Tag Archives: Electrification

Antofagasta’s automation and electrification journey bearing fruit

Antofagasta’s purpose of ‘Developing Mining for a Better Future’ has seen the Chile-based copper producer lead from the front in terms of the adoption of both automation and electrification.

The company launched a digital roadmap all the way back in 2017, which, over the following years, has seen it advance projects to automate blasthole drills and haulage trucks, leverage remote operation centres and integrate advanced data analytics into its decision-making process.

Backed by a digitally-literate talent pool and underwritten by a series of roadmap and plans, Antofagasta is setting itself up for the long term.

When it comes to electrification, the company has played a key role in furthering research on the use of hydrogen fuel cells in haulage applications on mine site conditions. It has also signed up as a patron in the Charge On Innovation Challenge, being one of 19 companies looking to accelerate commercialisation of interoperable solutions that can safely deliver electricity to large battery-electric off-road haul trucks.

Outside of consortium projects, it has announced plans to also study and test the development of battery-powered trucks at its Antucoya operation and has outlined plans for a trolley assist pilot project at the Los Pelambres copper mine in Chile.

And, in April 2022, the company reached the goal of all its mines operating on fully renewable power.

Alan Muchnik, VP Strategy & Innovation for Antofagasta, says all of these developments epitomise the company’s overarching aims.

“The objective we have is to develop the next generation of mining practices to enable growth and reduce our company’s environmental footprint,” he told IM.

In addition to the digital roadmap the company outlined five years ago, Antofagasta has been carrying out all its electrification projects under the guise of an Electromobility Plan – part of its wider climate change strategy.

Following the achievement of its previous emissions reduction target of cutting both its Scope 1 and Scope 2 carbon dioxide emissions by 300,000 tonnes of CO2e between 2018 and 2022 – a goal it achieved two years early – the company set a more ambitious target in 2021. This is looking to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 – in line with Chile’s national commitment – and reduce emissions by 30% by 2025, relative to 2020 performance. One element of the company’s efforts to reduce emissions has, as mentioned, seen its operations run solely from renewable energy as of April this year.

According to Antofagasta’s own calculations, in 2020, two-thirds of its greenhouse gas emissions from diesel combustion were attributable to its mine haulage trucks.

Komatsu 980E-5 trucks at Esperanza Sur (part of Centinela)

“In this respect, Antofagasta is actively participating in initiatives that seek to replace the diesel used by mining haulage trucks,” Muchnik said.

“As part of that electromobility roadmap, we have considered our participation in early-adoption projects with a view to pilot and scale promising technologies.”

With the HYDRA Consortium – which includes Antofagasta, ENGIE, Mining3, CSIRO Chile, Liebherr and Mitsui & Co – specifically, the company has been one of the driving forces of hydrogen haulage adoption on mine site conditions.

It has confirmed that it will test a fuel cell and battery powertrain propulsion system at its Centinela mine, with the first HYDRA prototype expected to start functional testing shortly. This will allow Antofagasta to assess the powertrain’s behaviour and performance under real mine conditions, including at high altitude with suspended dust. It will also help establish technical and safety protocols for hydrogen use at scale in mining, which will be vital for the fuel’s successful deployment across the industry.

The trolley assist project at Los Pelambres under study, meanwhile, consists of implementing a trolley system on, first, uphill ramps. This will consist of one lane of a two-lane ramp, which will allow for trucks coming behind to leave the trolley and overtake a stopped truck still on the line.

“Some of these projects may bring an early opportunity to transform specific sites as we transition towards the longer-term prevailing solution to implement at our sites and help reduce our Scope 1 footprint,” Muchnik said.

“Each mine has their unique characteristics and different technologies may become more attractive depending on those characteristics or may become complementary in enabling that diesel replacement.”

Of course, automating the haulage and blasthole drilling processes will help the company reduce its Scope 1 emissions through more efficient operations. It will also help offset some of the higher costs of inputs and inflation that come with operating in Chile.

Similarly, all of Antofagasta’s sites have strong data analytics teams to identify opportunities for efficiency gains and continuous improvement.

Reflecting on the gradual rollout of automation across the company’s operations, Muchnik referred to the overarching roadmap the company outlined in 2017.

“This roadmap considered different strategic programs with rollout options that improve productivity and safety, with automation being a relevant dimension,” he said. “It was built on the concept of knowledge transfer to enable other companies of the group to benefit and learn from the experiences at specific sites.”

That has worked from the looks of it, going from Epiroc Pit Viper autonomous drill deployments at Los Pelambres to the rollout of the technology at Esperanza Sur (part of Centinela).

A fleet of 11 autonomous electric drive Komatsu 980E-5 trucks have also gone live at Esperanza Sur over this time frame.

“Another good part of that is the Integrated Remote Operating Centres (IROC) we have setup to support these operations,” Muchnik said. “We recently opened an IROC for Centinela in the city of Antofagasta and, following the same transfer process, Los Pelambres is expected to go live with their IROC here in Santiago, in the second half of 2022.”

Integrated Remote Operations Centre for Centinela, based in the city of Antofagasta

Muchnik says one of the many benefits of the IROCs is the ability to attract and retain talent for Antofagasta’s operations.

“It is not just about bringing in new talent but working with our people to be allow them to move with this transformation and become digitally literate to help us prepare for an autonomous and remotely-operated future,” he said.

An in-house digital academy that Muchnik and his colleagues launched in 2020 has been vital in this process.

“It has enabled a different mindset within our workforce, preparing them for the transition through training and learning.

“This has ensured all of our employees go through the journey with us.”

Yanmar strives for smart electrified systems integrator status at Bauma 2022

Yanmar, a provider of power solutions and industrial machinery, is introducing its electrification strategy for off-road vehicles and equipment at Bauma 2022, in Munich, Germany, the world’s biggest construction equipment exhibition.

Yanmar will showcase its off-road product portfolio, commitment to customer lifecycle value and future vision for industrial equipment, including the following highlights:

  • Electrification strategy for e-powertrains;
  • Electric equipment demonstrator;
  • Yanmar/ELEO modular, high-density battery system; and
  • Extended five-year warranty for TN Series engines

Yanmar will establish itself as the all-in-one systems integrator for smart electrified power solutions tailored to the application-specific needs of individual OEMs, it says. In its capacity as a systems integrator, Yanmar will implement system engineering, design and manufacturing of e-powertrains, while also providing control development, system evaluation, procurement, manufacturing and quality assurance.

Tomohisa Tao, President Yanmar Power Technology Co. Ltd, said: “As Yanmar looks to meet the challenges of the coming century, our transformation will encompass new products with alternative fuel technologies. Our aim, together with our dealers and OEM partners, in this strategy is to build stronger relationships and create even greater customer value with new-energy technology. We will work hard to support our OEM partners and customers to achieve their environmental and performance goals.”

At Bauma 2022 on October 24-30, Yanmar will show an electrified demonstration vehicle that shows the practical application of the company’s system integrator technologies. Powered by an efficient electric drive and hard working 48 V batteries with fast charging capability, the electric excavator is a quiet, zero-emission machine designed to meet the most demanding emissions restrictions.

An important milestone for realising the urgent environmental challenges that must be overcome is Yanmar’s acquisition of battery-technology company ELEO, a fast-growing developer and manufacturer of high-performance modular battery systems. This acquisition will further Yanmar’s electrified powertrain capabilities with versatile, customised solutions for off-road applications. ELEO is building a new battery production plant, increasing its annual battery production capacity tenfold to 500 MWh – the equivalent of approximately 10,000 battery packs.

The company is also launching a new 5-year warranty (or 5,000 hours) offer, further enhancing sustainability and extended ownership of the current line-up of clean diesel solutions during the transformation to carbon-neutral power solutions, it says. This extended warranty is free of charge and valid for TN Series engines sold in Europe and operating on European territory.

Yanmar says it has already embarked on several new-energy projects in various business lines, including hydrogen-powered co-generation, research into hydrogen fuel marine engines, bio-gas cogeneration, dual-fuel power solutions with natural gas, fuel cell marine technology, smart agriculture and resource recycling technologies.

Seabridge Gold weighs automation and trolley assist haulage for KSM project

Seabridge Gold has completed an updated prefeasibility study for its KSM Project in British Columbia, Canada, that focuses on open-pit mining only, while planning for both autonomous mine operations and trolley assist haulage.

The 2022 PFS, prepared by Tetra Tech, shows a considerably more sustainable and profitable mining operation than its 2016 predecessor, now consisting of an all open-pit mine plan that includes the Mitchell, East Mitchell and Sulphurets deposits only, it said.

The primary reasons for the improvements in the plan arise from the acquisition of the East Mitchell open-pit resource and an expansion to planned mill throughput – to 195,000 t/d, from 130,000 t/d, the company said.

The many design improvements over the 2016 PFS include a smaller environmental footprint, reduced waste rock production, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, a 50% increase in mill throughput and the elimination of capital-intensive block cave mining, it added.

While total capital has been reduced to $9.6 billion (from $10.5 billion) – with increases from inflation and mill expansion being wholly offset by the elimination of block cave mining from the PFS plan – the initial capital cost has increased to $6.4 billion (from $5 billion) due to inflation.

Life of mine production (33 years) at KSM consists of 1.03 Moz of gold, 178 MIb (80,739 t) of copper, 3 Moz of silver and 4.2 MIb of molybdenum.

The open-pit-only mine production plan using ultra class mining starts in the higher grade Mitchell pit, Seabridge Gold says.  Production from the high grade upper East Mitchell zone is introduced in Year 3. Waste mined from the Sulphurets, East Mitchell and Mitchell pit is placed in the Mitchell rock storage facility (RSF) until Mitchell pit is mined out by Year 25. Final waste from East Mitchell is backfilled into the mined-out Mitchell pit from Year 25 onward along with some waste rehandled from the Mitchell RSF.

Autonomous mine operations where applicable and an integrated remote operations centre reduce on-site personnel, the company noted, while adding that electrification of the haul truck fleet with trolley assist would reduce carbon emissions and overall mine energy costs by replacing diesel with low-cost energy from electricity.

EU competition, collaboration and connections helping Epiroc solve mining challenges

Epiroc’s start-up mentality is enabling it to continue to solve the mining industry’s biggest challenges, but it is not doing this alone, according to Katarina Öquist, R&D Manager of Technology and Innovation in the Underground Division.

Speaking ahead of her appearance at the EIT Raw Materials Summit 2022 in Berlin, Germany – taking place on May 23-25 – Öquist said access to other industry partners, academic institutes and start-ups through initiatives like EIT Raw Materials continues to help the company overcome challenges the sector throws at it.

“Specifically on the EIT Raw Materials project, there is the possibility to take in young start-ups and academic institutes, which can prove key when considering the ‘kicks‘ the funding can provide such companies and initiatives,” she said. “It is important for these young technology companies to have a connection to applications, being able to test out concepts and ideas in a real-world environment with companies like Epiroc, and, at the same time, introduce new thinking into industries such as mining.”

This wide scope of participation is increasingly required when considering the future direction of the mining industry, according to Öquist.

Katarina Öquist, R&D Manager of Technology and Innovation in Epiroc’s Underground Division

“If you look at the mining industry, and the part I am in with Epiroc, we are experiencing the biggest technology shift ever,” she said. “We are looking at electrification, autonomy and digitalisation all at the same time. All of these have interdependencies and connections in between, which make it quite complicated.

“When I started in the start-up sector some 15 years ago, you often were looking to solve one problem, but, today, you are not offering the sole solution; you must interact with a much bigger technology ecosystem.

“For this, collaboration is very important.”

In this regard, EIT Raw Materials and European Union Commission funding are more important than ever, ensuring all stakeholders are connected and focused on coming up with workable solutions for industry to achieve their lofty ambitions.

While not tied to EIT Raw Materials, the NEXGEN SIMS project is a good example to highlight here.

NEXGEN SIMS builds on the EU-sponsored SIMS (Sustainable Intelligent Mining Systems) project, which aimed to demonstrate new technology and solutions for the mining industry. Running from 2017 to 2020, the SIMS project resulted in, among other things, the Epiroc line of battery-powered mining machines.

NEXGEN SIMS, meanwhile, is a consortium of 13 partners collaborating in an EU-sponsored project to develop autonomous, carbon-neutral, sustainable mining solutions, building on the SIMS success. The partners are Epiroc Rock Drills, AFRY – ÅF Digital Solutions, Agnico Eagle Finland, Boliden Mineral, Ericsson, KGHM Cuprum, KGHM Polska Miedź, K+S Minerals and Agriculture, Luleå University of Technology (LTU), LTU Business, Mobilaris MCE, OZ Minerals and RWTH Aachen University. The project, led by Epiroc, has a budget of €16 million ($16.8 million) and will run from May 2021 to April 2024.

“In the case of NEXGEN SIMS, it is built on a known partnership including new partners,” Öquist said. “After being involved with the majority of these partners since SIMS, we build from a high level of trust, which increases the possibility of success, especially concerning integration.

“Europe, in general, is very good in facilitating these type of collaborative projects that involve all segments of the innovation ecosystem – start-ups, industry partners and academics.”

According to Öquist, the NEXGEN SIMS project remains on track, with the integrations between electrification, automation and digitalisation likely to hold the most exciting outcomes for the wider mining industry.

For its part, Epiroc is also helping accelerate the development of start-ups of its own, taking stakes/interests in key technology providers and allowing them access to its much larger network.

ASI Mining, FVT Research and Mining TAG represent just a few examples here.

Öquist expanded on this with a reference to Mobilaris MCE, a company Epiroc acquired outright just last year, after five years of holding a 34% stake.

“They (Mobilaris MCE) started off in 1999 as a start-up from the telecoms business,” she said. “Due to them being in the northern part of Sweden, they tagged onto the mines and we ended up acquiring a minority interest in them.

“In the five years since, they have had a nice journey under the guise of Epiroc. They represent a local small start-up growing by going under the wings of a much larger industry partner.”

Epiroc, too, has benefitted from this collaboration, with Mobilaris MCE’s situational awareness technology recently becoming a key part of the OEM’s 6th Sense digital solution.

Not all OEMs would be willing to facilitate the growth of other companies in such a way, but Öquist, who has only been in her role with Epiroc for two years, puts this down to the company‘s unique culture.

“We call ourselves a 150-year-old start-up,” she said. “Regardless of how big we grow, that mindset remains – if someone highlights a problem, we set out to solve it through both internal and external collaboration.”

Sandvik introduces new electric concept surface drill rig to the industry

Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions says it is bringing a ground-breaking electric concept drill rig for surface drilling to the Vei og Anlegg 2022 exhibition, with the potential for this solution to impact larger, mining-related drilling operations in the future.

Taking place on May 11–14, 2022, Vei og Anlegg is one of Scandinavia’s largest construction trade shows.

The new concept rig demonstrates some of the advanced technologies that will be introduced on future series drill rigs to support more sustainable and energy-efficient surface drilling, particularly in urban construction applications, it said.

The concept drill rig is essentially a versatile R&D platform for demonstrating the most advanced, but nevertheless proven and validated, sustainability technologies that are already in use or coming soon on underground drill rigs and loaders. The innovation lies in transferring these technological advantages into the surface drilling world for the first time to meet the latest demands from the industry, Sandvik says. The concept drill rig brings the new solutions together on an actual machine that you can get up close to – a “hands on” starting point for discussions on the customer’s real-life needs and the technological possibilities for addressing them with tomorrow’s products.

Builders and contractors are increasingly faced with specific, often quantified, sustainability targets: for example, electrification of power supply, energy efficiency targets and exhaust/noise restrictions. Sandvik says it wants to lead the way with the concept drill rig, demonstrating effective sustainability solutions that are designed to meet these challenges. The technologies demonstrated on the rig include electrified power supply and a range of emission reduction technologies, with the overall aim of energy efficiency and emission control (noise, particulates and CO2).

The compact Commando™ DC300Ri top hammer drill rig was selected as the platform for the concept drill rig, thanks to its popularity in urban surface drilling applications (for example, road/railroad construction and foundation drilling). It is however possible that product development projects based on the concept rig may lead to different, possibly larger, drill rigs. The concept rig also has the possibility of operating on direct electric power or battery power, as well as hybrid power supply using a small diesel generator. All of these energy sources are available and can be trialed on the concept drill rig, depending on the customer’s actual needs. The rock drill is also equipped with an effective noise guard.

“We could make the selections ourselves, for example the choice between a direct electric power supply and a battery-driven system, but we want to do it together with our customers,” Lauri Laihanen, Vice President, R&D and Product Management, Surface Drilling Division at Sandvik, said. “We want to have a dialogue, to ensure we really understand the customer’s actual needs and are tackling the right problems together. It’s about customer orientation, rather than technology orientation. Technology for us is only a tool to meet the customer’s needs. With this concept drill rig, the primary role of technology is to support a zero emissions approach at the customer’s operations, which of course aligns perfectly with Sandvik’s own sustainability goals.”

Alongside the market-oriented goals, the concept drill rig will also help Sandvik to achieve its own ambitious sustainability goals, including its aim to halve the carbon footprint of the group’s operations by 2030.

The conversation on the future of sustainable surface drilling is now underway and the next chance to see the concept drill rig, following Vei og Anlegg, will be in Tampere, Finland, at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions’ Customer Days 2022 in September.

Caterpillar to introduce battery-electric and autonomous haulage tech at Newmont ops

Newmont has announced a strategic alliance with Caterpillar Inc to deliver a fully connected, automated, zero carbon emitting, end-to-end mining system that will see the introduction of first-of-a-kind battery-electric haulage technology and automation at the gold miner’s Cripple Creek and Victor and Tanami mines in the USA and Australia, respectively.

The announcement comes a day after Newmont’s Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Dean Gehring, told the Energy and Mines Virtual World Congress that the company’s primary focus for decarbonising its mobile mining fleet was on battery-electric options. It also follows the deployment of autonomous haulage solution technology at the Boddington mine in Australia (control room, pictured).

Together, the two companies will collaborate to create a safer, more productive mine, and substantially support Newmont in reaching its 2030 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets of more than 30%, with an ultimate goal of being net zero carbon by 2050, the companies said.

Tom Palmer, President and CEO of Newmont Corporation, said: “A year ago, Newmont announced industry-leading emission reduction targets because we understand the human contribution to climate change. We followed with a commitment to invest $500 million over five years to identify pathways forward as we firmly believe that we must make bold, lasting commitments to achieve the necessary change for a bright, healthy future.

“Today, we furthered that commitment by announcing a new strategic alliance with Caterpillar to address climate change by fundamentally changing the mining industry through the rapid development and implementation of a comprehensive all-electric autonomous mining system to achieve zero emissions mining.”

Newmont’s surface and underground mining fleets are responsible for approximately 40% of the company’s carbon emissions, and building a new model for surface and underground mining is critical to delivering on Newmont’s emissions reduction targets, the company said.

Newmont will also be supporting Caterpillar’s validation of evolving features and functionality within the MineStar suite to be deployed across Newmont’s surface and underground assets globally. This deployment facilitates centralised production and asset management.

“Caterpillar is committed to providing transformational advancements in safety, sustainability and technology,” Jim Umpleby, Chairman and CEO of Caterpillar Inc, said. “We share Newmont’s dedication to a reduced-carbon future, and we’re honoured to work together on this industry leading effort.”

(From left to right) Rob Atkinson, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Newmont, Tom Palmer, President and CEO, Newmont, Jim Umpleby, Chairman and CEO Caterpillar Inc, and Denise Johnson, Group President, Caterpillar Inc

Under the agreement, Newmont plans to provide a preliminary investment of $100 million as the companies set initial automation and electrification goals for surface and underground mining infrastructures and haulage fleets at Newmont’s Cripple Creek and Victor (CC&V) mine in Colorado, USA and Tanami mine in Northern Territory, Australia. The goals include:

  • Introduction of an automated haulage fleet of up to 16 vehicles at CC&V planned through 2023, with a transition to haulage fleet electrification and implementation of Caterpillar’s advanced electrification and infrastructure system with delivery of a test fleet in 2026. Actions include validating first-of-a-kind battery-electric haulage technology in the years prior to full production of autonomous electric haulage equipment;
  • Caterpillar will develop its first battery electric zero-emissions underground truck to be deployed at Tanami by 2026. The deployment includes a fleet of up to 10 battery-electric underground haul trucks, supported by Caterpillar’s advanced electrification and infrastructure system. This includes first-of-a-kind battery electric haulage technology for underground mining in 2024, the introduction of battery autonomous technology in 2025, with full deployment in 2026.

Together, Newmont and Caterpillar plan to validate equipment, infrastructure, technologies and processes to transform both surface and underground mining, focusing on safety, automation, decarbonisation, optimisation, data and asset management across Newmont’s global operations, the miner said.

“Leveraging Newmont’s scale and operational capabilities, the alliance sets the stage for the rapid development and deployment of the technologies, ultimately improving safety, productivity and energy efficiency across the mining industry,” it added.

Rio Tinto backs accelerated Scope 1 and 2 carbon emission cuts with $7.5 billion of investments

Rio Tinto has outlined a new target to reduce its Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 50% by 2030, more than tripling its previous target. To achieve this, it is setting aside around $7.5 billion of direct investments between 2022 and 2030.

Unveiled during an investor seminar this week, Rio said a 15% reduction in emissions is now targeted for 2025, five years earlier than previously stated, relative to its 2018 baseline of 32.6 Mt (CO2 equivalent – equity basis).

In recognition of the broader carbon footprint of the commodities it produces, Rio says it will accelerate its investment in R&D and development of technologies that enable its customers to decarbonise. Working in partnership with governments, suppliers, customers, academia and others, Rio intends to continue to develop technologies like ELYSIS™ for carbon-free aluminium and multiple pathways to produce green steel.

To meet additional demand created by the global drive to net zero emissions, Rio Tinto will prioritise growth capital in commodities vital for this transition with an ambition to double growth capital expenditure to about $3 billion a year from 2023, it said.

Rio Tinto can decarbonise, pursue growth and continue to deliver attractive returns to shareholders due to its strong balance sheet, world-class assets and focus on capital discipline, it explained.

Some key points from the presentation include:

  • Decarbonisation of the Pilbara will be accelerated by targeting the rapid deployment of 1 GW of wind and solar power. This would abate around 1 Mt of CO2, replace natural gas power for plant and infrastructure and support early electrification of mining equipment;
  • Full electrification of the Pilbara system, including all trucks, mobile equipment and rail operations, will require further gigawatt-scale renewable deployment and advances in fleet technologies
  • Options to provide a greener steelmaking pathway for Pilbara iron ore are being investigated, including with biomass and hydrogen;
  • Options are progressing to switch the Boyne Island and Tomago smelters in Australia to renewable energy, which will require an estimated circa-5 GW (equity basis) of solar and wind power, along with a robust “firming solution”;
  • Development of ELYSIS to eliminate carbon emissions from the smelting process is progressing, with commercial scale technology on track for 2024.

Liebherr advances Zero Emission Program with help of ABB, ENGIE

Liebherr, on the back of an increased industry focus on GHG emissions reduction, has announced at MINExpo 2021 that it is accelerating the implementation of its existing low carbon solutions and triggered future projects to offer completely fossil fuel free mining equipment options.

While much of this development will occur in house, the company has confirmed it is partnering with ABB on trolley assist infrastructure and ENGIE on integrating different renewable energy solutions into loading, hauling and dozing processes.

Liebherr Mining’s strategy to reduce GHG emissions will mainly focus on the operational phase of its machinery, as studies showed that more than 90% of GHG emissions over the complete lifecycle of the equipment occurred during this phase.

Liebherr Mining’s Zero Emission Program, which was established to develop these future solutions, is well aligned with the values of the Liebherr Group as an independent and responsible, family-owned company, it says.

The Liebherr Group has existing in-house core competencies, across all 13 product segments, in electrification, batteries, internal combustion engines, injection systems and alternative renewable fuels. Building from this experience, the Zero Emission Program has clear targets and a roadmap to achieve low carbon solutions for the full range of off-highway trucks and excavators in 2022, and fossil fuel free solutions for the majority of applications by 2030.

The Zero Emission Program strives to deliver long-term sustainable products and services, providing different options centred on environmental sustainability, safety, cost, flexibility and maintainability. Modularisation, along with an energy-type agnostic approach to drivetrains, are key elements in Liebherr Mining’s strategy, easing the transition for customers with the possibility to retrofit modules.

2022 target: Liebherr’s low carbon emission technology

Liebherr Mining has developed and offered electrification solutions for many years and is now about to finalise all initiatives to achieve its first 2022 target to offer low carbon emission solutions for its complete digging and hauling range.

The technologies, including the haul truck Trolley Assist System and electric excavator range, are consistently achieving proven results in the field to lower carbon emissions, according to the company. The newly introduced in-built Liebherr Power Efficiency control system has also shown excellent results since field operation began in 2019, the company says.

Trolley Assist System for Liebherr haul trucks

With the T 264 trolley components production-ready in 2022, all Liebherr trucks will be available with Trolley Assist System, providing a low emission solution for customers.

The Liebherr Trolley Assist System is, the company says, an effective first step on the road to zero emission mine sites of the future. Using an overhead pantograph or trolley bars to connect the electric-drive system to the electrical network, the Trolley Assist System offers increased truck fleet productivity, or reduction in fleet size, while maintaining yearly production when compared with standard trucks. A significant reduction of diesel fuel consumption is also made possible with the Trolley Assist System along with a reduction of the truck fleet CO2 emissions. However, this of course depends on the percentage of renewable energy content in the grid supplied power.

Oliver Weiss, Executive Vice President R&D, Engineering and Manufacturing, Liebherr-Mining Equipment SAS, outlined some of the company’s trolley assist operations at MINExpo 2021 today

Liebherr delivers proven field experience with 39 T 284 units fitted with the Trolley Assist System currently in operation on two different sites, with more to be commissioned in 2022. Liebherr is also the first company to run a 100 t truck under trolley, with a fleet of T 236 trucks running on a 5 km trolley line in Austria at the Erzberg mine – the longest trolley line in the world, according to Liebherr.

‘The largest range of electric excavators’

The Liebherr Group has over 30 years of experience in electric driven machines for earthmoving, material handling and mining applications. Today, Liebherr Mining says it is the OEM offering the largest range of electric driven excavators on the market. Ranging from 130 t to 800 t, the R 9150, R 9200, R 9250, R 9350, R 9400, and R 9800 are all available as electric drive versions. The electric drive R 9600 will soon be available.

Liebherr electric excavators are existing and already proven solutions helping customers to build future sustainable mine sites, it says. Focusing on reliability, maintainability and maximum safety, Liebherr’s engineering teams strive for solutions requiring minimum change to existing energy infrastructure and operational behaviour on customer sites. Thanks to 70% of parts commonality with diesel versions, Liebherr also offers complete retrofit options for existing machines.

To offer better machine mobility and safety for the workforce on site, Liebherr has developed a cable reel option for all electric drive excavators either in backhoe or face shovel. The cable reel is completely autonomous and has a capacity of up to 300 m depending on the excavator type. Furthermore, Liebherr proposes an operational concept for excavators with cable reel in backhoe application, particularly in double benching operations.

Liebherr Power Efficiency

Liebherr says it is continuously improving and upgrading its standard machines to enable the transition to emission reductions. Liebherr Power Efficiency (LPE) is the most recent built-in technology upgrade making this productivity and sustainability contribution.

Starting with Generation 7, all Liebherr mining excavators will be equipped with LPE as standard. This specific engine and hydraulic management system drastically reduces fuel consumption by up to 20%.

The system:

  • Adapts piloting processes according to operator requirements;
  • Electronically controls pressure and oil flow;
  • Has increased efficiency of the control valves and the new Liebherr pumps;
  • Has a fully integrated engine control system;
  • Reduces hydraulic losses and load profile of the engine for increased component lifetime; and
  • Reduces energy consumption without impact on the machine performance.

Based on research and development, Liebherr is able to provide size-equivalent machinery with higher production rates and less fuel consumption.

“In fact, the combination of LPE together with the improved productivity of the R 9600, has shown 29% less fuel consumption per tonne of produced material over a one-year production study, compared to its predecessor, the R 996B,” Liebherr says. “Expressed in fuel efficiency, tonnes per litre, this corresponds to a 40% better utilisation of the fuel.”

These efficiencies allow Liebherr excavators to set new benchmarks in its respective classes and are a very important enablers for any kind of future drive train, as they significantly reduce the effort for cable handling or refuelling and storage of alternative fuels, the company says.

Pathway to zero emission solutions

As second step, Liebherr is now targeting to offer completely fossil fuel free mining equipment for hauling, digging and dozing by 2030. This development will take into consideration the GHG emissions over equipment’s full lifecycle, as well as the overall well-to-wheel energy ecosystem. The company is also taking into account the operational mining process conditions that influence the right energy type choice.

Liebherr will develop three drivetrain options to achieve near zero emissions for its off-highway trucks: battery power module, internal combustion engines powered by renewable fuels, and H2 fuel cell-battery power module.

Drivetrain electrification through battery combined with trolley assist is already underway, according to the company.

Despite some challenges, Liebherr sees also an opportunity that the propulsion energy can be provided by using hydrogen fuel cell-battery hybrids.

Research and development for internal combustion engines operating with renewable-based alternative fuels is progressing very well within the Liebherr Group, with Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (HVO) as an approved fuel for machines powered by Liebherr engines as a first step.

Hydrogen combustion engines are also currently being tested in Liebherr’s factory in Switzerland. The methanol combustion process has been developed for large displacement engines and is ready to move towards serial engine industrialisation based on market demand, according to the company. Additionally, the ammonia combustion process is under investigation, with Liebherr seeing high potential in the usage of ammonia for heavy mobile, high energy demanding machines and gensets.

Liebherr mining excavators and dozers will also both have the option to be powered by internal combustion engines running on alternative fuels, along with the already existing electric drive version for excavators.

To achieve near zero emissions for the mining dozer and excavator, it is also crucial to use the most efficient drive system to reduce fuel consumption. The Liebherr hydrostatic drive system already achieves up to 20% improved fuel efficiency compared with mechanical competitor products, it says.

Despite this, Liebherr is currently in the process of comparing efficiency of an electric drive on a dozer prototype with hydrostatic drive efficiency. Given Liebherr’s expertise in both hydrostatic and electric AC drive systems, the company says it is in the best position to choose the most appropriate option for the best drive system for the near zero emission solution.

To accelerate the process and ensure the best solutions will be offered, Liebherr is partnering with industry experts for its Zero Emission Program.

ABB, a leader in power and automation technologies, develops state-of-the-art technology and equipment for overall electrification of mine sites and supports Liebherr’s customers and the company with a particular focus on trolley assist infrastructure deployment.

ENGIE, a renewable hydrogen, low-carbon energy and services company, will jointly with Liebherr evaluate the different renewable energy solutions, in particular renewable hydrogen and hydrogen-derived fuels, for loading, hauling and dozing processes. This cooperation ensures that an integrated well-to-wheel approach is basis to define the best solutions for the mining industry, Liebherr says.

With concept studies nearly finalised for trolley-battery hybrid, and ammonia and methanol for internal combustion engines, Liebherr expects to undertake field validation from 2024-2026, followed by the integration of proven fossil fuel free solutions from 2026-2030 into the entire range of mining machines.

Nordic Iron Ore enlists the help of ABB to ‘future proof’ Blötberget project

Nordic Iron Ore says it has appointed ABB to scope process control and management systems for a “future-proof and fully-digitalised mining operation” at the Blötberget iron ore mine project, in Sweden.

ABB, in this context, has provided mine design consultancy and recommended scope of supply for the opening of the old Blötberget mine near Ludvika in the Dalarna region of Sweden.

The Blötberget iron ore mine is expected to be operational in 2024. Iron ore was mined until 1979 when it was closed due to low iron ore prices. Nordic Iron Ore was formed in 2008 with the main aims of resuming mining operations in Blötberget and Håksberg and conducting exploration of the expansion potential of the Väsman field, together forming the Ludvika Mines, in southern Dalarna.

ABB’s recommendation addresses automation, digital and electrification for long-term, safe, sustainable and efficient mining operations at the site. ABB analysed a detailed feasibility study by Nordic Iron Ore and made significant advancement on the definitions and scope of supply of the automation and electrification aspects of the mine, it said. ABB also looked at electrical infrastructure requirements for the Blötberget mine, including surface and underground containers, switchgears and transformers.

Lennart Eliasson, Managing Director of Nordic Iron Ore, said in the latest press release: “Mining and the support industries are a significant part of the Swedish economy, with some of the most advanced and efficient mining operations anywhere in the world. There are many challenges when opening a new mine. We want to draw on the strong technology knowledge that exists in Sweden to open a mine with low environmental impact and footprint and that is also competitive and safe. The early involvement from ABB, which has a track record of working with innovative mines in Sweden, ensures that the construction, design and planning for the development of the mine can take a significant step forward and with improved costs and benefits forecast accuracy.”

Just last month, Nordic Iron Ore’s Technical and Marketing Advisor, Paul Marsden, told IM that there was potential for leveraging the technology learnings on projects such as LKAB’s Kiruna and Konsuln mines, Boliden’s underground operations and Lundin Mining’s Zinkgruvan operation to make Blötberget “future ready”.

He added: “We cannot automate and electrify it all from the off, but we can lay the groundwork to eventually automate and electrify just about everything in the mine.”

Björn Jonsson, Hub Manager, Process Industries, ABB, said: “ABB can provide assistance at an early stage in mine development for electrification and automation and routinely collaborates with mining companies from initial feasibility studies through to full deployment. Swedish mines are already benefiting from ABB solutions, using ABB Ability™ System 800xA distributed control system and the integrated ABB Ability™ Ventilation Optimizer.”

Nordic Iron Ore and ABB will continue the development of the project and have recently signed a memorandum of understanding for further collaboration at Blötberget.

Charge On Innovation Challenge sparks more miner interest

The organisers of the Charge On Innovation Challenge have reported an overwhelming response to the preliminary phase, which closed on July 31, with 21 mining companies joining as patrons, over 350 companies from across 19 industries registering their interest as vendors, and more than 80 organisations submitting expressions of interest (EOI).

The challenge, a global competition, is expected to drive technology innovators across all industries to develop new concepts and solutions for large-scale haul truck electrification systems aimed at significantly cutting emissions from surface mining. It also aims to demonstrate an emerging market for charging solutions in mining, accelerate commercialisation of solutions and integrate innovations from other industries into the mining sector.

BHP, Rio Tinto, and Vale, facilitated by Austmine, launched the Charge On Innovation Challenge in May of this year, initiating the EOI process on May 18. Since the initial launch, Roy Hill, Teck, Boliden, Thiess, Antofagasta Minerals, Codelco, Freeport McMoRan, Gold Fields and Yancoal came forward as patrons by early July.

The latest release has highlighted another nine miners to join as patrons. This includes Barrick Gold, CITIC Pacific Mining, Evolution Mining, Harmony Gold, Mineral Resources Ltd, Newcrest Mining, OZ Minerals, South32 and Syncrude.

The patrons, supported by Austmine, will assess the proposals over the next month and select a shortlist of vendors who will then formally pitch their challenge solutions.

At least one of these proposals has come from ABB, which confirmed earlier this month that it had submitted its ideas for the challenge using its mine electrification, traction and battery system eand charging infrastructure expertise.

At the end of the pitch phase, the challenge patrons will look to select the most desirable charging concepts identified as having broad industry appeal and application, as well as providing a standard geometry that enables chargers to service trucks from different manufacturers. The first concepts could be ready for site trials in the next few years, according to the organisers.

BHP’s Charge On Innovation Challenge Project Lead, Scott Davis, said: “The Charge On Innovation Challenge is a great example of the current collaborative work being done by the mining industry in seeking solutions to decarbonise mining fleets. The challenge received interest from companies based in over 20 countries, showing the truly global reach of the opportunity to help reduce haul truck emissions.”

John Mulcahy, Rio Tinto’s lead for the Charge On Innovation Challenge, said: “Twenty-one mining companies, all focused on lowering carbon emissions, have joined as patrons. Together we’re encouraging technology innovators to help us introduce large-scale haul truck electrification solutions. The sooner we bring these technologies to market, the sooner we can introduce them to our fleet, and reduce emissions.”

Vale’s Charge On Innovation Challenge Project lead, Mauricio Duarte, said: “We are very happy with the results of the first phase of the project. It´s still early to talk about the success of the challenge, but it is clear that the industry has reached a new level: we worked together on a common sustainability agenda and we will work collectively to reach our goals, gaining safety and speed on our way to low carbon mining.”