Tag Archives: Epiroc

Epiroc advances face drilling automation with Boomer E10, E20 rigs

Epiroc says its new Boomer E10 and E20 mark another breakthrough for automated face drilling rigs, offering “outstanding” operator assistance features, optional battery-electric driveline for zero-emission tramming, and “great” flexibility and coverage.

Besides being compact enough for mine development, both drill rigs feature BUT 45-booms with telescopic feed beams. These powerful booms fit a wide range of applications and can tackle the requirements of heavy-duty construction work with ease, according to Epiroc.

“This is yet another automation breakthrough for face drilling where Epiroc leads the way to safer and more productive mining and construction operations,” Sami Niiranen, President at Epiroc Underground division, said.

With features like teleremote drilling, auto level and setup assist, the Boomer E10 and E20 strengthen productivity and safety for operators, according to the company.

Camilla Spångberg, Global Product Manager at Epiroc’s Underground division, said: “Thanks to teleremote drilling the operator can drill a full face from a control room. Naturally, this is a safer workplace. In addition, you can reach up to 25% increased productivity by drilling during shift changes and lunch breaks.”

Furthermore, both drill rigs provide operators with setup assist. Thanks to the carrier being equipped with an advanced scanner measuring the distance to the walls and face, positioning the rig perfectly in the mine or tunnel becomes an easy task for the operator, according to the company.

“In combination with digital drill plans, setup assist eliminates time-consuming repositioning,” Spångberg added. “It also ensures both productivity and great quality.”

In the comfortable and safe cabin, operators can enjoy low sound levels (<65 dbA) and less vibration, and a new panel interface for tramming. In addition, great visibility and multi-functional joysticks ensure that operators always keep their eyes on task, the company added.

Epiroc makes the ‘impossible possible’ with launch of Boltec ABR

Epiroc has taken another significant step forward in its rock reinforcement automation journey with the release of the Boltec Auto Bolt Reload (ABR).

Combining the company’s ground support nous with its mechanisation and automation knowledge has resulted in a solution able to remove operators from the front end of the bolter – where personnel are most at risk of rock falls from unsupported ground – and increase bolting productivity, especially in poor ground conditions.

With mining operations steadily going deeper as they develop existing and newly discovered orebodies, the rock stresses associated with mining these orebodies are typically increasing, too. This often results in more challenging rock conditions with fractured rock mass, rock burst and squeezing ground, requiring more regular rehabilitation work. The Boltec ABR, with improved operator safety, flexibility and productivity, is the obvious choice for such conditions, Epiroc says.

Epiroc claims the Boltec ABR is the first ever underground rock reinforcement drill rig designed in such a way that the bolt type and machine work together in synergy to deliver optimal safety, performance and quality. The machine can also be equipped with a mesh delivery system.

This synergy also leads to improved accuracy in bolt installations and a reduced need for re-bolting, according to Peter Bray, Global Product Manager, Rock Reinforcement at Epiroc’s Underground division.

“By using a Boltec ABR, you are better able to install bolts and mesh correctly with high quality, reducing the need for re-bolting, re-meshing…and rehab work in the future,” he told attendees of a webinar announcing the product launch today.

The mechanisation of the bolting process – in tandem with the use of self-drilling anchors (SDAs) and pumpable resin – should provide operations with the comfort to follow recommended bolting patterns, reducing the need for the installation of additional bolts that go above and beyond optimal industry practice.

The main design feature of the Boltec ABR is the fully mechanised bolt reloading system. The system automatically feeds bolts from a large carrier magazine – able to hold 44 bolts in 2.4-m or 3-m lengths – to the feed magazine – able to hold eight bolts – all while the operator remains safe inside the cabin. This innovation removes the need for manually reloading the feed magazine, thereby reducing the associated risk to the operator.

The fast auto reloading sequence speeds up the production cycle, with a total of 52 bolts able to be installed in a heading before manual reloading of the carrier magazine. The carrier magazine is mounted on a swing arm that lowers the magazine to ground level for easy reloading behind the machine’s front support jacks – where ground support should already be in place.

Productivity can be further boosted with the operator carrying out the reloading process when bolting is being carried out in multi-bolt auto mode, according to Bray.

The Boltec ABR opens the door to other safety and productivity-enhancing autonomous functionalities previously not compatible with underground bolting machines, according to Epiroc. Tele-remote control and the aforementioned multi-bolt auto are now available options that can provide bolting potential during shift changes or when conditions preclude having an operator physically on the machine. The machine is also available with a battery-electric driveline.

Bray said the development and integration of SDAs and pumpable resin on conventional Boltec machines have been integral to achieving this new functionality.

“If you think about our face drills and long hole production rigs, they have had automation for many years,” he said. “There hasn’t been a mechanical reason why we couldn’t automate a bolting machine; the stopping point has been the type of legacy rock bolts used.”

SDA bolts, which, according to Epiroc, offer faster bolting times and higher quality installation, are not sensitive to varying conditions and will achieve consistently fast installation. This provides easier scheduling accuracy for mine planning and forecasting.

The pumpable resin, developed to address inconsistent and unreliable bolt installations as mines go deeper and rocks become less competent under added pressure, offers fast setting times and full bolt encapsulation, ensuring speed and quality of installation, the OEM says. An added plus is the resin’s insensitivity to wet ground conditions, which can be a desirable characteristic for many deep underground operations.

“Given that it is much cleaner and easier to use than traditional cement, the pumpable resin reduces hours spent on cleaning the machine,” Bray said. “Hence, it is increasing productivity by providing more bolting time.”

Like other Boltecs in the range, the Boltec ABR comes with a boom-mounted bolting system, providing flexibility in terms of coverage and bolt installation angles, according to Bray.

“It’s very rare that you have perfect straight drive profiles in underground mining,” he said. “The boom-mounted bolting system offers the flexibility to address this.”

LKAB, along with the European Institute of Innovation & Technology, have been key partners in the development of this machine, with the prototype tested out at both the Kiruna and Malmberget mines in northern Sweden.

Kiruna suffered a significant seismic event during May 2020 where several areas underground were adversely affected, providing a good test case for the new machine.

These affected areas required rehabilitation with bolts and mesh to make them safe for production again, according to Bray – a process the iron ore miner is continuing to carry out at Kiruna with the prototype Boltec ABR unit.

“The Boltec ABR was the perfect machine for the challenge; it has proven to allow safer operation and significant productivity increases when compared to LKAB’s conventional bolting fleet,” he added.

Epiroc said that up to double productivity gains were achieved in a trial with the Boltec ABR in LKAB’s Malmberget mine when compared with the miner’s conventional bolting fleet.

Bray concluded: “This solution has made the impossible possible. We can now install bolts where it used to be extremely difficult. Giving some relief to the bottleneck that rock reinforcement had become.”

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.

Ampcontrol strengthens decarbonisation drive by joining the Electric Mine Consortium

Ampcontrol says it has joined the Australia-based Electric Mine Consortium (EMC) to drive efforts towards electrifying and decarbonising the mining industry.

The EMC is a growing group of highly regarded mining and service companies, driven by the imperative to produce zero-emission products for their customers and meet mounting investor expectations and industry challenges.

Ampcontrol is strengthening its strategic focus on decarbonisation through the innovation and development of electrical solutions, adapting to the changing times.

“Joining the Electric Mine Consortium is a natural progression of our commitment to supporting our customers and industry through the national energy transition,” Rod Henderson, Ampcontrol Managing Director and CEO, said. “Ampcontrol is at the forefront of renewable energy manufacturing. We engineer and supply advanced technology, products, and services to enable a competitive advantage in a net-zero carbon environment.”

EMC Founder and Director Graeme Stanway, said: “The way we generate, store and harness energy around the globe is undergoing a period of major change.

“A global ecosystem has begun to emerge to underpin the innovation and scaling of electrification technologies.”

As well as pioneering products in the renewable energy space, Ampcontrol has been using its engineering expertise to already assist with the transitioning mining industry.

Alongside Tritium, Ampcontrol was a winner in the global ‘Charge On Innovation Challenge’ in May 2022. The joint submission was an end-to-end mining haul truck battery swap solution that is fully automated, relocatable, scalable and cell agnostic. In a drive-in/drive-out recharging station, an autonomous transfer robot swaps batteries in 90 seconds, significantly reducing safety risks and increasing productivity by excluding personnel from the swaps process.

Henderson said: “One of the areas Ampcontrol identified as a need of the industry was assisting businesses with the next steps to get to the future state of electrified mining operations. When businesses think ‘I need energy’ to perform certain functions, the first instinct is often to acquire more energy. Our expertise at Ampcontrol is to help businesses use the materials they already have available, in a different way.”

Ampcontrol says it recognises the importance of partnerships and collaboration in developing technology solutions to enable a competitive advantage in a net-zero carbon environment.

“It is important to demonstrate we work alongside other businesses to contribute to the low carbon economy transition and to the responsible sourcing of prime materials to enable a competitive advantage in a net-zero carbon environment,” Henderson said.

The EMC has launched a call out to companies in the tech, renewable and manufacturing industries that can provide ground-breaking solutions to long haul EV trucks and associated charging infrastructure for mine sites and global supply chains.

Driven by collective demand for electric equipment across the EMC’s operating sites, spread over six continents, the consortium is looking to form synergies between mining and non-mining industries to accelerate decarbonisation solutions across the industry – the mining industry currently contributes 8% of the globe’s emissions.

Ampcontrol joins over 20 miners and suppliers to the sector that includes Newcrest, South32, Barminco and Epiroc to create the EMC with the ambition to accelerate progress towards the fully electrified zero CO2 and zero particulates mine.

Epiroc’s Scooptram ST14 to receive the Cummins X12 Stage V engine treatment

Epiroc says it is continuing to reduce the emissions and fuel consumption of its solutions with the incorporation of the new Cummins X12 Stage V engine for its Scooptram ST14 LHD.

“We are happy to further expand our Stage V offering by adding the Stage V engine to Scooptram ST14,” Erik Gert, Global Product Manager – Scooptram at Epiroc’s Underground division, said. “This means fulfillment of the latest emission standards in the EU and North America. We also expect other regions to follow the development towards more sustainable operations.”

First introduced in 2017, the Cummins X12 Stage V engine builds on Cummins’ proven technology, Epiroc says. The emissions of toxic gases and diesel particulate matter (DPM) are reduced by a sophisticated aftertreatment system consisting of a diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC) combined with a diesel particulate filter (DPF) and a selective catalytic reduction (SCR).

Gert added: “By reducing the particles in the diesel exhaust, a better working environment and air quality for the people working in the mine can be reached. In addition, the Stage V engine is expected to reduce diesel consumption with up to 5% compared to Stage IIIA engines.”

The Cummins X12 Stage V engine is globally available as an option for the Scooptram ST14 and Minetruck MT436B. Epiroc already offers Stage V engines for the Scooptram ST18, Minetruck MT42, Minetruck MT65 and Minetruck MT54.

Stage V engines require ultra-low sulphur fuel to operate, which reduces harmful emissions compared to traditional diesel. The Cummins X12 engine is approved to use paraffinic fuel, meeting the EN 15940 requirements. Paraffinic fuels, often called “clean diesel”, are made from alternative feedstocks, including natural gas (GTL, gas-to-liquid), vegetable oils, waste and residues (HVO, hydrotreated vegetable oil).

Epiroc makes a play for low-profile underground equipment specialist AARD Mining

Epiroc has signed an agreement to acquire South Africa-based low-profile mining equipment manufacturing specialist, AARD Mining Equipment, in a deal that will see the Stockholm-based OEM further strengthen its growth ambitions in Africa and beyond, Helena Hedblom says.

AARD, based near Johannesburg, designs, manufactures, services and supports a wide range of mining equipment, specialising in low-profile underground machines for mines with low mining heights. Its product line includes drill rigs, bolters, loaders, scalers and more. The company’s customers are mainly in the southern Africa region, with the company having approximately 200 employees and revenues in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, of about SEK650 million ($62 million).

“AARD has reputable and reliable products that complement our underground product portfolio well,” Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, said. “This acquisition will further strengthen our growth ambitions in Africa and beyond. We are looking forward to welcoming the great team at AARD to Epiroc.”

Mike Adendorff, AARD’s CEO, added: “We are excited about the prospect of continuing to grow the business within the Epiroc Group.”

The acquisition is expected to be completed in the next few months, with the transaction containing conditions normal for transactions of this nature, including regulatory approval from the competition authorities.

AARD was established in 1983 as part of the Boart group of companies. It is currently wholly owned by Matasis Mining Equipment Pty Ltd. The company’s corporate office and manufacturing facility are based in Chamdor on the West Rand, some 55 km from OR Tambo International Airport.

AARD’s product range of trackless mobile mining machinery (TM3) is used extensively on more than 30 base metal, precious metal, coal and diamond mines in sub-Sahara Africa. Its engineering and technical teams can custom design and build bespoke machines to suit customer’s needs, according to the company, with modifications and changes to existing equipment, as well as complete or partial rebuilds, able to be undertaken at the factory in Chamdor, Gauteng.

AARD says it continuously undertakes research and development, factoring this into the design and manufacture of equipment that meets customer requirements for improving safety and productivity.

The company carries a full range of spares and major components for its product range and, with satellite warehouses in Kuruman, Steelpoort, Rustenburg and at some mines, says it is able to make spares available on a 24/7 basis.

Alongside its facilities in South Africa, it also has subsidiaries in Zambia (AARD Zambia, based on the Copperbelt) and Zimbabwe (AARD Zimbabwe, based in Harare, Zimbabwe).

BluVein’s underground dynamic charging developments accelerating

BluVein, after officially receiving agreement and project approval from all project partners, has initiated the third phase of technology development and testing of its underground mine electrification solution, BluVein1, it says.

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, which is OEM agnostic, 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.

The underground-focused development under BluVein is coined BluVein1, with the open-pit development looking to offer dynamic charging for ultra-class haul trucks called BluVein XL. This latter project was recently named among eight winning ideas selected to progress to the next stage of the Charge On Innovation Challenge.

The purpose of the third phase of the BluVein1 technology development is to:

  • Conduct a full-scale refined hammer (collector) and arm design and testing with a second prototype;
  • Execute early integration works with mining partners and OEMs;
  • Provide full-power dynamic energy transfer for a vehicle demonstration on a local test site; and
  • Confirm a local test site for development.

IM understands that the company is close to sealing an agreement for a local test site where it will carry out trials of the dynamic charging technology.

James Oliver, CEO, BluVein, said the third phase represents an essential final pre-pilot stage of BluVein1.

“It excites me that the BluVein solution is becoming an industry reality,” he said. “The faster BluVein1 is ready for deployment, the better for our partners and the mining industry globally.”

BluVein recently entered a Memorandum of Understanding with Epiroc, where the Sweden-based OEM will provide the first ever diesel-to-battery-converted Minetruck MT42 underground truck for pilot testing on the slotted electric rail system from BluVein.

“This MoU also ensures that we are designing and developing the system into a real-world BEV for full-scale live testing and demonstration on a pilot site in 2023,” BluVein says.

In addition to Epiroc, IM understands BluVein is working with Sandvik, MacLean, Volvo and Scania, among others, on preparing demonstration vehicles for the BluVein1 pilot site.

The BluVein1 consortium welcomed South32 into the project in May, joining Northern Star Resources, Newcrest Mining, Vale, Glencore, Agnico Eagle, AngloGold Ashanti and BHP, all of which have signed a consortium project agreement that aims to enable final system development and the construction of a technology demonstration pilot site in Australia.

The project is being conducted through the consortium model by Rethink Mining, powered by the Canada Mining Innovation Council (CMIC), which CMIC says is a unique collaboration structure that fast-tracks mining innovation technologies such as BluVein and CAHM (Conjugate Anvil Hammer Mill).

Carl Weatherell, Executive Director and CEO, CMIC/President Rethink Mining Ventures, said: “With the urgent need to decarbonise, CMIC’s approach to co-develop and co-deploy new platform technologies is the way to accelerate to net zero greenhouse gases. The BluVein consortium is a perfect example of how to accelerate co-development of new technology platforms.”

Oliver concluded: “The BluVein1 consortium is a great reminder that many hands make light work, and through this open collaboration with OEMs and mining companies, we’re moving faster together towards a cleaner, greener future for mining.”

Epiroc records ‘best quarter ever for electrification’

In a quarter of record revenues and adjusted operating margin, Epiroc’s battery-electric equipment orders and market demand for electrified mining solutions again came to the fore.

The company posted revenues of SEK11.9 billion ($1.2 billion) in the June quarter, 22% up on the same three-month period of a year ago. Its adjusted operating margin came in at 23.6%, compared with 22.6% a year earlier.

Epiroc’s aftermarket division continued to dominate the balance sheet, accounting for 73% of revenues, which itself was up on the 69% registered in the June quarter of 2021.

Included within this revenue is the company’s growing mid-life battery retrofit solution, which it launched last year to provide a second electrified life for its diesel-powered machines. Able to convert existing machines to battery-electric versions, CEO Helena Hedblom said the offering continued to find favour with existing mining customers.

“With brownfield operations, there are great opportunities to bring battery-electric solutions into the fleet with our retrofit option when, for example, existing diesel-powered machines go in for their mid-life upgrades,” she said.

To this point, the company has devised readily available battery-electric retrofit options for its diesel-powered Scooptram ST1030, Scooptram ST14 and Minetruck MT436 machines, but Hedblom said the company was working on offering this option across its entire diesel-powered fleet, with the machine retrofit rollout plan determined by the size of the installed base in the marketplace.

The company also won several major equipment contracts in the June quarter that included battery-electric solutions.

Its electric machines are set to feature on major projects such as Odyssey and Onaping Depth in Canada. Closer to home in Sweden, the Epiroc battery-electric fleet will grow at LKAB’s underground iron ore operations and Boliden is set to use several of zero-emission truck and loaders at numerous mine sites.

Epiroc labelled Q2 as its “best quarter ever for electrification”, and Hedblom was equally effusive about the company’s offering, saying it was built for both greenfield and brownfield mines.

“We have a strong position in the electrification market; both for equipment sales, retrofit and electrical infrastructure,” she said.

The company’s infrastructure proposition was strengthened during the quarter with the acquisition of JTMEC, an Australia-based company specialising in providing mines with electrical infrastructure.

This comes on top of the company’s recent purchase of Meglab, a Canada-based company with expertise in providing electrification infrastructure solutions to mines, meaning it has electrification infrastructure expertise in two major mining hubs.

One of the battery-electric orders received during the most recent three-month period was from Boliden for the Rävliden, Kristineberg and Renström mine sites in northern Sweden. Included within this order was an Scooptram ST18 Battery that, the company previously confirmed, will include the incorporation of Scooptram Automation, representing one of the first times these battery-backed machines will receive an automation upgrade.

While a solution for automating the battery charging or swapping process remains some way off, Hedblom sees the convergence of the two – electrification and automation – getting closer in the future.

“Electrification and automation go hand in hand, with companies that are high on electrification also typically being high on automation,” she said.

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.”

Epiroc to deliver advanced autonomous drilling solutions to SNIM in Mauritania

Epiroc has won a large order for surface mining equipment from Société Nationale Industrielle et Minière, in Mauritania.

Société Nationale Industrielle et Minière, known as SNIM, is one of Africa’s largest iron ore producers. The mining company has ordered a package of Epiroc Pit Viper 351 drill rigs with advanced automation solutions that will be used at the new F’Derick mining site. Epiroc will, in addition, provide service supervision and spare parts.

The equipment order is valued around SEK150 million ($14.7 million) and was booked in the June quarter of 2022.

“Epiroc has a long-term relationship with SNIM, and we look forward to continue supporting the customer with optimal productivity and safety at the new mine site,” Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, said.

The Pit Viper 351 rigs are manufactured in Texas, USA. They will be installed with automation features including AutoDrill, which allows for up to 100% of the hole drilling cycle to be in automatic mode with high consistency and reliability of operations, and with AutoLevel, which minimises the time it takes to level and delevel and hence provides more time drilling. They will also be equipped with Epiroc’s telematics system, which allows for intelligent monitoring of machine performance and productivity in real time, Epiroc says