Tag Archives: Sweden

Nordic Iron Ore plotting entry into steel’s circular economy at Blötberget

With the world’s first hydrogen-reduced sponge iron having just been produced, most of the globe’s iron and steel companies are evaluating how they can continue to play a role in the steel-making industry of the future.

The HYBRIT project milestone in Sweden has global ramifications for a sector that is among the three biggest producers of carbon dioxide, according to McKinsey. Incorporation of fossil-free technology to produce ‘green iron’ that can lead onto ‘green steel’ is viewed as one of the ways the sector can clean up its act and stay relevant in a society that is increasingly focused on greenhouse gas emissions and sustainability.

Nordic Iron Ore, the owner of the Blötberget iron ore project in the Bergslagen mining region of Sweden, is one of a few companies blessed with the potential to produce higher-grade magnetite that could fit into this brave new steel-making world.

Paul Marsden, Technical and Marketing Advisor for Nordic Iron Ore, explains: “There is a lot of investment interest in Sweden and elsewhere for projects associated with these goals. We’re looking at how our place in that might work, but, as we have demonstrated that we can make products in excess of 71% Fe, I would suggest that we can definitely fit the bill.”

It is not only the grade of iron Nordic Iron Ore intends to produce that is in its favour in this regard; the asset it intends to extract ore from is a past producer, having last closed up shop in 1979.

The old headframe in Blötberget

The most recent estimates state that the company could produce upwards of 4 Mt/y of high-quality iron ore at full tilt from an underground operation. The initial development, Blötberget, is planned as an underground post pillar cut and fill (PPCF) mine using backfill to reduce surface impact and maintain the high-grade of the run-of-mine ore after extraction. Construction is envisaged to take around two years, with an aim to use as much of the project’s magnetite resources as possible.

“At the moment, we’re still going to be a niche producer with low tonnages,” Marsden told IM. “Phase one is likely to start at around 1.65 Mt/y, but phase two and three could get us up to 4-5 Mt/y of high-quality products.

“At the same time, we see ourselves fitting into a changing European steel scene where you have got to be looking at lower carbon output, higher productivity per unit and a move into pelletising or DRI (sponge iron) as a high priority.”

How the company will do this is still to be confirmed, but some of the recent agreements Nordic Iron Ore has signed indicate there is intent behind the ambitions.

It has enlisted the help of Paterson & Cooke to evaluate alternatives for its waste management process (fine tailings were previously anticipated to be deposited in an existing tailing dam) that “significantly reduces the environmental impact of the mining operations but is also attractive from an economic standpoint”.

It has enlisted the help of Sweden-based VB Energi to supply electricity to the site from renewable sources.

Nordic Iron Ore took part in the Smart Exploration project, an EU-funded collaboration between universities and companies from eleven countries. One of the project’s aims was to develop environmentally-friendly methods of geophysical exploration, with Smart Exploration teams conducting several evaluations at Ludvika Mines (part of the Blötberget project) using prototype equipment producing more accurate measurements primarily in the fields of seismology and electromagnetics

It has also signed an MoU with Epiroc Sweden, with the two companies cooperating on the mining project development.

Nordic Iron Ore’s CEO, Lennart Eliasson, said this OEM partnership, in particular, was important to the company’s aims of operating a modern mine able to deploy the latest technologies for high productivity and safety, and long-term sustainability.

Marsden provided a bit more background on this agreement: “The definitive feasibility study we had previously completed with Golder Group by the end of 2019 was what you would consider a ‘traditional mine’ – it included diesel-powered loading and haulage with operators. It wasn’t really what we were aiming for, but it gave us an economic study to go to market with.

“We have since had conversations with the likes of Epiroc, ABB and others at the forefront of pushing new technologies like automation, electrification and digitalisation. They are interested in producing a ‘showcase mine’ for Sweden.”

Marsden says there is potential for leveraging the technology learnings on projects such as LKAB’s Kiruna and Konsuln mines, Boliden’s underground operations and Lundin Mining’s Zinkgruvan operation to make Blötberget “future ready”.

He added: “We cannot automate and electrify it all from the off, but we can lay the groundwork to eventually automate and electrify just about everything in the mine.”

What the company needs now is backing from investors to solidify its plan for Blötberget.

Some $8-10 million should allow the company to assess improvements – the potential to access old resources close to a planned underground decline, earlier revenue generators such as toll treatment of high-grade concentrate, and right-sizing the process flowsheet – and bolster the team to see it through mine construction.

After that, it will be a matter of aligning with offtake partners intent on sustainable steel production with a premium iron ore concentrate that suits the industry’s ‘green’ sentiment.

HYBRIT partners produce world’s first hydrogen-reduced sponge iron

SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall say they have now produced the world’s first hydrogen-reduced sponge iron at a pilot scale.

The technological breakthrough in the HYBRIT initiative captures around 90% of emissions in conjunction with steelmaking and is a decisive step on the road to fossil-free steel, the partners say.

The feat from the HYBRIT pilot plant in Luleå, Sweden, showed it is possible to use fossil-free hydrogen gas to reduce iron ore instead of using coal and coke to remove the oxygen. Production has been continuous and of good quality, the companies said, with around 100 t made so far.

This is the first time ever that hydrogen made with fossil-free electricity has been used in the direct reduction of iron ore at a pilot scale, according to the HYBRIT partners. The goal, in principle, is to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from the steelmaking process by using only fossil-free feedstock and fossil-free energy in all parts of the value chain.

Hydrogen-based reduction is a critical milestone, which paves the way for future fossil-free iron and steelmaking. SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall intend, through HYBRIT, to create the most efficient value chain from the mine to steel, with the aim of being first to market, in 2026, with fossil-free steel at an industrial scale, they say.

Last year, HYBRIT, a joint initiative of SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall, began test operations to make hydrogen-reduced sponge iron in the pilot plant built with support from the Swedish Energy Agency. The technology is being constantly developed and the sponge iron that has been successfully made using hydrogen technology is the feedstock for the fossil-free steel of the future, they say.

Jan Moström, President and CEO at LKAB, said: “This is a major breakthrough both for us and for the entire iron and steel industry. LKAB is the future supplier of sponge iron and this is a critical step in the right direction. Progress with HYBRIT enables us to maintain the pace in our transition and, already in 2026, we will begin the switch to industrial-scale production with the first demonstration plant in Gällivare, Sweden. Once LKAB has converted its entire production to sponge iron, we will enable the transition of the steel industry and reduce global emissions by around 35 Mt a year, which corresponds to two thirds of Sweden’s entire emissions. This is the greatest action we can take together for the good of the climate.”

Martin Lindqvist, President and CEO at SSAB, added: “This technological breakthrough is a critical step on the road to fossil-free steel. The potential cannot be underestimated. It means that we can reach climate goals in Sweden and Finland and contribute to reducing emissions across Europe. At the same time, it creates new jobs and export successes. SSAB’s transition means we will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10% in Sweden and 7% in Finland. High-strength fossil-free steel will also allow us to help our customers to strengthen their competitiveness. As early as this year, we will deliver minor quantities of steel made using hydrogen-based reduction to customers, and in 2026 we will deliver fossil-free steel at a large scale.”

The hydrogen used in the direct reduction process is generated by electrolysis of water with fossil-free electricity, and can be used immediately or stored for later use, according to the partners. In May, HYBRIT began work on building a pilot-scale hydrogen storage facility adjacent to the direct reduction pilot plant in Luleå.

Anna Borg, President and CEO at Vattenfall, said: “Sweden’s and Vattenfall’s fossil-free electricity is a basic requirement for the low carbon footprint of hydrogen-reduced sponge iron. The breakthrough that we can announce today shows in a very real way how electrification contributes to enabling a fossil-free life within a generation.”

Howden to deliver hydrogen storage compression solution for HYBRIT

Howden says it has been selected to deliver a hydrogen storage compression solution for HYBRIT, the world’s first fossil-free steel plant, in Svartöberget, Sweden.

A joint project between Sweden’s SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall, HYBRIT is the deployment of a unique pilot project for large-scale hydrogen storage. This initiative leads the development of the world’s first fossil-free value chain for the iron and steel industry, to address renewable hydrogen storage.

Howden has been contracted to supply a high-pressure diaphragm compression package to seamlessly integrate the storage cycle of the hydrogen production. The hydrogen compression includes installation and commissioning of a packaged three stage diaphragm compressor.

The storage facility consists of a 100 cu.m hydrogen storage built in an enclosed rock cavern approximately 30 m below ground. This offers a cost-effective solution, with the necessary pressure required, to store large amounts of energy in the form of hydrogen, Howden said.

The reliability, efficiency and safety delivered by Howden’s compression solution matches with the large-scale hydrogen storage requirements, relative to the storage conditions and the evaluation of the amount of time during which the compression pressure remains at the desired level, it added.

HYBRIT supports the European Union’s Hydrogen Strategy and its ambition to install at least 6 GW of renewable hydrogen electrolysers in the EU by 2024 and at least 40 GW by 2030.

Salah Mahdy, Global Director – Hydrogen at Howden, said: “Our partnership with HYBRIT demonstrates Howden’s capabilities in developing and delivering state-of-art hydrogen compressor solutions, based on our long-standing compression expertise. We have over 100 years of experience in the compression of hydrogen, which is ideally placed to support the transition to a fossil-free energy system.

“We’re thrilled to be working on this ground-breaking project, which has the potential to reduce Sweden’s total carbon dioxide emissions by at least 10%. The steel industry currently accounts for about 7% of the world’s global carbon emissions, so the creation of a zero-emission steel is revolutionary, and may, in the future, help to reduce emissions from iron and steel production worldwide.”

Mikael Nordlander, Head of R&D Portfolio Industry Decarbonisation, Vattenfall, adds: “Fossil-free hydrogen is central to the HYBRIT process. Hydrogen can be produced cost-effectively through the electrolysis of water using fossil-free electricity. The hydrogen produced by the electrolysers can be used immediately or stored for later use. One of the key aspects of our storage facility relies on the hydrogen compression to be deployed in a contamination-free manner. Based on their proven technology, expertise and references, we are delighted to cooperate with Howden on the integration of a reliable compression solution for storage.”

Howden says it is focused on helping customers increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their air and gas handling processes enabling them to make sustainable improvements in their environmental impact. It designs, manufactures and supplies products, solutions and services to customers around the world across highly diversified end-markets and geographies.

Metso Outotec boosts end-user service offering in central, southern Sweden

Metso Outotec has signed a distribution contract with Mining and Construction Equipment Sweden AB and Värnamo Krosskonsult AB that will see the two Sweden-based firms distribute Metso Outotec’s mobile and stationary crushing and screening equipment, as well as crusher wear parts, to mining and aggregate customers in southern and central Sweden. The pair will also provide service support such as start-ups and repairs in the regions.

Roar Vasbø, who is heading Metso Outotec’s sales and service in the Nordics region, said: “We’re very pleased to enter this cooperation. For the customers, it means better and faster local service. For us, it means that we can improve customer experience and reach out to more potential customers in the region, especially contractors.”

Fredrik Wennberg, Managing Director of Mining and Construction Equipment Sweden, said: “Our aim is to serve the markets as one-stop-shop. We offer service, parts, equipment and know-how close to the customer.”

He added: “Flexibility is very important to our customers, especially for the contractors. We offer rental possibilities and stock units so that the customers are able to get their equipment quickly.”

Kristofer Almén, Managing Director of Värnamo Krosskonsult, concluded: “This is a great opportunity for us to be able offer Metso Outotec aggregate equipment to greenfield projects or to brownfield stationary plant projects. It will strengthen our competitiveness and help us serve the market better.”

The main location is Värnamo with equipment and parts stock, and a service workshop. Sales offices are in Stockholm, Värnamo and Ystad. The staff includes around 20 personnel in service, sales, and construction engineering.

LKAB to trial AI-backed XRF drill core logging with help of Minalyze and Sentian

LKAB, Minalyze AB and Sentian say they have joined forces in a consortium to develop the latest technology for scanning drill core.

In March 2020, LKAB started a test with the Minalyzer CS drill core scanner where the goal was to improve the workflow for core logging – ie how the results of exploration drilling are analysed. The test led to a permanent installation in Kiruna (Sweden) and expansion to Malmberget where data from the Minalyzer CS is used to help geological logging of the drill core.

The consortium of LKAB, Minalyze and Sentian are now set to take the use of data to the next level when boreholes in LKAB’s deposits are to be investigated. The new artificial intelligence application being developed by the trio will make the analysis much faster, with the time to evaluate a drill core reduced from weeks to minutes, with increased accuracy.

This could see Minalyze’s X-ray Fluorescence-backed CS scanner analyse LKAB drill core while leveraging Sentain’s industrial artificial intelligence solutions to make real-time decisions relating to drilling and exploration activities.

The technology development driven by the consortium will be a world first, changing the entire industry, the companies say.

Jan-Anders Perdahl, Specialist at LKAB’s Exploration Department, said: “With the collaboration, the core logging takes a big step through machine learning and artificial intelligence. The geologist can, at an early stage, place greater focus on the parts of the core that show chemical or other changes. Opportunities are opened up to gain increased knowledge about ore formation processes and alterations in a completely different way than before. One can also get indications that you are close to mineralisation and where it may be located, and thereby streamline exploration.”

The technological leap will give LKAB’s staff increased competence, increased quality in and efficiency of the work, as well as reduced need for other analysis methods, according to the companies.

Annelie Lundström, CEO of Minalyze AB, said: “We are at an interesting time when the hardware to extract consistently high-resolution data from drill cores is available and we can now take the next step and generate value from data together with our customers. In this collaboration, we will develop algorithms that can map rock layers in so-called lithological logs with very high confidence. This can only be done by combining expertise from all three parties.

“The results from our collaboration will forever change how drill core logging takes place everywhere and will result in a more efficient, non-subjective and consistent process.”

Martin Rugfelt, Sentian CEO, added: “We see great power in the application of modern artificial intelligence to data from the mining industry and there is major potential in further combining our machine learning technology with Minalyze’s unique capabilities in data collection and analysis.”

Boliden testing Epiroc battery-electric loader at Kristineberg

As Boliden continues to pursue further development of the Kristineberg underground copper-zinc mine in Sweden, it is increasing its understanding of the use of battery-electric vehicles at its underground operations.

Last month, the company outlined a SEK1.25 billion ($150 million) investment at Kristineberg – most of which is conditional on a production expansion permit – towards further developing the mine towards the Rävliden mineralisation. The expansion is expected to contribute to an increase in milled volumes in the Boliden Area to 1.8 Mt/y.

While this is happening, the company, in partnership with Epiroc, has been testing a 14 t ST14 Battery LHD at the mine.

Testing of the machine commenced in the March quarter and is expected to last 12 months. It has involved the installation of a battery swap and charging station (with overhead crane), and the switching of two batteries on site as testing has ramped up.

Patrik Hansson, Senior Development Engineer of Mining Technology at Boliden Mines, told IM the testing has been limited to a specific part of the mine – the L-Area, 850-1,000 m level. He said the ST14 Battery is the first battery-powered LHD tested across the company.

“We have several KPIs that we are following and evaluating, and comparing to our normal diesel equipment,” Hansson said. Included among the KPI list is tramming distance, driving time, equipment utilisation, equipment availability, production (t/mth), energy consumption (kWh/t), operator acceptance, ambient temperature, air quality (CO, NOx, CO2, diesel particulate matter), humidity level and noise level.

Boliden has submitted an application for expanded production at the Kristineberg mine to the Swedish Land and Environment Court. At the same time, it has decided to make preparatory investments in, among other things, infrastructure and water treatment. Conditional on the application being approved, Boliden will complete the investment, which includes a new ramp and a new crushing station. Production is expected to start in 2023.

In addition to increased mine production, a completed expansion means the life of the Kristineberg mine will be extended and that capacity utilisation in the Boliden Area’s concentrator will be improved.

At Kristineberg, cut and fill mining and drift and fill mining methods are used to mine the mineralised material underground. Generally, levels wider than 10 m are mined with drift and fill mining. In levels with widths between 6-10 m, slashing is used to mine any remaining mineralised material on the walls of the mining room. In the uppermost slices, residual mining is also practiced to mine the sill pillars.

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.

HYBRIT partners choose Gällivare for fossil-free sponge iron demonstration plant

SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall say they are taking a new, decisive leap forward in their work on HYBRIT, with the trio selecting Gällivare, in northern Sweden, as the location of the first production plant for its fossil-free sponge iron exercise.

Industrialisation is intended to start with the first demonstration plant, which will be ready in 2026, for the production of 1.3 Mt of fossil-free sponge iron in Gällivare. The demonstration plant will be integrated with iron pellet making and is part of LKAB’s transition plan.

The goal is to expand sponge iron production to a full industrial scale of 2.7 Mt by 2030 to be able to supply SSAB, among others, with feedstock for fossil-free steel. The choice of Gällivare for the demo plant was based on a joint assessment of industrial synergies, where proximity to iron ore, logistics, an electricity supply and energy optimisation were important factors, the companies said.

There are many advantages to locating the new sponge iron plant in Gällivare, which is also near LKAB’s mining production and processing plants. Using iron ore pellets that are already warm in the process will save huge amounts of energy, according to the companies. On top of this, 30% of weight will be eliminated from transport since hydrogen gas will be used to remove the oxygen in the iron ore. Gällivare also offers good access to fossil-free electricity from Vattenfall.

Martin Lindqvist, President and CEO at SSAB (centre), said: “We are world leaders in the work to transform the steel industry and are now stepping up the pace. We are doing this for the climate, customers, competitiveness and for employment. That we are now raising ambitions for a completely fossil-free value chain is unique and a message of strength from SSAB and our HYBRIT partners. We are seeing a clear increase in demand for fossil-free steel and it is right to speed up our ground-breaking cooperation.”

Jan Moström, President and CEO at LKAB (left), said the companies are leading the transformation of the iron and steel industry.

“The whole process starts with top quality iron ore in the mine and our transition plan gives strong economies of scale that pave the way for the competitive production of fossil-free steel by our customers,” he said. “This is the greatest thing we can do together for the climate. Once we are ready, we will reduce the global emissions of our customers by 35 Mt a year, which is equivalent to triple the effect of parking all passenger cars in Sweden for good.”

At the same time as announcing the Gällivare demo plant, SSAB and LKAB have agreed to deepen their partnership to create the “most effective fossil-free steel value chain from mine to steel, to customer”, they said.

“We will support and enable each other’s transformation, with Vattenfall an enabler of the huge need for electricity and hydrogen gas,” they said. “On the back of an acceleration of HYBRIT, together with LKAB’s strategy and deeper partnership, SSAB will now explore the prerequisites to convert to fossil-free steel production in Luleå faster than planned.”

The plan to convert its Oxelösund steel works in 2025 remains unchanged, as does its goal to be the first to market, in 2026, with fossil-free steel, SSAB clarified.

Anna Borg (right), President and CEO at Vattenfall, added: “Sweden and HYBRIT have a world-leading position in making fossil-free iron- and steelmaking a reality and the initiative will now be further scaled up. That fossil-free electricity and ground-breaking processes will in principle help to eliminate climate-affecting emissions completely from iron- and steelmaking is a flagship example of Vattenfall’s strategy to enable a fossil-free life within a generation. It is now extra important that the permit processes can deliver at the same pace as fossil-free steelmaking.”

Hybrit Development AB, which is owned by SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall, is developing the technology to make steel using hydrogen gas instead of coal, which will minimise climate harmful carbon dioxide emissions from production. The HYBRIT pilot plant will be able to make fossil-free sponge iron to make fossil-free steel for prototypes to customers already in 2021.

The partners claim the initiative has the potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10% in Sweden and 7% in Finland, as well as contribute to cutting steel industry emissions in Europe and globally.

LKAB welcomes more autonomous LHDs at Kiruna ahead of electric machine arrivals

LKAB says it is now running six autonomous LHDs at its Kiruna iron ore mine, in northern Sweden, with battery-powered and cable-electric machines set to arrive at the operation later in the year.

The company has been stepping up its automation efforts at the underground mine, going from three autonomous loaders in November to five in December and, now, six as of this month.

These loaders have come from both Sandvik and Epiroc, with at least three of these being 21 t Sandvik LH621i LHDs and two being 18 t Epiroc Scooptram ST18 LHDs.

“For the time being, the loaders are diesel-powered, but battery-powered Epiroc machines and Sandvik’s larger electric loaders will be delivered this year,” the company said. “Safety and loading capacity will be tested and assessed, so that the vision of a carbon-dioxide-free LKAB can be realised.”

Magnus Lindgren, Production Manager for the remote-control centre at level 1365 in the Kiruna mine, said: “Our operators work in close collaboration with both Sandvik and Epiroc and, thereby, take part in these suppliers’ development. We test the systems and provide feedback, so we can eventually take delivery of a better product.”

LKAB conducts blasting at the mine each night. When the blasting gases have been evacuated and rock stresses have decreased, personnel can access the production area. With remote-control machines, LKAB can load, haul and dump crude ore without having to worry as much about these considerations.

Roger Lärkmo, Engineering Developer at LKAB, added: “Autonomous loading at night is optimal in terms of both safety and work environment, and from a productivity perspective. That doesn’t mean manually-operated machines are a thing of the past; it just means that we have more tools in the toolbox. Many parameters have to be taken into the equation for our loading operations to deliver an even flow of ore to the processing plants.”

This summer, the Konsuln mine will take delivery of its first battery-powered loader, the 14 t ST14 from Epiroc. Epiroc said last month it will also deliver a Minetruck MT42 Battery for use at the main Kiruna iron ore mine for production, and in the Konsuln test mine.

Preparations are now under way for the ST14 Battery’s arrival at Konsuln, from planning of the drifts where batteries will be exchanged, to risk analyses and simulations, LKAB said.

During 2021, three of Sandvik’s larger 625IE electric loaders, which have a 25-t payload capacity, will also be delivered to LKAB in Kiruna. The company took delivery of a “renewed” Sandvik LH625iE electric loader for field testing in 2020.

Lindgren said: “LKAB has been running loaders with electric power cables for more than 20 years, both manually operated and with remote control. Now we are going to test the new generation of electric loaders. These tests will begin in the autumn.”

Anita Oraha Wardi, Project Manager for autonomous, smart and carbon-dioxide-free machines at LKAB, said the company was participating in development work early on, so it can understand and influence performance, loading capacity and, not least, the safety aspects.

“We are going to test to see how battery-driven and electric loaders compare with diesel-powered machines, and how remote-control machines function in comparison with manually-operated loaders,” she said.

“One of several objectives is that operators, regardless of the make or model of the vehicle, should be able to run remote-control vehicles via the same system and in the same production area. Then, we will be approaching a world standard.”

Sika boosts shotcrete offering for mining industry

Sika says it has further expanded additive production for shotcrete at Spånga, near Stockholm, Sweden, and upscaled to the latest-generation technology.

The new process makes it possible to deliver tailored solutions in demanding projects for customers, with the primary customer of the set accelerator, marketed under the Sigunit® brand, being the mining industry. Sika says a high level of early strength development and maximum safety in shotcrete applications is key for the mining sector.

Ivo Schädler, Regional Manager EMEA, said: “The new technology allows us to offer reliable shotcrete solutions that are tailored to customer requirements in the best possible way. Our customers include leading mining companies that sign long-term supply agreements with us. The potential for growth is not limited to Sweden alone, with mining projects in Finland and tunnel construction projects in Norway and Iceland.”