Tag Archives: LKAB

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.”

Orica’s wireless blasting tech overcomes magnetite challenges at LKAB Kiruna

A four-year collaboration between Orica and LKAB has resulted in the first production blasts using wireless initiation technology at the Kiruna iron ore mine in northern Sweden.

These blasts – charged in the middle of May and blasted in early June – are going some way to support LKAB’s safety, productivity and long-term automation objectives, according to Abhisek Roy, EMEA Head of Marketing for Orica.

It has involved an extensive amount of work to get to this blasting milestone, according to Ingemar Haslinger, Technical Services Lead Europe at Orica.

He explained: “It all started in 2018 when LKAB showed interest in our new WebGen™ wireless technology. They could see the benefits in both safety and productivity with the new way of producing the ore.”

This saw Orica go to site at the Kiruna mine in March 2018 to begin with a signal survey, testing if the company could obtain a good signal between the antenna and the in-hole receivers.

WebGen provides for groups of in-hole primers to be wirelessly initiated by a firing command that communicates through rock, water and air. This removes constraints often imposed by the requirement of a physical connection to each primer in a blast. The wireless blasting system not only improves safety – by removing people from harm’s way – but improves productivity – by removing the constraints imposed by wired connections.

It is, therefore, considered, a critical pre-cursor to automating the charging process.

To this point, WebGen has fired over 100,000 units in over 3,000 blasts globally across customer sites, Orica says.

At Kiruna, however, the process from testing to technology on-boarding was less than straightforward.

“In the area of the mine where the signal survey was completed in 2018, it was discovered that the signal could not penetrate the magnetite ore at all,” Haslinger said. “This was the first time we had encountered this and was a setback for Orica and LKAB.”

At that time, Orica did not have the localised field equipment or advanced diagnostic tools to diagnose the antenna issue, making it difficult to ascertain the root cause.

“We had to go back to our global WebGen specialists and try to understand why this was happening, which we were successfully able to do,” Haslinger said.

After dedicated work from the global team, Orica went back to Kiruna in September 2020, looking to replicate the signal survey from 2018 and use its advanced diagnostic tools to measure the antenna performance and output.

“We also had the opportunity to test the signal behaviour in the holes, as well as measure the rock properties around the antenna and the in-hole receivers,” Haslinger added.

The survey proved successful, explaining why the signal could not go through the orebody. This allowed the global WebGen team to start developing solutions to overcome the signal problem, which it was able to do in short order.

In December 2020, the Orica team was back at the underground iron ore mine to test the new solution.

“The first trials with the new solution showed positive results and the global team continued to develop that further,” Haslinger said. “In May 2021, we tried the solution in many different conditions and applications to be sure that it would work in the mine. These trials gave us a lot more knowledge about the environment and how the new solution worked.

“In 2022, we were ready to test the system in active mine operations and it has been an extensive amount of work to get us to that point.”

Development of the WebGen wireless underground blasting technology is ongoing at the Kiruna mine

Michal Gryienko, Engineer at LKAB in Kiruna, said the first two production rings were charged using WebGen in the middle of May before blasting occurred in early June. This is one of the benefits of the system, with the wireless primers able to sit dormant in the blasting profile for around 30 days prior to blast initiation.

“The results look good so far,” Gryienko said. “In total, we will blast five production rings, and the final three are planned to be blasted in September.”

Among the benefits Gryienko highlighted were the reduction in risk associated with hole priming and the possibility of detonating more blast holes due to the ability overcome damaged or unstable blasting applications.

Orica’s Roy said the collaboration between the two companies has been “fantastic”.

“Despite the challenges around transmission of signal across the magnetite orebody that is a prerequisite for a successful wireless initiation, both companies have worked as partners for the last four years, finding practical and creative solutions,” he said.

“This hopefully is the start of a long-term sustainable wireless blasting solution that supports LKAB’s safety and productivity objectives and long-term automation goals.”

Boston Metal looks to disrupt and decarbonise steel and iron ore industries

Boston Metal is looking to decarbonise the steel-making sector at the same time as helping iron ore producers with their Scope 3 emissions dilemma.

The concept of ‘green steel’ has been widely discussed over the last few years, with LKAB, SSAB and Vattenfall’s HYBRIT project being the most cited case study, thanks to both its advanced stage of development – it has already produced fossil-free steel on a trial basis – and its revolutionary way of introducing hydrogen in place of coke as the iron ore reduction method in the steel-making process.

SSAB and LKAB are leveraging HYBRIT to completely transform their production processes: SSAB is building new hydrogen-based steel making facilities able to match its current base of 8.8 Mt/y of steel by 2030 and LKAB is moving from iron ore pellet production to direct reduced iron (DRI) in line with this.

Tadeu Carneiro, Chairman & CEO of Boston Metal

The ambitions of such a project are impressive, but can such a green steel-making process be applied to the circa-1,900 Mt of steel currently being produced for the world market?

The answer is no, according to Tadeu Carneiro, Chairman & CEO of Boston Metal.

He expands on this: “There are four ways of reducing iron oxides into a metal for steel-making. One is through the use of carbon; another way is through using another metal as a reductant, which is currently not feasible; the third one is with hydrogen, which is possible – as HYBRIT has shown – but is limited to premium iron ores; and the last is through our solution.”

The solution in question is – like HYBRIT – a green option, but – unlike HYBRIT – is applicable to all iron ores, regardless of grade, according to Carneiro.

Boston Metal’s process, which it calls Molten Oxide Electrolysis (MOE), works by adding iron ore to an electrolytic cell and passing electricity through said cell. The electricity both breaks the bonds of the iron oxides present, as well as heats up the whole batch within the cell, creating molten iron that sinks to the bottom of the cell ready for collection (tapping).

During the bond breaking and heating process, MOE produces oxygen as a by-product, with the resultant oxides forming the electolyte and remaining in said electrolyte (floating above the liquid iron).

“Because it is molten, the iron gets separated from the electrolyte and sits in the bottom of the cell,” Carneiro said. “As the molten iron is heavier than the electrolyte, the impurities float to the top and can be tapped separately.”

So, not only do companies using MOE get a molten iron product, they also get a slag by-product that can be used in various applications in the construction industry – all without using coking coal or coke.

“In traditional blast furnace-based steel making, you have to pelletise or sinter the iron ore, you need to process coking coal into coke and you then have to mix the two in the blast furnace and blow air to get pig iron,” Carneiro explained. “This pig iron contains around 4% carbon, which needs to be burnt off through, typically, a process in the basic oxygen furnace to get molten iron.”

Boston Metal’s MOE process gets to this same point using just iron ore and electricity, according to Carneiro.

“All of this is replaced by a battery of cells that, when assembled in significant numbers, can compete with blast furnaces in terms of molten iron capacity,” he said.

Carneiro expanded on what he meant by ‘significant numbers’, offering up an example of 300 MOE modules assembled in two lines of 150 able to produce 1 Mt of steel.

And all of this is in an incremental capital expenditure range within the millions of dollars, instead of the billions of dollars often required to build a traditional steel-making plant.

This puts a green process in the reach of not only steel-makers but iron ore producers, according to Carneiro.

“If you have green electricity at an iron ore mine, you can bring the cells there, melt the iron and ship a metallic product to steel-makers,” Carneiro said.

This pure iron product can be remelted elsewhere and processed into flat and long steel products for the automotive and construction industries.

“This represents a higher value-added product for iron ore miners, enabling them to ship a product that is 40% lighter in terms of weight,” Carneiro explained.

Finding a ‘green’ end-user that brings down a miners’ Scope 3 emissions while holding a molten iron ore product is a lot easier than finding one when shipping iron fines, concentrate or sinter: hence the reason why iron ore miners’ Scope 3 emission goals appear a lot less ambitious than the Scope 1 and 2 targets within their control.

It is no wonder BHP and Vale have been early backers of Boston Metal.

It sounds too good to be true, and there is a reason for that.

From speaking to Carneiro, the company could start producing molten iron through the chosen method today – not at a scale the steel-industry would yet consider commercial, but at a pilot scale at least.

For the commercial process to be considered green, the company would need renewable electricity to do this; and lots of it.

Carneiro doesn’t shy away from this, explaining that MOE will require 4 MWh of electricity per tonne of steel to work at such a scale. This is the equivalent of up to 500 MW for a 1 Mt/y molten iron plant.

The incumbent process Carneiro and his US-based team are looking to take market share from requires 5.5-6 MWh of energy per tonne of steel, while the electric arc furnace (EAF) method of making steel – which uses predominantly scrap metal – has a much smaller electricity requirement.

“If you had 2 billion tonnes of scrap to be melted, the EAF route is the best way to make steel, hands down,” Carneiro admits. “The problem is you don’t have such scrap availability and, in order to increase supply, you would need lots more steel coming from iron ore.”

For reference, the HYBRIT process is expected to require 600 MW of hydrogen electrolyser capacity to 2025 to get LKAB to the 1.3 Mt/y sponge iron (DRI) mark.

Yet, scrap steel is not the only thing in short supply currently. Green electricity is far from abundant, with only the likes of Quebec (hydro power capacity) and some Nordic countries having a plentiful supply – a fact Carneiro acknowledges.

“If you don’t believe that green electricity will be available, abundant, reliable and cheap in the future, you can forget about the MOE process,” he said. “But then you also have to forget about a lot of other processes that are set to use green electricity and the massive amounts of investment the green energy space is seeing on an annual basis.

“Society has decided to go electric and to go electric in a green way, so it is only reasonable to expect that, in the future, electricity will be all of this.”

Carneiro is planning for such a transition, with his company in the process of commissioning a full-size industrial MOE cell at its Woburn, Massachusetts headquarters. This could be ready as early as next month.

It follows a trial of a pilot cell at Brazil-based ferroniobium producer CBMM’s production plant in Araxá, Brazil, where the technology was able to use the same process to turn niobium ore into high-value ferroniobium-based products.

“We were able to prove out the process with CBMM on a smaller scale, which has given us the confidence to make a much bigger cell.”

The company plans to use this bigger cell and, through a subsidiary in Brazil, take advantage of other opportunities to extract value from mining waste using the MOE technology. This could see Boston Metal assemble a battery of MOE cells to manufacture some 5,000-10,000 t of high value-added metals.

While this is deemed ‘pilot scale’ for steel producers, it is sizeable for those producing high value-added products such as niobium, vanadium, tantalum, chrome and others, Carneiro said. And the project will only aide the company’s steel-making ambitions.

“By developing the cell for these high value-added metals, we are finding lots of the answers for the steel-sized cells as well,” he said.

Such groundwork today is preparing the company for a time when steel-makers and iron ore miners have assessed the green electricity landscape and are ready to invest in such technology.

“All the leading steel-making companies have made pledges to be carbon neutral by the 2050s,” Carneiro said. “This means they need to phase out carbon reduction by the mid- to late-2030s. By this point in time, we will be ready to offer our solution on a commercial scale, allowing them to take advantage of the abundance of iron ores – low and high grade – around the world.”

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.

HYBRIT partners inaugurate fossil-free hydrogen gas storage pilot facility

SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall have, today, inaugurated HYBRIT’s pilot facility for fossil-free hydrogen gas storage at Svartöberget in Luleå, Sweden.

The rock cavern storage facility is the first of its kind in the world, with the inauguration ceremony marking the start of the two-year test period, which will run until 2024.

The HYBRIT initiative was launched in 2016 by the three owners: SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall. Within this, the hydrogen storage facility will play a very important role in the overall value chain for fossil-free iron and steel production. Producing fossil-free hydrogen gas when there is a lot of electricity, for example when it is very windy, and using stored hydrogen gas when the electricity system is under strain, will ensure a steady production of sponge iron, the raw material behind fossil-free steel, the partners said.

The technology for storing gas in a lined rock cavern (LRC) is well proven and has been used in southern Sweden for about 20 years for storing natural gas, the partners says. Now the technology is taking a step forward by the development for storage of hydrogen gas. The storage facility is set to be used more dynamically, being filled and emptied at pace with the hydrogen production.

The pilot plant has a size of 100 cu.m. At a later stage, a full-scale hydrogen gas storage facility measuring 100,000-120,000 cu.m may be required, in which case it will be able to store up to 100 GWh of electricity converted to hydrogen gas, which is sufficient to supply a full-sized sponge iron factory for three to four days.

Andreas Regnell, Chairman of the Board, Hybrit Development AB (HDAB), and Senior Vice President and Head of Strategic Development at Vattenfall, said: “We want to develop HYBRIT so that it is in line with the electricity system of the future, with more weather-dependent electricity generation. The storage facility is unique and, once again, the HYBRIT initiative is taking the lead in the fossil-free transition. HYBRIT is very important for facing the climate challenge and enabling fossil-free living within one generation.”

Martin Pei, CTO at SSAB, added: “SSAB has the opportunity to transform our operations and cut 10% of Sweden’s total carbon dioxide emissions as well as 7% of Finland’s, and this will take us one step closer to our goal. The hydrogen storage facility is an important piece of the puzzle in ensuring stable steel production and a milestone in the development of HYBRIT.”

Lars Ydreskog, Senior Vice President Strategic Projects at LKAB, said hydrogen gas and its storage were central to its transition.

“In four years, HYBRIT technology will be used on a large scale in the first demonstration plant in Gällivare, and the plan is to then build more sponge iron factories,” Ydreskog said. “LKAB will, therefore, need to become one of Europe’s biggest hydrogen producers, and this pilot project will provide valuable knowledge for the continuing work on creating the world’s first fossil-free value chain for the iron and steel industry.”

Using HYBRIT technology, SSAB can reduce Sweden’s carbon dioxide emissions by 10%. SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall have invested a total of SEK259 million ($25 million) in the hydrogen storage itself, divided into three equal parts, and the Swedish Energy Agency has contributed with SEK72 million.

LKAB accelerates carbon-dioxide-free sponge iron plans

LKAB says it is boosting both the pace and the level of ambition of its plans towards transitioning to carbon-dioxide-free sponge iron following a successful exploration program.

A dramatic increase in mineral resources means that the plan for future production of sponge iron has been upped to 24.4 Mt/y by 2050. This will enable a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions among global steel industry customers corresponding to nearly all of Sweden’s current greenhouse gas emissions, LKAB says.

“The climate can’t wait and demand for the raw material for producing fossil-free steel is already upon us – before we have even reached the market,” Jan Moström, LKAB’s President and CEO, said.

In March 2022, LKAB reported increased mineral reserves and mineral resources, referencing deposits containing about 4,000 Mt, which will enable production far beyond 2060. LKAB’s known mineral reserves and resources now add up to double the amount thus far mined in the company’s 130-year history.

“We are accelerating and expanding the plans for future production of sponge iron produced with hydrogen,” Moström said.

LKAB is now moving towards a rapid industrialisation of the HYBRIT technology for transforming production in Malmberget/Gällivare, which is closely integrated with SSAB. The plan is to synchronise the transition with SSAB’s planned transition and to have switched entirely from pellet production to sponge iron amounting to some 5.4 Mt by the 2030s. This will enable emissions reductions amounting to about 9 Mt at SSAB.

Moström added: “After the most recent climate reports from the UN, the urgency of the climate issue must be obvious to everyone. We can see that this transition also makes good business sense and that it creates jobs, growth and yield on investments. By leading the way towards the green transition, we are also building Sweden’s competitive advantage internationally.

“The entire value chain must undergo a transformation, and quickly. The HYBRIT technology, which we have developed in collaboration with SSAB and Vattenfall, will be industrialised starting in Gällivare, where the first plant will be operational in 2026. The capacity increase LKAB is now planning corresponds to three more such facilities in Malmberget/Gällivare within barely a few years after commissioning of the first HYBRIT plant.”

When the transition has been completed, with increased production, by around 2050, the target is for LKAB to produce 24.4 Mt/y of sponge iron, with zero carbon dioxide emissions. By removing the oxygen from the iron ore by means of electrically-produced hydrogen gas, instead of the steel mills using fossil carbon in blast furnaces, LKAB can enable reductions in carbon dioxide emissions of between 40-50 Mt/y at steelmaking customers. That corresponds to nearly all of Sweden’s current annual greenhouse gas emissions.

A rapid transition places higher demands on fossil-free electricity and more power distribution infrastructure. LKAB’s demand, needed mainly for hydrogen gas production, is estimated at 20 TWh/y by 2030, increasing to 50 TWh/y by 2040 and finally reaching 70 TWh/y when the entire expansion has been realised by 2050.

“To make the climate transition a reality, we will need a massive expansion of power production and distribution,” Moström said. “We need to double electricity production within the next 25 years, and the iron and steel industry value chain is waiting for very other TWh of this.”

The switch from pellets to sponge iron also means that the value of the product increases significantly, according to LKAB.

Moström concluded: “In terms of today’s market prices, this expansion would triple LKAB’s revenue. By building up production of sponge iron, we are increasing the value of LKAB’s, and thereby Sweden’s, mineral reserves and resources, and creating growing export values. Above all, we are making an enormous effort for the benefit of the climate.”

LKAB to trial ‘first-of-its-kind’ Scania electric heavy tipper truck at Malmberget

An electric Scania Heavy Tipper truck is set to operate at LKAB’s iron ore mine in Malmberget, northern Sweden, alongside an electric crane truck specially adapted for these mining operations, giving Scania a chance to test and operate fully-electric trucks in a demanding underground mine environment.

The heavy tipper has a total weight including load of 49 t and will transport residual products, Scania said. The second truck is equipped with a crane, purpose-fit to transport drill steel to underground drill rigs. The electric truck with the crane will be charged at the depot, but mobile charging at the sites will also be possible to increase flexibility. The vehicles are expected to start operations at Malmberget during 2022.

Peter Gustavsson, Project Manager at LKAB, said the electric Scania trucks are part of an ambition to set a new standard for sustainable mining, where fossil-free solutions are used.

“We are shifting our fleet away from fossil diesel and as we are testing the capacity of battery-powered electric vehicles; decisions are taken with respect to the choice of trucks must not only contribute to higher productivity but, above all, also a more sustainable mine and a safer work environment.”

Fredrik Allard, Head of E-mobility, Scania, said: “We continue to work with customers that are willing to try innovative solutions together with us. For Scania it is very valuable to be able to test electric vehicles in the extreme environment in real customer operations in the mine. On top of that, the electric heavy tipper is the first of its kind in the industry and another really big step on the journey towards sustainable transport solutions across all applications.”

Gustavsson concluded: “Scania’s entry into our transformation process is valuable because it gives us the opportunity to evaluate their battery-powered vehicles. Together we hope to develop and build fossil-free vehicles that are as productive or even more so than the ones we currently have.”

LKAB starts core logging automation, digitalisation process with Minalyzer CS

LKAB has become the first iron ore miner in the world to implement the continuous XRF scanner Minalyzer CS, starting the process of automating and digitalising its drill core logging workflow.

By collecting data in an automated system, LKAB is aiming to improve the consistency and efficiency of its core logging process, Minalyze said.

LKAB and Minalyze initiated the collaboration in March 2020 when the first scanner was installed at the Kiruna iron ore mine for a test. It was then expanded to Malmberget where data from the Minalyzer CS was used to help geological logging of the drill core. The focus for the tests was to assess the datasets: geochemistry, high resolution images, RQD and specific gravity generated by the scanner and to determine how these datasets can assist in the core logging process.

Following these developments, the two companies plus Sentian, in May 2021, said an artificial intelligence application developed by the trio would be trialled to make drill core analysis faster, with the time to evaluate a drill core reduced from weeks to minutes, with increased accuracy.

LKAB Senior Vice President Exploration, Strategy and Business Development, Pierre Heeroma, said: “The tests with the Minalyzer in Kiruna and the more complex Malmberget geology confirmed that this Swedish technology is disrupting the core logging process – now we have fast access to rich data as guidance when classifying the rocks. Our core logging is now consistent and efficient.”

Annelie Lundström, CEO Minalyze AB, said: “The rest of the iron ore industry should closely follow the transformation LKAB is undergoing. With the Minalyzer they have one of the more automated and digitalised core logging workflows in the world. And they are setting a new world standard for sustainable mining with the fossil-free iron ore and steel making.

“We are very proud to be part of LKAB’s transition into the future.”

LKAB to boost remote drilling operations with new Epiroc Boomer, Boltec and Simba rigs

Epiroc says it has won a large order for a variety of underground mining equipment including Boomer face drilling rigs, Boltec rock reinforcement rigs and a Simba production drilling rig from LKAB in Sweden.

LKAB, Europe’s largest iron ore producer, is set to use the rigs at its Malmberget and Kiruna underground iron ore mines in northern Sweden. The order is valued at SEK105 million ($12.2 million) and was booked in the third (September) quarter of 2021.

“Epiroc and LKAB have a long history together as partners around innovative technologies, always aimed at optimising operations in the most productive and sustainable way,” Epiroc’s President and CEO, Helena Hedblom, said.

The machines include many advanced automation features, according to Epiroc.

For example, the Simba production drill rig will be operated remotely from a control room in the Kiruna mine. This rig adds to LKAB’s existing fleet of six Simba production drill rigs that are remotely controlled from the control room and two that are remotely controlled in the mine environment.

One of the Boltec machines (an example pictured) will also be equipped with a new automated pumpable resin system, a key component in Epiroc’s automated bolting development. All the machines come with Epiroc’s telematics system Certiq, which allows for intelligent monitoring of machine performance and productivity in real-time.

Swedish universities on board with LKAB’s carbon-dioxide free mission

LKAB says it is investing SEK80 million ($9.3 million) in a multi-year collaboration focused on research for sustainable mining of the future.

In close collaboration with LKAB personnel, prominent researchers at, among other partners, Luleå University of Technology, Örebro University and Mälardalen University will develop solutions to enable the company’s transition to carbon dioxide-free processes and products by 2045, LKAB says.

Jordi Puig, Head of Mining Technology, LKAB, says: “This initiative supports our strategy to set a new world standard for mining. Researchs findings will be shared ‘open source’ with our partners ABB, Combitech, Epiroc and Sandvik and eventually also with other companies.”

As part of LKAB’s collaboration project to create a digitalised, automated and carbon-dioxide-free mine, the company has engaged in regular dialogue with academia and announces that, earlier in the year, the decision was taken to fund 10 different research assignments. Now an agreement has been signed with Luleå University of Technology, Örebro University and Mälardalen University, and discussions with several other universities have been initiated.

Daniel Johansson, Professor and Acting Head of Mining and Rock Engineering, Luleå University of Technology, says: “Since the start of Luleå University of Technology, and especially during recent decades, LKAB has been our strongest partner. We are very pleased to be entrusted to participate in the green transition which LKAB has now begun. This is also well in line with the university’s strategy for future autonomous, efficient and sustainable mine operation. We look forward to successful research collaboration.”

Amy Loutfi, Pro-vice-chancellor AI and Innovation, Örebro University, says: “The initiative presents a fantastic opportunity. This represents a collective ambition to focus on basic and applied research and to use AI and autonomous systems in an improved mining sector. We have been looking strategically at the mining industry for some time and we view it as a growing application area for AI and robotics. LKAB’s initiative leads us into further collaboration with industry and academic partners and we are delighted to be a part of this.”

Erik Dahlquist, Professor in Energy Technology, Mälardalen University, says: “Mälardalen University has worked with risk management, energy and production optimisation within many industries, and we are very pleased to be able to be working towards the realisation of LKAB’s ambition to set a new world standard for sustainable mining. This is really driving the industry towards a future with electrification and AI systems for automated operation.”

Research assignments will commence immediately and continue until the close of 2024. Research work will be conducted mainly within the areas of underground transportation and energy efficiency, as well as risk management for increased safety awareness

Puig added: “To improve safety, reduce carbon dioxide emissions and to increase productivity in our mines is vital for LKAB to be able to continue to deliver climate-efficient iron ore products. This is one of many steps toward the achievement of our objectives.”