LKAB has ordered 12 Toro™ LH625iE cable-electric loaders and five Toro™ LH621i loaders, all equipped with Sandvik’s AutoMine® solution, for its Kiruna iron ore mine in northern Sweden.
The order will more than double Kiruna’s electric Toro LH625iE fleet to 20, all of which will now be automated, and its total Sandvik loader fleet to 28 by the end of 2025, the OEM said.
The orders were booked in the June and December quarters of 2023, with deliveries scheduled from January 2024 through the end of 2025. The investment follows a study by Sandvik’s Trans4Mine team and calculations by Polymathian that identified opportunities for Kiruna to increase production by as much as 15% through automation of its large electric loader fleet.
“Sandvik and LKAB have a shared goal to boost production at the Kiruna mine,” Magnus Backe, General Manager LKAB Kiruna, said. “This is a true partnership to increase tonnage and improve safety through automation.”
Developed in 2020 as a collaboration between LKAB and Sandvik to replace Kiruna’s ageing fleet of 17 Sandvik LH625E loaders, the 25-t-payload Toro LH625iE is a revamped version of the industry’s largest-capacity underground loader.
“This investment supports our strategy towards a more electrified, autonomous and safer mine,” Joel Kangas, Mine Manager at LKAB, said. “We need to excavate an enormous volume of rock from depths of up to 1,300 m, and we will mine even deeper in the future. These depths present a prohibitive ventilation challenge for conventional equipment of the size we need to meet production demands. We worked closely on a daily basis with the Sandvik experts on site to ensure a seamless implementation.
“Ever since we put the first Toro LH625iE straight into a production environment more than three years ago, these loaders have been the backbone in our production system, exceeding our expectations, and we look forward to incorporating these new automated units into our operation.”
Kiruna was among the industry’s earliest adopters of cable-electric loading, trialling its first Sandvik unit in 1985. The oldest of Kiruna’s Sandvik LH625E loaders was 13 years old and had more than 40,000 production hours when what began as a project to modernise the loader and a side project to enhance its cable reeling system ultimately evolved into a completely upgraded loader model with the latest technology and new components.
Sandvik collaborated closely with LKAB to customise the design of Toro LH625iE to meet Kiruna’s needs. These included better energy efficiency than the original model with the same payload capacity and a larger, more ergonomic operator’s cabin with a turning seat that swivels 180°.
Mats Eriksson, President of Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, said: “[The] Toro LH625iE has proven itself at the Kiruna mine, delivering an unrivalled production capacity of up to 500 metric tons per hour. Not only are these automated loaders extremely productive, they improve underground conditions and operator comfort with less heat, fewer vibrations and lower noise levels. Our partnership will create value for LKAB for years to come, and we look forward to continuing to support LKAB’s goals to mine more sustainably and productively.”
The Toro LH625iE is 14 m long and features a 4-m-wide, 9 cu.m bucket and an energy-efficient, IE4 classified electric motor to deliver a low cost per tonne. It connects to Kiruna’s mine network via a 350-m trailing cable that enables an operating range of up to 700 m.