Tag Archives: battery-electric vehicles

MacLean ready to highlight growing African presence at Mining Indaba

A MacLean EV Series™ carrier fitted with a third-party emulsion charging plant is part of the company’s expanded presence at this year’s edition of the Mining Indaba in Cape Town, South Africa.

MacLean Africa will be showcasing this latest battery-electric mining vehicle (BEV) offering outside the CTICC in front of the Cullinan Hotel during the event, which runs from February 7-10.

The Sudbury-based company has had an established, in-country presence in South Africa since 2001. This was the company’s first ever international branch and, since that time, the local sales and support team has grown in line with the expansion of the MacLean fleet deployment across the continent. The company now supports MacLean mining vehicles at customer operations across South Africa, as well as in Namibia, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali.

MacLean Africa General Manager, John-Paul Theunissen, said: “Our message to the African mining community at Indaba is simple and I hope, resonant – MacLean is manufacturing and supporting mining equipment that is custom designed for underground mining on this continent, supported by an in-country team of skilled engineers, product managers, field service technicians, and repair and rebuild mechanics. We are here for the long haul; we have the critical mass of talent and parts and manufacturing capacity and we have your full fleet of production support mining vehicles, ready to get to work.”

MacLean President, Kevin MacLean, added: “I’m excited by what MacLean Africa has already done in terms of building out the MacLean fleet footprint across Africa and I’m even more excited by what the future holds for us in this crucial mining region. We can walk with customers as they explore options for the rollout of a battery-electric, automated, and data-rich mobile fleet that will drive the ‘no boots on the ground’ mining of the 21st century. We have it all – the present and the future of underground mining mobile equipment, technology, and services. We are above ground where your fleet is underground in Africa.”

This year is an important one for MacLean as it marks the company’s 50th year of operations. What started out as a niche, custom equipment solutions provider for the Canadian industry in the 1970s has evolved to what it now claims is now the world’s largest Canada-based manufacturer of underground mining vehicles, with a worldwide staffing contingent that surpasses 1,000 employees across four continents.

Normet brings BEV SmartDrive tech to lifting, installation and material transport applications

Normet has expanded its SmartDrive® battery-electric vehicle (BEV) offering with the addition of new machines for lifting, installations and material transportation.

The company launched its SmartDrive BEV offering with zero local emissions during the Bauma 2019 exhibition in Munich in 2019. Since then, it has gradually expanded its offering and gained even more experience in the field.

Normet SmartDrive is a modular BEV architecture designed to optimise energy consumption and performance in underground mining and tunnelling applications. It allows for higher productivity, lower operating costs and zero local emissions, according to the company.

With many units now deployed across the mining and tunnelling spaces – including the Utimec MF 500 Transmixer SD concrete transmixer and the Spraymec 8100 SD concrete sprayer – the company has further expanded its SmartDrive offering to cover even more applications.

The newest additions to the SmartDrive offering are two applications for lifting and installations, Utilift MF 330 SD and Utilift MF 540 SD, and Utimec MF 100 Material SD for material transportation.

Normet SmartDrive architecture combined with Normet’s proven personnel lifting system enables safe lifting works with zero local emissions, improving the working comfort significantly, the company claims. The Utilift MF 330 SD (pictured) with a lifting capacity of up to 3 t and a maximum platform height of 3.5 m is designed to provide a safe working platform for all kinds of installation works in tunnels up to 5.5 m high.

The Utilift MF 540 SD is a scissor lifter offering reliable performance for all lifting and installation needs in underground mines up to 6.5 m high, Normet says. A 4.5-t maximum lifting capacity and 4.5 m maximum lifting height makes the installation of even the heaviest mine ventilation fans possible.

Both lifters can be equipped with line-of-sight remote driving system to further increase the safety and productivity by allowing the operator to relocate the machine easily with wireless remote control from the ground or from the platform.

The Utimec MF 100 Material SD, meanwhile, is designed for efficient bulk material transportation in underground mines and tunnels. It has a payload capacity of 10 t and comes in two different platform versions with either low- or high-platform edges. The vehicle can be equipped with an optional crane with up to 2 t lifting capacity for effortless loading and unloading of heavy objects, the company claims.

Aeris, Rokion and LDO collaborate on battery-electric vehicle trial at Tritton

Rokion and its New South Wales-based distributor LDO Group have continued their battery-electric utility vehicle momentum in Australia, with another unit having gone underground at Aeris Resources’ Tritton operations in the state.

The electric light vehicle, an R100, has successfully completed its first trip underground after above-ground tests in 2022, the mining company said.

Rokion says the R100 series includes a four-passenger crew truck and a two-passenger utility truck, with both models built on the same frame dimensions and available in ramp-ready configurations.

Tritton General Manager, Scott Ramsay, said the copper operation is still in the trial stage of using the electric light vehicle underground but the first signs are positive.

“We are trying different power charge setups to respond to the specific needs for driving underground,” he said in a LinkedIn post. “But, overall, it has made a good impression and it is quite likely we will be seeing more vehicles like this in the future.”

Aeris and its Tritton operation have some recent history with battery-electric vehicles, having previously used the battery-electric retrofit ‘TRITEV’ 20 t underground Integrated Tool-Carrier/Loader. This followed a collaboration between 3ME and Aeris that started all the way back in 2017.

Rokion and LDO, meanwhile, have been working with Agnico Eagle Mines and Newmont on trials of its larger R400 vehicle – a platform able to accommodate three passengers in a utility vehicle setup or up to 12 in a passenger crew variant – at the Fosterville and Tanami mines, respectively.

Epiroc to bring BEV experience to CharIN CCS charging-focused association

Epiroc says it has decided to join CharIN to work together with industrial leaders with the ambition to create what it says is the best customer experience of charging electric vehicles in mining and other industrial applications.

Back in September, mining giants BHP, Rio Tinto and Vale established a Mining Taskforce within CharIN, supported by the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), looking to solve interoperability barriers and working towards standardisation on EV charging.

CharIN calls itself a leading global association with over 280 members dedicated to promoting interoperability based on the Combined Charging System (CCS) as the global standard for charging vehicles of all kinds.

Electrification solutions from Epiroc, the company says, support mining customers globally as they transition towards using battery-electric vehicles (BEV).

“Epiroc is the first OEM to provide a full range of electric vehicles and charging solutions in the mining industry and will bring in-field experiences and technical knowhow to CharIN,” it said.

Lina Jorheden, Operations Managers at Epiroc’s electrification organisation, said: “The decision to join CharIN connect us to an international standard of charging, which makes us unique in the industry.”

Epiroc introduces ‘Smart’ and ‘Green’ series to highlight zero-emission and automation benefits

Epiroc has ramped up deliveries of battery-electric vehicles and is now seeing strong results from the field in terms of productivity, CO2 reduction and customer satisfaction, it says.

The “Smart and Green” series is the next step to highlight the benefits of zero-emission technology and automation – together with several strong partnerships and initiatives within the sustainability field, according to Epiroc.

This will see the underground battery-electric range rebranded to the Smart and Green series, broadening the fleet to potentially include other zero-emission technologies in the future, the company said. These battery-powered machines come equipped with Epiroc’s Rig Control System, RCS, which makes them ready for smart functionality such as automation and remote control.

“Mining is an essential part of modern society, and crucial in the shift to fossil-free energy sources,” Sarah Hoffman, VP Sales and Marketing at Epiroc’s Underground division, said. “We want to provide the equipment to mine the required metals and minerals in the most sustainable way possible.

“Our ambition is to produce the world’s greenest machines, all the way from cell level to recycling of the batteries. And with smart functionality added, we can help improve safety, productivity, and machine availability even further.”

At the same time, Epiroc is also introducing the Smart series for its diesel-powered range outfitted with RCS. Just like the electric range, the machines are prepared for additional functionality from Epiroc’s 6th Sense offering. The included machine models will feature new decal designs as well as updated product naming.

The batteries of the electric range are produced together with Northvolt, who is committed to building the world’s greenest batteries, Epiroc says.

“Sourcing of materials is done ethically to secure a supply chain free from corruption of people and planet,” it said. “The high energy-density batteries are certified with international standards and features a built-in multi-layer safety system.”

Other sustainability initiatives include Epiroc’s recently announced partnership with Swedish steelmaker SSAB to secure fossil-free steel for use in the production of Epiroc’s mining equipment. The partnership with SSAB fits well with Epiroc’s ambitious sustainability goals for 2030, which includes halving its CO2e emissions.

In 2021, Epiroc received validation from the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) for its targets to reduce emissions in own operations as well as our customers’ operations where Epiroc equipment is being operated. The SBTi validated Epiroc’s climate targets as being in line with keeping global warming at a maximum 1.5°C, consistent with the latest climate science and the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement.

By 2025, Epiroc aims to offer a complete range of emission-free underground products.

Stantec to deliver $16 million feasibility study on Resolution Copper Mine

Stantec says it has been selected by Resolution Copper Mining LLC to deliver a $16 million feasibility study providing engineering and technical services for the Resolution Copper mine in Superior, Arizona.

The proposed underground mine, a joint venture between Rio Tinto (55%) and BHP (45%), has the potential to be one of the largest producers of copper in North America – supplying up to 25% of US copper demand each year.

Stantec has been a lead underground mining and infrastructure consultant on the Resolution project since early 2019. It will assist the company by providing engineering and execution planning services for the mine.

Mario Finis, Executive Vice President for Stantec’s Energy & Resources business, said: “Resolution Copper is mining a critical resource needed for the energy transition. We are proud to support our client in this important endeavour with a strong commitment to sustainable mining throughout the entire life cycle of the project.”

Stantec’s engineering services on this project include power distribution, material handling, shafts and hoisting systems, dewatering/pumping, communications and more. Additionally, Stantec is evaluating the use of battery-electric vehicles to help the mine meet its goal of zero carbon emissions.

To date, more than $2 billion has been spent to develop and permit the project, including reclamation of the historic Magma Copper Mine site, sinking a second shaft to mining depth, rehabilitating an existing shaft and deepening to mining depth, extensive drilling and orebody testing, and the federal approval and public engagement process.

Stantec says its Mining, Minerals, and Metals team is helping clients achieve net zero mining – through its holistic service offering, Sustainable Mining by Design™, which aids companies to meet their environmental, social and governance obligations by finding ways to reduce energy demand and use clean sources of energy.

Sandvik setting the battery system safety standard in underground mining

In the three-and-a-half years since Sandvik acquired Artisan Vehicle Systems, the mining industry’s appetite and demand for battery-electric vehicle (BEV) solutions has grown exponentially.

From conversations that were concentrated to mainly North America and involved the trial of BEVs, the sector has moved on to discuss commercial, fleet-sized applications to be deployed across the globe.

Sandvik, itself, highlighted this in July with the award of its biggest BEV contract to date – a 20-strong equipment order from Foran Mining in Canada.

With this increased industry focus on underground electrification with the help of battery-electric equipment, the discussions around battery system safety have also stepped up in terms of both the number and complexity of conversations.

These are conversations Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions’ Battery and Hybrid Electric Vehicles (BHEV) Business Unit is more than prepared to have, according to the unit’s VP Strategy and Commercial, Jakob Rutqvist.

“It’s on us as an early adopter to spread the learnings and help educate the industry in terms of battery safety and engaging with the stakeholders involved in the supply chain,” he told IM.

Sandvik, with the help of Artisan, has clocked up hundreds of thousands of operating hours in terms of BEVs in mining over the last decade or so.

This has been underwritten by the Artisan battery system architecture, which has been designed to move with both mining market demands and battery technology.

Brian Huff, Vice President of Technology for the BHEV business unit, expands on this: “We produce in-house battery systems, which gives us a lot of capability in terms of controlling the design. We can be much more reactive to the field in terms of making changes to the design, versus an OEM that is using batteries designed for automotive or industrial applications where those higher volumes tend to drive design decisions.

“We don’t have that diversion of focus; we do what is right for mining.”

Doing what is ‘right for mining’ has led to Sandvik investing in a state-of-the-art battery system facility in Camarillo, California, boasting 100 MWh of annual battery production capacity. This same facility acts as a training and customer visitor centre with a test ramp that has a 20% grade and a whole area for mucking on the property.

Sandvik’s state-of-the-art battery system facility in Camarillo, California, boasts 100 MWh of annual battery production capacity, as well as acting as a training and customer visitor centre with a test ramp that has a 20% grade and a whole area for mucking on the property

Huff said on the latter: “We will test every product that leaves the shop and do a lot of development work – our development cycle has, as a result, sped up.”

Beyond this, Sandvik’s mining sector commitment has seen the company invest in a battery system platform that – when it comes to safety – recognises the realities of operating machinery at underground mines.

Quality cells with the right chemistry

The inherent safety of Sandvik’s battery system starts at the cell level.

Artisan partnered with China-based CALB all the way back in 2015 as it looked to shore up a reliable and high-quality battery cell supply that could seamlessly fit into its battery system architecture.

Seven years on – half of that under the guise of Sandvik – Huff sees no reason to change.

“What matters from a battery system safety standpoint is consistency and high-quality cells,” he said. “That is achieved through high-volume manufacturing tied with automation and production controls that ensure the quality of production.

“CALB, which makes a lot of batteries for stationary and bus applications in China and globally, has all the compliance and testing completed on their cells and meet all the requirements from a safety standpoint.”

The battery cell manufacturer was also one of the early movers in the lithium iron phosphate (LFP)-based battery space, and Huff is keen to point out the safety benefits that come with using such battery chemistry.

“Our approach to battery safety, which is part of the standardised Sandvik approach for safety with ISO and other standardisation bodies, is to look, first, at reducing the severity of a potential incident or eliminating the hazard,” Huff said. “For us that means reducing the severity of a thermal runaway, which is primarily a chemistry choice.”

Thermal runaway is categorised as a chain reaction within a battery cell that occurs when the temperature inside a battery reaches the point that causes a chemical reaction to take place inside the battery. This chemical reaction produces heat, which drives the temperature higher, causing further chemical reactions to take place and further heat generation. Excessive heat generation at an accelerated rate can cause batteries to melt or be damaged beyond repair, or, in extreme circumstances, ignite and start fires.

With the potential to cause such an incident, thermal runaway preventions are often the first thing battery companies mention in safety briefings.

When plotting the main commercial battery chemistries against the heat-release-rate (HRR) on a graph, it is easy to see Huff’s point (see graph below). The rate of temperature rise (left) indicates the severity of a thermal event, with the higher the HRR, the harder it is to contain an incident, Sandvik says.

Taking all this into account, the LFP rate of temperature rise is over 100 times lower than other batteries with chemistries such as nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC), lithium-cobalt oxide (LCO) and lithium-nickel-cobalt-aluminium (NCA), making containment more achievable, according to the company.

In thermal runaway tests, LFP-based cells have emitted a flammable gaseous electrolyte but do not self-ignite during standardised safety tests, Sandvik clarified.

Tests on batteries looking at the release of harmful emissions have also highlighted the safety benefits of using LFP-based batteries. A US CDC nail penetration test showed minimal emissions of the likes of carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides and hydrogen fluoride, compared with much higher levels emitted from NMC- and lithium-ion-manganese-oxide (LMO)-based batteries.

Passive and intrinsic safety

The battery chemistry choice fits into the ‘severity reduction’ basket in terms of safety controls, but it is not where Sandvik’s battery system safety approach ends.

“We then move to reducing the likelihood of the hazard occurring through design controls,” Huff said. “This is where the engineering comes in, with the best design controls often deemed to be passive and intrinsic – where you don’t have to do anything in the case an event arises.”

Sandvik has more than a handful of such controls in its locker, starting at the cell.

The cells in Sandvik’s battery systems are equipped with high-reliability vents that prevent pressure build-up in case of thermal runaway. This eliminates the risk of a case rupture/burst, according to the company. They also come equipped with a laser-welded aluminium housing that offers thermal conduction and mechanical safety with mylar and polycarbonate insulation.

A shutdown separator coating, meanwhile, is designed to melt if the temperature inside the cell reaches 110-130°C, blocking the ion flow, interrupting the current and preventing further temperature increases. An additional porous ceramic separator coating melts at 160-175°C, bonding with a polypropylene electrode separator to help block dendrites and provide structural support to prevent shrinkage and maintain the separation of electrodes.

Huff expands on this: “Dendrite growth is an effect of overcurrent, overcharging, charging at cold temperatures and a side effect of ageing. Excessive growth can result in an electrical short as well, which can then lead to thermal runaway.”

In Sandvik’s battery system design, a battery cell (far left) is placed into a battery module (second from left), which is then incorporated into a battery pack (second from right). This pack is then enclosed in a cage (far right)

These cells are placed into a battery module, which operates at low voltage for safe servicing, comes with isolating foam potting to block moisture and prevent isolation faults, offers thermal conduction to draw heat away from a hot cell and distribute it across the entire module to moderate temperature rises, and offers environmental and mechanical damage protection, according to Sandvik.

These modules are then incorporated into a battery pack, which comes with mechanical protections such as a 6-mm plate steel enclosure; a non-conductive coolant to manage temperature during charging; and gore vents and drains to prevent pressure build-up, allowing vented gases to expel air in the enclosure and fluids to drain rather than collect, all while limiting ingress of dust and contaminants.

The redundant configuration of the battery pack contactors allows the circuit to be broken in the case of over/under voltage, isolation fault, over temperature or overcurrent, the company says. This may also be triggered by a high-voltage interlock loop (HVIL) system. Lastly, the inclusion of 600 A fuses provides protection against overcurrent and damage from external shorts.

Finally, this battery pack is enclosed in a cage that offers, Sandvik says, robust mechanical protection, mobility and swap-ability, plus quick access to the pack modules without cage disassembly.

Beyond design controls

“We start with the assumption that, however good, design controls should never be believed to be 100% effective,” Huff said. “You cannot just approach the issue by never considering the likelihood of thermal runaway, for instance. It is unrealistic, especially in a mining environment where accidents happen, damage occurs and mistakes in servicing can arise.”

This leads the company on to the active controls it includes in its battery systems.

“All this starts with monitoring,” Huff said. “It could be looking at temperatures – the case temperature, terminal temperature, as well as the temperature of the conductors – and voltage.”

The Battery System Controller (BSC) is responsible for protecting the battery – calculating the limits and thresholds, monitoring the HVIL, isolation, temperature and currents and connecting the battery and communicating the status – but it is not the system that implements the controls and limitations.

“The battery system controller communicates what the limits are – only 400 A in discharge due to heat, for example – but the master controller unit (MCU) is the one responsible for accomplishing those limits,” Huff explained. “If the MCU fails to do that – drawing too much current, for instance – then the battery system controller opens its connectors and disconnects power as a last resort.”

The battery monitoring system (BMS) monitors the cell voltage and temperature (case temperature, terminal temperature and conductor temperature, for instance), manages the cell balancing and communicates data to the BSC.

This monitoring will be further enhanced with the incorporation of Akkurate (a battery analytics company acquired by Sandvik earlier in the year) and its remote battery diagnostic and prognostic platforms into the BHEV business unit, with Rutqvist saying that “embedded” monitoring software on the battery and “remote health monitoring” applications are the first development priorities, post-integration.

Jakob Rutqvist says “embedded” monitoring software on the battery and “remote health monitoring” applications are the first development priorities for Akkurate, post-integration into Sandvik

Such monitoring can go a long way in ensuring safety from within the system, but you cannot always limit external threats, Huff said.

“In terms of electrical failure modes, you can prevent overcharging and over-discharging through monitoring-based functions, but you can’t prevent deformation, mechanical damage or penetration from foreign objects,” he said.

This is where the ‘suppression’ element comes into play.

Sandvik uses a potassium-based, electrically non-conductive chemical emulsion for its fire suppression system. It acts by filling the battery pack interior with an aerosol agent that chemically interrupts combustion and stops a potential fire in its tracks.

“We’ve had a couple of incidents in the past, which were minor, and these suppression systems came in and did the job we prescribed for them,” Huff said. “They are not designed to put out a widespread battery fire, where, instead, the chemistry selection and the other passive controls we have designed in are the safety barriers.”

No expense spared

This three-step safety approach is indicative of the company’s focus on risk reduction for its customers, with Huff saying the company often looks beyond industry standards and regulations when designing features in.

“The volume and value proposition of our products change the battery system design requirements,” he said. “We’re not trying to save a dollar here by reducing the thickness of, say, the enclosure, or amending some design feature for cost effectiveness.

“Safety and reliability are way more important than the cost of manufacturing the system.”

There are plenty of examples of this safety-design-over-cost philosophy on board its battery systems.

For instance, the company has minimised the use of cables, designing as much as possible with busbars to avoid potential electrical shorting. All these busbars are powder coated and protected from an electrical perspective, meaning any “casual” contact from operators or service technicians will not result in the live conductors being engaged.

When it comes to isolation monitoring, the company has also designed in safety precautions.

“Isolation monitoring was originally mandated for battery systems to notify technicians about the potential for an electrical shock if there was an isolation fault,” Huff said.

“Beyond that, it can be used as an early warning for a higher current short circuit where an isolation fault occurs that is lower than a certain resistance.”

Huff and his team have carried out some research and chosen 5,000 ohms as the relevant threshold for this particular risk.

“If you have a 5,000-ohm isolation fault in a location and have a direct connection from another point to the chassis, you can create a short circuit with enough power to melt some of the protective materials in the battery system and potentially accelerate this to a much higher current short circuit,” he said.

This second isolation monitoring consideration requires a differentiated response.

“Shock hazards are a warning situation – you need to notify people there is a hazard and behave differently,” he said.

“You need to handle a short circuit risk – a low impedance isolation fault – differently. For us, it means shutting the machine down and isolating the fault through removing the modules or locating the fault and transferring the modules.”

With Artisan’s battery systems designed to be broken down into individual batteries and transported individually as needed, the company can do exactly this.

“There have been a few battery fires reported in mines over the last five or so years, involving different types of equipment,” Huff said. “The two I know about had nothing to do with a BMS response and everything to do with isolation faults. How you handle a battery with this issue is, therefore, a key consideration.”

Backward-compatible benefits

Huff, a co-founder of Artisan, can contextualise the mining proposition better than most considering his experience in both electrifying the automotive sector and heavy-duty commercial vehicles – two sectors Artisan served prior to shifting focus to underground mining.

“A key difference is the level of serviceability required,” he said. “Mining is a very different world; you are separated so much from a nice clean shop with all the facilities and space to do work. With cars, there is such easy infrastructure in place; mining is not like that.

“At mine sites, there is huge pressure to do the work in-situ with the tools you have in your backpack and, if you don’t have the specific tool, you are typically going to make the tool or do without it. You have to have a product designed for that environment, and that is exactly what we have done.”

Rutqvist said the standardisation and commodification of Sandvik’s battery systems comes at the cell level, which leaves the company open to adapt and customise according to mining industry demands.

“If you take the market at a battery system level, mining customers don’t count in thousands, they count in hundreds,” he said. “Our average customer is big, and they expect to be very close to us when it comes to the product and the product development; our largest customers are very big and expect to have a say in the development and the requirements on the battery system.

“We’re happy to be middlemen for the battery cell, but we don’t want to be middlemen for the battery system design.”

Over the past decade or so – and going forward – this has enabled the company to take advantage of battery technology developments as they happen.

Sandvik says it is able to incorporate new technology and advances into its battery system platform

Haley-Anna Blinn – currently a BEV Applications Specialist at the Sandvik BHEV business unit and previously an Electrical Engineer at the Macassa gold mine in Ontario, Canada, which has one of the biggest battery-electric fleets in the world – has been on the receiving end of this.

“So much is changing in the battery space all the time,” she said. “I have only been involved for five years, and I have seen a lot of change.

“We recognise that, so it is important we design our systems to accommodate future design changes or even battery chemistry improvements when it comes to energy density.

“With the older vintage of equipment, there was a change of cell supplier at one point that resulted in cells with a different form factor.

“While this changed the number of cells in a module based on their characteristics, it was a change that was carried out seamlessly when the cells were due to be refreshed. The module had a similar form factor, so was backward-compatible from a battery system design perspective.”

The new cells also ended up improving performance by about 20% or so, according to Blinn.

With the average battery cell life being 3-5 years, battery performance continuing to improve exponentially over a similar timeframe and the internal funding capabilities of the Sandvik Group, Sandvik BEV customers could be in line for similar step-change improvements in the future.

There are more subtle changes the company can make to its battery systems tailored to the operation at hand, too.

Leveraging sophisticated modelling software and a databank that goes back to the start of Artisan’s BEV journey, technicians can tweak the system at the factory to the conditions they will likely experience underground.

This goes beyond implementing a simple speed restriction to protect the battery system and the operators.

“Some mines might be more conducive to a slower charge than others based on the duty cycle, so we can configure these parameters at the factory,” Blinn explained. “Other mines may impose a temperature limit based on the operating conditions underground that goes beyond the standard limits we program. We can make those changes to ensure the system engages differently during operation.”

Having solved the obvious teething problems that came with introducing BEVs at underground mines over the last decade-or-so, Sandvik is moving into a consolidation phase where refinements to its system design will take place as opposed to major overhauls.

At a time when mining companies require improved performance and uptime from these machines to achieve their own electrification and productivity goals, the company’s mining-focused, safety-conscious battery system design philosophy continues to set it apart.

Sandvik LH518B set for H2 trials at Agnico Eagle’s Fosterville gold mine

Agnico Eagle is to explore the benefits of battery-electric underground technology after receiving a Sandvik LH518B underground loader at its Fosterville gold mine, in Victoria, Australia, to be tested in the second half of 2022.

The Fosterville operation, 20 km from Bendigo, will become the first mine on Australia’s East Coast and only the second in the country to take delivery of the new Sandvik loader (the first being Gold Fields’ St Ives operation in Western Australia). Featuring advanced lithium-iron phosphate-based battery technology, the LH518B produces zero underground exhaust emissions and emits significantly less heat than its diesel counterparts.

Rob McLean, who was Fosterville’s Chief Mining Engineer at the time, announced plans for the operation to trial the Sandvik LH518B at the IMARC Online event in November 2020. He said the trial – originally slated for 2021 – was part of the company’s vision to “have a fully electric mine”, with the immediate goals being to remove diesel emissions and reduce heat at the operation.

After the new machine arrived on site, Fosterville Gold Mine’s General Manager, Lance Faulkner, said: “As a company, we’re committed to exploring new technologies to further enhance our extensive health and safety programs and to fully integrate sustainability into everything we do. And so, we’re delighted to be putting the LH518B into service at Fosterville. We’re interested to see just what kind of difference it can make in terms of efficiency and the underground working environment, and we look forward to working closely with Sandvik.”

Featuring a 600 kW drivetrain, the Sandvik LH518B allows for higher acceleration than conventional loaders as well as fast ramp speeds, resulting in short cycle times, Sandvik says. Courtesy of its space-efficient battery system and driveline, it is the most compact 18-t loader on the market, capable of fitting in a 4.5 x 4.5 m tunnel, the company claims.

Andrew Dawson, Sandvik Business Line Manager for Load & Haul, says that with the advantages Sandvik battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) bring in terms of safety, efficiency and sustainability, it’s no surprise they are gaining popularity among underground operators.

“By trialling the Sandvik LH518B, Agnico Eagle is putting itself at the forefront of this emerging technology and showing its environmental credentials,” he says. “Not only does the loader produce no underground emissions and significantly reduced heat, but it also delivers new levels of productivity. It all makes for a safer, more comfortable, more controlled underground environment.

Fosterville’s Faulkner says another attractive feature of the Sandvik LH518B is the ability to quickly and simply swap out the battery cage. Sandvik’s AutoSwap technology allows for a depleted battery to be offloaded and a fully charged one loaded in as little as six minutes, with no need for lifting infrastructure.

“It’s crucial that new technologies are sustainable and safe, but also that they contribute to the efficiency and smooth running of our mining operation,” he said. “From what we have heard about the new Sandvik loader, it will deliver on all three fronts.”

Kate Bills, Sandvik Australia General Manager – Sustainability, says the LH518B is a reflection of Sandvik’s determination to lead the market for safe, productive and climate-efficient mining equipment.

“Sandvik is putting its money where its mouth is by investing in battery electric vehicles and other technologies that are helping customers achieve their sustainability goals,” she says. “Customers both globally and in Australia are increasingly looking for these kinds of solutions and we are proud to be providing them.”

XCMG 72-t battery-electric trucks start up at Vale operations

Vale says it has become the first major mining company to test 100% electric 72-tonne trucks, with the trial of the XCMG Mining Machinery Co. Ltd vehicles at its Brazil and Indonesia operations.

The trial of the vehicles represent another step in the electrification of the company’s assets, it said, which is part of its wider plans to operate with net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The first electric trucks to be used by a global mining company, tested at Água Limpa, in Minas Gerais, and Sorowako, in Indonesia, emit no CO2, replacing diesel with electricity from renewable sources. They also reduce noise, which minimises the impacts on the communities that live near the operations.

The equipment was produced by XCMG Mining Machinery Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of Xuzhou Construction Machinery Group Co. Ltd, the largest machine manufacturer in China.

Last year, Vale signed an MoU with XCMG Construction Machinery Limited, a subsidiary of XCMG, for the potential supply of mining and infrastructure equipment, including zero-emission and autonomous equipment.

The 72-t electric off-highway trucks, model XDR80TE, are part of the Vale PowerShift program. Their batteries are able to store 525 kWh, allowing them to operate for up to 36 cycles along the established route, just over a day of operations, without the need to stop and recharge, and with the possibility of regenerating energy during descents, reducing the use of mechanical brakes, maintenance work and vibration, in addition to providing more operational comfort to drivers. The machine has temperature control technology, which allows it to adapt to high temperature, humidity and rainy working conditions, and to perform even in extremely cold, high altitude and harsh weather conditions.

Alexandre Pereira, Executive Vice President of Global Business Solutions at Vale, said: “To us, this partnership with XCMG is another important step in our long-term relationship with China and towards more sustainable mining. Our goal is to expand, together with global partners, the development and co-creation of technologies that respect the environment and zero out emissions.”

Dr. Hanson Liu, the Vice President of XCMG Machinery and General Manager of XCMG Import & Export Co., said: “XCMG and Vale have reached a consensus on the green development concept of dedicating to low-carbon mining and realising net zero emissions. The delivery of XCMG’s latest pure electric mining truck, XDR80TE, at this time is a manifestation of the joint efforts of both parties on promoting global environmental protection as well as green and sustainable economic development.”

Currently, emissions from off-highway trucks running on diesel represent bout 9% of Vale’s total scope 1 and 2 emissions.

The Powershift program was created by Vale with the aim of replacing fossil fuels with clean sources in its operations. The program is promoting innovative solutions to electrify the company’s mines and railroads. In addition to the 100% electric truck, Vale’s strategy for the electrification of assets also includes the operation of battery-powered locomotives in the yards of the ports of Tubarão, in Vitória, and Ponta da Madeira, in São Luís. In Canada, the Powershift program has also led to tests with electrical equipment in underground mines – there are currently about 40 that are currently operational.

Vale’s operational equipment electrification strategy also includes a partnership with its peers BHP and Rio Tinto. Last year, the three companies, along with 17 other mining companies, launched the Charge On Innovation Challenge, a global open innovation challenge with the goal of finding innovative solutions to accelerate the safe charging of batteries for future electric off-highway trucks.

Byrnecut to use six Sandvik 18-t-payload BEVs at OZ Minerals mines

Leading Australia-based contract miner Byrnecut is embracing the many benefits of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) by purchasing six Sandvik battery-powered loaders with AutoMine® for use at OZ Minerals’ operations in South Australia.

Under a deal with Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, Byrnecut will take delivery of the LHDs in 2023 and 2024 for use at the Prominent Hill copper, gold and silver mine, south-west of Coober Pedy, and the Carrapateena copper and gold mine, north of Port Augusta. Byrnecut has been engaged by OZ Minerals to provide underground mining services at the mines and currently has a fleet of Sandvik LH621i loaders equipped with autonomous solutions operating on both sites.

We’re excited to be leading the way with battery-electric vehicles in Australia by putting these six Sandvik loaders into service over the next two years,” Max Woods, Asset Manager for Byrnecut, said. “Not only will the use of electric vehicles significantly improve the working environment underground, but it will also help our customers to work toward their emissions reduction goals – something that is increasingly important in the mining sector.”

Woods says the purchase of the electric loaders is part of Byrnecut’s commitment to explore and embrace new technologies that make its operations safer, more efficient and more sustainable.

“Eliminating emissions from loaders from the underground environment helps us create a better workplace, as does AutoMine technology that enables operators to work from comfortable remote control rooms,” he said.

Another major benefit to Byrnecut is the anticipated increased performance the new loaders could provide, Sandvik says.

The company worked closely with Sandvik prior to purchase to model various application scenarios, including both manual and automated operation.

“We’re expecting the loaders to provide greater throughput in both manual and automated modes while delivering a similar total cost of ownership per tonne delivered to their predecessors,” Woods says.

The new Sandvik loaders are also expected to bring major cost savings across their entire lifecycles, according to Woods. They are likely to require fewer replacement parts than their predecessors, and servicing is also more efficient and simpler.

Sandvik 18-t battery loaders are the most compact on the market, according to the OEM. The powerful electric motors, innovative electric driveline and the smaller tyres on the rear compared with the front, result in a small machine size, high payload with good visibility and unmatched speeds.

Battery machines produce no underground exhaust emissions and significantly less heat than traditional diesel engines, supporting the mines to reach sustainability targets, through reduced CO2 emissions.

Andrew Dawson, Business Line Manager for Load & Haul at Sandvik, praised Byrnecut for helping to pioneer the use of BEVs in Australia.

“The first Sandvik battery-electric loaders only began arriving in the country about a year ago, and the interest has been extremely strong,” he says. “We’re very pleased that Byrnecut and Oz Minerals see the benefits of this technology and is demonstrating it to the rest of the industry. We have always had an excellent working relationship with Byrnecut and look forward to cooperating with them throughout the roll-out and beyond.”