion blasting in drawpoint throats (especially with powder packs wedged between a large chunk and the brow) also significantly reduces the need for brow repair and re-bolting, as well as damage to mine services like air lines, water lines, power cables, ventilation doors, vent ducting and fans”, and;
  • “Versatility for mine support – Blockholers can also efficiently and safely perform mine service support functions such as drilling for the installation of ventilation doors, dams, fans, pipelines, power cables, etc. This is particularly beneficial when installing or repairing services in remote or high-traffic areas of a mine.”

And, of course, the Blockholer is equipped with MacLean’s latest EV Powertrain, providing zero emissions, low noise and low heat operations, Bhatt concluded.

EIB backing drives forward Northvolt lithium-ion gigafactory plan

A supplier of lithium-ion batteries to the mining equipment space, Northvolt, has recently received conditional backing from the European Investment Bank for a €350 million ($385 million) loan that could finance Europe’s first home-grown gigafactory.

Northvolt said the EIB had provided an in-principle agreement for the financing – the largest ever direct EIB financing approval for battery technology – and, upon conclusion of a loan agreement, the funding would be supported by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the main pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe.

The Northvolt Ett lithium-ion battery cell gigafactory will be established in Skellefteå, northern Sweden, a region home to a prominent raw material and mining cluster with a long history of process manufacturing and recycling.

“Noting the region’s clean power base, building the factory in northern Sweden will enable Northvolt to utilise 100% renewable energy within its production processes,” Northvolt said.

Northvolt already supplies lithium-ion batteries to Epiroc for its battery-electric underground mining vehicles and is believed to supply at least one of other major mining OEM.

EIB Vice-President, Andrew McDowell, said: “The development of a competitive and green battery value chain within Europe can not only cut greenhouse gas emissions by decarbonising power generation and transport, but can also help protect millions of well paid jobs in European industries in the face of increasing global competition.”

Northvolt Ett will serve as Northvolt’s primary production site, hosting active material preparation, cell assembly, recycling and auxiliaries. The construction of the first quarter of the factory is expected to be completed in 2020. Ramping up to full capacity, Northvolt Ett will produce 32 GWh/y of battery capacity, the company said.

Peter Carlsson, Co-Founder and CEO of Northvolt, said: “This EIB in principle approval is a key moment in the process of finalising our capital raise to support the establishment of Northvolt Ett. Today, we are one step closer to our goal of building the greenest batteries in the world and enabling the European transition to a decarbonised future.”

The capital raise, in which this EIB loan would be included, will finance the establishment of the first 16 GWh of battery capacity production, with the batteries from Northvolt Ett targeted for use in automotive, grid storage, and industrial and portable applications.

Ibrahim Baylan, Swedish Minister for Business, Industry and Innovation, said: “Today’s decision by the EIB is very gratifying and a big step towards a large-scale battery production in the EU and a fossil-free welfare society. The decision shows that there are prerequisites in Sweden for sustainable battery production, it is important for Sweden and the rest of the EU to produce battery materials and battery cells, based on green, Swedish electricity.”

Normet gears up for fully-electric and diesel-powered machine growth

As Normet continues its new technology push, it has decided to invest in its lisalmi facility in Finland, the company’s core production and research and development site.

The company will put €3 million-5 million ($3.35 million-5.58 million) into building a new digital testing centre, expanding the production capability and investing in production automation, it said. The target is to improve productivity in lisalmi to ensure both competitiveness and to have manufacturing capacity to support business growth.

The announcement came shortly after Normet launched a fully-electric offering for mining and tunnelling construction at the recent Bauma fair in Munich, earlier this month.

Its SmartDrive technology is a sophisticated and fully-engineered battery-electric architecture able to operate underground totally emission-free, saving costs at the same time, it says.

The company also used the event to showcase its SmartScan 3D laser scanning technology to validate the spraying quality and SmartSpray, the next step towards fully-automated concrete spraying technology, according to Normet.

In the latest lisalmi announcement, Normet said it expected the demand for both for fully-electric and diesel-powered machines to grow, hence its planned investment.

Kari Hämäläinen, SVP Equipment Business Line, Normet, said: “lisalmi is the core production and research and development site for us. We want to ensure we have the best technology capabilities to meet the demand of future. Streamlining the manufacturing process and increasing productivity is also critical to ensure our competitiveness going forward.”

Cummins to showcase electric prototype mini excavator at Bauma show

Cummins will feature an electric prototype mini excavator at its Bauma stand on April 8-14, showing visitors it is “transforming our industries, and innovating the latest alternative power solutions”, Executive Director of Electrified Power, Julie Furber says.

Powered by Cummins BM4.4E flexible battery modules (4.4 kWh each), the 3.5-ton (3.2-t) Hyundai excavator prototype to go on show at the company’s stand (A4-325) is designed to support a full work shift and charge in under three hours, according to Cumms.

Cummins and Hyundai are not the only companies developing battery-electric excavators for the construction space. Volvo recently announced it would launch a range of electric compact excavators (EC15 to EC27) by mid-2020, with the first machines to be unveiled at the event in Munich. Caterpillar dealer, Pon Equipment, has also recently delivered a 26-t battery-electric excavator to a Norway-based construction site.

Furber said: “We look forward to continuing to partner with companies like Hyundai to design and test the construction industry’s latest technologies.”

The machine eliminates all gaseous emissions and substantially reduces noise, making it ideal for use in urban and sub-urban construction, according to the company.

The excavator contains eight BM4.4E modules connected in a series configuration to provide a total energy of 35 kWh. Mounted near the base of the excavator, the Cummins-designed and built battery modules use lithium-ion technology to achieve a higher energy density and proprietary control technology to maintain the battery state-of-charge for a longer zero emission range, Cummins said, adding that the modular design allows for scalability to other applications and duty cycles.