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Thiess’ sustainability drive accelerates in 2023

With the release of its 2023 sustainability report, Thiess says it has advanced its journey towards sustainable mining, reducing its emissions and diversifying its commodities and services.

Further progress was made towards its 2025 decarbonisation target, reducing Scope 1 emissions by 21% and Scope 2 emissions by 12% during 2023.

These efforts were further enhanced by the group’s diversification of its commodities and services, to rebalance its thermal coal revenue to less than 25% by the end of 2027, which is tracking ahead of schedule. Recognising this, the group has now set an additional diversification target to rebalance its portfolio to consist of less than 20% thermal coal revenue by the end of 2030.

“The group remains committed to supporting a smooth energy transition and will continue to provide sustainable mining services to its thermal coal clients as the use of this commodity continues to support economic growth in many societies,” it said.

These goals have been set alongside the release of Thiess’ 2023 sustainability report, which, itself, reported on several projects helping the decarbonisation cause.

To progress its target of 85% of light vehicles being electric or hybrid by 2030, Thiess began battery electric and hybrid light vehicle trials in Australia, North America and Chile, in 2023, with similar trials expected to begin in Indonesia in 2024.

In Chile, Thiess formalised an agreement to lease two Voltera R6 electric cars, each with a range of 280-300 km, which were delivered to the Llanos copper project in October. This initiative aims to reduce emissions by approximately 7.2 t CO2-e each year. Thiess also partnered with Hualpen, a Chile-based transport company, to trial the use of an electric bus to transport personnel during shift change from the city of Calama to the Llanos copper project, in Minera Centinela, approximately 100 km away. The use of the electric bus results in an estimated emissions saving of approximately 140 kg CO2-e per trip, which Hualpen estimates will result in a total emissions saving of approximately 15 t CO2-e per year.

In the US, Thiess investigated the application of an electric 4×4 light vehicle in the challenging weather conditions at its molybdenum site. The site is around 3.5 km above sea level with temperatures often dropping to -20°C. The chosen engineered solution uses a Hypercraft electric drive system to convert a heavy-duty designed Ford F-250 Super Duty 4×4 (pictured). This fully-electric solution provides a range of 160-225 km and was deployed in December 2023.

At the Mt Pleasant operation in New South Wales, Australia, Thiess has introduced two electric vehicles (EVs) – a Polestar 2 and Kia EV6 – and a hybrid Mitsubishi Outlander, as pool cars. The vehicles provide personnel with an opportunity to trial the experience of driving an EV to encourage wider adoption. Two ABB 22 kW electric chargers were installed to support the trial with a third installed for use by employees and visitors who drive EVs to site.

Outside of light vehicles, Thiess, through MACA, welcomed the first Liebherr R 9300 250-t excavator in Australia into its growing fleet at the Karlawinda gold project in Western Australia. Commissioned in August 2023, the R 9300 uses innovative technology to provide improved performance and better fuel efficiency, Thiess says. Thiess also introduced Komatsu 930E-5 electric drive trucks, with tier 4 engine technology, at two Australian projects to enhance operational efficiency. The trucks are expected to deliver a 5% reduction in fuel consumption compared to other trucks in their class, it says.

In 2023, the MACA team at the Okvau gold project in Cambodia worked with its supplier to reduce the compressor power of all drill rigs to 90% to improve efficiency and reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Since the implementation of the initiative in June 2023, fuel consumption across all six Epiroc drill rigs has been reduced by an average of 20%. This equates to an annual saving of approximately 165,000 litres of fuel and 570 kg of CO2-e emissions. Thiess said: “MACA intends to continue with the reduced compressor power as there has been no adverse effects since the initiative was implemented. Drill performance in normal conditions has been unaffected and no maintenance issues have been reported.”

Building on the success of the initiative, the aim is to extend the modifications to remaining drill rigs of the same model within its fleet.

Also during 2023, Thiess completed a study to determine the optimum horse power (HP) setting for the Cat 794AC trucks at a Queensland project based on application, production capability and fuel burn. The study allowed Thiess to identify the most appropriate setting, considering tonnes moved and fuel consumed, and calculate component life targets based on each setting. The trial resulted in fuel savings of 15.79% across a fleet of seven 794ACs by reducing the HP setting from 3,500 HP to 3,100 HP. According to internal calculations this equated to a saving of A$1.68 million ($1.11 million) per year in fuel, $180,000 in life extension and an annual reduction in emissions of 3,790 t CO2-e.

The site team concluded there was no reduction in asset performance, however the trial indicated a reduction in truck productivity of 4.72%. Although this is a bespoke situation, Thiess says it will look to identify similar cases at other sites where the trial findings may be utilised.

In September 2023, Thiess launched the Thiess Remote Operation Centre (TROC) In Jakarta, Indonesia. Using leading technology, TROC supports fleet management at the Wahana mine over 1,000 km away. This remote technology can help to improve efficiency and productivity of the mining fleet, Thiess says.

Thiess will look to implement the technology at its MSJ mine next, allowing TROC to support additional mines as Thiess continues on its digitisation journey.

Thiess also completed a hydrogen trickle feed trial on 40% of its haul fleet at the Prominent Hill operation in South Australia, in 2023 (now owned by BHP). Findings have been leveraged with the aim to initiate a second trial at a New South Wales project in 2024.

In 2024, Thiess plans to begin trials of hybrid excavators in Indonesia and battery-powered light/medium trucks in Australia, continue dual fuel trials and MACA’s pursuit of fleet retrofit solutions in Australia, complete an additional hydrogen trickle feed technology trial and investigate more fuel-efficient options for its asset rebuilds, it says.