Tag Archives: battery-electric machines

Epiroc bolsters battery-electric conversion expertise with FVT Research acquisition

Epiroc has agreed to acquire the business and assets of FVT Research Inc, a Canadian company with expertise in converting diesel-powered mining machines to battery-electric vehicles.

FVT Research, based in Vancouver, Canada, designs diesel-to-battery conversion kits and rebuilds mining machines to electric versions. The company has also recently been part of a successful project to convert the diesel-powered Epiroc Scooptram ST1030 loader to battery electric.

FVT Research has about 25 employees and had revenues in 2020 of C$4 million ($3.2 million).

“Bringing the strong team at FVT Research into the Epiroc Group fits perfectly into our strategy to provide emissions-free battery-electric vehicles,” Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, said. “Our customers are increasingly discovering the significant benefits that come with using battery-electric vehicles, and FVT Research’s technical expertise and competence will be key assets for Epiroc as we continue to provide more solutions in this area.”

The acquisition is expected to be completed in the second half 2021, with the transaction not subject to a disclosure obligation pursuant to the EU Market Abuse Regulation.

Yamana Gold retains electrification path for Wasamac in new study

Yamana Gold has reiterated a plan to minimise the amount of carbon emissions generated with the development and operation of the Wasamac gold project in Quebec, Canada, in its first study since acquiring the asset from Monarch Gold.

Monarch, prior to being taken over by Yamana Gold, had laid out plans for an underground mine at Wasamac producing 6,000 t/d, on average, with an expected mine life of 11 years. It expected to use a Rail-Veyor® electrically powered, remote-controlled underground haulage system in addition to an almost entirely electric fleet of production and development equipment.

The December 2018 feasibility study by BBA indicated the Wasamac deposit hosted a measured and indicated mineral resource of 29.86 Mt at an average grade of 2.7 g/t Au, for a total of 2.6 Moz of gold, and proven and probable mineral reserves of 21.46 Mt at an average grade of 2.56 g/t Au, for a total of 1.8 Moz of gold. The study forecast average annual production of 142,000 oz of gold for 11 years at a cash cost of $550/oz.

With drilling, due diligence and further studies, Yamana Gold, in studies forming the new feasibility level studies, has come up with baseline technical and financial aspects of the Wasamac project that, it says, underpin the decision to advance the project to production.

This has resulted in a few changes to the Wasamac plan.

For starters, the company plans to use the extract the now 1.91 Moz of reserves quicker than Monarch’s strategy, with a rapid production ramp-up in the first year followed by sustained gold production of approximately 200,000 oz/y for at least the next four years.

Including the ramp-up phase, average annual production for the first five years of operation is expected to be 184,000 oz, the company said, with life of mine production of 169,000 oz/y. Mill throughput has been increased to 7,000 t/d, on average, but the plant and associated infrastructure were being sized for 7,500 t/d. Production could start up in the December quarter of 2026, the initial capital expense was expected to be $416 million and all-in sustaining costs over the life of mine had been calculated at $828/oz.

The use of a conveyor is still within this plan, but a company spokesperson told IM that Yamana was now considering a conventional belt conveyor rather than the Rail-Veyor system.

Yamana explained: “The optimised materials handling system uses ore passes and haul trucks to transport ore from the production levels to a central underground primary crusher. The haul trucks will be automated to allow haulage to continue between shifts. From the underground crusher, ore will be transported to the crushed-ore stockpile on the surface using a 3-km-long conventional conveyor system in two segments.”

Yamana added: “Using a conveyor rather than diesel trucks to transport ore to surface reduces CO2 emissions by 2,233 t/y, equivalent to taking 500 cars off the road. Over the life of mine, the company expects to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 20,000 t.”

The aim to use electric vehicles wherever possible remains in place.

“The Wasamac underground mine is designed to create a safe working environment and reduce consumption of non-renewable energy through the use of electric and high-efficiency equipment,” the company said. “Yamana has selected electric and battery-electric mobile equipment provided that the equipment is available at the required specifications.

“Battery-electric underground haul trucks are not yet available at the required capacity with autonomous operation, so diesel trucks have been selected in combination with the underground conveyor. However, Yamana continues to collaborate with equipment suppliers with the expectation that the desired battery-electric equipment will be available before Wasamac is in operation.”

In tandem with this, the company plans to use a ventilation on demand solution and high-efficiency fans to reduce its power requirements. This will likely rely on an underground LTE network.

“Heating of the underground mine and surface facilities is designed with the assumption of propane burners, but an opportunity exists to extend the natural gas line to the project site,” it added. “Yamana has initiated discussions with the natural gas supplier and will study this opportunity further as the project advances.”

The site for the processing plant and offices is confined to a small footprint strategically located in a naturally concealed area, and the processing plant has been designed with a low profile to minimise the visual impact as well as minimise noise and dust, according to Yamana.

The primary crusher, previously planned to be located on surface, has been moved underground, with the crushed material transported to surface from the underground mining area using conventional conveyors and stored on surface in a covered stockpile to control dust.

Several design improvements to the previous Wasamac plans have also been made to reduce consumption of fresh water to minimise the effect on watersheds, according to Yamana. Underground mine water will be used in the processing plant, minimising the draw of fresh water and reducing the required size of the mill basin pond.

The Wasamac tailings storage strategy is designed to minimise environmental footprint and mitigate risk, it added.

“Around 39% of tailings will be deposited underground as paste fill and 61% of tailings will be pumped as a slurry to the filter plant located approximately 6 km northwest of the processing plant and then hauled to the nearby dry-stack tailings storage facility,” Yamana said.

Strategic phasing of the tailings storage facility design allows for the same footprint as previously planned, even with the increase in mineral reserves, the company clarified. Also, the progressive reclamation plan for this facility minimises the possibility of dust generation and expedites the return of the landscape to its natural state.

Kirkland Lake Gold boosts Macassa battery-powered fleet with Artisan Z50s

With production at the Macassa gold mine in Ontario, Canada, set to ramp up over the next three years, Kirkland Lake Gold is, once again, bulking up its fleet of battery-electric equipment.

In its just released December quarter results, the company confirmed it recently purchased five 50-t battery-powered underground haul trucks for the operation, with the first already delivered in the current quarter.

The loaders in question are Artisan Z50s, which have a 50-t payload and are equipped with AutoSwap, a patented self-swapping system for the Artisan battery pack.

Macassa is a first adopter of battery-electric equipment, testing out early protoype versions of machines and now having a large fleet of trucks and LHDs from the likes of Artisan and Epiroc.

Kirkland Lake has big plans for Macassa, with the #4 Shaft project underpinning much of the planned growth.

In the quarterly results, the company said the shaft advanced 875 ft (277 m) in the three months ending December 31, having now reached a depth of 4,240 ft. Kirkland Lake said the project, which will see the shaft sunk to a depth of 6,400 ft in one phase, was around one month ahead of schedule at the end of 2020. Project completion was targeted for late 2022.

Macassa produced 183,037 oz of gold in 2020, down from 241,297 oz in 2019, following COVID-19-related changes. The company expects the mine to ramp up over the next three years, reaching 400,000-420,000 oz in 2023 following completion of the #4 Shaft.

Northvolt charging up Epiroc battery-electric mining solutions

Northvolt has recently delivered its largest order of lithium-ion battery systems to date to Epiroc, as the two companies’ partnership continues to blossom.

The delivery of systems – which will be integrated into Epiroc’s mid-sized drilling family, Scooptram ST14 LHD and Minetruck MT42 – is the latest in a series made for Epiroc since 2018 and represents the first commercial roll-out of the latest generation of battery system from Northvolt, the Swedish battery developer and manufacturer said.

In an online post from Northvolt, the company interviewed Anders Lindkvist of Epiroc’s underground division to hear about the delivery and find out what it means for the original equipment manufacturer.

“The development of the battery system solution we’re integrating into Epiroc machines, both in terms of hardware and software, has been a true collaboration between Epiroc and Northvolt,” Lindkvist said. “The most recent delivery represents a major update compared to the earlier ones.

“Implemented into the new design are a lot of improvements in terms of reliability and serviceability. These design improvements come from the learnings taken from the common trial, which Northvolt and Epiroc have been involved in over the last 18 months. The changes appear promising.”

Demonstration activities which Lindkvist spoke of began with machine testing at Epiroc’s facilities in Örebro. But, in Spring 2019, testing stepped up to involve the first real-world test for the new battery-powered machines when Epiroc, as part of the EU funded Sustainable Intelligent Mining Systems (SIMS) program, brought several electric machines into commercial operation at Agnico Eagle’s Kittilä gold mine in Finland.

The fleet, running on earlier generation batteries supplied by Northvolt, included a Minetruck MT42, an underground truck which has a 42 t payload capacity – making it one of the largest battery-operated mine trucks on the market.

Commenting on these recent experiences, Lindkvist said: “We’ve gained a deeper knowledge of the limitations of batteries and greater perspective on how to handle and operate them. The limitations are fewer than on diesel engines, but they are different, so these need to be addressed with different actions. This was something we started to learn with our first-generation electric machines, but we now have a much deeper knowledge of the issues.”

Machine performance

“The performance we’re getting from the machines is at the level we expected,” explains Lindkvist. “Actually, battery running time appears longer than estimated, and we have not yet finalised the tuning of energy management which could optimise performance further.”

With battery cell development and optimisation of battery management systems as Lindkvist noted, driving time is likely to increase further still.

“Additionally, we’ve collected feedback from operators who experience the machines to be more powerful,” noted Lindkvist. “Other benefits are becoming clear too – such things as the quietness of operations, and possibility to talk to bystanders next to machines, seem more important than we thought.”

New solutions for an electric future

Close collaboration between Epiroc and Northvolt’s industrial battery design and development teams has been critical, Northvolt says. For Epiroc, an interesting dimension to the partnership is how it has shifted the company’s approach to “surrounding product development”.

Lindkvist said: “Epiroc has a typically involved itself with implementing well-proven solutions; it is very exciting to work with technology in the forefront. Combine this with the rapid growth of Northvolt, in an area where much is happening, and you get a very inspiring and innovative collaboration.”

Looking ahead, the path is bright. Evaluation of electric machine performance and operations will continue with the demonstration project in Finland, and validation of the new battery systems will be undertaken, according to Northvolt.

“As validation is concluded, this new generation system will be available for delivery to customers all over the world,” Lindkvist says. “This will be the moment when we grow to substantial volumes and this is very significant for Epiroc.”

Epiroc already has a sense of demand for these machines. In September 2019, the company announced orders for battery-electric mining equipment from customers in several countries including Finland, Australia and Canada. The orders were for Epiroc’s latest generation of electric machines consisting of 14 t and 18 t loaders, the Minetruck MT42 and a mid-sized drilling family including face drilling, production drilling and rock reinforcement rigs.

Epiroc aims to be able to offer its complete fleet of underground mining equipment as battery-electric versions by 2025.

“We will continue to diesel engine versions, but the volume of machines running on battery power will grow fast as customer readiness develops further,” Lindkvist says.

Successful electrification of mines, of course, relies on more than just machines. To operate a battery-electric fleet effectively, mines need to be designed differently, charging stations and ancillary equipment must be in place and operating profiles for efficient machine usage need to be established.

“Fortunately, the ongoing work of Epiroc is helping to fill out an in-depth understanding of what an electric mine may look like,” Northvolt says.

While underground mines might be some of the first to go electric, in large part thanks to the potential reductions in ventilation underground that create a strong business case, electric machines will soon become common above ground, too, according to Northvolt.

It says: “Epiroc has observed that ongoing success in the underground mine market is proving the viability of the technology and its competitiveness against performance of diesel-powered equipment – points which serve to strengthen the case for developing surface mining solutions.”

This is an edited version of a post that first appeared on Northvolt’s website here.

Aramine and ARMZ sign agreement for L140B battery-powered miniLoader

Underground vehicle specialist Aramine says it has signed a partnership agreement with Russia uranium producer, ARMZ, for the assembly of its L140B battery-powered miniLoader.

The pact was signed by ARMZ Uranium Holdings’ Director General, Vladimir Verkhovtsev, and Aramine Presidents, Marc Melkonian and Christophe Melkonian, during the 23rd International Mining World Russia Exhibition, in Moscow.

“Production of Aramine battery loaders will improve the working conditions of the miners, increase the level of safety and, of course, increase the volume of ore mining,” Verkhovtsev said.

Just a few months ago, Aramine looked to extend the continuous working time of its battery-powered miniLoader L140B by providing a battery change-out option.

This miniLoader L140B, launched in 2017, is an optimised and advanced version of the L120B, carrying more capacity – 1.3 t. While the company’s new option allows the machine to run full time without being immobilised during charging, the standard L140B offers four hours of continuous operation. This allows for the mucking of three to four faces in one shift with a simple charging system integrated into the machine and requiring a plug to the wall, according to the company.

The miniLoader does not require massive electrical installation, with the power required only being about 7 kW, compared with the 45 kW typically needed for an electric machine with cable, the company said.

ARMZ recently announced plans to reduce the level of risk both underground and above-ground at its industrial complexes, with Verkhovtsev saying the company was looking at, among other things, automation and implementation of the most modern technologies at its operations.

LKAB plans for live SUM project testing at Konsuln in 2020

LKAB, one of five companies invested in the Sustainable Underground Mining project (SUM), says it is hoping to move into test mode in 2020 with a number of projects aimed at making future mines carbon dioxide-free, digitalised and autonomous.

SUM has four sub-projects that are closely interconnected. In one of the sub-projects, autonomous, smart and carbon-free vehicles will be tested in LKAB’s test mine, Konsuln, in Kiruna. This will see humans and machines work together safely, according to the company.

The Swedish miner, which is looking to set a new world standard for sustainable mining at great depths, will be helped by ABB, Epiroc, Combitech and the Volvo group in its efforts.

LKAB said: “The strength of a major partnership such as SUM is that each company can contribute with its unique expertise. Epiroc has extensive experience of machinery developed for use underground and the Volvo group of vehicles used above ground. Combitech contributes with knowledge of how different systems can be integrated with each other and ABB with management systems, ie how the communication can work.”

In sub-project 2, DP2, the focus is currently on knowledge sharing and finding a common level to start with, LKAB said. The goal is to test electrically-driven, both manual and self-steering loaders, drilling rigs and forklifts that will interact with each other, people and other vehicles operating in the mine.

Hans Engberg (pictured), LKAB’s Project Manager for DP2, said: “There are several challenges, but one of the biggest is to find smart, simple and above all safe systems for underground transport in mixed traffic. We know that autonomous machines must work together with driver-controlled vehicles in the mine. Many people think that the technology already exists, but it does not. We will be the first with this.”

Mariana Forsberg, Project Manager for the Volvo group, said the company started with a survey of LKAB’s mining operations. “Volvo needs to know what vehicles are in the mine, how and where people will move and how everything works together. From that, we will then look at what autonomous solutions can work in the rather special environment that is, after all, an underground mine.”

With autonomous machines, loading operations can be carried out done for longer periods of time without breaks, which among other things would help LKAB reach its goal of increased productivity.

LKAB is also striving for a carbon-free operation, and this is where electric vehicles with batteries are deemed to be an option in the mine. How and where batteries should be charged in a production environment is one of the many questions that sub-project 2 should provide answers to.

Niklas Fors, Epiroc’s Project Manager, said: “Based on the overall objectives of the project, we will set milestones so that we can perform real test situations in Konsuln. It is a case of making use of the knowledge that exists in our various companies in SUM and bringing some fresh thinking together, with safety as a guiding light. SUM is bigger than the sum of its parts.”

Another important issue is finding answers to how data should be communicated, so that the right information reaches the right recipients at the right time.

“For a safe and accessible working environment, vehicles should also be smart, ie able to exchange information by being connected in real time,” LKAB said. “This requires precise positioning of machines and people. How the data is to be collected and reach the right person or vehicle must be tested and evaluated.”

The ambition is that live testing will begin in the test mine in about a year. All test results should then be used as a basis for LKAB in the mid-2020s to decide how mining should look after the year 2030, when the current main levels in the mines in Malmberget and Kiruna are deemed to be mined out.

Engberg said: “Autonomous and smart machines are absolutely part of the solution to become carbon-free and increase productivity, but we will always need people in the mine. However, today’s miners will not do the same things as tomorrow’s. New technology brings new tasks, just as it always has in all development, whether it be in the mining industry or in society at large. What we are facing requires knowledge, fresh thinking and hard work. SUM is about our future.”

Aramine equips miniLoader L140B with battery change-out system

Aramine has looked to extend the continuous working time of its battery-powered miniLoader® L140B by providing a system that, it says, will “totally change the way you can use a battery machine underground”.

The standard L140B, launched in 2017, offers four hours of continuous operation. This allows for the mucking of three to four faces in one shift with a simple charging system integrated into the machine and requiring a plug to the wall, according to the company. This does not need big a electrical installation, with the power required only being about 7 kW, compared with the 45 kW typically needed for an electric machine with cable.

Now, the company has looked to offer its customers another battery change-out option.

The new optional QRS features a quick disconnect battery module, Aramine said. This feature, which has been added without increasing the length of the machine, allows the machine to run full time without being immobilised during charging, according to the company. “The system is ultra fast and smart with a W type aligning system and an auto locking device,” Aramine said.

There is a lever with a lock on the system that ensures optimal safety of the battery pack, the company added.

Aramine said its R&D department has worked hard on reorganising the components inside the machine and selecting an extremely reliable and safe connecting system with maximum power in order to retain the force of the miniLoader.

“The R&D department has also run a lot of tests to find the good angle of adherence in the W type system and find a faultless self-aligning mechanism,” the company said.

In order to benefit from the QRS features, a mine will require a battery change area with crane to change out the battery safely and easily. But, with these elements in place, the battery replacement process can take around 10 to 15 minutes, according to Aramine.

With the QRS machine, the operator can have only one machine in operation in the mine, whereas with the fix frame version of the miniLoader, the customer requires two machines for the same productivity (one charging while the other is working), Aramine said.

These new features are not only available on new machines, according to Aramine. All operating miniLoader L140Bs with a fixed frame can be converted with this new QRS system thanks to an after-market kit.

The company will showcase a battery-powered miniLoader L140B, with 1.3 t capacity, equipped with optional QRS at the Bauma fair, in Munich, Germany, from April 8-14.

Artisan Vehicles reflects on its mission to ‘make vehicles that change the world’

California-based Artisan Vehicles has confirmed a statement from Sandvik that it is to be taken over by the Finland-based company and has now explained why it feels the partnership will set a new course for the mining industry.

“In Artisan’s main conference room, there is a simple, but powerful message displayed prominently in the centre of the main presentation wall. Cut through a half inch thick aluminium plate are the words “Our Mission: To Make Vehicles That Change The World”, Artisan said.

“When we started in 2010, we were focused on commercial trucks. But in that same year, Artisan was approached by an innovative mining company that needed help with a big business problem. That problem was getting to a deeper and very rich orebody using an existing underground mine site. Their plan was to access this orebody without spending the huge sums spent by everyone else (more than $100 million) in customary ventilation infrastructure.

“Our solution was to eliminate diesel fumes with zero emission battery-powered loaders and haul trucks.”

Mike Kasaba, Artisan CEO, reflected: “The business case was so compelling that I quickly realised that this was the way for Artisan to achieve its mission.

“Not only did this mean a cleaner environment for underground workers, but also lower costs and a better return on investment for our customers. It was truly a rare opportunity to transform an industry with a cleaner, more powerful alternative to diesel while also saving money by lowering overall costs.”

Fast forward eight years, Artisan has installed its technology in underground mining vehicles that are now deployed in several countries around the world. Some fleets have been in operation for more than five years, making Artisan the most experienced mining OEM using battery-electric technology, Artisan said.

“Now Artisan is taking a giant leap forward in its mission to change the world.”

Kasaba said: “In picking a partner, our criteria is simple.

“We want a partner that has set the standard of today so that together we can set the standard for tomorrow. I am absolutely certain that we have selected the right partner.”

Brian Huff, Artisan’s Chief Technology Officer, added: “With our technology and Sandvik’s experience and worldwide reach, I know we are going to change the world. Sandvik’s expertise in machine design, coupled with our expertise in electric powertrains and battery technology, will set a new course for the global mining industry.”

Artisan calls itself an original equipment manufacturer of zero-emission, battery-powered mining vehicles.

“Artisan’s underground mining loaders and haul trucks are designed from the ground up to include the best thinking in vehicle engineering and to maximise the performance of its high-powered, highly-reliable, field-proven battery-electric powertrains.”

Sandvik ups battery-electric machine capacity with Artisan Vehicles buy

Sandvik has acquired privately-owned Artisan Vehicle Systems as it looks to capture more market share in the fast-moving battery-electric mining equipment space.

Based in Camarillo, California, US, Artisan is a manufacturer of battery-powered underground mining equipment. It has three commercially-available machines: a 4-t capacity LHD (A4, pictured), 10-t capacity LHD (A10) and a 40-t capacity haul truck (Z40).

The core technology behind Artisan’s offering is battery packs, electric motors, power electronics, software and control systems, according to Sandvik. “Artisan’s underground mining loaders and trucks are designed with these high-powered, highly reliable and field proven battery electric powertrains,” the company said, adding that Artisan is the market leader with most battery-electric vehicles currently operating in underground mining.

Lars Engström, President, Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology, said: “I am pleased to see the strategic acquisition of Artisan so soon after the opening of Sandvik’s state-of-the-art battery electrification innovation and development centre in Turku, Finland, in 2018. It is in line with our ambition to be leading in the market for battery-electric vehicle solutions.”

Artisan will be a business unit in the Load and Haul Division within Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology, the company said.

Mats Eriksson, President Load and Haul Division, Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology, said: “The area in which Artisan is located is a frontrunner in electric vehicle development. Our new R&D foothold there will complement the skillset we have in Finland. The combination of knowhow and skills creates a very strong platform.”

Prior to this acquisition, Sandvik had just one battery-powered underground machine, it’s DD422iE jumbo drill.

Artisan is a start-up company which, in 2017, had revenues of $12.3 million and approximately 60 employees.

The parties have agreed not to disclose the purchase price, but the transaction is expected to close during the March quarter. The deal is initially neutral to earnings per share, Sandvik said.

Kirkland Lake Gold’s Macassa mine on the charge with battery-electric machines

The use of battery-electric equipment at Kirkland Lake Gold’s Macassa operation in Ontario, Canada, is on the rise, according to the latest investor presentation from the gold mining company.

Macassa now has two of Artisan Vehicles’ battery powered Z40 trucks (pictured) working at the gold mine, in addition to 22 battery-powered LHDs provided by companies including Epiroc and Artisan, the company said this week.

This is part of a mining fleet that also includes six 20 ton (18 t) haul trucks and two production drills.

In addition to this, the gold mining company has been using at least one Artisan A4 LHD at its Taylor operation, also in Ontario.

Macassa, one of the company’s gold-production engines, is expected to have produced 220,000-225,000 oz of gold in 2018, but a future mine expansion could lead to annual output rising to 400,000 oz in 2022.

The company uses a combination of underhand cut and fill (~65%), sub-level long hole stoping (~25%) and overhand cut and fill (~10%) to mine the orebody at Macassa.

You can learn more about the battery-electric fleet being used at the Macassa operation at The Electric Mine event in Toronto, taking place on April 4-5. Andrew Schinkel, Senior Electrical Engineer at the Macassa Mine Complex, will present ‘Powering up Macassa: operating a major battery-electric fleet at a deep underground mine’ at the event. For more information, please click here.