Tag Archives: Kevitsa

ABB envisages eliminating diesel from the open-pit mining mix

Reducing carbon emissions during open-pit operations is now a major driver for global mining companies, who are going back to the future by employing trolley assist systems for trucks to limit diesel fuel usage and costs, while at the same time boosting speed-on-grade for greater throughput, write ABB’s Mehrzad Ashnagaran and Michel Serres*.

Haul road electrification technology has been in development for decades, but the emergence of a new generation of diesel-electric trucks that already have an electrical system on board to tap into – making it easy to attach them on a trolley line – means the concept has recently begun to gain significant traction as a commercially viable way to facilitate the all-electric mines of the future.

One of the key challenges when it comes to reducing diesel fuel usage is cycle times. There is no technology today that enables miners to fill the truck’s tank and complete a shift without stopping; either you have to increase the speed of the mobile equipment or the size the fleet itself – both of which have a direct impact on capital expenditure.

Trolley assist systems have returned to the market in the last two to three years in places such as North and South America, Africa and Turkey, mainly due to CO2 emission taxes, the removal of tax advantages from diesel, and premiums offered by energy suppliers to incentivise companies to use electricity.

Going forward, there are many synergies with using trolley lines, which offer huge benefits in terms of CO2 reduction.

Large trucks regularly carry 3,000-5,000 litres of diesel in the tank and consume around 300-400 litres per hour while travelling up a 17 km ramp in half an hour.

By going electric, the vehicles, when on-trolley, only use around 30-50 litres an hour, which equates to a reduction in diesel consumption of as much as 350 litres an hour, making operations much more CO2 efficient. In addition, the speed of the trucks will increase, meaning you have a higher throughput at the mine. Operators can also start to think about parking some of their fleet, which will bring additional indirect value to overall operational improvements through better maintenance planning to improve fleet availability and fleet longevity.

One example of the revival of trolley assist systems is at the Aitik open-pit copper mine in Sweden. Here Boliden, ABB and partners trialled the electrification of four haulage trucks on a 700 m trolley line, with the goal of reducing annual diesel usage by 800,000 litres and carrying 70 Mt of ore every year at the mine without using fossil fuel.

Reduced diesel consumption at Boliden mines

Boliden has now moved on from the 700 m trolley line trial at Aitik to confirming it will install an additional 3 km of trolley line at the mine, plus 1.8 km at Kevitsa (in addition to the accompanying conversion of diesel-electric haul trucks). By doing so, Boliden says it will reduce its diesel consumption by 5,500 cu.m/y when its investment is complete. That is a big number.

Aitik is currently the only mine in an arctic climate where electric trolley has been installed. Overall, with the further three kilometres of electric trolley line, greenhouse gas emissions from transportation over the life of mine are reduced by nearly 15%.

In Kevitsa, 13 mining trucks are converted for electric trolley lines at the same time as the 1.8-km-long electric trolley line is being built. The investment means that greenhouse gas emissions over the life of this mine will be reduced by 9%.

In addition, productivity gains are added as the electrically powered trucks can run at a higher speed, and the working environment for the drivers is also improved, not least through lower noise levels.

Today’s mine design

Diesel-electric trucks have an electrical powertrain in the wheels, meaning they can be driven fully electric, and have an electrical genset on board, so they generate electricity as they go.

However, due to the limitations of existing battery technologies at surface mines, we cannot yet manage large payload trucks of 280-400 tons (254-363 t) fully battery equipped. Companies are therefore trying to close the gap between the trolley and the loading or dumping point using battery packs and other solutions.

Constraint management

The transformation from diesel to electric is bringing new advantages in terms of CO2 reduction but also new constraints in terms of mine planning and fleet management. Energy costs represent almost one third of a mining company’s total cost base; helping industry to manage these costs is therefore key.

Switching OEMs on to electrification

Having initially adopted a ‘fast follower’ approach to new digital technologies, the risk-averse mining sector has also been slow to embrace electrification. Operators are looking to technology leaders such as ABB as well as more niche players to make change happen.

A lot of mining companies are looking to the likes of ABB to influence mining equipment manufacturers and engage them in the electric transformation, and so accelerate the process.

A clear technology roadmap and shifting workforce skill are key to this transition.

The biggest challenge is that customers are nervous about redesigning existing diesel-powered mines to integrate new electrification systems. Asset lifecycle strategies, ownership models and duty cycles are all subject to change. Ultimately, the customer needs a very clear technology roadmap and finding the right partner for this major undertaking is key.

According to Accenture’s resources practice, the profile of the future mining workforce could change by up to 80% by 2024, driven by increased adoption of advanced technologies. The onus is therefore on mining companies to demonstrate a progressive commitment to electrification to attract and retain the next generation of digitally literate talent.

Today the worldwide situation with COVID-19 may accelerate these changes faster than forecast.
Current skill sets will have to be re-evaluated for the all-electric mines of the future, and so the need for change management is key. Tomorrow we will need more workers understanding the concept of electrification, in addition to digital and planning skills – so the shifting skill profile is an important consideration.

*Mehrzad Ashnagaran is Global Product Line Manager Electrification at ABB, while Michel Serres is VP Innovation and Digital North America at ABB

Boliden Kevitsa collaborating on process plant maintenance

Boliden is a front-runner when it comes to applying technology and innovation to its Europe-based mines, and the company is now leading an industry move in condition monitoring and predictive maintenance in its process plants.

At its Kevitsa copper-nickel mine, 130 km north of the Arctic Circle in Finland, Boliden has been collaborating with the likes of IBM Maximo, OSISoft, SKF and Metso on condition monitoring and predictive maintenance solutions, according to Sami Pelkonen, Maintenance and Engineering Manager at Boliden Kevitsa.

Expansion in the plans

The mine is in the throes of an SEK800 million ($82 million) expansion that will see plant throughput go from 7.8 Mt/y to 9.5 Mt/y. This involves the addition of a new autogenous mill and peripheral equipment (including a new Metso MF series screen), and a new mill building. Commissioning of the new equipment is expected in 2020, with the mine reaching full 9.5 Mt/y capacity in 2021.

With this expansion going on, plant maintenance has moved up the agenda.

Some 80% of process plant maintenance is currently pre-scheduled, with the Kevitsa mine achieving, on average, 93% availability from its equipment, according to Pelkonen, but Boliden Kevitsa is looking to increase these numbers.

Pelkonen told IM late in October that the Kevitsa mine has been looking to acquire “good quality…and useful data to support our daily maintenance operations and procedures” at its plant. This is all part of the company’s plan to increase uptime and cut costs at the operation.

As part of this initiative, it installed the IBM Maximo asset management system in May of this year. At the same time, the operation has been working with the Boliden Mines Technology Department on a wider asset management program.

When it comes to plant reliability, Boliden Kevitsa has enlisted the help of SKF (for condition monitoring of bearings throughout the plant), OSISoft for process data acquisition, and Metso to ensure uptime of mineral processing equipment is maximised and unplanned downtime is reduced.

Partnering for performance

The partnership with Metso dates back to before the mine was acquired by Boliden in 2016, but in recent years the two have collaborated on crusher and mill uptime projects, with the OEM supplying mill liners and wear parts that can be switched out quickly and cost effectively. The two firms have also been in constant communication about accessing and analysing valuable process plant data during the last three years.

When the mine acquired a new MF screen from Metso in May (pictured), it decided now was the time to trial the new Metso Metrics predictive maintenance platform in this part of the flowsheet.

Pelkonen explained: “After the increase in production (to 9.5 Mt/y), the front end will be even more critical for us, so we have to be aware if any failures are developing in our front end; especially in our screen.”

The remote location of Kevitsa, situated some 40 km by road from Sodankylä, is also behind the need for this type of condition monitoring and predictive maintenance.

“If something happens like we have an equipment failure, it takes around one hour for our employees to get to the mine,” he said. “Condition monitoring helps us address the need to get resources to site in the correct time.”

The Metso Metrics test paid off almost instantly, when, soon after installation, the company noticed there was something wrong with the running speed of the screen.

“The indication we received from Metso Metrics helped us map out that there were two broken V belts. We were able to cut the downtime to a minimum thanks to the information coming from Metrics,” Pelkonen explained.

Sami Pelkonen was speaking to IM as part of an upcoming Insight Interview with experts from Boliden Kevitsa and Metso that will be published in early-2020

Trolley assist to take off, ABB’s Hammarström says

Thanks to Boliden’s recent trial at its Aitik open-pit mine, in Sweden, the subject of trolley assist is back on the mining industry’s agenda.

Offering environmental and productivity benefits, trolley assist technologies have been spoken of for decades. In the height of the oil crisis of the 1970s, numerous studies examining applications were completed and miners made preparations to reduce their reliance on diesel.

Despite this, widespread industry adoption has not occurred. There have been some installations in Africa, in addition to one in Turkey (Kisladag), but the technology has not caught on to the extent many thought would happen.

ABB, which supplies not only batteries, drives and motors for battery-electric equipment, but can also provide the infrastructure required for trolley assist projects, believes the market is about to turn once again. Gunnar Hammarström, Global Product Manager Trolley Electrification Systems for ABB, thinks there are three main reasons why it is about to take off.

“One is the legislation and environmental part of the business case,” he told IM.

Boliden, which has moved from the 700 m trolley line trial at Aitik to confirming it will install an additional 3 km of trolley line at the mine, plus 1.7 km at Kevitsa (in addition to the accompanying conversion of diesel-electric haul trucks), says it will reduce its diesel consumption by 5,500 cu.m/y when its investment is complete. That is a big number.

“Another completely different reason for why demand has been picking up, especially for larger trucks, is there are a lot of diesel-electric trucks coming into mines,” he said. These trucks already have an electrical system on board to tap into, which makes it easy to put them on a trolley line.

Lastly, fuel prices are increasing all the time, Hammarström said. This is leading miners to diversify their energy mix to help reduce input costs.

When added to the productivity gains that can be achieved with trolley assisted haul trucks and the reduction in noise when trucks run on this line, it is hardly surprising Boliden is not the only one charging into trolley assist.

In the last year alone, First Quantum Minerals has said it will equip its Cobre Panama copper-gold mine, in Panama, with trolley assist, while Austria iron ore miner, VA Erzberg, has announced it intends to electrify the main haul road of its Erzberg mine site and operate a fleet of T 236 trucks from 2021 under trolley assist.

On top of this, RNC Minerals has said it is studying the use of trolley assist at its Dumont nickel-cobalt project in Quebec, Canada.

While trolley assist has been used long before the mine electrification phenomenon we know today gained traction, Hammarström sees trolley assist helping facilitate this market move.

“Generally speaking, I think for most of the vehicles you have in a mine, you can go on battery, but it is very far into the future where you have major uphill transportation of all your production in the mine through batteries,” he said.

The technology involved with stationary charging and the ability to re-charge the battery when going downhill would need to improve on the biggest haul trucks to make it a viable proposition, he explained.

“Yet, if you look into the future – and not that far – a diesel electric trolley might be an intermediate phase,” he said. “If you have invested in trolley now, you can certainly use it when you have batteries (driving the trucks).”

This could see battery-powered haul trucks carry out tasks ‘off-line’ when going downhill or on a flat before they ‘attach’ back onto the line for uphill transportation of material when the battery is recharged.

“I think after diesel-electric powered haul trucks, it will be a really good chance for on-board charging,” he said of the trolley infrastructure.

Boliden backs trolley assist haulage for Aitik and Kevitsa

Boliden has decided to invest SEK300 million ($31.2 million) to expand the trolley assist facilities at its Aitik copper mine, in Sweden, as well as implement the corresponding technology at its Kevitsa nickel mine, in Finland.

The investments, to be made mainly during 2020-2021, come on top of the money invested in a two-year trolley assist pilot project at Aitik. This project saw Eitech and ABB supply electrical infrastructure; Pon Equipment and Caterpillar carry out truck modifications; and Chalmers University provide supporting research on system aspects of the electrification. It led to a 700 m electric trolley line being installed and four Cat 795F haul trucks being converted.

The project was also supported by the Swedish Energy Agency and saw investment in a 10 MW capacity DC substation.

Aitik is currently the only mine in the arctic where electric trolley has been installed, according to Boliden.

Mikael Staffas, President and CEO of the Boliden Group, said: “We are now taking further steps to improve both productivity and climate impact at our two open-pit mines.”

In Aitik, a further 3 km of electric trolley line will be built and another 10 trucks will be converted for electric trolley lines. Overall, the plan means that greenhouse gas emissions from transportation over the life of mine are reduced by nearly 15%.

In Kevitsa, 13 mining trucks will be converted for electric trolley lines at the same time as the 1.8-km-long electric trolley line is being built. The investment means that greenhouse gas emissions over the life of mine are reduced by 9%.

The electric trolley installations are being deployed in stages until 2022.

Boliden calculates that this move will reduce diesel consumption by 5,500 cu.m/y when the investment is completed.

In addition, productivity gains are expected as the electrically powered trucks can run at a higher speed than the diesel equivalents.

The working environment for the drivers is also improved, not least through lower noise levels, Boliden added.

Boliden Kevitsa takes delivery of first EU-Stage-V-compliant Komatsu haul truck

Boliden has received the first haul trucks from Komatsu as part of its investment in a new truck fleet at its Kevitsa (Finland) and Aitik (Sweden) open-pit base metal operations.

The delivery marks the entry of Komatsu electric dump trucks into the European market, according to the miner.

For Kevitsa, 17 Komatsu 830E-5 haul trucks will be delivered until January of 2020, with nine Komatsu 930E-5 haul trucks being delivered to Aitik until April 2020.

The new trucks are the first EU Stage-V haul trucks within Boliden’s fleet, significantly reducing diesel exhaust emissions, the company said. They will also provide improvements in operator environment and safety, Boliden added.

The Komatsu 830E-5 haul trucks have a 220 t payload and will replace the current truck fleet at Kevitsa, reducing the mine’s production cost, Boliden said. To further increase efficiency and productivity, the trucks will be equipped with dispatch and maintenance systems from Modular Mining to enable optimised production and tracking as well as fleet maintenance support, the company said.

Boliden mentioned the purchase of trucks back in October during its September quarter results, saying it had reached agreement with Komatsu regarding an investment totalling some SEK 900 million ($96 million). At the time, the company said all of the trucks were equipped for future electrification; an important point considering the trolley assist trial ongoing at Aitik.

To mark the delivery milestone of the first truck, a handover ceremony was arranged in Kevitsa on July 10.

During the event, strategies and technical solutions were presented by executives such as Boliden President and CEO, Mikael Staffas, and Managing Director and CEO of Komatsu Europe, Masatoshi Morishita.

Mikael Staffas said: “This is an important step in the development of our open-pit mines while improving our environmental performance from an already strong position. This [is], not least, because we now create opportunities for increased electrification and related productivity development.”

Masatoshi Morishita says: “Today is a milestone for Komatsu Europe. With the delivery of first CE-certified Electric Dump Trucks to Boliden, Komatsu can offer a full line-up of mining products and solutions in Europe as well. We aim this will only be the start.”

Trolley assist up and running at Boliden’s Aitik copper mine

Boliden has installed four trolley assist truck units at its Aitik copper mine in Sweden as the company looks to step up its vision for fossil fuel-free operations, the company’s Technology Director, Staffan Sandström told attendees at Epiroc’s Power Change Days event in Örebro, Sweden, this week.

The trolley kits, supplied by Caterpillar, are running on Cat 795F haul trucks on a trolley assist line as part of a two-year trial project at Europe’s largest open-pit copper mine.

For the project, Boliden has joined forces with Eitech and ABB to supply electrical infrastructure; Pon Equipment and Caterpillar for truck modifications; and Chalmers University with supporting research on system aspects of the electrification. The project is supported by the Swedish Energy Agency and has seen an investment in a 10 MW capacity DC substation.

The aim is to examine the possibility of replacing elements of Aitik’s transport system with electrified trucks. The objective is to be able to move the majority of the 70 million or so tonnes of rock transported at the open pit each year entirely without the use of fossil fuel.

At the event this week, Sandström confirmed the first trolley line was commissioned in September and had been working well, showing a close to two times increase in speed on an incline when compared with the equivalent diesel trucks.

The real test for the trucks and trolley line was yet to come, he said.

“This is nothing new; it has been done before. The new thing here is going to be working in 40° below [freezing],” he said.

The project’s Technical Manager, Jonas Ranggård, made a similar remark recently in a Boliden press release, saying: “As we want to be able to use the electrified routes in all weather conditions year-round, the pilot project as a whole can only first be evaluated at the end of 2019/start of 2020.”

Rikard Mäki, Project Manager for the R&D project, told IM the company was already preparing for these conditions.

“Road maintenance impact is one of the parameters that will be evaluated in the pilot project in order for us to accurately take this factor into account as part of the following investment decisions. We have fitted one motor grader and a wheel loader with machine guidance systems in order to maintain correct flatness, target slope and height of the ramp.”

On the trolley assist technology, Sandström continued: “Today, it works very well and roughly 30% of all transport has potential to be used on the trolley line at Aitik,” he said, adding it could have wider applications at the company’s Kevitsa nickel-copper mine in Finland.

Boliden said the first Aitik trolley line is around 700 m long and is expected to save some 830 m³/y of diesel. This should help the company reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80% along those routes where the technology can be implemented.

In addition to the emission benefits brought to both the wider community and those operating in the mine, Sandström said the productivity and cost benefits (reducing the amount of diesel purchased) could also have a big impact.

Mäki said: “We do see this technology as the most promising solution near term for both Kevitsa and Aitik in order to reduce fuel cost and emissions. Decision to move ahead with further extension of the system is pending results from the pilot test. The initial results are looking very positive and the operators are very engaged in the pilot test.”

In other news, but still on haul trucks and potential electrification, Boliden confirmed in its September quarter results that, on October 19, the company reached agreement with Komatsu regarding the purchase of 17 haul trucks for Kevitsa and nine mine trucks for Aitik in an investment totalling some SEK 900 million ($99 million).

The investment is being made against the background of the ongoing expansion, insourcing of transport and as a replacement for part of the existing fleet of trucks. Boliden said all of the trucks are equipped for future electrification and delivery will commence in mid-2019.