Tag Archives: Epiroc

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.”

Epiroc adds diamond-protected buttons to newest blast hole drill bits

Epiroc is introducing a new drilling innovation with diamond-protected buttons, which, it says, can significantly prolong the replacement intervals for drilling applications in hard rock.

Powerbit X with diamond-protected buttons comes with less exposure to danger for operators, more uptime and lower CO2 emissions among its benefits.

Epiroc explained: “The less time an operator spends on changing drill bits, the better. Every avoided bit change eliminates the risk of slipping and falling and prevents injured backs, hands and fingers as well as increase the drilling time.”

In this regard, Powerbit X is a game-changer when it comes to safety, according to Goran Popovski, President of the Tools & Attachments division at Epiroc.

“The diamond-protected buttons gives the drill bits substantially longer service life than those with standard buttons as well as maximises the drilling time, which means fewer changes, higher productivity and less exposure to danger for operators,” he said.

Powerbit X realises the full potential of remotely and automatically controlled drilling, according to the company, with the long drill bit life means that it is possible to drill in auto mode over lunch breaks, shift changes and blast ventilation cycles.

Jonas Falkeström, Strategic Business Development Manager at Epiroc, said: “An operator can complete a single hole with only one drill bit. The alternative with in-hole bit replacements is time-consuming and quickly adds substantial productivity losses. It is possible to save hundreds of hours by changing to this new technology using buttons protected by diamonds.”

The extremely hard surface of Powerbit X makes it possible to reduce the amount of CO2 emissions per drilled metre – by up to 90% compared with standard drill bits, Epiroc says. The long bit life of Powerbit X means that less energy and resources are consumed, with a reduced need for drill bits in the mining operation translating to a reduction in transport to the mine and in the mine.

And, using Powerbit X means the drill bits will require no regrinding. When a Powerbit X drill bit is finally worn out, it is time for recycling, not regrinding, the company says.

Epiroc concluded: “Constant hole diameter is essential for efficient and even blasting. When using a traditional drill bit, the diameter gets reduced over time, leading to smaller and smaller holes. With Powerbit X, the diamond-protected buttons keep their shape throughout the lifetime of the bit. The fact that the holes are of the same size every time improves both the blasting quality and the life of the drilling equipment.”

FLANDERS autonomous drilling solutions start up at Anglo’s Mogalakwena mine

The first FLANDERS autonomous drills are now up and running at Anglo American Platinum’s Mogalakwena platinum group metals operation in South Africa, with a third set to start up later this year.

FLANDERS CEO, John Oliver, and VP of International Operations, Willie Van Ryneveld, recently visited the mine in Limpopo, South Africa, where the first ARDVARC autonomous drills are now in operation in fully-autonomous mode.

The first two ARDVARC Autonomous drills were delivered on time and within budget to Mogalakwena, and the third Epiroc Pit Viper 271 XC drill is due to arrive at the FLANDERS South Africa workshop for conversion in May, the company said. The company said the first PV 271 XC drill recently drilled its first hole in fully-autonomous mode.

FLANDERS’ flagship ARDVARC automated drill control systems has been used around the world for more than 15 years, with more than 30 mine site deployments in this time.

The product suite is designed to facilitate customers to scale up automation at their own pace and covers all aspects of drill automation, from semi- autonomous to tele-remote and autonomous operation of a single piece of equipment to multi-machine control and full-fleet automation using Command Centre control capabilities. ARDVARC Autonomous comprises a suite of tools for automating, analysing and optimising drilling production and processes, interconnecting with fleet management systems and other data acquisition technologies.

The company claims operations can achieve productivity gains of up to 30% when employing ARDVARC autonomous solutions by reducing downtime due to human factors such as shift changes and pauses of drilling during blasting operations.

South32 becomes latest miner to join BluVein mine electrification project

BluVein has announced its ninth and newest funding partner to join the BluVein mine electrification project powered by Rethink Mining (Powered by CMIC), with South32 being the latest miner to join the cause.

BluVein is a joint venture between Australia-based mining innovator Olitek and Sweden-based electric highways developer Evias. The company has devised a patented slotted (electric) rail system, which uses an enclosed electrified e-rail system mounted above or beside the mining vehicle together with the BluVein hammer that connects the electric vehicle to the rail. The system provides power for driving the vehicle, typically a mine truck, and charging the truck’s batteries while the truck is hauling load up the ramp and out of an underground mine.

South32 joins Vale, Northern Star Resources Limited, Glencore, Newcrest Mining, AngloGold Ashanti, BHP, OZ Minerals and Agnico Eagle Mines Limited as BluVein funding partners.

Earlier this month, BluVein and Epiroc formed an MoU with BluVein aimed at fast-tracking development of the BluVein dynamic charging solution towards an industrialised and robust solution which is ready for deployment across the global mining industry. The MoU is focused on the BluVein Underground solution (BluVein1), but BluVein is also developing a solution for open-pit mining.

Epiroc to acquire electrical infrastructure specialist JTMEC

Epiroc says it has agreed to acquire JTMEC, an Australia-based company specialising in providing mines with electrical infrastructure, which supports the industry’s transition to battery electrification.

JTMEC, based in Perth, is involved in both underground and surface mines, with an offering that includes high voltage installation and maintenance work, transformer servicing and testing, engineering design, feasibility studies and training. It also manufactures electrical products including substations and mine chargers.

JTMEC has 190 employees and had revenues in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021, of about A$34 million ($24 million).

“Battery electrification represents the future in the mining industry, and the strong team at JTMEC is playing an important role in enabling this vital transformation,” Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, said. “This acquisition will further strengthen our ability to support mining customers on their electrification journey toward less emissions, improved work conditions and higher productivity. JTMEC is also a strong complement to Meglab, which we acquired in 2021.”

The acquisition is expected to be completed in the June quarter 2022, with the transaction not subject to a disclosure obligation pursuant to the EU Market Abuse Regulation.

Boliden on mining’s differentiation pathway

When Mikael Staffas joins a panel on stage at the EIT Raw Materials Summit in Berlin, Germany, to discuss building a world-leading raw materials industry for Europe next month, he will be able to reference more than a few examples of sector excellence from his own company.

The Sweden-based mining and metals company has been leading from the front for decades, leveraging new and innovative technology, employing a more diverse workforce and engaging local stakeholders and regulators in a manner viewed as progressive from peers across the globe.

Gaining recognition from your mining company peers is one thing but gaining it from the public and EU-based decision makers is something altogether different.

According to Staffas, CEO of the company, the latest summit, which takes place on May 23-25, is part of a series of actions and events slowly getting these two groups to understand the importance of raw materials and the companies that produce them.

“We are moving this industry away from a perception that we are part of the problem, to an environment where we are seen to be part of the solution,” he told IM.

Staffas says the raw materials industry has been viewed as fundamentally important to Europe for several years in terms of tackling the climate change challenge – which will be reinforced at the summit – but the “regionalisation of economies” that has been brought about by COVID and the more recent geopolitical situation means this importance has, once again, been reinforced.

Within this context, Staffas is due to discuss at the event the fundamental need for copper and nickel in the energy transition. He will also shine a light on the importance of lead and zinc in this evolving landscape.

Boliden, through its mines and smelters in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Ireland, is a producer of all four of these metals. It can also add gold, silver, sulphuric acid, cobalt and palladium to the list.

As the general population is beginning to understand the importance of these raw materials and metals to their future, Boliden is trying to differentiate its own offering from the rest of its peers.

Not satisfied with simply matching the industry’s carbon emission and net zero goals to 2030 and beyond, Boliden has laid the gauntlet down to the rest of its competitors by registering two new products: Low-Carbon Copper and Low-Carbon Zinc.

The formula for these two low-carbon products is based on the production of finished metal, from cradle to gate, that has emissions of less than 1.5 t of CO2 per tonne of copper, compared with the global average of around 4 t of CO2 per tonne. For zinc, the threshold is even lower – less than 1 t of CO2 emissions per tonne of zinc, compared with the industry average of 2.5 t.

To this point, the introduction of both products has resulted in a slim premium over other products on the market, but Staffas still deems the launches as successful.

“The point was to differentiate our products, with many people expected to receive this differentiation,” he said.

The customers represented just one set of recipients, but Staffas said these new products also play into the ‘licence to operate’ equation, as well as discussions with authorities and non-governmental organisations.

The intention was to also lay down a benchmark the rest of the industry could start to use or discuss, he added.

Boliden’s carbon dioxide calculations include emissions along the entire value chain up to the customer according to the Scope 1, 2 and 3 Greenhouse Gas Protocol Product Life Cycle, following the ISO 14064-3 standard.

“While this might not be the only way to measure CO2, we think it is the best one,” Staffas said. “We are trying to force the industry to adopt a common way of measuring the CO2 footprint.”

This has led some of Boliden’s customers to enquire about how much embedded CO2 is in competitor zinc and copper products, ensuring the discussion spreads throughout the industry.

The obvious intention of devising such products is price, but Staffas said they also provide protection.

“When things get bad from an economical perspective, these products could really make a difference,” he said. “The customers might not pay extra for them, but if they scale down their purchases, our contracts should be the last to be cancelled.”

Staffas says Boliden is also aiming to add nickel and lead to its suite of low-carbon products in the future.

“Nickel is a special case for us as we don’t produce finished nickel; we produce a nickel matte,” he said. “We may team up with a refinery to make a joint product or do something else to ensure we can quantify the emissions according to our chosen protocols.

“Whichever way this development goes, we have to ensure we cover cradle-to-gate with these calculations otherwise it is not a true representation of the embedded carbon in that product.”

Electrification

While quantifying the carbon emissions of products is still relatively new in mining and smelting, Boliden has been using a carbon price in its internal technical studies and projections for close to a decade now.

It has been leveraging electrified sources of power for even longer. For instance, its Rönnskär copper smelter in Sweden has been using an electric oven since the 1990s.

More recently, the company has added trolley assist at Aitik and Kevitsa to this electrified base and employed ventilation on demand and heat exchangers at underground mines (the former) and smelters (the latter) to optimise its energy use.

It also has plans for underground trolley-battery haulage operation at its Rävliden (part of Kristineberg) project in Sweden through a project with Epiroc and ABB, while it is conducting a battery-electric vehicle loading trial at the Garpenberg mine, also in Sweden, with Sandvik. On the transport side, the company has recently teamed up with Scania to electrify part of its heavy-duty road transport in northern Sweden.

“It is one thing to review where we started; it is another to look at where we are going,” Staffas said on this topic. “We are planning to get better and better and go on to reduce our CO2 footprint further.”

On its way to achieving a goal of reducing its carbon dioxide intensity by 40% by 2030, the company is also looking at, among other levers, its use of explosives and cement: two key scope 3 inputs.

Staffas is confident Boliden can hit these ambitious goals by leveraging the innovation ecosystem within the Nordic region.

“For the CO2 journey we are now on, the Nordic mining cluster has and will continue to be very important,” he said. “We have big suppliers like Epiroc, Sandvik, Metso Outotec, ABB, Volvo and Scania on our doorstep. They have always worked closely with us, and we work closely with them on joint development projects.

“I think that is the main reason we are so far ahead of our competitors when it comes to our use of technology and innovation, and why we are confident in achieving our ambitious climate goals.”

Etteplan on board Epiroc’s Minetruck MT42 battery-trolley project

Finland-based engineering firm, Etteplan says it is collaborating with Epiroc to enable fossil free underground heavy transportation without interruptions and, more specifically, helping redesign its Minetruck MT42 Battery into an electric trolley system.

As part of a strategic partnership project that started in 2021, Etteplan’s offices in Finland and Sweden are providing what it says are crucial resources and expertise in the development, helping secure a timely progress of the project. It is providing technical expertise for battery technology, machine electrification, electrical design, system requirements and safety risk assessment.

Last year, Epiroc, for its part, announced a collaboration with ABB and Boliden to develop an all electric battery trolley truck system based on the MT42 Battery truck for underground mining, with the trio planning to demonstrate the system on a test track in the underground polymetallic Kristineberg mine in Sweden.

For Epiroc, the trolley truck project is one of the initiatives to meet its ambitious sustainability targets and forms part of its electrification journey, Etteplan said. The new battery-electric Minetruck MT42 trolley will still be equipped with a battery and, in addition, it will be recharged on the fly via an overhead catenary wire through a pantograph, similar to a trolley bus.

Anders Svensson, Director, Service Solutions at Etteplan’s Engineering Solutions, said: “Globally, electrification of equipment is a major trend in mining, where most vehicles are currently powered by diesel engines. Therefore, the industry needs new types of competences and skill sets that we are ready to cater for. Jointly developed procedures together with major manufacturers such as Epiroc ensure that we address strategically important electrification challenges in a competitive way.”

Etteplan has worked with Epiroc, previously part of Atlas Copco, for over 20 years, and the project aligns with Etteplan’s electrification vision while showcasing how it works closely with customers to enhance their battery performance and functionality in different industries.

Assmang orders battery-electric mining equipment for Black Rock manganese mine

Epiroc says a large fleet of battery-electric mining equipment will be deployed at Assmang Proprietary Ltd’s Black Rock underground manganese mine in the Northern Cape of South Africa after the two companies signed an agreement.

Assmang has ordered several of Epiroc’s battery loaders and mine trucks – the Scooptram ST14 Battery and Minetruck MT42 Battery, respectively – for the deployment. The order was booked in the March quarter of 2022 and is valued at SEK120 million ($12.5 million).

The order extends Assmang’s and Epiroc’s collaboration to use state-of-the-art solutions for optimised operations at the mine, Epiroc said. Assmang has previously ordered the same type of battery-electric machines for this mine, and, in 2019,  selected Epiroc’s Mobilaris Mining Intelligence digital solution, which provides superior situational awareness of the mining operation in real-time

“Epiroc is proud to support Assmang on its journey toward lower emissions through the use of our cutting-edge battery-electric machines, while also prioritising productivity and safety,” Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, said.

The Scooptram ST14 Battery and Minetruck MT42 Battery machines, manufactured in Örebro, Sweden, are built to face the toughest conditions and are packed with intelligent features, according to Epiroc. They will be equipped with a Collision Avoidance System as well as with the telematics system, Certiq, which allows for automated monitoring of productivity and machine performance.

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.

Epiroc, SSAB to partner on fossil-free steel use in mining equipment

Epiroc says it is starting a partnership with steelmaker SSAB to secure fossil-free steel for use in the production of Epiroc’s mining equipment.

SSAB aims to deliver fossil-free steel to the market in commercial scale during 2026, and delivered the first steel made of hydrogen-reduced iron in 2021. It is working with iron ore producer LKAB and energy company Vattenfall as part of the HYBRIT initiative to develop a value chain for fossil-free iron and steel production, replacing coking coal traditionally needed for iron ore-based steelmaking, with fossil-free electricity and hydrogen. This process virtually eliminates carbon dioxide-emissions in steel production, according to the HYBRIT partners.

Epiroc will initially use fossil-free steel for material for a prototype underground machine produced at its facility in Örebro, Sweden, and the plan is to increase the usage of fossil-free steel over time.

“Sustainability is integrated in everything we do, and we are committed to halving our CO2e emissions by 2030,” Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, says. “This exciting partnership with SSAB will support us and our customers on the journey to reach our very ambitious climate goals. It is clear that our innovation agenda goes hand-in-hand with our customers’ sustainability agenda.”

Martin Lindqvist, SSAB’s President and CEO, said: “We are very happy to welcome Epiroc in our partner group and look forward to the fossil-free steel collaboration.It’s a natural next step in our joint efforts to mitigate climate change. Demand for fossil-free steel is increasing, which is one of the reasons for SSAB to bring forward its green transition with the ambition to largely eliminate carbon dioxide emissions around 2030.”

In the shift to a low-carbon economy, development of new technologies like this is crucial for making the transition possible, Epiroc says. The partnership with SSAB fits well with Epiroc’s ambitious sustainability goals for 2030, including halving its CO2e emissions.

In 2021, Epiroc received validation from the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) for its targets to reduce emissions in own operations as well as when customers use the sold products. The SBTi validated Epiroc’s climate targets as being in line with keeping global warming at a maximum 1.5°C, consistent with the latest climate science and the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement. In addition, Epiroc’s 2030 sustainability goals include halving its CO2e emissions in transport as well as from relevant suppliers, having 90% renewable energy in own operations, and offering a full range of emissions-free products.

Last year, Volvo Group revealed what it said was the world’s first vehicle made of fossil-free steel from SSAB, plus announced that more vehicles will follow in 2022 in what will be a series of concept vehicles and components using the material.