Tag Archives: haul trucks

The Komatsu AZPG: bringing unique mining concepts to life

Seeing Komatsu’s Arizona Proving Grounds (AZPG) in person, it is easy to understand why the OEM is in a leading position when it comes to both surface mining automation and electrification.

The 660-acre (270-ha) facility is a living and breathing example of mining’s past, present and future; touring round, one can see 20-plus-year-old machines, the latest -5 ultra-class haul trucks and concept vehicles that will form the basis for future commercial autonomous and/or electric solutions.

These concept vehicles – at least when IM visited in November – included the company’s EVX battery proof of concept vehicle and the cabless IAHV autonomous mining truck concept.

The EVX is based off the basic 860E platform (a 254-t payload machine) and was shown off at MINExpo 2021. Prior to that, it had been testing out its all-battery power functionality at AZPG.

The IAHV, which debuted at MINExpo 2016, was developed by Komatsu as an unstaffed vehicle designed to maximise the advantages of such operation. It remains on show, with the company incorporating several learnings from this vehicle into its standard Electric Drive Trucks (EDT) and autonomous products.

Pat Singleton, Product Director, EDT, refers to AZPG as the “ultimate laboratory to be able to bring unique mining concepts to life”.

He added: “The testing we do at AZPG gives us the opportunity to reduce product development risk and take the validation process one step further before the products make it to the mine.”

The original focus at AZPG was the EDT product line, yet, as Komatsu has expanded its product offerings, more solutions continue to be tested or validated at the facility each year.

This testing is extensive, as was made obvious to IM while navigating an autonomous vehicle ‘assault course’ and hearing about new wet- and dry-disc brake trial combinations, higher speed tramming on autonomous haul trucks and more.

It is not just trucks subject to these try outs either, with hydraulic shovels, surface drill rigs, water trucks, dozers and other vehicles having a presence on site.

“If anything, the importance of AZPG has increased as technology has continued to evolve,” Singleton said. “AZPG allows for a single location to harmonise development efforts of all the Komatsu entities, providing research and development into our products.”

What’s more, the facility is located in Arizona’s renowned copper heartland.

This has been very useful for Komatsu, with Asarco’s Mission mine next door to the facility representing a real life mine site testing opportunity for solutions that have graduated from AZPG.

AZPG has 23 full-time staff, but its desk count is much higher, indicating the number of visitors and partners AZPG welcomes on a weekly basis from across the globe.

Some of these visitors include FrontRunner® autonomous haulage system (AHS) customers, who have, more recently, been invited to send operators to the facility for invaluable training ahead of planned autonomous deployments.

Anthony Cook, Vice President, Autonomous Systems, Mining Technology Solutions, told IM that this approach is enabling mining operations to leverage more of the benefits of AHS from day one of deployment, reducing the need to conduct a ‘soft start’ with the technology as operators come to terms with the transition from staffed to autonomous operations.

A representative from Komatsu’s dealer network was receiving training on the AHS system during IM’s visit, with Cook confirming another major mining customer and Komatsu distributors had sent operators to Arizona earlier in 2022 ahead of a planned deployment in 2023.

AHS developments are a key focus area for AZPG, with the on-site trucks testing out many different scenarios that customers could experience at their operations.

Software updates make up many of the ongoing FrontRunner AHS developments, but the company also continues to explore the use of more sensors and cameras on board its vehicles for obstacle detection and positioning. This is all geared towards improving visualisation, communication and safety, reducing potential false positives during operation and ultimately helping to improve productivity.

As for software upgrades to FrontRunner AHS, all developments are initially tested in a bench environment where the company can simulate the system. This may be within the former Modular Mining facility, also in Tucson, or at another one of Komatsu’s many testing hubs.

“Once it has passed virtual testing then final functional and stability testing is validated at AZPG before release to the customer,” Singleton said.

Some recent testing related to mixed fleet operations of staffed and autonomous trucks that originated in the lab to later emerge at AZPG has since led to a FrontRunner first at Anglo American’s Los Bronces mine in Chile.

The mining company only recently started its AHS deployment at the copper mine, initially going live with ten 930E-5 trucks, but Cook confirmed to IM that these vehicles are now interacting with staffed trucks in the mining environment.

“We’ve got off to a very strong start at Los Bronces, with Anglo American really embracing the technology and pushing it to its limits,” he said.

The full Los Bronces deployment could see 62 electric drive Komatsu 930E trucks running by 2024.

Those who visited MINExpo 2021 in Las Vegas will also remember the PC7000-11 shovel that was being teleremote operated live from the show, while the unit was over 600 km away at AZPG. This unit (above) is still positioned on site and the teleremote operation is continuing to be refined from inside the facility, with AutoSwing and AutoDump functions a few recent notable additions for improved operability.

Komatsu expects to replace this shovel with a backhoe version later this year, to also be teleremotely operated.

Trolley transformation

The first vehicle IM saw when driving up to AZPG was the EVX; its shiny yellow exterior providing the perfect contrast to the rich blue backdrop of the Tucson sky.

Since leaving Las Vegas in September 2021 and heading for Tucson, the company has made preparations to remove the small on-board battery which was displayed on the Komatsu stand and begin replacing it with a larger one from one of its integration partners.

The connectors for trolley were still on board and the team was awaiting final commissioning of the on-site trolley line ahead of further testing.

IM Editor Dan Gleeson (left) on site at AZPG with some of the Komatsu team

Singleton explained: “The EVX was a proof of concept to demonstrate that a large electric drive haul truck could be powered by a battery. Now that we better understand the ability of this technology to work in our EDT products, we must continue to advance the technology to drive increased performance and reduced operating costs.”

To date, Komatsu has continued with truck testing to learn how the various subsystems work with batteries while finalising its battery chemistry.

“We’ve also installed trolley infrastructure, which will allow us to conduct further testing on batteries and other alternative power sources,” Singleton said.

This infrastructure – made up of 39 poles that are ‘movable’ and ‘self-supporting’ – could support two 980E-5s running on the line at the same time.

Initially, it will support both the EVX and one 930E running in tandem.

The line itself is powered by a 9 MW substation, which Siemens and a local electrical and engineering company established.

The trolley course has been designed with a 60° corner to demonstrate to operators that this technology is for more than just straight hauls.

“This highlights the flexibility of the system and shows mining operators where the technology can already go today,” Cook said. “The concrete pillars, which can be moved with wheel loaders and other support equipment, are an indication that the trolley can ‘move with the mining’, too.”

Singleton said the next development for the EVX will focus on an increase in the battery capability and the investigation of proof of concept on a variety of static and dynamic charging options.

The trolley line will, no doubt, play a role in this testing, although it is not yet known if a single or hybrid power setup will be selected initially.

What is more certain, however, is the status of fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) testing on the EVX. Singleton said research into this area continues, yet a practical test where fuel cells and a battery were mounted on the chassis was some way off.

At this early stage, Singleton says the first commercial power-agnostic offering the company establishes will likely be diesel and/or diesel trolley.

He explained: “This approach delivers reduced risk to the overall portfolio by blending the power-agnostic chassis with a refined version of an existing technology (diesel engine + overhead dynamic trolley).”

“It also serves the secondary purpose of allowing battery technology the opportunity to mature from a performance perspective as we work to define overall truck fleet performance. Additionally, static and dynamic charging options (including development of an industry-standard connector) are within the scope of this product.”

And the first commercial power-agnostic truck will be in the 291 t (320 ton) class – the same size as a 930E – Singleton confirmed, adding that scalability was something being considered at every stage of the truck’s development.

“Scalability is the overall goal and is in alignment with the general power-agnostic approach to our design,” he said. “The major challenge will be the scalability of the energy storage componentry from a cost and performance standpoint. This is the primary driver behind the continued deliberate development cadence designed to give the battery technology time to mature over the intervening period before the design is finalised.”

When asked about fixed fast charging – a concept that has risen up the mine truck charging rankings of late with Charge On Innovation Challenge work from Hitachi Energy and a consortium led by Shell, respectively – Singleton referred to developments as a “two-way street” and a “work in progress”.

“Essentially those solutions need better definition and ‘mining proofing’ before we introduce them into AZPG,” he said. “Perhaps an opportunity exists to co-develop these technologies and improve speed to market but, again, this is still being defined.”

The trolley infrastructure at AZPG – made up of 39 poles that are ‘movable’ and ‘self-supporting’ – could support two 980E-5s running on the line at the same time, according to Komatsu

All this work sounds encouraging for those companies interested in adding to their ultra-size class truck fleets in the 2030s in line with industry-wide decarbonisation plans, but Komatsu customers looking to buy trucks today will be after future-proofed solutions.

Komatsu is all too aware of this and planning to provide a battery retrofit solution for its current -5 products, Singleton said.

GHG Alliance and beyond

As has been well documented, Komatsu has aligned with a core group of customers under its GHG Alliance to accelerate developments on the electric haulage front.

Rio Tinto, BHP, Codelco, Boliden, Teck, Antofagasta Minerals SA and Freeport-McMoRan are key stakeholders within the alliance and will be keen to see what testing emerges on that trolley line into 2023.

While Singleton said the communication process with these customers was still being refined, he acknowledged AZPG’s role in future developments.

“There is no question AZPG will provide a critical backdrop to accelerating our efforts and streamlining our ability to communicate and advance the development progress with our customers,” he said.

Whether the company chooses to initiate an early-learner program like the other big yellow equipment maker it competes with is yet to be seen, with Singleton saying its plans will leverage the “Komatsu approach” regardless of what the competition is doing.

What is clear is that AZPG will continue to keep Komatsu on the leading edge of mobile mining equipment technology developments.

As evidence, Cook reeled off several ongoing projects the company was engaged in, including an autonomous water truck in Australia, automated dozers in Brazil and plans to semi-automate electric blasthole drills.

Going forward, another consideration will be the ability to integrate AHS with trolley operations.

“Komatsu, as an organisation, is committed to solving our customer’s and the industry’s challenges, and we will continue to leverage AZPG and the wider Komatsu network to do this,” Cook said.

Pre-production mining fleet starts to arrive at Greenstone gold project

Equinox Gold Corp says it is making good headway on its 60%-owned Greenstone project, in Ontario, Canada, with four Cat 793 haul trucks delivered to site and the first Komatsu PC-5500 excavator set for assembly this quarter.

The Greenstone project is being developed as a 60/40 partnership, respectively, by Equinox Gold and Orion Mine Finance Group, and is billed as being one of the largest gold mines in Canada, producing more than 400,000 oz/y of gold for the first five years and more than 5 Moz of gold over its initial 14-year mine life.

The project is now 35% complete and on schedule to pour first gold in the first half of 2024, Equinox says. As of June 30, 2022, 56% of total capital costs had been contracted and Greenstone had spent $315 million (26%) of its $1.23 billion construction budget (100% basis).

The earthworks were 48% complete, with plant site earthworks 76% complete, tailings storage facility (TSF) earthworks 29% complete and the Highway 11 realignment earthworks 39% complete. Structural concrete was 37% complete and structural steel 21% complete.

The company says pre-production mining should commence in the December quarter with the four Cat 793s (250-t) payload haul trucks and the first Komatsu PC-5500.

Equinox has also committed to mobile equipment lease financing of $78 million for the project, deferring approximately $53 million of initial capital spend, it says.

The Greenstone Mine plan contemplates construction of a 27,000 t/d processing facility and open-pit mining operation for the Hardrock deposit. The process plant consists of a crushing circuit, grinding circuit, pre-leach thickening and leaching, carbon-in-pulp circuit, carbon elution and regeneration, electrowinning and gold refining, and tailings disposal, with overall gold recovery of 91.2%. Mining will use conventional open-pit blast, load and haul techniques, with the 2020 technical report also including the potential for automated blasthole drilling.

Christian Milau, CEO of Equinox Gold, stated: “The Greenstone team has done great work staying on schedule and on budget, despite the challenges of starting construction during COVID and dealing with inflationary and supply chain issues. The independent quantitative risk assessment of our schedule and construction budget has provided additional comfort that we’re on track to deliver the project as planned in the first half of 2024.

“Excellent earthworks progress during the winter months means we can focus on concrete foundations and steel structures during the summer and fall and enclose the majority of buildings before year end, which will allow us to maintain productivity during the winter months.”

Upcoming construction milestones include:

  • Delivery and assembly of pre-production fleet of four trucks and excavators: Q2-Q3 2022;
  • Permanent water effluent treatment plant ready for use: Q3 2022;
  • Commence installation of gensets in power plant, power building enclosed: Q3 2022;
  • Start of pre-production mining: Q4 2022;
  • Truck shop, warehouse, process plant (HPRG, crushing and main buildings) ready to enclose: Q4 2022;
  • Leach tanks installed: Q4 2022;
  • Ball mills received: Q1 2023;
  • Crushers installed: Q3 2023;
  • TSF complete: Q4 2023;
  • Highway 11 realignment complete: Q4 2023
  • Commissioning: Q1-Q2 2024; and
  • Gold pour: Q2 2024.

Hitachi Energy tackling mine decarbonisation ‘sticking point’ with interoperable haul truck charger

Hitachi Energy is working on a “truly interoperable” 8 MW electric charging solution for large haul trucks, with plans to conduct field trials by 2023, according to Matt Zafuto, VP, Industry Solutions, Hitachi Energy.

The solution – the same solution the company initially put forward for The Charge On Innovation Challenge – came to light earlier this year and was reported by IM in its Battery and Electric Machines feature in IM February 2022.

It leverages Hitachi Energy’s power systems capabilities, advanced digital technologies and proven track record of innovation in sustainable mobility, according to Zafuto, with the solution including hardware to safely charge and service the vehicles, systems for safe electrification of the environment, and services and expertise for collaborative industry partnerships.

IM put some questions to Zafuto to find out more.

IM: What partners are you working with on this interoperable solution?

MZ: We plan for this to be a truly interoperable system. No matter the manufacturer of their haul trucks, all mines will be able to use our solution on their road to carbon neutrality. The market is looking for haul truck manufacturers to build new electric haul trucks, and also to retrofit existing diesel-powered trucks. We’re developing our technology to be interoperable with either new builds or retrofits.

Our core partners, who will help us design the system, include others in the Hitachi group such as Hitachi Industrial Products and Hitachi Construction Machinery. Working together provides end-to-end, deep insight needed to calculate and achieve the power requirements of these mission-critical vehicles.

IM: When do you plan to have a prototype in place?

MZ: We intend to have this electric-powered haul truck solution in field trials by 2023.

IM: Where will this solution be tested and on what OEMs trucks?

MZ: We plan to coordinate with mines and implement field trials by 2023 to develop the best product possible. Our system will be interoperable, so we’ll be able to test it with any truck OEM.

Matt Zafuto, VP, Industry Solutions, Hitachi Energy

IM: Can you expand on how it leverages Hitachi Energy’s power systems capabilities, advanced digital technology and proven track record of innovation in sustainable mobility?

MZ: We have a proven track record for electrifying transportation with our Grid eMotion Fleet solution. Companies and organisations around the globe rely on us to develop and automate safe, efficient and cost-effective charging infrastructure for their electric buses. In this solution, we’re combining our extensive electrification and digital technologies expertise with our deep mining knowledge, where we’ve been working for decades.

We understand both how to quickly charge and maximise the power in electric vehicles and the unique situation facing mines, from the changing mine site to the automation of the vehicles to the imperative of employee safety.

We’ve laid the groundwork for electrification at operations like the DeGrussa Mine, which reduced carbon emissions by over 30,000 t and offset 11 million litres of diesel. Hitachi Energy has also delivered enterprise asset management systems, built on almost four decades of mining data, for the likes of Centerra Gold, allowing it to more effectively allocate and use equipment and achieve a new level of business efficiency.

This electric haul-truck solution brings together these areas of expertise and will push the electric mine forward by leaps and bounds. Our solution will provide 8 MW of power in three minutes of charging, about 14 times higher than any other solution available today. With this solution, we’ll create a safe, reliable way to decarbonise one of the biggest sticking points for mines in their electric future: haul trucks.

Hastings Deering, Cat and Rio Tinto carry out Australia’s first 777 D to E conversion

In what it says is a first for the Australia market, Hastings Deering has successfully completed the conversion of 777D haul trucks into 777E models for Rio Tinto’s Gove bauxite operations in the Northern Territory.

The 777D to E conversion process includes an engine upgrade from an older Cat 3508 to a C32 Tier 2 engine, a transmission upgrade to electronic clutch control, torque converter upgrade and an upgraded cab with the latest electronics and safety aspects.

Nearing the end of mine life, Gove was looking at innovative ways to reduce its environmental impact, extend fleet life and optimise return on investment, Hastings Deering said.

Brendan Coleing, Superintendent, Mining Maintenance, said that the Gove operation has focused heavily on building safe and reliable machinery to meet the targeted life of its assets and has been working to reduce environmental emissions.

“With a 24/7 operation, we need to plan and strategically think about our assets, their maintenance and lifecycle,” he said.

“All machines have availability targets. Ultimately, we want to keep them in the field as long as possible. The 777D to E Conversion project was a way we could continue the journey to do that, with the added benefit of providing improved technology to our operational teams.”

He concluded: “We’re excited that Gove operations was the first Australian mine to undertake this project, and only the second in the world. With a significant reduction in our carbon footprint, fuel consumption and maintenance costs, and an improved operator experience, really, we were challenged with: why wouldn’t we?”

With the first of the 777 trucks now back on site, the Rio Tinto team has seen a 5-6% fuel reduction, proving that effective planning for this fleet conversion has improved economy on site, Hastings Deering said.

With Cat equipment built to perform over multiple lifetimes, the Cat Certified Rebuild (CCR) was the most efficient way to help get the most economic value out of the asset investment, according to Hastings Deering.

A CCR is a full machine rebuild that provides a like-new machine, inclusive of all Cat updates, to help achieve a full machine life supported by the Caterpillar warranty.

In early 2020, the Hastings Deering team worked with Rio Tinto on an alternative solution for engine replacement in its D11R fleet that, it says, reduced costs, fuel use and emissions while extending lifespans. This incorporated replacing the 3508 engines with the newer C32 engines.

“Recent success with repowering our D11 fleet with C32 engines has helped our mining operations move more bauxite due to increased power in the machine,” Coleing said. “This, in turn, allowed us to plan for the 777D to E conversions to take place in the workshop to complete the CCRs.”

Chris Polkinghorne, Mining Support Rep at Hastings Deering, said that the 777D to E conversion was brought about through collaboration with Caterpillar, Rio Tinto Gove and Hastings Deering.

“As a team we worked through what the benefits of this conversion would be, what was required, the planning phase and then how to execute the project in as little time as possible,” he said. “The 777D to E conversion redefines performance adding all the advancements of the 777E truck model.

“For the operator, improved ergonomics provide enhanced comfort, safety, and visibility, to maximise productivity and reduce fatigue.”

Centamin working with VR Steel, Real Mining and Aresco on truck tray rollout at Sukari

Centamin’s Sukari gold mine in Egypt is in the process of upgrading its fleet of Caterpillar 785C haul trucks with “lightweight truck trays” designed by VR Steel and fabricated by Egypt-based Aresco.

In 2020, the miner trialled the use of these high production trays, which demonstrated a 10% gain in truck productivity through larger payload and faster cycle time. This led to a decision for a broader roll-out in 2021 across the haul fleet, Centamin said in its 2020 sustainability report.

The introduction of these trays, designed so the floor can be replaced for extended overall service life, are part of the company’s plans to improve cycle loading times and truck/loader matching at the gold operation. They also bring sustainability benefits to the operation given they reduce the truck body weight, increase the payload and improve fuel and tyre efficiency.

Centamin, in the 2020 sustainability report, confirmed it had placed an order for the local fabrication of 44 high production trays to fit the haul fleet in accordance with OEM specifications.

Thiess bolsters Chile mining fleet with five Liebherr T 264 haul trucks

Thiess is expanding its 240-t fleet in Chile with five new electric drive Liebherr T 264 mining trucks, cementing its commitment to growth in the region.

Thiess’ Executive General Manager Americas, Darrell White, said the fleet addition would further bolster Thiess’ capability and deliver productivity and efficiency gains for clients.

“South America is essential to Thiess’ long-term growth and building our diversification into commodities such as copper and gold,” White said. “The T 264s boost our fleet numbers and provide our clients with the opportunity to increase production capacity.

“This commitment to new fleet follows our recent investment in infrastructure, which includes a dedicated maintenance workshop, and building workforce capability through in-house and industry scholarship and pathway programs.”

Liebherr Chile’s Mining Division Director, Dale Clayton, said the Liebherr partnership with Thiess spanned three decades and enabled new products to enter the market, including the recently upgraded T 264s to Chile.

“The T 264 truck has a 240-t nominal payload capacity and an impressive payload-to-empty-vehicle weight ratio, leading to faster acceleration speeds, better speed on grade and higher hauling capacity, resulting in shorter cycle times and a lower cost per tonne,” he said said. “The combination of a high-power Cummins QSK60 2,700 hp (2,013 kW) diesel engine with the extremely efficient Liebherr AC electric propulsion system allows for maximum productivity and reduced downtime.”

He added: “Our La Negra Facility and Reman Centre is well placed to provide spare parts and components as well as training and technical support, and our teams are experienced in servicing mining fleet in the unique conditions Chile offers.”

The T 264s will be manufactured at Liebherr Mining Equipment Newport News Co in Virginia, USA, and will then be shipped to Chile. Assembly of the trucks will take place at Liebherr’s La Negra Facility before being transported to site, ready for commissioning.

Mader Group hits another quarterly record as it keeps expanding

Mobile and fixed plant equipment maintenance provider Mader Group has declared a stellar set of quarterly financials that included a second consecutive quarterly revenue figure.

Revenue for the three months to the end of June came in at A$86.4 million ($63.5 million), up 24% on the prior corresponding period (PCP), and up 14% on the previous quarter.

Revenue generated in Australia increased to A$77 million, up 21% on the PCP, driven by high levels of customer demand, while, in North America, quarterly revenue increased to A$6.8 million, up 45% on the PCP excluding foreign exchange movements (30% on an A$ basis).

The company said its preparations for operational delivery into Canada were now complete with customer negotiations well advanced.

Reflecting on Mader Group’s quarterly performance, Executive Director & Chief Executive Officer, Justin Nuich, said: “On the back of two consecutive quarters of record revenue growth, we close our books for the financial year with A$304 million in revenue and with a strong earnings result to follow. This is very pleasing and reflects the strength of our labour-focused business model.

“Our operations are more flexible and adaptable than ever, housing a dynamic in-house workforce of more than 1,600 skilled tradespersons deployed across nearly 400 sites globally. In all locations, we have prioritised the needs of our customers and our people, safely delivering over 3.4 million hours of specialised equipment maintenance for financial year 2021.”

During the period, the company continued to develop its internal safety systems to ensure the health and wellbeing of a largely remote workforce. Mader prioritised the continued roll out of a bespoke in-vehicle monitoring system for its service fleet, seeing considerable improvement in driver behaviour over the quarter, it said.

Mader also commenced trialling its safety-focused mobile app to its North American workforce.

The platform, which is already widely accessible to Mader employees within Australia, is designed to connect Mader employees to its digitally integrated safety processes, resources and company alerts.

Within Mader’s Australian operations, the group’s infrastructure and ancillary maintenance service lines remained a key focus in the business’ growth strategy. Continued diversification saw the company expand its ancillary service offerings.

“Moving into climate control support for mobile equipment, Mader supported a renewable energy project in a bid to convert diesel-electric haul trucks, exploration drills and locomotives into zero emissions technology,” the company said.

“Mader also worked with a local OEM to conduct off-site rebuilds for plant conveyors and mills. Revenue generated from the business’s ancillary maintenance services increased 21% vs PCP and by 12% vs PCP for its infrastructure maintenance services.”

Mader said its core service areas also gained traction during the quarter leading to the expansion of its in-field maintenance operations for heavy mobile equipment, driven by high customer demand across Australia. In Western Australia, this included growth in its Rapid Response team and “specialised equipment maintenance offerings”.

The company added: “Our disruptive business model continues to roll out into a large addressable market that has an appetite for significant additional capacity. All of our core business divisions continue to grow and our strategy of building new divisions that address new geographic locations or that provide additional trades and services is driving further growth.

“We are seeing structural advances in the Australian market as large owner-miners continue to develop multibillion-dollar resource projects, ultimately increasing the size of the maintainable mining fleet.”

Fortescue fast-tracks carbon neutrality aim, sets plan to trial hydrogen-powered drills

Fortescue Metals Group is accelerating its carbon neutrality efforts, with the iron ore miner now expecting to achieve this ‘green’ milestone by 2030, 10 years earlier than its previous target.

Fortescue Future Industries (FFI), a wholly owned subsidiary of Fortescue, will be a key enabler of this target through the development of green electricity, green hydrogen and green ammonia projects in Australia, however, the company has also identified battery-electric technology as a potential diesel alternative game changer.

Dr Andrew Forrest, Chairman of Fortescue Metals Group, said: “We have joined the global battle to defeat climate change. We are trialling and demonstrating green hydrogen technologies in global-scale commercial environments, while also rapidly evolving into a green hydrogen and electricity producer of similar scale.”

In line with its 2030 aim, Fortescue, through FFI and its operations team, is undertaking to deliver several key projects by the stretch target of June 30, 2021. This, the company says, will underpin its pathway to decarbonisation.

These projects include:

  • Developing a ship design powered by green ammonia and trialling that design in new ammonia engine technology, at scale;
  • Testing large battery technology in its haul trucks – a project the company is pursuing with the help of Williams Advanced Engineering;
  • Trialling hydrogen fuel cell power for its drill rigs;
  • Trialling technology on its locomotives to run on green ammonia; and
  • Conducting trials to use renewable energy in the Pilbara of Western Australia to convert iron ore to “green iron” at low temperatures, without coal.

Fortescue Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Gaines, said: “Each of these projects will contribute to the world’s inexorable march to carbon neutrality. Fortescue will establish that the major steel, truck, train, ship and mobile plant industries can be operated with renewable, environmentally friendly energy. This will be possible as a result of these ground-breaking Fortescue trials. Each will be tested by Fortescue using commercial-scale equipment to prove that the demand for direct green electricity, green hydrogen and green ammonia could one day be as large as the fossil fuel industry.”

She added: “These projects are in addition to Fortescue’s significant investment with our partners into energy infrastructure, including the Chichester Solar Gas Hybrid Project and Pilbara Energy Connect program.”

Forrest said the company’s commitment to demonstrate green hydrogen’s economic value in world-scale operations, and become a major energy exporter, means Fortescue will emerge as an “executor” of major green hydrogen projects.

He said the company’s green energy and industry initiatives may one day out-scale its iron ore business due to the global demand for renewable energy, but Fortescue’s commitment to iron ore and resources globally “remains indefeasible”.

Fortescue says it is seeking to move from being a major consumer of fossil fuel with a current trajectory of more than 1 billion litres a year of diesel being used across the operations if no remedial action is taken – to a major clean and renewable energy exporter.

FFI is advancing projects across Australia, including Tasmania, to build large-scale renewable energy and green hydrogen production capacity. This will expedite the substitution of green hydrogen and green ammonia for carbon-based fuels, it says. These projects will, with the support of Australia’s governments, contribute to a significant reduction in national carbon emissions.

B2Gold weighs use of dual fuel haul trucks at Kiaka project

B2Gold’s strong growth path in Africa looks like continuing into future years after the company laid out preliminary plans to develop a mine in Burkina Faso that could use on-site hybrid power in addition to dual fuel haul trucks burning a mix of diesel fuel and LNG.

The Vancouver-based miner reported record total production in 2020 of 1.04 Moz of gold, with its Fekola (Mali) and Ojikoto (Namibia) mines contributing some 790,559 oz. It is guiding for 970,000- 1.03 Moz of gold in 2021.

In announcing these results, the company also provided an update on its Kiaka gold project in Burkina Faso.

This project, which B2Gold owns 81% of, currently hosts 4.25 Moz of indicated resources on a 100% basis at an average grade of 0.95 g/t Au. It also comes with 900,000 oz of inferred resources at 0.99 g/t.

The company is currently updating the existing feasibility study for the Kiaka project, reflecting, it says, the potential for improved economics resulting from lower fuel prices, alternative power options and a higher gold price.

A mineral resource model using additional drill results and revised model interpretations was completed in December, with the study set to leverage the new resource and several new concepts to reduce costs. Included among these new concepts is a plan to use a liquid natural gas (LNG) hybrid power plant combined with solar power, and dual fuel haul trucks that burn a mix of diesel fuel and LNG.

A larger processing plant size of 12 Mt/y is also being considered for this updated feasibility study, it said.

B2Gold expects to have an internal decision document completed by the end of March, with an updated feasibility study completed by the end of June.

Komatsu to start hydrogen development program for mining haul trucks

Mining equipment major Komatsu has made plans to leverage hydrogen power across its fleet of haul trucks, according to a report from The Nikkei.

The financial newspaper reported that the company will start its hydrogen development program in 2021, with plans to have the trucks ready for practical use by 2030.

One of Komatsu’s 291-t payload 930E haul trucks is already being setup for hydrogen power use at Anglo American Platinum’s Mogalakwena PGM mine in South Africa.

This vehicle, which is a conversion to hydrogen fuel cell and lithium battery operation, is set for first motion in the second half of the year, the mining company reaffirmed in its 2020 financial results today.

Komatsu has set a target of halving CO2 emissions from its construction and mining equipment by its 2030 financial year, compared with its 2010 financial year levels.