Tag Archives: Erik Svedlund

ASI acquisition to reinforce Epiroc’s OEM-agnostic transition

Amid all the justified hype surrounding the launch of Epiroc’s second generation of battery-electric machines in Örebro, Sweden, this week, the company’s recent M&A activity was somewhat forgotten.

The acquisition of 34% of ASI Mining, a subsidiary of Autonomous Solutions Inc, is one of the more interesting buys the company has made in the past month or so and Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s Senior Executive Vice President Mining and Infrastructure, provided further insight into why the company made the move for the US-based company.

ASI Mining’s products include on-board hardware and software that convert vehicles to autonomous operation, as well as system level software platforms for command and control of autonomous fleets across various mining applications. The solutions integrate with various mobile mining equipment, regardless of make or model. While the company aims to provide a broad mining remit with its Mobius solution, it has so far only made inroads into the surface mining space.

Hedblom, first off, said ASI’s automation retrofitting capability would bolster Epiroc’s open-pit mining offering, which includes production and exploration drilling equipment.

The partnership with ASI will also reinforce a much deeper shift in the company’s future product and systems strategy.

Hedblom said: “Our strategy when it comes to system integration…is to be able to offer a solution that can really drive productivity for our customers. To do that, you need to combine the full system of vehicles. You cannot only do it with one type of equipment.

“That’s why we have a clear strategy to be OEM-agnostic in everything we do.”

She continued: “The solutions you will see here [in Örebro] and, also the capabilities ASI brings, is [all around being] OEM-agnostic. It allows us to respond to the needs that the customers have when it comes to being OEM agnostic…I do believe that is what the industry needs, otherwise it will not be possible to reach the full potential when it comes to productivity.”

This philosophy can also be seen in the latest generation of battery-electric machines and systems, according to Epiroc’s Global Marketing Manager – Electrification, Erik Svedlund.

“OEM-agnostic goes to everything we do. For example, in the charging of our machines, we have already selected the solution from surface where we use the same type [of charger] that the car manufacturers do. This is a super-fast charging system for the car industry, but it will be our standard charging.

“This is important because then we can standardise an open interface between all the OEMs and all equipment in mines can be charged from the same charging infrastructure. It’s very important not to lock in customers to special designs.

“We believe, long term, this will be a benefit,” he said, adding that this charger change came about from the learnings of some 65,000 hours of operations with its first generation of battery-electric equipment.

Epiroc and Kirkland Lake Gold leading the mine electrification race, Riach says

Canada and Australia-focused Kirkland Lake Gold has helped Epiroc become one of the leaders in the underground battery-electric mining equipment market, Richard Riach, Global Senior Project Manager for the OEM, said at the company’s Power Change Days event in Örebro, Sweden, on Wednesday.

The miner currently has some 33 battery-electric vehicles running around underground at its Macassa mine in Ontario, Canada, 14 of which are Epiroc machines. Overall, some 75-80% of the company’s haul and load operations are carried out by battery-electric equipment, he said.

Based on those numbers, the miner is one of the leaders in the field of battery-electric adoption underground, as well as a key partner for Epiroc.

“They’ve been the people that have helped us develop the products we have today,” Riach said.

The benefits haven’t all been one way.

Riach said Kirkland Lake had witnessed just a 2°C increase in the underground environment during the battery-electric mucking cycle with LHDs and trucks at Macassa, compared with an 8°C increase using the diesel equivalent.

Vibration and noise emissions have fallen, while operators are less tired at the end of a shift – a tell-tale sign of operating with heavy polluting diesel equipment. The amount of dust circulating around the workings has also dropped.

Riach, who formerly worked for Vale in Sudbury, said Epiroc’s development timeline for battery-electric machinery started all the way back in 2012. The first Scooptram ST7 Battery was produced in 2013 before a 2014 machine trial with Goldcorp’s Red Lake mines department. The Minetruck MT2010 then came along in 2015.

With around 65,000 hours of operating data from battery-electric equipment, Epiroc has now launched its second generation of battery-electric machines – two new LHDs (Scooptram ST14 and Scooptram ST18), a 42 t truck (Minetruck MT42, pictured) and a range of mid-sized drilling equipment including face drilling, production drilling and rock reinforcement rigs.

While the company will start to roll out these products from next year – IM understands at least one piece of the second-generation machinery will go to Agnico Eagle Mines’ Kittila gold operation in Finland as part of the SIMS (Sustainable Intelligent Mining Systems) project – it already has its sights on more products.

Stevan Topalovic, Vice President Marketing Underground Rock Excavation division at Epiroc, said the technology was readily scalable and Epiroc was already working on an 18 t LHD.

There is also a target to roll out battery-electric equipment across its entire underground fleet within the next five years.

And about the potential for retrofitting, Erik Svedlund, Global Marketing Manager – Electrification, Epiroc, said the company was carrying out studies to do exactly this. This could lead to the retrofitting of battery-electric technology on Epiroc diesel equipment and, even more interesting, other OEM’s machines.

The company would not have been able to get to this point in its product evolution without the help of battery maker Northvolt and ABB. Both companies have been instrumental in providing the technology to make this transition from diesel to electric operation.

As part of this new range, Epiroc is committed to its Battery as a Service offering. This will see the mining OEM provide a warranty for the battery and provide both software and hardware updates on an annual basis.

“Our battery system will improve every year with improvements in the battery cells,” Svedlund said, explaining the modular design of the machines and batteries allowed this. He said the company was even prepared for a future switch to solid-state batteries.

By shifting the battery element of these machines from a capex to opex item, providing the widest range of battery-electric mining equipment across the market and remaining open to changes in both the battery chemistry and system, the company is hoping to differentiate its machines from its competitors.