Tag Archives: battery-electric

WAE putting Fortescue in mine electrification pole position

Andrew Forrest’s statement on Fortescue Metals Group’s planned acquisition of Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE), an offshoot of the Williams F1 team founded by the revered, late Sir Frank Williams CBE, back in January was hardly understated.

He said: “This announcement is the key to unlocking the formula for removing fossil fuel powered machinery and replacing it with zero carbon emission technology, powered by FFI (Fortescue Future Industries) green electricity, green hydrogen and green ammonia.”

As time has progressed, the £164 million ($193 million) deal for the UK-based WAE closed (in March), and another significant announcement in the form of a tie-up between FMG, FFI, WAE and Liebherr has followed, the FMG Founder and Chairman’s words have looked increasingly prescient.

This became apparent to IM on a recent visit to WAE’s Grove headquarters in Oxfordshire, England.

What FMG now has on its books and what FFI is managing in the form of WAE is arguably one of the world’s leading decarbonisation technology companies.

WAE’s reach goes far beyond the pit lanes of a race track. Its impact is felt in the automotive, defence, aerospace, energy, life sciences and health care sectors – as an example, a Babypod 20, a Formula One-inspired environment for new-born babies in need of emergency transportation, was on display in the boardroom IM sat in during an interview at Grove.

One of its more recent market entries has been in mining, with WAE’s fingerprints on two of the industry’s major fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) haul truck movements.

Prior to the acquisition by Fortescue, WAE provided “electrical architecture and control hardware and software” for the battery system on a 100-day “sprint” FFI project focused on converting a legacy 221-t class Terex Unit Rig MT4400 AC electric drive, diesel-powered haul truck to run on a ‘green’ hydrogen 180 kW fuel cell system and a 300 kW/h battery.

For the nuGen FCEV truck that premiered at Anglo American’s Mogalakwena PGM mine in South Africa earlier this year, WAE supplied a 1.2 MWh battery pack that, along with multiple fuel cells amounting to 800 kW of power, propelled the converted 291-t-class Komatsu 930E around the mine site.

Input to these two projects put WAE on the mining map, but this represents a fraction of the impact the company is likely to have on mining’s decarbonisation journey going forward.

WAE is currently engaged on two major projects for FFI – one being the conversion of another legacy Terex MT4400 AC electric-drive truck to an all-battery powered setup and the other being an all-battery rail loco that FFI has named the INFINITY TRAIN™.

Both projects highlight the depth of battery system technology expertise that led FMG to acquiring the company in the first place – design expertise spawned from development across multiple sectors and operating environments, utilising the latest cell technology across all form factors.

There is a common thread that hangs between all this work, as Craig Wilson, WAE CEO, explained to IM.

“We develop our battery systems for the specific application, factoring in the duty cycle, the cost constraints, required performance and environment the solution will be working in,” he said. “In motorsport, for instance, you can imagine weight, aerodynamics and space are more critical than they are in mining.”

Being battery cell, chemistry and format agnostic, WAE has built up a reputation in the battery industry for specifying and developing a diverse pool of battery systems that continue to push performance to the limit.

Differentiated modelling

Sophisticated modelling and simulation tools – much of which has been developed in-house – are behind this, according to WAE’s Chief Programme Manager, Alec Patterson.

“We have detailed in-house simulation tools which allow us to develop and optimise a battery pack’s performance against any customer’s drive cycle criteria,” he said. “This includes thermal simulation where the team model the detailed internals of a cell, allowing them to understand exactly how each cell is likely to behave and, thereby, being able to optimise their cooling for increased performance. This comes from our motorsport heritage and the team’s ability to manipulate and analyse large amounts of data through supercomputer levels of processing power.”

Prototyping and field tests are designed to “validate” this modelling and simulation work, he added.

Battery design also calls for a strong focus on safety and this is where WAE’s extensive practical experience is fully utilised.

“We have detailed in-house simulation tools which allow us to develop and optimise a battery pack’s performance against any customer’s drive cycle criteria,” Alec Patterson says

Patterson summarised this offering: “There are a number of ways the battery is developed to ensure cell safety. These range from understanding in detail the performance of the cell through practical testing, the design of the modules themselves and the monitoring of the cells for voltage and temperature throughout usage. WAE has developed its own Cell Monitoring Unit hardware and Battery Management Unit hardware and, combined, they monitor the status of the pack and control the performance outputs many times a second. In the FFI battery sub pack, dielectric (non-conductive) coolant is used so if a leak was to occur it wouldn’t cause an internal issue; detection of which would be through WAE’s propriety on-board sensors.”

Overlay these preventative measures with an array of experience in various fields that would have seen battery systems take significant G-shock loads and operate in high temperature environments – whether that be a crash on a Formula E circuit or an Extreme E race in the Sahara – and it is easy to see why FMG initially believed WAE had knowledge and skills transferrable to mining.

Patterson concludes that advances in quality within the manufacturing process will also add to the reliability of the sub packs. At WAE those advances come in the form of laser welding, which ensures each cell is connected robustly for maximum performance.

Battery prototype progress

All this and more are being factored into the 221-t all-battery solution WAE is currently focused on as part of the FFI and FMG brief.

The battery will take the place of the diesel engine and alternator and will plug directly into the Terex MT4400 inverter to drive the motors and rear wheels. The battery system will have a capacity of >1 MWh (final specification to be revealed at a later date) and will be charged by a “fast-charge solution” sourcing power from a renewable grid FMG has already setup as part of its 60 MW Chichester Solar Gas Hybrid Project.

FMG has already set up a renewable grid as part of its 60 MW Chichester Solar Gas Hybrid Project

Once the battery system is delivered, integrated into the truck and commissioned at FFI’s Hazelmere facility, it will be transported to the Pilbara where it will start extensive testing outside FMG’s current mining operations.

WAE, FMG and FFI have overcome more than a few hurdles to get to the point where they can talk about such a plan.

While most of the battery houses in the UK can test each sub pack individually, WAE had to locate a specialist test house capable of testing out the full battery pack from both a motor-drive perspective and a battery re-generation standpoint.

This has seen the complete solution – a 12 t motor, inverter, cooling system, battery system and power distribution unit – begin testing a few months back.

Charging packs of this scale is one of the major industry challenges currently.

“Our charging strategy is centred around the individual cell chemistry and form factor which allows us to specify a higher rate of charge for the battery sub pack,” Patterson said. “To enable fast charging, a combination of a large charger and ability to cool the pack through the charging process is required, and our pack is designed for both.”

At the same time, WAE is aiming to further optimise the regeneration aspect of the electrification project, realising this is key to getting the trucks to complete as many haul cycles as possible without the downtime associated with a battery recharge – even if it is a ‘fast charge’.

“The real challenge is centred around how to manage the large accumulation of energy from the wheel motor during braking or retarding downhill fully laden,” Patterson said. “Do you send this to the battery or the resistor grid to burn off? Our job is to optimise the power electronics to make sure as much of that energy as possible goes back into the battery in order to make the whole system more efficient.”

The entire battery system will soon be shipped to Australia to go into the Terex truck at Hazelmere, at which point the charging system can be fully tested and the re-generation system trialled.

Leveraging gravity

This work will no doubt influence the other big project WAE is currently involved in for FFI and FMG – the electrification of FMG’s rail operations.

Fortescue’s current rail operations include 54 operating locomotives that haul 16 train sets, together with other on-track mobile equipment. Each train set is about 2.8 km in length and has the capacity to haul 34,404 t of iron ore in 244 ore cars.

A world first, zero emission INFINITY TRAIN concept has been put forward to replace this setup – which travels on some 620 km of track between the Cloudbreak mine and Herb Elliott Port at Port Hedland.

Fortescue’s rail operations consumed 82 million litres of diesel in the 2021 financial year, accounting for 11% of Fortescue’s Scope 1 emissions (©JoshFernandes2021)

The regenerating battery-electric iron ore train project will use gravitational energy to fully recharge its battery-electric systems without any additional charging requirements for the return trip to reload, according to FMG.

The challenges associated with this project include the size of the battery and motor combination required to store enough energy from the fully laden, downhill journey from Cloudbreak to Herb Elliott Port to make sure the unladen trains can travel back without a charge, and the residual power and torque generation that would typically be applied to get the locos started.

On the latter, Patterson said: “Your contact area in terms of the wheel to rail is very small in comparison to the load, so our control strategy will utilise learning from our in-house VDC (vehicle dynamic control) software to design a solution that controls slippage for maximum adhesion.”

If an appropriate solution comes to the fore, the sustainable value is significant for FMG.

Fortescue’s rail operations consumed 82 million litres of diesel in the 2021 financial year, accounting for 11% of Fortescue’s Scope 1 emissions. This diesel consumption and associated emissions will be eliminated once the INFINITY TRAIN is fully implemented across Fortescue’s operations, significantly contributing to Fortescue’s target to achieve “real zero” terrestrial emissions (Scope 1 and 2) across its iron ore operations by 2030.

Electrification for everyone

Just as WAE’s involvement in the conception of the first Formula E battery led to wider electrification in motorsport, WAE believes its work in mining will have far-reaching ramifications across the off-highway sector.

Just how far reaching it will be is dictated by the most significant project – in terms of scale and timeline – WAE has on its books.

In June, FMG announced a partnership with Liebherr for the development and supply of green mining haul trucks for integration with the “zero emissions power system” technologies being developed by FFI and WAE.

Under the partnership, Fortescue will purchase a fleet of haul trucks from Liebherr; a commitment that represents approximately 45% of the current haul truck fleet at Fortescue’s operations, with truck haulage diesel consumption representing approximately 200 million litres in the 2021 financial year, accounting for 26% of Fortescue’s Scope 1 emissions.

The zero emissions power system technologies are expected to be fitted on machines based off the 240-t T 264 model to be deployed at its Pilbara mining operations. They could include both battery-electric and FCEV configurations, hence the reason why the all-battery prototype project and the FCEV project are so significant.

With the first of the zero emission haul truck units expected to be fully operational within Fortescue mine sites by 2025, FMG, WAE and Liebherr look set to take the electrification lead over its mining company peers.

The zero emissions power system technologies are expected to be fitted on machines based off Liebherr’s 240-t T 264 model to be deployed at Fortescue’s Pilbara mining operations

Yet Wilson says this type of solution could turn into a commercial product that others select for their own decarbonisation program – hence the industry-wide electrification potential.

When asked the question whether the company may still supply battery systems to the likes of Anglo American (as it did for the NuGen truck) under the new Fortescue ownership, he replied: “We could do, but the decision is not just down to us.

“Through the relationship with Liebherr, the intention is to provide really competitive products that are available to other mining companies, whether it be Anglo, Vale or BHP, for example…The absolute intention is not to come up with a development or product that is just for Fortescue.”

In this respect, he likens FMG to Tesla in the way the electric car manufacturer has acted as the catalyst to fundamentally change the automotive sector’s electrification approach.

“Tesla, today, is nowhere near being considered a large automotive manufacturer by industry standards, but they have created a catalyst for everybody else to move from in terms of battery-powered cars,” Wilson said.

“They have almost coerced the rest of the manufacturers to move this way; you only need to look at VW Group now – one of the world’s largest car makers – that is committing the majority of its business towards electrification.

“The difference with Fortescue is it is both the operator of these vehicles as well as the owner of the technology (through WAE). It is developing these products to use them, putting its whole business on the line.”

This extends as far as looking at its own mining operations and how it can optimise the pit profile and infrastructure to benefit from all the advantages expected to come with battery-electric haulage.

“Both the Fortescue mine planning and decarbonisation teams are working hand-in-hand with us to develop a mine site for the future of electric mining,” Patterson said. “We are working together to answer the questions about what needs to change to operate these trucks to maximise uptime, where to put the charging points, how to optimise the charging, etc.

“That work is going to be really important for us in terms of developing a commercial solution that provides the sustainable gains over the long term and decarbonises the entire fleet.”

Even when factoring in a project that takes ‘stretch targets’ to a new level, that is reliant on sourcing components from an evolving electrification supply chain, and that is scheduled to see solutions arrive within three years of finding an OEM partner in the form of Liebherr, it’s hard to doubt WAE, FMG, FFI and (of course) Andrew Forrest from steering such a project through to the finish line.

After that, it’s a matter of the rest of the industry catching up.

Zinnwald striving for battery-electric circularity with lithium project development

The development of the integrated Zinnwald lithium project in Germany could see the incorporation of a battery-electric fleet of LHDs and the return of metal production to a region of saxony with mining history dating back to the Middle Ages.

The London-listed owner of the project, Zinnwald Lithium Plc, has just released a preliminary economic study on its namesake project focused on supplying battery-grade lithium hydroxide to the European battery sector.

As with any responsible battery metal project being developed today, the project’s ‘green credentials’ are being considered even at this early stage.

Zinnwald Lithium has been keen to flag these, mentioning the project is located close to the German chemical industry, a fact that should enable it to draw on a well trained and experienced workforce with well-developed infrastructure, plus reduce the ‘carbon footprint’ of the final end-use product.

This focus will see all aspects of the project – from mining through to production of the end product – located near to the deposit itself.

Zinnwald Lithium also said the project has the potential to be a low- or ‘zero-waste’ project, as the vast majority of both its mined product and co-products have their own large-scale end-markets.

This could see it produce not only battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate products, but sulphate of potash (SOP) for the fertiliser market and precipitated calcium carbonate (PCC) – the latter being a key filling material in the paper manufacturing process.

The project now includes an underground mine with a nominal output of approximately 880,000 t/y of ore at an estimated 3,004 ppm Li and 75,000 t/y of barren rock. Processing, including mechanical separation, lithium activation and lithium fabrication, will be carried out at an industrial facility near the village of Bärenstein, near the existing underground mine access and an existing site for tailings deposition with significant remaining capacity.

With a 7-km partly-existing network of underground drives and adits from the ‘Zinnerz Altenberg’ tin mine, which closed in 1991, already mapped out, the bulk of ore haulage is expected to be via either conveyor or rail

The nominal output capacity of the project is targeted at circa-12,000 t/y LiOH with circa-56,900 t/y of SOP, 16,000 t/y of PCC, circa-75,000 t/y of granite and 100,000 t/y of sand as by-products.

The company is looking to complete the ‘circularity’ dynamic in its fleet and equipment selection, according to CEO, Anton Du Plessis, who mentioned that electric LHDs could be used to load and haul ore to an ore pass in the envisaged operation.

He said the cost estimates to use such equipment – which are factored into the project’s $336.5 million initial construction capital expenditure bill – have come from Epiroc, which has a variety of battery-operated mobile equipment.

“The base case is battery-operated loaders,” he told IM. “The final selection will be based on an optimisation study where, in particular, partly trolley-fed haulage systems will be investigated.”

Forms of automation are also being studied, Du Plessis said, with the caveat that “only select technologies we consider proven” will be evaluated.

Zinnwald Lithium is also looking at electric options for long-hole drilling underground, with both battery-based units and cabled versions under consideration and requiring firming up in the optimisation study.

With a 7-km partly-existing network of underground drives and adits from the ‘Zinnerz Altenberg’ tin mine, which closed in 1991, already mapped out, the bulk of ore haulage is expected to be via either conveyor or rail. The former, of course, will be powered by electricity, but the company is also considering potential battery-electric options for the latter, according to Du Plessis.

The company is blessed with existing infrastructure at the mine, which should help it in advancing the project at the pace its potential end-use manufacturing suppliers would like. It is already evaluating options for the construction stage – with an engineering, procurement and construction management contract the most likely option – and it has plans to conclude a feasibility study by the end of next year.

Du Plessis said while most of the fixed assets have been removed or were deemed outdated a long time ago from the former operating underground mine, other infrastructure was in good shape.

“The excavations, main level, underground workshop, ventilation shafts and, particularly, 2020 refurbished access tunnel provide a very good starting point for our project,” he said. “The access tunnel was originally constructed for dewatering the old mine and, therefore, the mine and the tunnel have been maintained very well.”

The company is now shifting to the bankable feasibility study and currently selecting partners for the project.

With what it calls a “simple, five-stage processing” route confirmed by test work for the extracted material at Zinnwald, the company is looking to select OEMs with the optimal concept for the project, Du Plessis said.

“In the PEA, mineral processing equipment cost is based on Metso Outotec estimates, pyrometallurgy is based on Cemtec technology, and hydrometallurgy is based on various providers’ technology,” he clarified.

Zero Automotive overcoming barriers with BEV conversion offering

Zero Automotive is one of several Australia-based companies looking to supply the clean and green light utility vehicles the domestic hard-rock sector requires over the next decades to achieve crucial sustainability goals while retaining high productivity levels.

Thanks to the support of a significant copper-gold miner in Australia, its membership of the Electric Mine Consortium (EMC) and METS Ignited backing, the company finds itself in a strong position to deliver these machines against a backdrop of supply chain issues and ever-evolving safety and regulatory requirements.

“We’ve got commitments for six machines altogether and are in the process of offering our production version to the market,” Dan Taylor, Business Development Manager for Zero Automotive, says.

The first and second units are already running at OZ Minerals’ Carrapateena copper-gold mine in South Australia – Zero Automotive’s home state.

The first machine – a ZED70 Ti™ battery-electric light vehicle – was originally delivered to the mine at the back end of 2020 for testing. After successful trials, the company acquired this unit outright and, in early-2022, added a second Zero Automotive ZED70 Ti to enable its workforce to familiarise themselves with the capabilities and charging methodology that come with electric light utility vehicles.

Since then, the company has delivered a third ZED70 Ti conversion to Barminco, which is now on site at its client IGO Ltd’s Nova nickel-copper-cobalt operation in Western Australia. This vehicle is the first single cab conversion developed by Zero Automotive and will be deployed to site foremen to allow the mining contractor to gain a good understanding of its capabilities.

All three of these machines – and the three to follow – are based off battery-electric conversions of the Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series, a vehicle that has been part of the Australian mining landscape for many years.

The modular nature of the Zero Automotive platform enables its long-life battery energy system to be reused in multiple chassis, lowering the total lifecycle cost of the fleet as well as the cost of Scope 1 emissions, according to the company.

They also include dual AC-DC charging with the CCS Combo2 connection, which is becoming increasingly standardised in the mining space.

Data and feedback from the second OZ Minerals machine and the initial Barminco vehicle will be fed back into the EMC ecosystem under the Light and Auxiliary Equipment Working Group as part of the consortium’s continual improvement and knowledge sharing remit.

The EMC said of the consortium’s ongoing light and auxiliary equipment electrification ambitions: “Converting light and auxiliary vehicles as rapidly as possible to electric is key to the industry building the broader understanding and familiarity with electric equipment and infrastructure that will accelerate adoption across all aspects of operations.”

The EMC is a growing group of over 20 mining and service companies driven by the imperative to produce zero-emission products for their customers and meet mounting investor expectations. The objective of the EMC, backed by METS Ignited, is to accelerate progress toward the zero-carbon and zero-particulate mine.

The following three machines are also expected to be deployed to EMC members, with METS Ignited agreeing to provide some A$400,000 ($297,938) of funding towards the diesel-to-battery conversion projects outside of the vehicles already delivered to OZ Minerals.

“The key thing with all of these vehicle deployments is the ZED70 Ti being able to do the job the miners need to perform safely and reliably, getting the associated charging infrastructure right and working with key stakeholders on the change management process,” Dave Mitchell, founder and CEO of Zero Automotive, says. “Operators also need to get used to the power under the hood and how to maximise the battery re-charging capabilities when going down ramp.

“As a matter of course, we train up and educate the sites about the best way to utilise these vehicles,” he said.

To this point, the two prototype vehicles already operating out at Carrapateena have shown that they can work for a typical shift without requiring a re-charge and can then utilise the battery’s AC/DC-DC fast-charge option during shift changeover to enable another user to run the machine for the following shift.

The use of LTO (Lithium Titanate Oxide) battery chemistry and a 60-kWh battery capacity has been behind this performance. This electric motor can generate continuous power of 75 kW and peak power of 134 kW, plus 358 Nm of continuous torque. These values will be increased to 100 kW, 200 kW and 520 Nm (1,200 Nm peak) for the production version.

To this point, the power dimension has often been the main metric quoted with any battery-electric machine, but Taylor pointed out that safety and regulatory considerations were often the biggest barriers to overcome in terms of getting machines operating at underground mines – a hurdle that Zero Automotive has cleared.

“We were able to successfully commission our second ZED70 Ti for OZ Minerals within two days of the machine arriving on site,” he said. “A lot of people are putting out offerings for light utility vehicles, but the required risk analysis in terms of deploying a vehicle underground has not been successfully worked through. This is rightfully a high bar to clear.

“We address any safety or regulatory considerations during our design process – not when the machine is on site – to make sure that operators can start using them quickly.”

Mitchell adds: “The user case is what we are focused on. That has allowed us to scale our offering quickly and ensure our clients can start running the machine underground as soon as they have it on site.”

Zero Automotive is expecting to deploy the other three machines on its books to the same companies (OZ Minerals and Barminco), but the final two machines of the six to be delivered will be under a revised platform to the original ZED70 Ti.

“It will be a platform that is designed from the ground up that incorporates the desired features and learnings from the first conversions, but we will simplify it to reduce complexity, weight and cost,” Mitchell said. “We’re sticking with the same battery configuration – which has proven itself in terms of power, safety and longevity – but we’re adding some auxiliary power outputs and ensuring the machine is multi-purpose.”

The latter element is tied to the company’s medium-to-long-term ambitions, which include the potential to supply battery-electric machines specific to the extended range space too.

For now, Zero Automotive is focused on getting its machines underground at hard-rock operations, ensuring operators and mining companies start realising the productivity and emission benefits that come with these zero-emission conversions.

Sandvik to supply battery-electric vehicle fleet to Hindustan Zinc’s SK Mine

Sandvik and Hindustan Zinc have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for supply of a battery-electric underground equipment fleet to be used at Sindesar Khurd Mine to help it achieve its carbon neutrality ambitions.

Deliveries are scheduled to begin in the March quarter of 2023, with the fleet being the first underground battery-electric fleet to be deployed in India.

The equipment to be delivered includes an 18-t-payload LH518B loader and three 50-t-payload TH550B trucks (pictured) as well as a DD422iE drill rig with Sandvik’s unique and patented ”charging-while-drilling” technology, the company said.

Sandvik will also provide batteries, charging systems and a full-range on-site battery and equipment service team. The loader and the trucks will be equipped with AutoSwap, Sandvik’s patented battery self-swapping system, capable of battery changeout in a few minutes.

“Aligned with our expansion strategy for battery-electric vehicles, I’m delighted to sign this agreement with Hindustan Zinc to deliver the first battery equipment fleet in India,” Henrik Ager,  President of Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, said. “This is a testament to both the pioneering ambitions of Hindustan Zinc and the technological maturity of Sandvik BEV products.”

The TH550B truck and LH518B loader are based on the Artisan™ technology, which Sandvik acquired in 2019, and enriched with the latest Sandvik mining technology, contributing to overall productivity improvements of up to 20%, the OEM said. The machines will be equipped with state-of-the-art battery telemetry solutions enabling automated, on-premise as well as remote health and performance monitoring.

The Artisan driveline and battery solutions have been field tested with more than 500,000 operating hours.

Miller sells first BEV converted light utility vehicle to Alamos’ Young-Davidson

Miller Technology has announced the first sale of its new battery-electric utility vehicle for mining to the Young-Davidson gold mine, in Ontario, Canada, owned by Alamos Gold Inc.

The sale, a battery-electric conversion of a diesel-powered light utility vehicle called the Miller BEV Land Cruiser, follows trials of a Miller Land Cruiser and Miller’s ground-up battery-electric vehicle − the Relay − at Young-Davidson.

“Miller Technology’s electric vehicle is a prime example of how Canada is leading the world in green technology, reducing operating costs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and most importantly improving employee health,” Anthony Rota, the Member of Parliament for Nipissing—Timiskaming, Ontario, said at a press conference to announce the sale. “We are proud to see them serve the world from North Bay in the riding of Nipissing-Timiskaming.”

Light utility vehicles are driven underground to safely move mining staff around the mine site. Historically, these utility vehicles have had diesel engines, which emit greenhouse gas emissions and impairs underground air quality. Miller has developed a conversion kit to exchange the diesel engine for an electric motor, in addition to a number of other mining-specific modifications to the vehicle. These vehicles are often run 24 hours a day, and Miller has patented certain aspects of its IONIC Drive system. Prior to releasing this BEV conversion, Miller had built the Relay platform.

Dan Bachand, the CEO of Miller, said: “With our original build Relay, BEV conversion kit and new projects such as an E-grader, the Ionic Drive System that Miller has developed has arrived at the top of the battery-electric heavy duty-cycle drive systems. I want to thank our team members for their hard work. All of our staff have helped get us to this point.”

He added: “I want to thank Alamos Gold for their courage and commitment to battery-electric vehicles and emissions reductions. This is a great step forward by Alamos Gold to reduce diesel fumes and emissions, helping with employee health, fossil fuel reductions and to slow global warming.”

Léon Grondin-Leblanc, General Manager, Young-Davidson, said: “The Young-Davidson mine’s emission intensity is less than half the industry underground mine average as a result of increased electrification and automation of our lower mine infrastructure, which we completed two years ago, and today’s announcement is yet another step forward.”

Epiroc captures battery-electric, automation order from Odyssey Mine owners

Epiroc has won a major battery-electric and autonomous fleet order from the owners of the Odyssey Mine in Malartic, Québec, Canada.

The order, from the Canadian Malartic Partnership, will be used in the new underground gold mine.

The Canadian Malartic Partnership, a 50:50 JV between Yamana Gold Inc and Agnico Eagle Ltd, is constructing the Odyssey Mine, which will become one of Canada’s largest gold mines when it is fully ramped up later this decade.

The ordered equipment includes a variety of drill rigs, loaders and mine trucks, with some of the machines will be battery powered. Automation features include Minetruck Automation and Scooptram Automation, which are part of Epiroc’s 6th Sense portfolio of digital solutions. By combining these solutions with Epiroc’s Traffic Management System, material handling is optimised within the mine, bringing benefits such as virtually eliminating the risk of collisions, Epiroc said.

Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, said: “The Canadian Malartic Partnership is taking a massive next step with the new underground mine where our battery-electric and other advanced machines with state-of-the-art automation and traffic management solutions will help optimise safety and productivity. Epiroc and the Canadian Malartic Partnership have a history of successful cooperation, and we look forward to continue contributing to their success.”

The equipment order also includes education and training using sophisticated simulators, which was flagged by IM earlier this year.

This is the second equipment order from the Canadian Malartic Partnership. Epiroc also won a large order for drill rigs, loaders, and mine trucks in the September quarter of 2021.

The Odyssey Mine is located just west of the Canadian Malartic Partnership’s open-pit gold mine, which is still in operation, and to which Epiroc in previous years has provided Pit Viper surface drill rigs.

Odyssey is expected to feature an LTE mobile communication network, an automated fleet of 60 t trucks operated from the surface and on-demand ventilation, the Canadian Malartic Partnership has previously stated. All all of the major production fleet, including trucks, drills and LHDs, are also expected to be battery electric.

The Odyssey Mine will be accessed by a ramp and a shaft estimated to be 1,800 m deep. Plans are to extract 19,000 t of ore at an estimated grade of about 2.75 g/t gold and roughly 5,000 t/d of waste rock during peak operations.

Patrick Mercier, General Manager of the Odyssey Mine, said: “Over the years, Epiroc has clearly demonstrated its willingness to be a leader in the technical evolution of mining equipment, whether in electrification or automation. Obviously, this transition will not happen by itself. We are privileged that Epiroc has proposed us a collaborative approach in order to effectively integrate their equipment into the Odyssey Mine and actively participate in this evolution. The benefits from this collaboration will contribute to making mines even safer and jobs more accessible in the field.”

The equipment ordered during the March quarter includes battery-electric versions of the Boltec (an M10 Boltec, pictured) rock reinforcement drill rig, Simba production drill rig and Boomer face drilling rig (jumbo). It also includes an Easer raise boring rig, Scooptram loaders, and Minetruck haulers. The machines will be equipped with Epiroc’s telematics system Certiq, which allows for intelligent monitoring of machine performance and productivity in real time. Epiroc will also provide service and spare parts, as well as expertise on electrification solutions.

METS Ignited funding to accelerate Zero Automotive Land Cruiser battery-electric conversion plans

METS Ignited, an industry-led, Australian government-funded Industry Growth Centre for the mining equipment, technology and services (METS) sector, has invested A$400,000 ($297,938) in a collaborative project to accelerate Zero Automotive’s light duty electric vehicle solution in the open pit and underground mining market.

The ZED70 Ti™ mobile energy platform enables the rapid conversion of Series 79 Land Cruisers into battery electric solutions; that are certified Australian road ready and extremely safe underground, Zero Automotive says. Converted Land Cruisers release no harmful diesel particulates or carbon emissions and have an enhanced driver experience, according to the company.

The modular nature of the platform enables its long-life battery energy system to be reused in multiple chassis’, lowering the total lifecycle cost of the fleet as well as the cost of scope 1 emissions.

Zero Automotive’s solution is the result of a three-and-a-half year phased design and development program to develop and prove the clean technology in the field.

Zero Automotive Managing Director, Dave Mitchell, says the collaborative investment further validates the customer value proposition and enables the company to accelerate its growth plans.

“We recognise that Toyota Landcruisers are familiar and currently the brand of choice for miners,” he said. “These funds will be used to progress our go-to-market strategy; delivering five more converted Land Cruisers for user trial by Electric Mine Consortium members and enhancing our production capability for scale.

“We would like to thank Adrian (Beer) and his team at METS Ignited for their ongoing support and congratulate other successful industry participants.”

METS Ignited CEO, Adrian Beer, said the resources sector is transforming to meet society’s demand for minerals obtained in a sustainable manner.

“We are delighted to see this overwhelming demand for Australian innovation,” he said. “This round of investment includes technology that delivers safety, autonomy and low emissions technology. METS Ignited continues to invest in Australia’s future.

“By commercialising our home-grown innovation through Australian technology vendors, we increase market access to our innovative capability, making Australia an attractive market for further technology investment. These projects demonstrate the importance of resources technology and critical mineral processing for the Australian economy.”

Nornickel to trial Normet battery-electric transmixer, personnel carrier at Zapolyarnaya

Nornickel’s mining fleet modernisation and upgrade program is well and truly underway, with 2022 seeing it become Russia’s first mining and metals company to purchase “unique” battery-electric equipment to be piloted at Zapolyarnaya mine, it says.

Zapolyarny Mine (Medvezhy Ruchey LLC, part of Nornickel Group) received two brand-new battery electric vehicles − a Utimec MF 500 SD transmixer and Utimec MF 205 PER SD personnel transportation vehicle, which were produced and delivered to Norilsk ready for operation by Normet.

The Utimec MF 500 SD is an eco-friendly, efficient, and best-in-class transmixer for underground operations, according to Nornickel. It boasts a high power output and has a maximum speed of 20 km/h. The fully-electric vehicle architecture includes the latest lithium-ion battery technology, fast charging capability,and two high-torque direct drive electric motors. Batteries are charged during downhill driving and deceleration, which further improves the total efficiency of operation.

The Utimec MF 205 PER SD personnel carrier is designed for underground personnel transportation. The fully reversible four wheel drive, with high traction capability and instant torque, ensures safe and steady movement in difficult ground conditions. The new FOPS- and ROPS-approved safety cabin provides superior visibility and comfortable compartment for the driver and the passenger. The battery-electric vehicle can carry 20 passengers plus two people in the operator’s cabin, according to Nornickel.

The battery charge is sufficient for the fully-loaded passenger carrier and transmixer to drive uphill for 10 km and 8 km, respectively. The equipment will be charged at CCS charging stations, with  40 minutes required to fully charge the battery, it said. The vehicles are also fitted out with 40 kW on-board opportunity charging systems. They can also be charged from typical AC-sockets.

The most important advantage of such machines is zero emissions, which is essential in the confined underground space, Nornickel said.

Employees of Finland’s Normet provided classes and training for Zapolyarny Mine staff in the pre-trip check and operation of the battery-electric vehicles, which are now being piloted underground. The pilot tests will take six months to assess the equipment endurance in the harsh Arctic environment, it said.

Epiroc shows off sustainability credentials in another record quarter

In a quarter characterised by high customer activity and a strong demand for aftermarket services, Epiroc had another reason to be positive with the validation of its 2030 sustainability goals by the influential Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).

Further records were broken in the December quarter – this time it was revenue (coming in at SEK11.1 billion (US$1.19 billion) and operating profit (coming in at SEK2.59 billion) – as the company continued to benefit from its in-house efficiency programs; value-added automated, electric and digitalised offering; and strong order pipeline.

At the same time, Epiroc’s sustainability credentials were shown off for the world to see between October 1 and December 31.

In addition to the SBTi validation, over this period, the company laid out plans at its Capital Markets Day for its third battery-electric retrofit project, the Minetruck MT436B; secured its first order for Scooptram ST1030 battery conversion kits from Evolution Mining’s Red Lake gold operations in Canada (on top of the delivery of new ST14 Battery LHDs); extended its range of flexible charging products for battery-electric mining equipment; and announced a project with Boliden and ABB to develop a next-generation battery trolley setup for the Kristineberg mine in Sweden.

The only thing that was missing from this packed three-month period was the launch of a brand-new battery-electric machine, yet this will come. Epiroc has plans to electrify its full fleet of underground load and haul equipment by 2025 – including battery-electric retrofit solutions for its existing diesel fleet – alongside electrifying its surface fleet by 2030.

In line with SBTi requirements, Epiroc is committing to halve its absolute CO2 emissions in its own operations – so called Scope 1 and Scope 2 – by 2030, with 2019 as base year. However, more than 99% of Epiroc’s total CO2 emissions are other indirect emissions, with about 83% of the total coming from when customers use the products. It has, therefore, committed to halve the absolute CO2 emissions from use of sold products – so called Scope 3 – by 2030.

“This is industry leading and well above SBTi’s minimum requirements,” Epiroc said of the Scope 3 target. “The transition from diesel-powered to battery-electric machines will make a significant impact.”

Does this mean Epiroc will turn off the diesel-powered taps at a certain point, saying it will only supply electric equipment to customers?

Mattias Olsson, Senior VP of Corporate Communications, says no such action is planned, explaining that these Scope 3 targets align broadly with its mining customer base’s own CO2 emission cut goals. The majors all have plans to decarbonise their operations, with the most ambitious looking to hit net zero in 2030-2035. Codelco, for example, plans to electrify all its underground operations by 2030.

Demand for this equipment is bound to be high, which is where Epiroc’s retrofit program could become crucial.

Designed to allow miners an ‘entry point’ into cutting emissions underground through its in-demand midlife rebuild program, Olsson said supply of these machines could accelerate the industry’s electrification uptake and provide quicker access to zero emissions equipment compared with the long lead times that come with new battery-electric machines.

In a market that is becoming increasingly crowded, such an option may differentiate Epiroc from the rest of its peers, in the process, helping it achieve its ambitious goals to help keep global warming at a maximum 1.5° C.

Fortescue, FFI and Progress Rail collaborate on battery-electric loco deployment

Fortescue says it is continuing to progress the decarbonisation of its locomotive fleet with the purchase of two new battery-electric locomotives from Progress Rail to transport its iron ore to port in Western Australia.

The new eight-axle locomotives will have an energy capacity of 14.5 MWh and will be manufactured at the Progress Rail facility in Sete Lagoas, Brazil.

Fortescue, in December, said it was planning to test locomotives powered solely on green ammonia and other green renewable fuels and technologies at its rail operations in 2022, with two four-stroke locomotives arriving at Fortescue Future Industries’ Hazelmere facility, in Western Australia. These locos will undergo further testing on the new fuel system, joining other two-stroke locomotives which underwent testing earlier in 2021.

Fortescue Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Gaines, said on the latest developments: “The purchase of these new battery-powered locomotives marks an important milestone in the decarbonisation of Fortescue’s locomotive fleet and demonstrates our commitment to achieving carbon neutrality for Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030, as we diversify from a pure-play iron ore producer to a green renewables and resources company.

“The new locomotives will cut our emissions while also reducing our fuel costs and our overall operational expense through lower maintenance spend.

“The acquisition builds on the work being carried out by Fortescue Future Industries’ Green Team in Hazelmere to deliver locomotives operating solely on green ammonia and other green renewable fuels and technologies.”

Fortescue is expected to take delivery of its first battery-powered locomotive in 2023.

Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) Chief Executive Officer, Julie Shuttleworth, added: “FFI is a key enabler of Fortescue’s decarbonisation strategy. Our Green Team has made outstanding progress in their mission to transform Fortescue’s trains, trucks, ships and other mobile equipment to operate on zero pollution fuels as soon as possible, and the purchase of these new battery-powered locomotives complements this work.

“Fortescue and FFI are working together to demonstrate that renewables can power the energy needs of Australia’s mining and resources sector.”

Marty Haycraft, President & CEO of Progress Rail, a Caterpillar Company, said: “We are pleased to be working with the Fortescue team to determine the application, feasibility and suitability of battery-electric technology for deployment on their railway and to manufacture two of our BE14.5BB locomotives for this important project.

“We look forward to continuing to support our global customers with innovative products and services to help them meet their sustainability goals.”