Tag Archives: mine electrification

BluVein charges into mine electrification space

BluVein, armed with its “dynamic charging” philosophy, is pitching a different option to miners looking to electrify their underground operations over the long term.

While battery-electric machines such as light utility vehicles, mobile mining support equipment, and low-to-medium tonnage LHDs and trucks have spread throughout major mining hubs like North America, Europe and Australia, the next step is electrifying the machines with the heaviest duties in the underground mining space.

If the sector settles for battery-electric options in this weight class for uphill haulage scenarios, they will need to leverage bigger batteries, more battery swapping or some additional charging infrastructure to power vehicles up ramp.

Two of the leading mining OEMs in the electrification space are considering all the above.

Sandvik, through its wholly owned Artisan Vehicles subsidiary, is developing a 65 t payload battery-electric haul truck with a bigger battery than its 50-t vehicle (the Z50) that will see quick battery swapping employed on uphill hauls, while Epiroc is weighing the potential of fully-electric operation with a battery and trolley combination in its larger payload class trucks.

BluVein is intent on laying the groundwork for multiple OEMs and mining companies to play in this space without the need to employ battery swapping or acquire larger, heavier batteries customised to cope with the current requirements placed on the heaviest diesel-powered machinery operating in the underground mining sector.

It is doing this through adapting charging technology originally developed by Sweden-based EVIAS for electrified public highways. The application of this technology in mining could see operations employ smaller, lighter battery-electric vehicles that are connected to the mine site grid via its Rail™ and Hammer™ technology and a sophisticated power distribution unit to effectively power electric motors and charge a vehicle’s on-board batteries.

This flexible technology is set for a trial later this year, with the company – a joint venture between EVIAS and Australia-based Olitek – already busy behind the scenes enlisting a number of funding partners to push forward with a collaborative pilot aimed at demonstrating the next generation of trolley assist technology.

With this aim in mind and knowledge of previous trolley projects at underground mines, IM put some questions to BluVein Founder, James Oliver.

IM: What input does Olitek provide within BluVein? Do they produce customised prototype battery-electric machines?

JO: BluVein is a new company formed through a partnership between EVIAS and Olitek. While we are a new venture, unlike traditional start-ups, BluVein is backed by two highly experienced long-standing companies and is seeking to enable the fully-electric mine of today.

The biggest need for electric mining vehicles is in heavy-duty load and haul applications on inclined roads. In this instance, batteries on their own are not up to the task – not even close. Dynamic charging is the game-changing technology that will enable fully-electric heavy-duty load and haul on inclined roads.

In the partnership, Olitek provides the mobile vehicle, robotics, electrical and mining environment expertise to enable BluVein to operate safely and reliably in a mining environment. BluVein is currently working with a number of mining vehicle OEMs to integrate the BluVein system to suit their on-board battery and motor architecture, enabling safe dynamic charging from a standardised slotted rail system.

The joint venture does not produce customised prototype battery-electric vehicles or battery machines, and we are vehicle OEM-agnostic; we are open to working with any battery-electric vehicle manufacturer enabling standardised dynamic charging.

IM: What companies are involved in the collaboration mentioned? What is the aim of this collaboration (timelines, goals, etc)?

JO: Currently we are not able to disclose which mining companies and vehicle OEMs we are working with – it will be revealed in the not-too-distant future. They are, however, a selection of very well-known major companies from Sweden, Canada and Australia. We are open to other like-minded, early adopters to join the BluVein collaboration.

Our aim is to commence building our industry-backed technology demonstration pilot site in Brisbane, Australia, by late 2021 in a simulated underground environment. This will involve a section of BluVein rail and at least one electric vehicle fitted with the BluVein hammer system to demonstrate dynamic charging whilst hauling loaded up an incline.

IM: What are your overhead systems (BluVein Rail) providing that your typical underground trolley systems are not providing? How does the infrastructure required compare with, say, what Vale has in place at Creighton and Coleman in Sudbury for its Kiruna trucks?

JO: Existing trolley assist systems that utilise exposed high voltage conductors cannot be used in many mining jurisdictions globally due to safety concerns and an inability to comply with mining regulations. This is particularly the case in underground mines where clearance above mobile fleets is limited. The BluVein rail system is unique as all high voltage conductors are safely housed within ingress protection (IP) rated slots. This effectively mitigates against risks of accidental contact by mining personnel or the vehicles.

The safe and standardised systems allow for the charging of a vehicle’s batteries whilst simultaneously powering the electric-drive motors. This gives a battery-electric vehicle almost unlimited range and eliminates the requirement for battery swapping, downtime and charge bay infrastructure requirements.

Volvo FMX Electric with BluVein

And BluVein Rail does not need to be installed in all parts of the mine – only in the heavy-duty cycle zones such as mine declines and pit ramps. When tramming/hauling on flat gradients, mining vehicles operate on their own internal batteries. This dramatically reduces the system installation complexity and installation cost. Where the BluVein Rail terminates, the vehicle automatically disconnects and reverts to its on-board batteries for power, without stopping.

Ease of maintenance is one of our focus points for BluVein. The BluVein system is developed to handle typical mining drive terrain conditions so no special maintenance is required to cater for conductor contact relative to the vehicle. Our BluVein Hammer, an all-terrain trolley, takes care of this. This provides the connection between the mobile machinery and the BluVein slotted rail. As the vehicle moves through an inclined underground tunnel or along a pit ramp, the Hammer maintains the electrical connection even over rough road conditions. Operator assist controls, such as smart auto connect and disconnect functionality, are also incorporated.

BluVein is the ‘next generation’ of trolley assist technology with all the benefits and none of the negatives of the old systems.

IM: How long and steep an uphill climb is required, on average, to make the business case work in the favour of BluVein technology over your typical battery-only system? When does the TCO equation tip in favour of your solutions over other trolley systems on the market?

JO: Typical battery systems are super high cost when you consider the full impact of charge bay infrastructure, numerous large operating batteries per vehicle and rapid battery life decay. BluVein, however, has a relatively low capital cost in comparison as it enables smaller, lighter and lower power on-board batteries to be used that never require swapping or static charging.

Therefore, from day one, the TCO for BluVein will likely be favourable compared to typical battery-only systems, regardless of haul length.

IM: Are BluVein Hammer or BluVein Rail already installed at mine sites around the world? What models of machines have they been integrated on?

JO: The underlying technology for the BluVein Rail and Hammer has been developed over the past 11 years with EVIAS for electrified highways. BluVein is the adaptation of this technology specific to the harsh conditions found within mining.

The BluVein system has been designed to suit nearly all current mining battery-electric vehicles so that a single BluVein Rail installed in a mine can power the entire fleet, even if that fleet is comprised of mixed OEM machinery.

A working EVIAS system has been installed in an open highway setting in Sweden, but no mining applications exist at this point. As mentioned, BluVein will have a pilot site underway by the end of 2021.

IM: Given a Volvo TA15 all-electric hauler is pictured on your website, are you also working with open-pit miners on this collaboration?

JO: BluVein is not just suited to underground applications, however, initially that is the focus given the urgency around eradicating diesel emissions and particulate matter and its carcinogenic properties.

BluVein pilot site concept – simulated underground

BluVein has strong application in open-pit mining and in quarry environments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve productivity and costs. The technology can leverage all the same advantages seen underground in open-pit applications. The bonus with underground is we have free infrastructure to hang the rail from.

A number of our partner mining companies are assessing the BluVein system for both surface and underground deployments.

Epiroc to acquire Meglab as part of battery-electric mining equipment push

Epiroc has agreed to acquire Meglab, a Canada-based company with expertise in providing electrification infrastructure solutions to mines, as it looks to further support mining customers in their transition to battery-electric vehicles.

Meglab, based in Val-D’Or, Quebec, Canada, is a technology integrator that designs, manufactures, installs and supports practical and cost-effective electrification and telecommunications infrastructure solutions to customers in several countries. Its products and solutions include system design, substations, switchgears and automation system solutions, enabling the infrastructure needed for mine electrification and equipment charging solutions, as well as for digitalisation and automation of operations, Epiroc says. It has more than 240 employees and had revenues in 2020 of about C$49 million ($39 million).

Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, said: “Epiroc is proud to be the leader in providing battery-electric vehicles for the mining industry, improving customers’ work environment and lowering their emissions while increasing their productivity. The acquisition of Meglab will strengthen our capacity to provide the infrastructure required as mines transition to battery-electric vehicles.”

The acquisition is expected to be completed in the June quarter, with the purchase price not material relative to Epiroc’s market capitalisation, the mining OEM said. The business will become part of Epiroc’s Parts & Services division and will continue to be based in Canada.

In a separate release, Meglab said the two comapanies collective goal is to develop the mine of the future, with the organisations pooling its respective assets and expertise in pursuit of this target.

“Together, we will position ourselves as the leaders of all-electric and intelligent mines,” it said. “This synergy will provide various growth opportunities worldwide, both for Meglab and for the team members that will collaborate with their co-workers in this new expanded team.”

MacLean reinforces shotcrete ops with new EV sprayer, transmixer

MacLean Engineering has become renowned for its battery-electric equipment in the last four-to-five years, having announced its electrified plans at MINExpo 2016, and steadily upped its offering in line with industry demand.

Yet, it is not the only company in its field backing battery-powered production support developments underground.

Recognising the same trend that led to MacLean initiating its EV Series program in 2015, its competitors have also looked to electrify their own diesel-powered units.

Few of them to this point have clocked up the same amount of operating hours on battery that MacLean can boast; even fewer of them have gone beyond the limits of their diesel-powered predecessors with the adoption of new opex-enhancing technology and safety additions.

The company is now leveraging this experience with the launch of a new shotcrete-transmixer combination that, MacLean says, will make it the only OEM able to offer fully electrified, articulated shotcrete operations purpose-designed for underground mining applications.

Jonathan Lavallee, Product Manager – Shotcrete Equipment, got IM up to speed with developments.

“The SS5 battery-electric shotcrete sprayer is now mechanically complete,” he said ahead of the launch today. “We’ve tested it at our underground test mine and it has exceeded our expectations.”

Filling out an offering of shotcrete sprayers that includes the diesel-powered SS2 and SS3 machines, the battery-powered SS5 shotcrete unit is close to 7 ft (2.13 m) wide and is the first-ever MacLean sprayer to have a forward-facing cab for a better view of shotcreting operations from inside the cab.

In addition to a better view, the shift from mid-ship to forward-facing cab has also aided with placing the batteries and the EV components on the rear side of the machine to ensure rebound dust and particulates from shotcrete operations are not getting inside the EV components, Lavallee said.

Alongside this machine will be the 2.59-m-wide battery-powered TM3 concrete transmixer, which is based on a diesel-equivalent machine already on the market and will serve the SS5’s shotcrete needs.

Like all of MacLean’s EV Series machines, the SS5 sprayer will be able to tram on battery and connect to the power infrastructure within the mine for spraying.

This might not be all, according to Lavallee.

“Depending on the size of your heading, the battery re-generation capability on site and the air quality/quantity, there could be an option to shoot on pure battery,” he said.

Testing at the MacLean Research and Training Facility in Sudbury saw the prototype machine complete two full mixer trucks worth of shotcrete – roughly 12 cu.m – while still having enough battery power remaining to conduct a thorough wash down and washout of the equipment and tram to the nearest point of recharge, according to Lavallee.

While there was no on-board compressor fitted to this prototype – with the machine using mine air at the test facility – Lavallee is confident the commercial unit will provide the option of spraying off battery for parts of a mine where power services have not yet been established.

“Depending on the size of your heading, the battery re-generation capability on site and the air quality/quantity, there could be an option to shoot on pure battery [with the SS5],” Jonathan Lavallee says
There is more to the SS5 than battery-powered operation alone, which Lavallee, a man with shotcrete experience at Oyu Tolgoi, Grasberg, Outotec and GCP Applied Technologies, is keen to talk up.

Fitted with a “first of its kind” automatic accelerator dosing system and the company’s Auto Doser platform, Lavallee says the machine will allow operations to save money on shotcrete consumption, increase the quality of material going onto the walls and, most importantly, create a safer environment for miners.

“My mission has always been to ensure the product is 100% quality and reacts and solidifies as it is supposed to without causing any falls or damage to personnel or equipment,” he said.

Other than the new accelerator, the system will use sophisticated scanning technology for shotcrete thickness monitoring.

“That will, again, enable you to enhance the quality of the material going onto the drifts and headings,” Lavallee said. “It will also eventually help with cost reductions through reducing overshooting.”

These elements, combined, could have a significant impact on the operating cost associated with the SS5, with Lavallee hinting at 30-60% savings from the dosing system, and plus-20% savings in shotcrete consumption with the use of the accelerator and real-time scanning technology.

The Australia market will be the first to test out the new sprayer, with a unit set to be delivered to a customer site in the June quarter. Ahead of this, it is heading to the company’s branch in Elko, Nevada, for additional testing.

This unit will also be equipped with a newer type of battery MacLean is currently putting through its paces, in addition to an in-development compressor.

MacLean, again, appears to have not only electrified its mining equipment niche; but reinforced it with all the technology smarts forward-thinking miners are after.

Electric, autonomous transport to be demoed at Volvo CE’s Eskilstuna

Volvo Construction Equipment says it is building the world’s first test and demonstration area for electric, autonomous transport solutions at its Customer Center in Eskilstuna, Sweden.

Construction has already begun on the brand-new area, which will be dedicated to testing and demonstrating the latest innovations in sustainable power, connectivity and autonomous solutions.

This 66,000 m² innovation zone will include a secure track for full-electric, automated and teleoperated machines with charging infrastructure and 5G connectivity, a control and training room building, a spectator stand and training area for the Volvo Co-Pilot assist functions.

Chief among the innovations on display will be the TARA autonomous transport solution from Volvo Autonomous Solutions for defined sites, such as quarries or mines.

At the heart of TARA is the TA15 battery electric and autonomous hauler, the next commercialisation step in the concept that began with the Electric Site project and the bidirectional, cabless, battery electric and autonomous HX02 hauler.

Calle Skillsäter, Technical Specialist in connected machines at Volvo Autonomous Solutions, said: “We are excited to demonstrate our complete TARA solution to customers, including how to set up and run the site, how to charge and store the TA15 electric autonomous haulers, and how we manage the control room and surveillance operations – everything in a brand-new state-of-the-art facility.”

The secure track will also showcase remote-controlled machines, which can also be used in quarries or mines using two tele-operation rigs installed in one of the control rooms. Another of the control rooms, meanwhile, will demonstrate in real time how Volvo CE’s uptime and productivity services can reduce customers’ total cost of ownership and operation, the company said.

Back in July, Volvo Autonomous Solutions President, Nils Jaeger, told IM that the test track already had six TA15 haulers running, and an R&D team was working on the development of future automation functionality/capability as well as operating the current test fleet.

He also confirmed Harsco Environmental and Volvo Autonomous Solutions had a joint project at Harsco’s location at the Ovako Steelworks in Hofors, Sweden, where adapted TA15 haulers were being used as slag carriers during a year-long pilot.

Carl Slotte, Head of Sales Region Europe & International at Volvo CE, added: “This is an important strategic investment, not just for Volvo CE and Volvo Autonomous Solutions but the entire Volvo Group, and is proof of our commitment to drive sustainability through innovation. We are looking forward to welcoming visitors to this world-class facility and allowing them to experience exactly how we are building tomorrow.”

The innovation area is expected to open later this year.

Artisan battery-powered Z50 truck on its way to Kirkland Lake’s Macassa gold mine

Kirkland Lake Gold says it is expecting to receive a 50 t battery-powered Z50 underground haul truck at its Macassa gold mine, in Ontario, Canada, this quarter, following a purchase agreement signed last year.

The gold miner’s Macassa operation has been a leading adopter of new electric equipment and already has four 40 t battery-powered machines at the underground mine. These are matched by many battery-powered LHDs made by likes of Artisan Vehicle Systems and Epiroc.

The latest 50 t vehicle will come from Artisan, a Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions business unit.

The Z50 haul truck is a ground-up design that seamlessly integrates the most capable and proven battery-electric powertrain available in the mining industry with the latest and most coveted features of any haul truck on the market today, according to Sandvik. The 50 t machine is based off the existing design for the Z40 truck, which Artisan released back in 2018, but features a stretched rear frame (close to 19 in).

It is equipped with AutoSwap, a patented self-swapping system for the Artisan battery pack. This makes battery swapping faster and easier with a minimum amount of manual handling: changing the battery only takes about six minutes, and it can be done in a passing bay or old re-muck bay with no overhead cranes or external infrastructure needed, Sandvik says.

The news of the pending arrival of this electric vehicle came at the same time as Kirkland Lake released its 2020 production results. The company produced 369,434 oz of gold in the December quarter to make a total of 1.37 Moz of gold in 2020, 41% higher than the total in 2019, which was in line with its full-year 2020 guidance of 1.35-1.4 Moz.

Fortescue to test battery-electric, fuel cell tech in prototype 240 t haul truck

Fortescue Metals Group has confirmed it is in the process of developing an in-house, non-diesel 240 t haul truck prototype that will test both battery-electric and fuel-cell electric drivetrain technology in the Pilbara of Western Australia.

Speaking at its Investor and Media Day on Wednesday, Fortescue Chief Operating Officer, Greg Lilleyman, said the two-phase project would “offer a step-change opportunity to reduce our emissions”.

He explained: “With around a quarter of Fortescue’s Scope 1 and 2 emissions attributable to our mobile haul fleet, this is a significant opportunity to drive our pathway to net-zero operational emissions.”

The drivetrain of the 240 t prototype truck will be powered by the company’s integrated renewable energy network, he added.

Phase one of the project will see a battery-electric powertrain on-board the prototype truck tested and trialled, from an operational perspective, in the Pilbara. Phase two of the project will consider hydrogen fuel cell powertrains, Lilleyman added. The drivetrains will have the capacity to regenerate power on downhill haulage.

While no specific timeline was provided for the project, the company did say the program schedule was targeted to align with the replacement cycle of the company’s existing haul trucks.

Kirkland Lake Gold to trial battery-powered Sandvik LH518B at Fosterville

Kirkland Lake Gold, one of the leaders in battery-electric vehicle adoption in mining, is to trial a Sandvik LH518B LHD next year at its Fosterville underground mine, in Victoria, Australia, Rob McLean, the operation’s Chief Mining Engineer, has confirmed.

Speaking during a session titled: ‘What are Fosterville’s Current and Future Technology and Innovation Requirements, and Why?’ at the IMARC Online event, McLean said the trial is part of the company’s vision to “have a fully electric mine”, with the immediate goals being to remove diesel emissions and reduce heat at the operation.

Longer-term, electrifying the company’s fleet could result in the need for less ventilation, lower power costs and the elimination of infrastructure upgrades at the high-grade gold operation, he said.

Sandvik launched the 18 t battery-electric LH518B during its Innovation in Mining event in late September.

The loader, a Sandvik and Artisan Vehicle Systems joint development effort, has been designed from the ground up, entirely around the loader’s Artisan™ battery system and electric driveline to best leverage the possibilities the battery technology brings, Sandvik says. It can fit in a 4.5 x 4.5 m tunnel and is equipped with three 2,000 Nm permanent magnet motors and 450 kN of tractive effort. It can operate at speeds of up to 30 km/h and has 560 kW of continuous power output (peak power output of 660 kW).

McLean said the trial of the LH518B would inform the mine’s future electrification direction, but he said the company was also considering the use of battery-electric or trolley assist trucks at the operation, in addition to battery-electric charging/spraying rigs.

Kirkland Lake says its Macassa mine, in Ontario, Canada, is a “world leader in the use of battery-powered equipment” with more than 80% of its fleet made up of battery-powered vehicles from the likes of Artisan, Epiroc and RDH Scharf.

Nouveau Monde Graphite casts net out for carbon-neutral, zero-emission fleet

Nouveau Monde is putting out a call to arms across the technology space for its Matawinie graphite project, in Quebec, Canada.

The company, which has been pushing forward development of an all-electric open-pit mine in the province, has issued an “international call for pre-qualification” related to the fleet and charging infrastructure at the project.

Since October 2018 when the company issued a definitive feasibility study (DFS) on the West Zone of the Matawinie deposit, the mining industry and the technology space that serves it have undergone huge change.

Hydrogen is no longer a pipe dream, with hybrid vehicle development already set in motion across the globe; while the types of electric solutions being offered by OEMs has evolved with new types of trolley and cable-electric solutions, plus more powerful and reliable battery technologies.

This has led to some of the assumptions made around 25 months ago being re-evaluated.

The call for pre-qualification follows work by the company’s International Task Force Committee, which has allowed Nouveau Monde to explore “technologies, best practices and operational parameters to bring its vision to life in a cost-effective and technologically advanced way”.

The company added: “Discussions with manufacturers have already enabled to identify existing machinery in development and/or available, notably the ancillary fleet where purchasing agreements are being finalised.”

David Lyon, Director Electrification and Automation at the company, provided a bit more background to the announcement.

“We’re not actually that far out from production at Matawinie; come January, we’ll be around two years away from producing at the site,” he told IM. “Over that time, we’ve done a lot of due diligence and homework, including the pilot graphite anode project.

“We now have a pretty good roadmap towards electrifying the mine, but our view has changed a little bit. We’re not just saying it is going to be electrified anymore; we’re saying it will be carbon neutral and produce zero tail pipe emissions.”

Lyon added: “We’re afraid we haven’t turned over every rock in the technology sphere and we want companies – not just the ones we have already got in contact with – to come to us with ideas.”

That change in tone has been aided by Air Liquide’s plans to build a hydrogen electrolyser in Bécancour, very close to the company’s planned anode plant. This could produce 3,000 t/y of hydrogen from renewable energy sources.

“Having a green supply of hydrogen just down the road, and less than 200 km from the mine site, is opening up the opportunity for fuel cells, as well,” Lyon said.

While hydrogen power could provide an environmentally friendly power supply for stationary plant, there is also the potential for it serving the loading and haulage side of the mine, as indicated in today’s announcement: “Whether powered by lithium-ion batteries, plug-in systems or hydrogen fuel cells, Nouveau Monde is seeking the best zero-emission equipment for heavy-duty operations and harsh conditions associated with open-pit mining.”

Lyon added to this: “The call is for our entire mining fleet – any piece of the puzzle – to open it up to manufacturers that maybe we have missed along the way. There is a lot of good technology being developed across the globe and it would be a shame to go into full procurement mode without at least allowing those companies to participate in the process.”

Large OEMs and innovative SMEs, alike, will be able to submit detailed proposals and performance specifications from their production equipment solutions between November 30 and January 30, 2021, the company said.

In the 2018 DFS, Medatech Engineering Services Ltd and ABB Inc – both companies in Nouveau Monde’s taskforce committee – came up with the fleet outline at Matawinie.

“The mine will be using an all-electric, zero-emission mine fleet, consisting of electric battery-driven 36.3-t mining trucks, battery-driven front-end loaders, cable reel excavators and bulldozers, and battery-driven service vehicles,” the report read.

The mine, scheduled to produce 100,000 t/y of graphite concentrate, was also expected to use an electric in-pit mobile crusher and overland conveyor system to feed crushed material to the plant.

Recently, the company has made headway on filling some of these requirements.

It signed a deal with Adria Power Systems, Dana TM4 and Fournier et fils – through the Innovative Vehicle Institute (IVI), Propulsion Québec and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) – that would see a new electric propulsion system developed with a rapid recharging infrastructure adapted to heavy vehicles in the open-pit mining industry.

This would also see mining contractor Fournier et Fils provide the project with a battery-powered Western Star 6900XD truck with a 36 t loading capacity that is expected to make its first real-world test runs as early as spring 2022 at a Fournier et Fils quarry, and at the Nouveau Monde Graphite site.

Such developments are representative of the government support Nouveau Monde has received – both at a federal and provincial level – and the company is hoping this assistance encourages more companies to submit zero-emission options.

“Quebec, Canada, features renowned environmental standards, innovative talents, business-forward policies and virtually unlimited hydropower, making it an ideal playground for OEMs to build and deploy their electric solutions,” it said.

Still, NMG will not be able to fill all its haulage gaps through innovative prototype development.

Lyon said: “A commercially-supported solution over the 26-year mine life is really what we want. They exist, and we just need to properly quantify all those other solutions and put them in the queue for an open procurement call.”

And, according to Lyon, there is some flexibility to the payloads and requirements outlined in that 2018 DFS document.

“While we have found solutions in those classes today…we are still a bit flexible and open to looking at the upper and lower bands in terms of equipment,” he said.

This can be seen in the full call for pre-qualification, which includes two 90 t excavators, one 50 t excavator, one 50 t wheel loader, 8-14 haul trucks with 50-65 t payloads, two drills, two 42 t dozers, two 22 t dozers, two 14M or 140 graders, two water trucks, and a range of operation and maintenance support machines. It adds up to a mining fleet including some 60 vehicles.

Flexibility on behalf of the vendors could also prove key in the company fulfilling its requirements.

“There isn’t today one supplier that is going to supply our whole fleet, and it is very important that these solutions work together,” Lyon said. “Maybe one of these suppliers has a comparable solution that matches well with other technology we are not aware of. That could make an impact on our planning.”

Lyon admits more than two years seems a long time to fill a fleet order, but he is cognisant that timeline is not as generous when considering much of it involves the use of new technology.

All this means there will be a transition to the carbon-neutral, zero-emission fleet after initial production starts up in 2023 at Matawinie. The company is putting this transition period at five years, hoping to have a fully-electric fleet by 2028.

Still, considering the 25.5-year life at Matawinie, most mining will be conducted in the mean and ‘green’ fashion Nouveau Monde’s stakeholders and wider industry are expecting.

“Nouveau Monde is proud to be acting as an enabler into the zero-emission heavy-duty operations and is welcoming any industrial operators in mining, quarry and/or construction sectors to reach out to its technical team with questions and interest,” the company concluded.

To find out more about the pre-qualification process, follow this link: www.nouveaumonde.group/qualification-electric-fleet

Epiroc battery-electric retrofit solution coming in Q1 2021

Epiroc has confirmed that its battery-electric retrofit solution for diesel-powered machines is expected to launch in the March quarter of 2021.

Speaking at the company’s Capital Markets Day Fika 2020 event on Monday, Mattias Olsson, SVP Corporate Communications, confirmed the launch date during an investor Q&A session.

Sami Niiranen, President of Epiroc’s Underground division, said during the same event that the ST1030 underground loader would be the first unit to undergo a diesel- to battery-powered conversion. These 10-t-payload LHDs are the company’s largest loader segment, according to Niiranen.

Jess Kindler, President of Parts and Service, said these conversions were expected to be conducted during a midlife service rebuild process.

Tackling the big mine electrification questions

“There is consensus in the industry that once we start doing electrification, we will innovate much more in other areas of the mining space.”

If anyone in the mining sector thought electrification was not in their wheelhouse, Theo Yameogo’s words might make them think again.

Yameogo, Partner and National Mining & Metals Co-Leader at EY Canada, made such a statement during The Electric Mine Virtual Conference earlier this week. The event, organised by International Mining Events, brought leaders in the electrification space together to discuss the latest developments in the industry, of which there were many.

The stage was set for mine electrification reveals, and Henrik Ager, President of Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology (soon to be Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions), did not disappoint, acknowledging that the company is currently working on development of what would be its largest underground truck: a battery-powered 65 t vehicle.

This was all part of the company’s aim to have a “full range electrified offering by 2022”, he said.

Azizi Tucker, Co-Founder and CTO of XING Mobility, was next up, providing an overview of the Taiwan-based company’s offering in his presentation: ‘Electrification from prototype to mass production’.

With a remit to provide commercial, industrial and specialty vehicle makers with modular, high power and safe battery and powertrain technologies, XING is making an entrance into the mining space at just the right time.

Tucker talked attendees through the elements that make the company’s IMMERSIO™ battery solutions ideal for the mining sector: “With the modular size and shape of our batteries, we can really suit any vehicles. We find this very popular with the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) as they can utilise their existing chassis.”

The elimination of corrosion, ability to operate consistently in high-temperature environments, a variety of sealing techniques and the use of nickel-manganese-cobalt lithium-ion chemistry has allowed the company to provide the safe and enclosed battery solution miners are looking for.

He concluded by saying XING was in conversation with a variety of mining companies, mining OEMs and mine site operators about deploying solutions in the space.

Attendees were then treated to a demonstration of Tembo 4×4 e-LV’s Electric Cruiser via video during the session: ‘Green conversions: the Tembo 4×4 e-LV electric light utility vehicle platform’ (pictured below). They got up close and personal with the battery-electric utility vehicle as it travelled on- and off-road close to the company’s Netherlands HQ.

After a 15-minute demo showing off the Electric Cruiser’s attributes, Paul Smeters, Tembo 4×4 e-LV’s Marketing Manager, and Alexander Haccou, Tembo 4×4 e-LV’s Technical Director, joined the event to answer audience questions.

The inevitable query came up early during the live Q&A: have you tested this vehicle in an underground mine?

Haccou was prepared for this, explaining that Boliden’s Tara underground zinc-lead mine in Ireland was the first recipient of the company’s Electric Cruiser, and a unit had been operating there for a few years now observing many of the maintenance benefits battery-electric machines are becoming renowned for.

The Electric Cruiser has also been tested in Australia and Canada with the help of Tembo 4×4 e-LV partners in those regions, he added.

“We don’t use fast charging or battery swapping,” Haccou said in response to another question. “What we have seen in several mines is the daily amount of usage is less than the battery’s full capacity.”

After several questions related to an active thermal management system for batteries had come up in previous sessions, Nicolas Champagne’s entrance to the virtual event proved timely.

His presentation, ‘Battery thermal management system using a highly advanced dielectric fluid’, homed in on the use of a dielectric fluid with specific features to allow direct cooling of the battery electrochemical cells.

Champagne, Formulation Team Manager of the R&D department for TOTAL Lubricants, revealed results from use of the fluid in bench tests and simulations at the battery pack level, extrapolating what these results could mean for battery-powered vehicles in the mining sector.

He said the company is in discussions with at least one mining customer about deploying its fluid on a battery-powered vehicle.

After previous sessions had discussed the potential for fast charging and battery swapping, Champagne made clear that TOTAL Lubricants’ solution would prove beneficial in all battery-powered applications throughout the mining sector.

 

Following a lunch break, it was the turn of Epiroc’s Anders Hedqvist (Vice President of R&D, underground) and Franck Boudreault (Electrification Transformation Lead, underground) to deliver a scoop (pun intended).

The pair, during their presentation, ‘From one generation to the next – learnings from zero emission mining’, took it in turns to provide updates.

Boudreault revealed the company’s plan to create battery-electric conversion kits for not only Epiroc diesel-powered equipment out in the field but other OEMs’ machines, before Hedqvist disclosed the company’s in-development battery-electric 18 t LHD would be trialled at LKAB’s Sustainable Underground Mining (SUM) project in Sweden. Epiroc has already delivered a diesel-powered Scooptram ST18 to be trialled in autonomous mode at the SUM project.

It was Yameogo, a mining engineer with much experience operating in underground mines in Canada, that provided the event’s big picture talk in his presentation, ‘Will electrification spark the next wave of mining innovation?’

He talked up the need for industry collaboration between miners, OEMs and service providers in not only electrifying equipment and operations, but also other types of technology.

“That type of collaboration and co-creation framework will actually help mining companies also think about innovation and other items part of electrification and equipment, in general,” he said.

The focus narrowed slightly to open-pit electrification during Dr Bappa Banerjee’s talk, ‘An electric future for mine haulage’. Dr Banerjee, General Manager of Mining Equipment for Wabtec, emphasised from the off that there was no one-size fits all solution to going electric in this sector.

“It’s becoming clear to us…that perhaps it will be a combination of technologies that really help us get to a solution that is feasible,” he said.

This solution, he said, depended on the mine application and haulage scenario, underlining the need for technology flexibility.

In his presentation, Dr Banerjee pitted a diesel-powered haul truck with 2,500 horsepower (1,864 kW) as his baseline solution against a hybrid solution with a 2,500 hp diesel engine and 200 kWh battery as one alternative, and all-electric truck platforms equipped with trolley assist (with 800 kWh battery) and stationary charging (1,200 kWh battery).

The energy cost versus productivity outcome he showed proved his earlier point about different applications suiting different solutions, with varied results depending on if these trucks were deployed on downhill, uphill or flat hauls.

GE Transportation, since merged with Wabtec, has previously demonstrated a battery-diesel hybrid solution on a Komatsu 830E-1AC and Wabtec has plans to release trolley solutions for Komatsu 830E-5 and 930E-5 haul trucks in 2021, so this analysis includes hard industry data.

Dr Banerjee concluded on the decision-making aspect of going electric: “These are not just point in time decisions we have to make regarding the CAPEX and where we are in the lifecycle of the mine, but decisions across decades sometimes.

“Perhaps the best way to approach this would be to start with a technology that is more flexible up front or has more options.”

Brian Huff, Vice President of Technology for Artisan Vehicle Systems, a Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology business unit, used his presentation to reinforce that battery-powered solutions were the way forward in the underground environment.

‘Rethink the machine, not the mine’ was the title of his presentation and Huff stayed true to it from the off: “The basic message is that this is not as hard as you think it is. There is a real big change coming to the mining industry, but it may not be as difficult as you think to accomplish a conversion to battery-electric equipment.”

Similar to Hedqvist’s mention of the newfound freedom available to engineers when designing these next generation battery-electric machines, Huff explained that Artisan’s generation three BEV blueprint started with a battery-electric driveline and built from there.

“Major parts of the frame can be removed to facilitate swapping…[and you can have] double to triple the power density of the machine (compared with the diesel-powered equivalent) to improve performance,” he said.

He moved on to tackle the usual range anxiety question head on, displaying a video of a 13 km haul on a one-in-seven grade. Within this, he showed that the ability to swap batteries during the uphill haul meant there was no loss in haulage productivity when compared with the a similar payload diesel-powered machine.

The time losses related to battery swapping – around six minutes per swap with the Z50 – were more than offset by the increased haulage speed, according to Huff. “It is about 10% faster on the climb,” he said when comparing the BEV unit with a conventional diesel truck.

Productivity could be further boosted with the introduction of Artisan’s patented AutoConnect system. Fitted on the company and Sandvik’s newest 18 t payload LH518B LHD, this system allows the battery swap to be completed in well under five minutes, according to Huff. IM understands an AutoConnect retrofit option could allow the Z50 haul truck to match that swap time.

Add to this productivity benefit, decreases in operating cost and total cost of ownership, and it is hardly surprising Barrick recently signed off on a trial of four of these Z50s at its Turquoise Ridge joint venture gold mine in Nevada.

Safety, cost, maintenance, productivity and even battery life; you name it, The Electric Mine Virtual Conference discussed it.

The good news is a second dose of electrification talk is only four months away, with The Electric Mine 2021 conference taking place on March 15-16, 2021, in Stockholm, Sweden.