Tag Archives: battery-electric vehicles

LKAB to trial ‘first-of-its-kind’ Scania electric heavy tipper truck at Malmberget

An electric Scania Heavy Tipper truck is set to operate at LKAB’s iron ore mine in Malmberget, northern Sweden, alongside an electric crane truck specially adapted for these mining operations, giving Scania a chance to test and operate fully-electric trucks in a demanding underground mine environment.

The heavy tipper has a total weight including load of 49 t and will transport residual products, Scania said. The second truck is equipped with a crane, purpose-fit to transport drill steel to underground drill rigs. The electric truck with the crane will be charged at the depot, but mobile charging at the sites will also be possible to increase flexibility. The vehicles are expected to start operations at Malmberget during 2022.

Peter Gustavsson, Project Manager at LKAB, said the electric Scania trucks are part of an ambition to set a new standard for sustainable mining, where fossil-free solutions are used.

“We are shifting our fleet away from fossil diesel and as we are testing the capacity of battery-powered electric vehicles; decisions are taken with respect to the choice of trucks must not only contribute to higher productivity but, above all, also a more sustainable mine and a safer work environment.”

Fredrik Allard, Head of E-mobility, Scania, said: “We continue to work with customers that are willing to try innovative solutions together with us. For Scania it is very valuable to be able to test electric vehicles in the extreme environment in real customer operations in the mine. On top of that, the electric heavy tipper is the first of its kind in the industry and another really big step on the journey towards sustainable transport solutions across all applications.”

Gustavsson concluded: “Scania’s entry into our transformation process is valuable because it gives us the opportunity to evaluate their battery-powered vehicles. Together we hope to develop and build fossil-free vehicles that are as productive or even more so than the ones we currently have.”

Sandvik outlines its emission-free mining journey at The Electric Mine 2022

Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions President, Henrik Ager, got The Electric Mine 2022 Conference in Stockholm, Sweden, off to a bang earlier this month, with a major product reveal that will set a new benchmark in the battery-electric underground mining space.

After reflecting on a journey that saw him escape a broken lift on his way to the Radisson Waterfront that morning, Ager announced the company would soon release the largest-capacity battery-electric truck for underground mining to the market, the TH665B.

With a 65-t-payload capacity, this machine will be measured against the largest underground diesel-powered underground trucks for productivity, speed and cost. Interest is expected from major contractors and miners alike, with one of the bigger markets being the Australian underground hard-rock segment.

The prototype TH665B is currently completing factory testing, but it turned heads in Stockholm, with conference attendees witnessing a video of the machine in action on the company’s test track in California, USA.

Blending proven Sandvik design and advanced technology built around electric drivelines and battery systems, the TH665B will get its first mine site runout at AngloGold Ashanti’s Sunrise Dam gold mine in Western Australia. This trial is expected to prove its viability in a long ramp haulage application before commercial truck production commences in late 2023.

The Sandvik TH665B comes with an electric drivetrain that delivers 640 kW of continuous power, which equates to 858 horsepower

While displaying said video, Ager said the vehicle could haul a 65-t load up a 14.3% grade at 11.5 km/h. This, he said, was 30% faster than Sandvik’s 63-t diesel truck, the Toro TH663i, with which the TH665B shares a state-of-the-art cabin. An electric drivetrain that delivers 640 kW of continuous power, which equates to 858 horsepower, and significant torque, is behind such numbers.

Following the introduction of the Sandvik TH550B 50-tonne battery-electric vehicle at MINExpo INTERNATIONAL® 2021, last September, this latest vehicle launch shows, once again, how the company is betting big on its battery- and hybrid-electric loaders tackling the challenge of operating underground mines today and tomorrow.

Ager at the event outlined the three main drivers for the electrification move, namely: worker health, mine economics and sustainability. Sandvik’s battery-electric solutions, he said, hit all three criteria, providing safer, more productive and sustainable ways of moving the tonnes the industry needs to keep up with global commodity demand.

The primary driver for electrification came from ventilation and refrigeration constraints, followed closely by environmental, health and safety concerns over diesel exhaust emissions. At the same time, Ager said there was significant room for operating costs to fall with the adoption of battery-electric equipment given 40% of total mine operating costs were related to energy and ventilation, and electricity use was often cheaper than transporting and using diesel fuel underground.

Around the same time as MINExpo, Ager outlined that electric mining equipment could account for more than half of the company’s equipment sales in underground mining by 2030. In Stockholm, he added some colour to that statement.

The company’s generation three battery-electric vehicles have clocked up more than 500,000 operational hours with its Artisan™ battery packs and electric drivelines, with 22 active BEV units. This experience makes Sandvik an industry frontrunner, Ager said.

The machines out in the field include the 4-t-payload and 10-t-payload Artisan A4 and A10 LHDs, the Z40/Z50 (40 t/50 t payloads) haul trucks, the Toro™ LH514BE – an AutoMine®-compatible cable-electric loader, boosted with battery technology – plus the 18-t-payload battery-electric Sandvik LH518B LHD and 50-t-payload battery-electric TH550B truck.
This year will see the company officially release the LH514BE, which will be followed in 2023 by the TH665B and – judging from the preliminary nomenclature – a 15 t battery-electric and AutoMine-compatible LHD.

Three other battery-electric and AutoMine-compatible units are in the preliminary stages of development, scheduled for release in 2024-2025.

This comes on top of plans to electrify its full i-Series drilling line by 2030, drill rigs which tram on battery and plug into the grid while drilling/bolting.

Launches for the DD422iE-DC (development drill) and DS422iE (rock bolter) are expected in 2022, with the DL432iE (longhole drill) and the DT923iE (jumbo drill) coming to market between 2023 and 2026.

Since the rollout of the first battery-electric drill in 2016 – the DD422iE – 2.8 million metres had been drilled and 12,500 km had been trammed with these electric machines, Ager acknowledged.

It is not just product releases that are on the Sandvik roadmap, with Ager stating plans to develop different drivelines (battery-electric, hybrids, cable, battery-cable), quantify the value and beat the economics of conventional drivelines, expand into other applications such as narrow vein and narrow reef mines, and continue to develop 100% electrified, energy efficient mechanical cutting for soft- and hard-rock applications.

He also said the company would look to address the capital expenditure gap with diesel machines, aiming for cost parity from a total cost of operations perspective.

The company, at the same time, is planning to further its global capabilities to serve the electrified fleet throughout its entire life cycle, while building out battery optimisation expertise and developing global application knowledge to support customers in designing, planning and executing electric transition strategies.

Real equipment for the real world

This might look like a long ‘to-do’ list, but Ager’s colleague, Brian Huff, VP of Technology and Product Line for the BHEV business unit with Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, was able to outline several real-world wins from machine deployments later at the conference that showed how far the company has already come in addressing industry pain points.

Huff, a co-founder of Artisan Vehicle Systems, relayed some observations from field trials of the company’s LH518B and Z50 battery-electric vehicles, summing them up in series of snappy statements such as: “everything will be serviced, whether it was intended to be or not”; “battery cells are consumable, but the driveline is not”; “damage is expected, resilience and serviceability are required”; “isolation fault monitoring is more than shock hazard prevention”; “availability improves with each ‘opportunity’”; and – one of the more important ones – “operators prefer BEVs”.

“They take a beating and keep on working and, despite what people may think, these batteries are not fragile,” Brian Huff told delegates at The Electric Mine 2022 Conference earlier this month

Delving into specifics, Huff said real-world trials had proven the opinion that electric drivelines came with dramatically longer life and less maintenance. He also acknowledged batteries had become the new ‘consumable’ in this equation.

“Maintenance requires parts, but comes with very low labour,” he said, explaining that battery modules can be replaced underground and then rebuilt at the factory with new cells, making rebuilds both quick and painless. At the same time, refreshing the battery brought opportunities to use improved cells as they are developed – a reflection on the accelerated winds of change in the battery market.

Battling early market perceptions, Huff said these machines were far from “experimental”, having been used and proven to work at many hard-rock mines. “They take a beating and keep on working and, despite what people may think, these batteries are not fragile,” he said.

One of the new solutions to have come out from these real-world trials is the introduction of a new battery cage design that aids serviceability, Huff said. Coming with removable side covers, an improved locking system and structural design, this battery cage incorporates the company’s AutoConnect function, which, when combined with AutoSwap, facilitates quick battery swapping without the operator having to leave the cabin. The new cage would be available on the TH665B as well as other models, Huff said.

He then put some names and numbers behind earlier statements, highlighting a trial of a Z50 truck at Pretivm’s Brucejack gold mine in British Columbia, Canada, that saw more than 90% machine availability, exhibited speeds of 9.5 km/h on a 15% grade with a 42-t load, and observed battery swap times of less than 10 minutes. This added up to a 42% increase in tonnes hauled compared with a diesel-equivalent machine and a 22% boost in speed.

The trial at New Gold’s New Afton gold mine, also in British Columbia, saw a 56% mucking cycle time beat over a diesel-powered-equivalent, a plus-70% ramp speed improvement (on a 17% ramp), and decreases of 80% and 90% in energy use and heat generated, respectively.

Referring to another LH518B trial where the machine only clocked in a 74.9% availability, Huff was quick to highlight that all the problems/failures that caused the reduction in availability were correctible.

And, channelling his engineering DNA and the leading role Sandvik is willing to take in the industry’s pursuit of the zero emission, electrified mine, he reflected on all these real-world trials with: “a failure isn’t a failure, it is an opportunity to improve.”

Cambrian College to set up Battery Electric Vehicle Lab

Sudbury’s renowned Cambrian College is to establish a “Battery Electric Vehicle Lab” after being named a recipient of federal government funding through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) initiative.

Cambrian’s BEV lab is one of 150 projects across Canada to receive funding, with the C$45 million ($35 million) in funding dished out to 43 institutions.

The C$1 million in funding will “provide a significant jolt to our ongoing efforts to help heavy industry adopt battery-electric vehicles and technologies”, Cambrian said in a Twitter post.

The government, in announcing its funding, said: “By establishing the Battery Electric Vehicle Lab, Cambrian College and its Director, Applied Research & Innovation, Michael Commito, hope to encourage this industry to adopt battery-electric vehicles and equipment.

“Ultimately, this project will allow companies to lower operating costs, improve worker health and safety, and play a part in fighting climate change.”

Last year, fellow Sudbury local, MacLean Engineering, partnered with Cambrian to support skills and technology development for the “electric, automated, and digitalised mine of today and tomorrow”.

MacLean’s van Koppen on affecting industry change

MacLean Engineering has been a fast mover when it comes to leveraging battery-electric equipment, having announced an EV Series platform back in September 2016 and rolled out electrified machinery across its production support offering in the five-and-a-half-years since.

A family-owned company with roots in Canada’s mining technology heartland – Sudbury – MacLean is continuing to innovate with new solutions that leverage not only electrification, but the latest in automation and digitalisation too.

IM spoke to Maarten van Koppen, VP Product Management, ahead of his presentation at The Electric Mine 2022, in Stockholm, Sweden, to find out how these three industry trends are converging in line with the company’s Application Intelligence philosophy.

IM: As a mine engineer with experience integrating both battery-electric and autonomous equipment into mining operations (at the Borden operation, among others), what new perspectives have you brought to MacLean since you joined in 2020?

MvK: It’s a little atypical for a mining engineer from a mining company to join an OEM. Mine engineering graduates do join OEMs, but the typical route is to head there straight from school.

In terms of electrification and automation, the perspective that I brought to MacLean was an acute awareness of what is ‘on the other side of the fence’. Having that knowledge has slightly changed the way we interact with customers.

I made a point of preparing material for consultants and study managers that could be very useful in preparing tradeoff studies and inspiring more discussion. We now have an overview for consultants that lists the budgetary prices – based on an ‘average’ MacLean vehicle – for both electric and diesel equipment in an apples-to-apples comparison. We also have crude cost models that can be customised with different energy prices, labour rates and a couple of other key drivers. That really helps consultants with these early tradeoff studies.

Having been a study manager at Borden, I can appreciate what it takes to make consultants and study managers’ lives easier. We are now getting positive feedback from industry that speaks to that.

The good news for me and MacLean was that there was a solid team with Stuart, Anthony and others already doing this work. They understood what the industry was looking for and our key strengths as an OEM.

Since coming in, I have also taken over the static simulations for our EV Series offering. A lot of customers still have range anxiety and I have been able to help with that by customising these simulations for their own sites factoring in, for example, their ramp grades, lengths, etc. Through those simulations, you can outline different scenarios and explain the opportunity charging philosophy in a way that is specific to their operation.

And, finally, MacLean was already on this track, but I reiterated that our battery rental arrangements were very simple and needed to remain so. It is typically just a fixed rate, single number per month. Other OEMs use other arrangements that are a little more complicated, but my experience is that, in terms of forecasting and budgeting, these systems can become onerous to administer and difficult to model out accurately without encountering a bias around expected machine utilisation rates.

IM: At the same time, what was it that attracted you to a company like MacLean?

MvK: First and foremost, my dad, until he retired, was a heavy-duty mechanic who was promoted up the ladder in the company he worked for. This was primarily in the Port of Rotterdam where he helped maintain the big forklifts that operate there – these can be quite complicated from an operational point of view. In that regard, I have always had an affinity and interest in equipment, something that has carried through to my siblings, all of whom are involved in engineering.

Second, joining a family-owned company with three generations of MacLeans involved is a sign of long-term commitment. That was also very attractive.

On a slightly different note, I felt that joining an OEM would allow me to affect the greatest amount of change across the industry. In my role, I get to talk to customers all over the world with a wide range of projects, enabling me to explain where electric machines might make most sense for them in terms of generating increased shareholder value, improved working conditions for employees, etc. That also had a bearing on my decision to join MacLean.

Then, of course, there was an opportunity to embark on a steep learning curve – learning about powertrains, drive trains and all the mechanical and electric bits and pieces that go into our machines. It has been very rewarding so far.

Maarten van Koppen, MacLean Engineering’s VP Product Management

IM: Have you been surprised by the industry take-up of these new solutions since joining MacLean? What trends have supported this acceleration in demand?

MvK: That’s an interesting question. Taking it back a little further, when I started off at Borden, I expected the industry adoption to be quite rapid – perhaps more so than it has been.

We were on a good track in 2019, but the pandemic caused a brief interruption. I think a lot of operations took that time to re-evaluate certain choices or projects.

We were very busy with consultants on tradeoff studies in the early days of the pandemic – that never really stopped – and we’re starting to see these studies result in fleet orders.

The other thing that went under the radar with the pandemic is, in 2020, all the big mining companies made massive commitments to carbon reductions. Part of that is now starting to trickle through with quotes and interest.

For companies that have aggressive targets for 2030, this is impacting fleet decisions today. If you buy a machine now, it will most likely last for 15 years or more, so you are effectively deciding today about what machines you will be operating in 2037.

IM: MacLean initially announced an equipment electrification plan all the way back in September 2016 at MINExpo, selling your first EV Series machine that year. Since then, you have accrued in excess of 100,000 operating hours on these machines. When evaluating this data, what has surprised you in terms of operating performance, industry acceptance, cost outcomes, etc?

MvK: We have a lot of experience with all our BEV equipment, which is spread out across the offering. We have, through this experience, confirmed operating performance and proven the increased speed of these machines going up-ramp. For instance, with the new batteries we are using on 17% ramps, providing the road conditions are OK, you can drive up that ramp at 15 km/h with an empty battery-electric boom truck. You are looking at 8 km/h with a diesel-powered boom truck, so the speed difference is quite significant.

We have also carried out some very targeted trials, one of which was with a customer in British Columbia, Canada, last summer, where we captured those carbon savings with a bit more detail.

In that trial, we recorded 315 hours on the machine over the course of three months. If you had used a diesel machine over those hours, it would have consumed about 5,000 litres of diesel, generating about 18 t of carbon. With the grid being as clean as it is in BC, the carbon emissions from powering up the machine were about 100 times lower than pure diesel – about 130 kg in total.

Even when we do the back calculation using conventional diesel generation to power up these electric machines, it is still three times cleaner than a machine with a diesel engine.

The one thing we still need to do at our test facility in Sudbury is to confirm what heat savings we can achieve when using BEVs compared with diesel vehicles. We know from other work in the industry that we should see an order of magnitude lower heat emissions, and we are looking at building on our own in-house simulations with real-world test data.

IM: Has this data and feedback influenced your EV Series product line developments over this timeframe? What new products/concepts have come to light on the back of analysing this data?

MvK: Absolutely. Our on-board chargers, for instance, now come from a different supplier that offers better performance, a lower price point and an improved tolerance to less-than-ideal power infrastructure. If you have more robust electronics on these batteries, it is always likely to be better suited to more underground mines.

We have also been able to simplify the drivetrain by removing the transfer case for some of our lighter machines such as the shotcrete sprayer.

As well, we have some exciting changes coming up with the offering of a CCS-2-type off-board charger receptacle. For all-electric mines where off-board chargers are required to power other equipment, such as trucks and loaders, we figured it would make sense for our equipment to be compatible. This means we can charge machines with up to 250 kW of power, provided the off-board charger can push that kind of energy. As for on-board charging, we hit a practical limit to our maximum 100 kW charging capacity. Most mine grids have a limit of about 150 kW on their 400-1,000 V AC mine grids to accommodate jumbos, so we have to stay within that limit. Depending on customer needs, we can configure the charging solution to what makes sense for their project or operation.

MacLean, on the charging front, is also working with the BluVein consortium out of Australia to explore overhead battery charging. While primarily focused on haul trucks, this type of charging solution could be a good fit for our battery-electric grader. Graders typically work on ramps – where this charging infrastructure would be located – and, out of all the machines in our portfolio, a grader is the one machine that should not stop moving in ideal circumstances. The overhead charger matches the application in that regard.

We don’t blanket everything with one solution at MacLean – there is a niche for every solution when it comes to batteries and charging. Yet, knowing and understanding what the application is provides us the opportunity to configure a better product for the customer. That type of Application Intelligence is at our core.

Where this ties back to our battery-electric vehicle experience is in the importance of the ramp quality in these types of operations. In every haulage operation, you know the smoother the ramp, the faster you can tram and the more efficient it is for the overall mine. Yet, the added benefit that comes with battery-electric machines is the regeneration opportunities presented with a smoother ramp. That is why we felt it was necessary to come up with a product like this.

IM: On-board, opportunity charging with a standardised battery capacity has been the order of day for the majority of machines you have deployed in mining to this point. Is this blueprint changing for the next generation EV Series in line with the different applications?

MvK: We’re open to evaluating just about everything, but the one thing we are married to is the idea of the battery staying on our vehicle. This makes sense for the type of equipment we make and the applications we serve. Outside of that, we’re pretty flexible.

On top of the CCS 2-type charger coming out in 2022, we have a chiller for active cooling available to allow BEVs to work at higher ambient temperatures. That is currently on a boom truck in South Africa. As you can imagine, it is easier to test a chiller in a South African summer than a Canadian winter. We think we can operate those machines effectively up to 50°C ambient temperature and possibly more.

The battery supplier change is very big for us and we now have a roadmap to improve performance where we can more easily switch between battery products with that one supplier, taking advantage of future improvements.

It is interesting times as that whole battery-electric vehicle component field is changing so much with the world going greener in general terms. The more components we can pick from that are meant for mobile industrial uses, the better we can configure our machines. The one thing I don’t think people realise is that mining equipment manufacturers are way too small to mandate customised components on a machine. We are at the mercy of what components are available on the market.

Those technology improvements will also hopefully put some downward pressure on costs when all the supply chain interruptions settle down.

IM: Where is the industry’s level of maturity with battery-electric solutions? Have many of the initial barriers to entry (upfront cost, worries over range, etc) been overcome?

MvK: I think there is still a bit of a ‘sticker shock’ when people see the quotation for a BEV, which is common among the OEMs. Yet, people are now looking beyond the initial capital cost, taking into consideration the cost savings that can be realised over the lifetime of the machine.

What I find interesting is how capital markets are now playing a role.

For example, underground coal miners, on top of the regulatory pressures they are facing, are now finding it very difficult to attract capital for their operations. The flipside is true when we think about some junior companies out of Canada that have announced plans to go carbon neutral and fully electric – they have been able to attract capital from investors that would typically steer away from mining. This is especially true when they are looking to mine ‘battery minerals’.

There is still a level of scepticism and hesitancy, but customers that have trialled BEVs generally realise the need to go all-electric. I do expect with the regulatory changes in certain jurisdictions where we do a lot of business, there will be more enquiries. If it becomes a tradeoff between going all-electric or spending a tonne of money on upgrading your ventilation infrastructure to abide by regulations, the battery-electric vehicle value proposition for existing operations will become a lot clearer.

“Knowing and understanding what the application is provides us the opportunity to configure a better product for the customer,” van Koppen says. Pictured is the battery-powered TM3 concrete transmixer

IM: In terms of technology development, MacLean has also been developing automation and digitalisation solutions. How do you see all three – electrification, automation and digitalisation – complementing each other?

MvK: The combination of electrification and digitisation is a good match. A lot of our telemetry developments came from the BEV side where we needed those diagnostics; these are now carrying over to the diesel side. Also, integrating automation and digitisation makes a lot of sense for a lot of the same reasons that you need the data to automate operations.

A lot of the engineering challenges will be around automation and electrification working together, and how you get energy into the machine. Driving, stopping and controlling the machine is not a problem – it is actually probably easier on an electric machine – it is how to get energy into it. The consortium we are in with BluVein is one solution, but I don’t think it is the ‘only’ solution. There are others on the market, but they currently come with a price point that makes them prohibitive.

IM: I know you have partnered with universities and colleges on the robotics side of things in recent years. What’s the latest on these developments?

MvK: A lot of the collaboration, to this point, has focused on boom movements. We are starting to automate boom movements as we think it will have applications in not just oversize management with water cannons, blockholers, or secondary ore reduction drills, but shotcrete and explosives loading too.

We are also partnering on several other things with universities and colleges on tech development. One of the things that comes to mind is the Robobolter we are working on right now. Here we are looking to put a robotic arm on the deck of our tried and proven Omnia bolter platform to take the operator out of the environment.

Customers have been telling us for a while that, due to the travel times, heat or seismic exposure, they would like to see the operator further removed from the face when it comes to bolting operations. At the same time, we wanted to make sure this solution had all the strengths of our proven platform bolter – being able to load up for an entire round, provide multiple types of support without extensive retooling, etc. We’re looking to introduce that product in 2023.

Like many of our new products coming out, these vehicles will primarily be designed around battery-electric operation, with a diesel option. That is a shift in thinking – designing for electric with a diesel consideration, instead of the other way around. The grader is the exception to that as we had to make the first one in diesel form. But, when we look at our new explosives rig coming out next year, that is primarily designed as an electric machine, which we will make available in diesel as well.

IM: Is the Robobolter likely to be your most advanced machine in terms of automation, digitalisation and electrification when it comes out in 2023?

MvK: I think the Robobolter, at launch, will be our most advanced machine, but there is increased internal competition within MacLean to reach new benchmarks across our offering. That competition is good for the business and the industry.

It’s refreshing and encouraging that the MacLean ownership is big on growth in both product lines and the territories which we operate in. We also want to disrupt the sector in the niches we operate in, having full support in terms of innovating and coming up with new products.

On top of that, as it is family-owned company, you can make decisions that best suit our customers. For example, our ownership will not allow us to sell machines we cannot support in the field.  This philosophy has somewhat saved our bacon with the supply chain pressures the industry is experiencing of late, ensuring we have enough spares to supply new machines as well as service those in the field.

Maarten van Koppen will be presenting ‘Electric, automated and digitally-connected: the MacLean machine pipeline’ at The Electric Mine 2022 conference in Stockholm, Sweden, on February 17-18, 2022. For more information on the event, click here.

Elphinstone to develop ‘suite’ of underground hard-rock battery-electric vehicles

Elphinstone Pty Ltd has commenced a project to develop a suite of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) for underground hard-rock mining to, it says, address the increasing decarbonisation efforts and expectations of its global customer base.

The project will require a significant research and development investment by the company in addition to the recently awarded Australian Federal Government Grant, according to the company.

Leveraging its existing portfolio of underground support vehicles, Elphinstone will develop the BEVs in collaboration with its customers and supply chain partners and produce these in existing product development and manufacturing facilities in Burnie, Tasmania.

“The Battery Electric Underground Support Vehicle project will build Australian sovereign capability and international export potential, encourage critical skills development required for the future growth of domestic manufacturing, and will ensure Australia remains a global market leader in mining equipment, technology and services (METS),” the company said. “The project scope will encompass an end-to-end research, design, development, testing, validation, manufacturing and market commercialisation of an industry leading battery electric powertrain integrated into two differing base platforms from the existing range of Elphinstone support vehicles.”

Elphinstone said technology projects of this calibre provide growth in highly valued skill sets across the country and will continue to provide jobs in the future. The company expects the project will create 15 highly-skilled positions to complete the development of both machine prototypes.

Elphinstone envisage that the BEV project will also create further opportunities and growth in the state and local communities.

It is currently engaging with strategic partners who have indicated their interest in working closely with Elphinstone on this development project. The vision is to provide a BEV solution at the forefront of technology while maintaining a reputation for high quality, premium and reliable products which are well-positioned and recognised globally in the underground hard-rock mining industry, the company said’.

Hindustan Zinc accelerates growth plans as it partners with industry leaders

Hindustan Zinc Ltd (HZL), a Vedanta Group Company and the world’s second largest integrated producer of zinc and lead, is in acceleration mode, embarking on aggressive expansion and collaboration plans with technology and innovation partners from across the globe.

One of the first mining companies to commit to going “Net Zero” by 2050, it has a strong focus on ESG reinforced by plans to deploy battery-electric vehicles, tap into more solar and wind power potential and recycle waste heat from its captive power plants. Such ambitions are being delivered with up to $1 billion of finance in the next five years to “go green” and, by 2025, achieve focused sustainability goals.

At the same time as it is looking to become an ESG leader, it is boosting its mine and metal production by leveraging “smart mining” and an extensive resource and reserve base.

IM put some questions to Arun Misra, Hindustan Zinc CEO, to find out how the company intends to deliver on its lofty ambitions.

IM: HZL’s 2021 financial year to March 31, 2021, was characterised by record production volumes and profitability; how were you able to achieve such results given the COVID-19-affected constraints on your operations?

AM: The uncertainty has evolved continuously. If I give you an example, we started the year with the uncertainty of COVID only; that is people getting infected leading to absenteeism. It was so contagious, it spread so fast, half of our workforce were down. So, that struck us heavily, but, nevertheless, because we had experience of last year, and this time there was no lockdown of industry, we were able to figure out how to manage and we did manage well, compared to last year’s same quarter, which was also COVID-affected. We had introduced various measures to change the way of working to ensure a safer working environment for the employees. We also got our workforce vaccinated along with their families to further minimise the risks associated with the pandemic.

Hindustan Zinc CEO, Arun Misra, says Hindustan Zinc has been at the forefront of ensuring personal health, be it of its employees or local communities

Furthermore, the automation and digitalisation efforts at Hindustan Zinc are equipped to better withstand these testing times while ensuring quick revival to a normal level of operations.

IM: During the height of the pandemic, HZL – like other socially responsible mining companies – supported communities within or close by to its operations. Can you highlight some of the actions you took over this period and what impact they had?

AM: We at Hindustan Zinc have been at the forefront of ensuring personal health, be it of our employees or local communities. We have gone beyond and extended our support to the state of Rajasthan and the nation at large by contributing significantly to the PM Cares Fund and Rajasthan Chief Minister Relief Fund.

To meet the requirement of oxygen during the second wave of the pandemic, we had set up an oxygen bottling plant at our Dariba unit (Rajsamand district) in a record time of five days and had supplied over 14,000 cylinders of medical oxygen. We even arranged 500 oxygen concentrators to be imported and distributed for use across the state.

We had provided an insulated vaccine van to the Udaipur district medical health office to support a smooth vaccination drive and extended support to the local health administrations, by disinfecting villages by spraying and fumigating with sodium hypochlorite solution and providing medical gear like masks, sanitisers and PPE to local communities.

We even constructed an 8,000 sq.m air-conditioning dome hospital, based on German technology, which has a capacity of 100 beds – including 20 ICU beds – to accommodate patients and provide them with essential COVID treatment and medical facilities.

IM: ESG is obviously a major focus area for HZL, as these examples illustrate. Where specifically are you investing in your mining, power and smelting operations to make them more environmentally friendly?

AM: As a COP26 business leader, we have always been active in tackling the repercussions of climate change and have a strong focus on reducing carbon emissions. We are pioneers in India, declaring our ambition to convert all our mining equipment to battery-operated electric vehicles and will invest $1 billion over the next five years to make our mining operations environmentally friendly.

We are continuously expanding our renewable power of 274 MW of wind and 40 MW of solar under our greenhouse gas reduction goals by converting 50% of our total power to renewable forms in the next five years. We are among the only two metal and mining companies globally – and among four Indian companies – to be part of the coveted CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project) ‘A List’ 2020.

Furthermore, we have even published our first Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) Report this year and have also joined the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) forum to understand nature-related risks and opportunities and accelerate the transition towards a nature-positive and carbon-neutral future.

We have set Sustainability Development Goals to 2025 for ourselves where we are aiming towards sustainable operations for a greener tomorrow.

Hindustan Zinc has embarked on a major growth push at its mining operations with six ongoing expansion projects that will see over 100 km of tunnels developed for underground infrastructure and ore access

IM: At the same time as this, HZL has embarked on a major growth push at your mining operations with six ongoing expansion projects that will see over 100 km of tunnels developed for underground infrastructure and ore access. How are you able to balance your sustainable expansion plans with pledges to reduce your overall footprint?

AM: We strive for operational excellence and cost efficiencies and continue to stay on the growth track while being equally cognisant of our environmental, social and governance commitments, as well as our sustainability goals. We are leveraging more digitalisation and automation than we ever have, as well as engaging with technology leaders to do ‘more with less’.

The SmartDrive equipment we plan to use enables higher productivity, lower operating costs and, most importantly, zero local emissions, featuring in-built energy recuperation technology to make the most of regenerative braking energy during downhill driving and deceleration.

Being a power-intensive business, our key focus is always on reducing dependence on non-renewable sources of energy and enhancing our renewable power base.

IM: How important has it been to partner with like-minded technology and solution providers to ensure you meet these ambitious goals? Can you provide some examples here?

AM: We always look for partners who align with our philosophy of running sustainable operations to achieve company goals. We don’t need one-off solutions from companies to meet our targets; we need companies that will engage throughout our medium- and long-term projects and provide an element of customisation that factors in the realities of operating in our underground mines. We look for global partners to work with us where we exchange ideas, insights and knowledge with them in our growth journey.

We believe in providing opportunities to our business partners to leverage collaboration on technology, innovation and digitalisation, for long-term value creation and mutual growth.

To support our expansion plan, it is crucial for Hindustan Zinc to collaborate with mine development and operation partners who share a similar vision to ours, which is to leverage cutting-edge technology to create a positive impact on the entire mining fraternity. We are currently working with companies like Sandvik, Epiroc, Normet, Barminco, RCT, Siemens, etc as our global partners. We have engaged with them to provide end-to-end solutions rather than sourcing a specific supply or service.

Hindustan Zinc has given an equal platform for women engineers in its mining operations, appointing India’s first female underground mine manager in 2021

IM: You have already stated a goal of 1.5 Mt/y of zinc production in the upcoming years and extending your lead as India’s largest integrated zinc-lead producer; what is your vision for the company to 2030 and beyond?

AM: We are excited about our next phase of expansion to take mining capacity from 1.2 Mt per annum to 1.35 Mt/a. We will surely cross 1 Mt and we should be above our guidance if we achieve the desired run rates in our third and fourth quarters.

While our growth plans are a key part of the company’s future, we are also focused on becoming the leading zinc-lead-silver producer from an environmental, social and governance point of view. Our DJSI Ranking of being among the Top 5 companies in the metal and mining sector is testament to this. We are already winning significant awards for our ESG and CSR efforts, and expect this recognition to continue and grow as we head towards mapping out our 2025 sustainability goals.

Also, the mining value chain is changing across the globe and more consumers are becoming aware of the origins of the products they buy and the emissions that come with their production.

To collaborate with Hindustan Zinc on its green growth mission, email [email protected]

Yamana ups its climate action ante, considers further use of BEVs, automation

Yamana Gold Inc has announced the outcome of its foundational work on its Climate Action Strategy, raising its climate action ambition by adopting a 1.5ºC target compared to pre-industrial levels and laying the groundwork for the incorporation of more renewable energy sources and battery-electric vehicles at its mines.

The foundational work began in early 2021 and Yamana previously indicated it would complete its work and establish science-based greenhouse gas (GHG) abatement targets by the end of the year. This has seen the company determine base year emissions, emissions forecasts, GHG abatement pathways for Scope 1 and 2 emissions, and physical and transition risks aligned with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

After conducting top-down and bottom-up GHG reduction opportunity assessments at each operation, Yamana has raised its ambition from a 2ºC-aligned target in early 2021 to a 1.5ºC target.

Work has been performed in conformance with evolving international best practice, including the GHG Protocol, Science-based Targets Initiative (SBTi) guidelines, and the Mining Association of Canada’s Towards Sustainable Mining Climate Change Protocol.

Based on the company’s analysis of a 1.5ºC temperature scenario, an annual emissions reduction of approximately 4.2% will be required until 2030. Yamana has concluded it will be able to meet these reduction targets by its 2030 target through a focus on efficient, high-grade underground mines and operating in jurisdictions that have a large proportion of available renewable, green electricity.

A newly signed power purchase agreement at its Minera Florida operation (Chile), scheduled to become effective in 2022, will provide 100% renewable electricity over the next five years. When coupled with similar agreements at Jacobina (Brazil, pictured) and El Peñon (Chile), approximately 85% of the company’s gold-equivalent ounces will be produced with renewable energy by the end of next year.

As part of its previously announced growth plans at Wasamac (Canada), Odyssey (Canada) and Jacobina (Brazil), Yamana is evaluating opportunities to further reduce its GHG emissions by investing in battery-electric vehicles, automation and other emerging technologies. Meanwhile, the company’s near-term growth in both Quebec and Brazil will leverage electrical grids that have a high proportion of green, renewable energy. Hydroelectric and other forms of non-fossil fuel energy constituted more than 99.9% of the Quebec grid energy in 2020, it said.

In 2022, the company will continue to refine its analysis and transition to a more operations-focused approach as it continues work to identify and assess additional opportunities to reduce GHG emissions. The company will also begin to define its Scope 3 GHG emissions, including those from its 50% owned Canadian Malartic Mine.

Kamoa-Kakula underground mine looks like having a battery-electric future

The future replacement mining fleet at the Kamoa-Kakula underground copper mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo will likely feature battery-electric vehicles – that was the statement from Pierre Joubert, Executive Vice President – Technical Services, Ivanhoe Mines, at the Energy and Mines Virtual World Congress today.

In his presentation, ‘Decarbonising Fleets: The Road to Net-Zero Operational Emissions’, Joubert outlined how the mine, which is set to produce over 400,000 t/y of copper from the complex next year after completion of the Stage 2 project, was planning to move to a zero-emission footprint. The mine, earlier, this month, announced a daily production record of 729 t of copper, with some 63,000 t of copper produced year-to-date as of October 20, 2021.

Kamoa-Kakula is a joint venture between Ivanhoe Mines (39.6%), Zijin Mining Group (39.6%), Crystal River Global Ltd (0.8%) and the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (20%).

The company started production at Kamoa-Kakula using a diesel fleet at the operation, with 75,000-115,000 t of CO2/y projected from diesel usage underground, however Joubert said there was growing confidence in the use of battery-electric vehicles in underground mine sites, mentioning that commercial equipment such as 18 t payload LHDs and 60 t mining trucks were available on the marketplace.

At the Platreef operation in South Africa, which Ivanhoe indirectly owns 64% of through its subsidiary, Ivanplats, Joubert said the company was currently undergoing tradeoff studies to assess battery-electric vehicle usage against diesel machines. This study was likely to be see results by the end of the year, with a tradeoff study then following at Kamoa-Kakula.

At the same time, Platreef Phase 1 will see the company employ three full battery-electric drill rigs and three-battery-electric LHDs. These units have been ordered, with operation expected to start in April 2022. IM understands the units in question are Epiroc Boomer M2 Battery face drill rigs and Scooptram ST14 Battery LHDs.

The performance of these machines, which come on top of plans to deploy battery-electric service vehicles, will be closely monitored, Joubert said. The company will also study other battery-electric vehicle deployments across the mining space.

Even at this stage, though, Joubert was able to conclude: “We are fairly certain that the next replacement mining fleet at Kamoa-Kakula will be battery-electric vehicles.”

Polymetal pushes forward with Veduga gold project development

The Board of Polymetal has approved a $447 million investment in the Veduga gold project in the Krasnoyarsk Region of Russia based on the results of a recent prefeasibility study (PFS).

Veduga was discovered in 1977 and extensively explored between 1988 and 1996. Polymetal has been a partial owner of the property since 2006 with the original 50% stake acquired through the joint venture with AngloGold Ashanti. In this time, the mining of oxide ore has started, an initial NI-compliant reserve and resources estimate was prepared and open-pit mining of sulphide ore kicked off.

The latest investment will see Polymetal target 10 years of conventional open-pit mining of five open pits until 2031 (including pre-production stripping in 2022-2024), and 12 years of underground mining using a skip shaft for hauling from 2030 to 2041. First production is expected in the June quarter of 2025. This is based off a 4 Moz reserve base grading 3.9 g/t Au.

The prefeasibility study was based on a 2 Mt/y flotation concentrator with dry stacking of tailings. This would see flotation concentrate processed at the future POX-2, while volumes in excess of the facility’s capacity will be sold to third parties.

Veduga could also potentially become a source of feed for the future Pacific POX project, Polymetal said, adding that flowsheet development has been supported by extensive external and in-house metallurgical testing.

Average life of mine annual production is estimated at 200,000 oz of gold at all-in sustaining costs of $800-850/oz.

The project is expected to materially contribute to Polymetal’s carbon emission reduction targets, relying on hydro power to ensure relatively low emission intensity level of 405 kg CO2e/oz gold equivalent in 2025-2030 on average. This is well below the group’s target of 560 kg CO2e/oz of gold equivalent by 2030, it said.

Of the $447 million capital expenditure (inclusive of capitalised pre-stripping costs), $77 million is dedicated to a “post-launch” skip shaft and underground infrastructure construction in 2027-2029. Polymetal said further studies will be undertaken to evaluate alternative ore transportation options that could reduce the capital spending. It also said it plans to use exclusively battery-electric vehicles throughout the underground mine.

The extended open pit allows to shift underground development capital costs beyond the start-up capital expenditure, Polymetal added.

Polymetal currently owns a 59.4% stake in Veduga and holds a call option to increase its stake to 100% at a pre-determined price giving VTB Bank a fixed rate of return on initial investment. Following the final statutory clearance – expected in the June quarter of 2022 – Polymetal plans to fully consolidate the asset.

Epiroc-Fraser McGill collaboration highlights battery-electric vehicle benefits

Epiroc says its collaboration with Fraser McGill on an impact study of battery-electric vehicles has exceeded expectations, opening up a new frontier in the worldwide underground power revolution.

In 2018, Epiroc launched a new suite of battery-powered products. Following that, the company approached one of the partners in the Waterberg Platinum Group Metals project in South Africa to present the equipment. As a greenfield project, the mine will be able to tailor its planned infrastructure to new equipment technologies, thereby maximising potential benefits. Specialist mining and minerals advisory company, Fraser McGill, was approached to conduct an impact study of battery-electric vehicles and requested help from industry leader Epiroc.

Epiroc’s Mining & Construction publication brought Epiroc’s Don Thompson and Fraser McGill Director, Rob McGill, together to discuss what they found.

Epiroc: How did Fraser McGill come to cooperate with Epiroc on this study?

RM: I’ve been involved with the Waterberg project for many years. I’d been interested in battery-vehicle technologies, specifically to reduce the ventilation and the cooling requirements, but hadn’t had the opportunity to look at battery vehicles in detail. We weren’t looking to partner with one supplier. We were conducting a broad assessment, looking at the impact of battery-electric vehicles on large underground projects – not specifically Epiroc’s equipment. But Epiroc was the furthest ahead in the game, and still is. With the relationship we had with Epiroc, it was a natural fit.

Fraser McGill Director, Rob McGill

Epiroc: What practical steps did your collaboration entail?

DT: Epiroc introduced our first-generation battery-electric fleet in Canada in 2016. We launched the next generation in 2018, with better battery and motor technology. By then we had clocked up more than 100,000 hours, so we had good data, based on actual machines running in production environments. For this study, we provided the technical comparison of diesel versus battery electric, and the benefits thereof, because we can supply the diesel equivalent of a battery-electric machine. We could provide a comparison of heat generation – with ventilation, there’s a significant reduction of what is required. We could also provide the emissions. That was provided to Rob and his team.

RM: Diesel vehicles have been around a long time. There is a lot of data from operations, in terms of how they perform, costs, maintenance schedules and replacement schedules. With the electric vehicles being newer, we had to rely on Epiroc to make a lot of theoretical data available related to the design, and data they’ve been gathering since they rolled out their first generation and the next-generation machines. We conducted the study, but relied on Epiroc to provide us with input and insights, and technical and costing information that allowed us to do an assessment. The comparison goes far beyond comparing two vehicle technologies. The battery vehicle certainly is more efficient and, over time, cheaper. But a lot of the benefits relate to the environment that they operate in – to improvements in health, safety and productivity of workers.

Epiroc: How did your collaboration help identify mine infrastructure and design modifications needed?

DT: We provided the specifications on the chargers required. We provided a number of scenarios and battery selections, and different layouts of charging stations. Fraser McGill would recommend where the client should put the charging station and we could recommend the capacity of the chargers, based on the size and number of vehicles.

RM: A crucial opportunity in a greenfield project is that it allows you to consider how an underground mine would be designed differently if you started with a battery-electric vehicle in mind.

DT: The technical data Epiroc provided would be applicable to greenfield and brownfield operations, but it’s much more suited to a greenfield operation because you can adjust the mine layout. The mine would consider redesigning the tunnel layout to see where we can enhance the regeneration of batteries because it reduces the cost.

RM: An example is the hauling model. If we predominantly hauled rock on the incline versus the decline, we would significantly increase our battery operating cost. It’s something we can quantify already, but it requires that redesign.

Epiroc: What made your collaboration a success, and what have you learned from it?

DT: Interest from the client was probably the main driver. They realised that, with a greenfield project, it made sense to do a trade-off study. But I don’t think we could have done this alone. We don’t have the resources, here or in Sweden, when it comes to the full package calculation – be it ventilation, the mining layout, or contacts with the different clients.

Don Thompson, Manager Global Customer Relationships, Epiroc

RM: Any collaboration is successful if you’ve got the same vision. We must ensure we provide decision-making tools that are well informed, so we need to speak to people who really know what they’re talking about. Then we can comfortably go to our mining customers and say: this is really the way to go. I’m very impressed with what Epiroc has done in this regard.

Epiroc: How was the study received?

RM: Since completing this study and circulating some of the outcomes, we’ve had interest in Canada, in Australia and from several customers in South Africa who we are talking to about doing similar studies. The technologies are so attractive, and customers are asking: Where do I start? How do I roll it out? What’s the state of the technology?

Epiroc: Do you foresee future collaboration?

RM: Absolutely. It’s been a good experience, and we rely on working with experts. We are thrilled to have worked with a technology leader like Epiroc.

DT: Another client has shown an interest in battery-electric technology for a new mine they are developing. They want to do a comparative study, and we hope to collaborate with Fraser McGill on this, too.

This interview is an edited version of a piece that first appeared here