Tag Archives: trolley assist

First Quantum to add to Liebherr T 284 fleet at Sentinel copper mine

First Quantum Minerals is in the process of bolstering its fleet of Liebherr T 284 trucks at the Sentinel operation in Zambia, in line with a redistribution of loading equipment to better suit working areas at the copper mine.

In the company’s March quarter, Sentinel reported copper production of 36,232 t, 37,177 t lower than the previous quarter due to the intense rainy season, resulting in the accumulation of water in the Stage 1 pit.

Saturated ground conditions significantly impacted mining rates due to poor road conditions and water in the pit prevented access to working faces, particularly in the lower benches of Stage 1, First Quantum said in its March quarter results.

Despite the challenges encountered during this quarter, copper production for 2023 remains unchanged at 260,000-280,000 t as higher feed grades are expected in the second half of the year, with grades showing improvement already in April.

“The current focus on deploying additional dewatering capacity in Stage 1 to regain access to the high-grade ore is already yielding results early in the second (June) quarter,” it said.

The mine plan has been rescheduled, even if total volumes remain substantively the same and higher grade zones will be dispatched across the remaining three quarters of the year, the company noted. This is to be complemented by a change in location of the in-pit ramps to liberate high-grade ore by mining the saddle zones between Stage 1 and Stage 2.

There will also be a redistribution of loading equipment to better suit working areas and truck fleet capacity is planned to increase in the June quarter with the commissioning of an additional Liebherr T 284, followed by two more in the second half of the year.

Sentinel is a leader in electric mining as a long-term user of trolley assist technology with its Komatsu 960E and Liebherr T 284 trucks, which run under trolley using pantographs.

At MINExpo 2021, Liebherr confirmed it would supply a further 11 T 284 trucks to operate on trolley lines at First Quantum Minerals’ Sentinel and Cobre Panama mines with the miner claiming, in the process, the title of the world’s largest ultra-class truck fleet on trolley. Three of these 363-t-payload machines were planned to be deployed at Sentinel, with the remainder at Cobre Panama.

Two Liebherr T 284 trucks with the Trolley Assist System were commissioned at Sentinel copper mine all the way back in 2016 and testing of the trolley solution began in February of 2017, with 12 months allotted for FQM to evaluate the trucks, the trolley and the customer service.

At the end of the trial period, FQM expressed it was pleased with the results of the Trolley Assist System and the performance of the T 284, leading to an order for six more trolley-capable T 284 trucks at Sentinel mine, along with 30-trolley-capable T 284 trucks for Cobre Panama copper mine in Panama, Liebherr explained.

Vale, Epiroc planning for automation shift with battery-electric loaders at Creighton

The industry has been told continuously that there are plenty of synergies between automation and electrification when it comes to loading and haulage, yet the hard evidence of this complementary nature has not yet surfaced. That could be about to change if a trial at Vale’s Creighton mine in Sudbury, Ontario, proves successful.

Vale has been a key electrification partner for mining OEMs and service providers, testing out a whole host of battery-electric equipment from light utility vehicles to 42-t-payload trucks at its deep mines in Sudbury. This builds on its experience of running diesel-electric Kiruna trucks since the mid-1990s at the Coleman mine (also in Sudbury).

The miner has also commenced trials on surface with battery-electric trucks and is set to commence trolley assist operations at its massive Carajas iron ore mining complex in Minas Gerais, Brazil, later this year.

The variety of testing the company has carried out – in terms of the types of mining operations, vehicle setups, charging methods and electrical infrastructure – means it can be considered an electrification pioneer.

Now, it is looking to combine this experience with its knowledge of autonomous loading operations – again an area of the technology space it is considered a leader in.

In partnership with Epiroc, a battery-electric and automation project is in the planning stages at Vale’s Creighton underground mine.

The two companies commissioned four Epiroc ST14 Battery Scooptram and two MT42 Battery trucks at the operation in preparation for the deepening of the mine in the December quarter of 2022. Full-scale operation is ramping up with a first charging bay already commissioned and new ones coming in the next months, a Vale spokesperson told IM.

“The next steps will be to leverage the autonomous capability of those battery-electric scoops to enable operations between shifts depending on the application at the mine,” the spokesperson said.

Vale has previously said it will transition to an all-electric fleet at Creighton as part of its plans to develop the orebody down to circa-3km below surface.

The Komatsu AZPG: bringing unique mining concepts to life

Seeing Komatsu’s Arizona Proving Grounds (AZPG) in person, it is easy to understand why the OEM is in a leading position when it comes to both surface mining automation and electrification.

The 660-acre (270-ha) facility is a living and breathing example of mining’s past, present and future; touring round, one can see 20-plus-year-old machines, the latest -5 ultra-class haul trucks and concept vehicles that will form the basis for future commercial autonomous and/or electric solutions.

These concept vehicles – at least when IM visited in November – included the company’s EVX battery proof of concept vehicle and the cabless IAHV autonomous mining truck concept.

The EVX is based off the basic 860E platform (a 254-t payload machine) and was shown off at MINExpo 2021. Prior to that, it had been testing out its all-battery power functionality at AZPG.

The IAHV, which debuted at MINExpo 2016, was developed by Komatsu as an unstaffed vehicle designed to maximise the advantages of such operation. It remains on show, with the company incorporating several learnings from this vehicle into its standard Electric Drive Trucks (EDT) and autonomous products.

Pat Singleton, Product Director, EDT, refers to AZPG as the “ultimate laboratory to be able to bring unique mining concepts to life”.

He added: “The testing we do at AZPG gives us the opportunity to reduce product development risk and take the validation process one step further before the products make it to the mine.”

The original focus at AZPG was the EDT product line, yet, as Komatsu has expanded its product offerings, more solutions continue to be tested or validated at the facility each year.

This testing is extensive, as was made obvious to IM while navigating an autonomous vehicle ‘assault course’ and hearing about new wet- and dry-disc brake trial combinations, higher speed tramming on autonomous haul trucks and more.

It is not just trucks subject to these try outs either, with hydraulic shovels, surface drill rigs, water trucks, dozers and other vehicles having a presence on site.

“If anything, the importance of AZPG has increased as technology has continued to evolve,” Singleton said. “AZPG allows for a single location to harmonise development efforts of all the Komatsu entities, providing research and development into our products.”

What’s more, the facility is located in Arizona’s renowned copper heartland.

This has been very useful for Komatsu, with Asarco’s Mission mine next door to the facility representing a real life mine site testing opportunity for solutions that have graduated from AZPG.

AZPG has 23 full-time staff, but its desk count is much higher, indicating the number of visitors and partners AZPG welcomes on a weekly basis from across the globe.

Some of these visitors include FrontRunner® autonomous haulage system (AHS) customers, who have, more recently, been invited to send operators to the facility for invaluable training ahead of planned autonomous deployments.

Anthony Cook, Vice President, Autonomous Systems, Mining Technology Solutions, told IM that this approach is enabling mining operations to leverage more of the benefits of AHS from day one of deployment, reducing the need to conduct a ‘soft start’ with the technology as operators come to terms with the transition from staffed to autonomous operations.

A representative from Komatsu’s dealer network was receiving training on the AHS system during IM’s visit, with Cook confirming another major mining customer and Komatsu distributors had sent operators to Arizona earlier in 2022 ahead of a planned deployment in 2023.

AHS developments are a key focus area for AZPG, with the on-site trucks testing out many different scenarios that customers could experience at their operations.

Software updates make up many of the ongoing FrontRunner AHS developments, but the company also continues to explore the use of more sensors and cameras on board its vehicles for obstacle detection and positioning. This is all geared towards improving visualisation, communication and safety, reducing potential false positives during operation and ultimately helping to improve productivity.

As for software upgrades to FrontRunner AHS, all developments are initially tested in a bench environment where the company can simulate the system. This may be within the former Modular Mining facility, also in Tucson, or at another one of Komatsu’s many testing hubs.

“Once it has passed virtual testing then final functional and stability testing is validated at AZPG before release to the customer,” Singleton said.

Some recent testing related to mixed fleet operations of staffed and autonomous trucks that originated in the lab to later emerge at AZPG has since led to a FrontRunner first at Anglo American’s Los Bronces mine in Chile.

The mining company only recently started its AHS deployment at the copper mine, initially going live with ten 930E-5 trucks, but Cook confirmed to IM that these vehicles are now interacting with staffed trucks in the mining environment.

“We’ve got off to a very strong start at Los Bronces, with Anglo American really embracing the technology and pushing it to its limits,” he said.

The full Los Bronces deployment could see 62 electric drive Komatsu 930E trucks running by 2024.

Those who visited MINExpo 2021 in Las Vegas will also remember the PC7000-11 shovel that was being teleremote operated live from the show, while the unit was over 600 km away at AZPG. This unit (above) is still positioned on site and the teleremote operation is continuing to be refined from inside the facility, with AutoSwing and AutoDump functions a few recent notable additions for improved operability.

Komatsu expects to replace this shovel with a backhoe version later this year, to also be teleremotely operated.

Trolley transformation

The first vehicle IM saw when driving up to AZPG was the EVX; its shiny yellow exterior providing the perfect contrast to the rich blue backdrop of the Tucson sky.

Since leaving Las Vegas in September 2021 and heading for Tucson, the company has made preparations to remove the small on-board battery which was displayed on the Komatsu stand and begin replacing it with a larger one from one of its integration partners.

The connectors for trolley were still on board and the team was awaiting final commissioning of the on-site trolley line ahead of further testing.

IM Editor Dan Gleeson (left) on site at AZPG with some of the Komatsu team

Singleton explained: “The EVX was a proof of concept to demonstrate that a large electric drive haul truck could be powered by a battery. Now that we better understand the ability of this technology to work in our EDT products, we must continue to advance the technology to drive increased performance and reduced operating costs.”

To date, Komatsu has continued with truck testing to learn how the various subsystems work with batteries while finalising its battery chemistry.

“We’ve also installed trolley infrastructure, which will allow us to conduct further testing on batteries and other alternative power sources,” Singleton said.

This infrastructure – made up of 39 poles that are ‘movable’ and ‘self-supporting’ – could support two 980E-5s running on the line at the same time.

Initially, it will support both the EVX and one 930E running in tandem.

The line itself is powered by a 9 MW substation, which Siemens and a local electrical and engineering company established.

The trolley course has been designed with a 60° corner to demonstrate to operators that this technology is for more than just straight hauls.

“This highlights the flexibility of the system and shows mining operators where the technology can already go today,” Cook said. “The concrete pillars, which can be moved with wheel loaders and other support equipment, are an indication that the trolley can ‘move with the mining’, too.”

Singleton said the next development for the EVX will focus on an increase in the battery capability and the investigation of proof of concept on a variety of static and dynamic charging options.

The trolley line will, no doubt, play a role in this testing, although it is not yet known if a single or hybrid power setup will be selected initially.

What is more certain, however, is the status of fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) testing on the EVX. Singleton said research into this area continues, yet a practical test where fuel cells and a battery were mounted on the chassis was some way off.

At this early stage, Singleton says the first commercial power-agnostic offering the company establishes will likely be diesel and/or diesel trolley.

He explained: “This approach delivers reduced risk to the overall portfolio by blending the power-agnostic chassis with a refined version of an existing technology (diesel engine + overhead dynamic trolley).”

“It also serves the secondary purpose of allowing battery technology the opportunity to mature from a performance perspective as we work to define overall truck fleet performance. Additionally, static and dynamic charging options (including development of an industry-standard connector) are within the scope of this product.”

And the first commercial power-agnostic truck will be in the 291 t (320 ton) class – the same size as a 930E – Singleton confirmed, adding that scalability was something being considered at every stage of the truck’s development.

“Scalability is the overall goal and is in alignment with the general power-agnostic approach to our design,” he said. “The major challenge will be the scalability of the energy storage componentry from a cost and performance standpoint. This is the primary driver behind the continued deliberate development cadence designed to give the battery technology time to mature over the intervening period before the design is finalised.”

When asked about fixed fast charging – a concept that has risen up the mine truck charging rankings of late with Charge On Innovation Challenge work from Hitachi Energy and a consortium led by Shell, respectively – Singleton referred to developments as a “two-way street” and a “work in progress”.

“Essentially those solutions need better definition and ‘mining proofing’ before we introduce them into AZPG,” he said. “Perhaps an opportunity exists to co-develop these technologies and improve speed to market but, again, this is still being defined.”

The trolley infrastructure at AZPG – made up of 39 poles that are ‘movable’ and ‘self-supporting’ – could support two 980E-5s running on the line at the same time, according to Komatsu

All this work sounds encouraging for those companies interested in adding to their ultra-size class truck fleets in the 2030s in line with industry-wide decarbonisation plans, but Komatsu customers looking to buy trucks today will be after future-proofed solutions.

Komatsu is all too aware of this and planning to provide a battery retrofit solution for its current -5 products, Singleton said.

GHG Alliance and beyond

As has been well documented, Komatsu has aligned with a core group of customers under its GHG Alliance to accelerate developments on the electric haulage front.

Rio Tinto, BHP, Codelco, Boliden, Teck, Antofagasta Minerals SA and Freeport-McMoRan are key stakeholders within the alliance and will be keen to see what testing emerges on that trolley line into 2023.

While Singleton said the communication process with these customers was still being refined, he acknowledged AZPG’s role in future developments.

“There is no question AZPG will provide a critical backdrop to accelerating our efforts and streamlining our ability to communicate and advance the development progress with our customers,” he said.

Whether the company chooses to initiate an early-learner program like the other big yellow equipment maker it competes with is yet to be seen, with Singleton saying its plans will leverage the “Komatsu approach” regardless of what the competition is doing.

What is clear is that AZPG will continue to keep Komatsu on the leading edge of mobile mining equipment technology developments.

As evidence, Cook reeled off several ongoing projects the company was engaged in, including an autonomous water truck in Australia, automated dozers in Brazil and plans to semi-automate electric blasthole drills.

Going forward, another consideration will be the ability to integrate AHS with trolley operations.

“Komatsu, as an organisation, is committed to solving our customer’s and the industry’s challenges, and we will continue to leverage AZPG and the wider Komatsu network to do this,” Cook said.

Boliden’s trolley journey continues to evolve with Kevitsa line launch

In its latest move to become the most climate friendly and respected metal provider in the world, Boliden has opened the trolley line at its Kevitsa mine in Finland.

The line, which encompasses a 1.3-km-long track, now has three Komatsu 227 t 830E-5 trucks running on it, according to Stefan Romedahl, President Business Area Mines, Boliden. “The following 10 trucks will be converted in the spring of 2023 when the in-pit trolley line will be commissioned,” he told IM.

This project aims to cut the mine’s carbon dioxide emissions, with estimates the volume of CO2 emitted could reduce by 9% over mine’s lifetime using this electrical infrastructure.

Boliden is not new to trolley operations. It started testing trucks on the Kevitsa line late last year, while its Aitik copper mine in northern Sweden ran electric-drive trucks on trolley as far back as 2018.

Following a two-year trolley assist pilot project on a 700-m-long line at Aitik – which saw Eitech and ABB supply electrical infrastructure; Pon Equipment and Caterpillar carry out truck modifications; and Chalmers University provide supporting research on system aspects of the electrification – the company, in late-2019, decided to further invest in trolley operations at Aitik. This was announced at the same time as the Kevitsa trolley plans.

Romedahl confirmed there are now 14 Caterpillar 313 t 795F ACs trucks running on a 1.7-km-long trolley line at Aitik, which will be extended as the depth of the mine increases.

Stefan Romedahl, President Business Area Mines, Boliden

While all the trucks at these two operations use diesel-powered propulsion after they come off the trolley infrastructure, Romedahl said the plan was to convert them to ‘zero emission’ solutions in the future, with a battery-trolley setup under consideration.

“Yes, this is the long-term strategy,” he said. “Boliden is working closely with our suppliers to achieve this in the upcoming years.”

With the world requiring many more mines to electrify industry, Romedahl was hopeful more of these would move towards fossil-free operation.

“At Boliden we have the vision to be the most climate friendly and respected metal provider in the world,” he said. “That is not something you can have as a vision without doing quite a lot in the field of sustainable company development. The trolley lines are one of many activities we do to reach that vision.

“For Boliden, it is crucial to perform in the direction of fossil freeness as soon as possible. The green transition can’t happen in 10 years; it needs to happen now.”

Copper Mountain increases scope of trolley assist haulage project

Copper Mountain’s 2021 ESG Report has highlighted the progress the company has made on its “net-zero journey”, with its ongoing trolley assist project in British Columbia, Canada, one of the key drivers towards hitting its major 2035 goal.

The company operates its namesake mine in BC, which has recently increased throughput to 45,000 t/d as part of this net-zero journey.

Earlier this year, the company commissioned its trolley assist project with the help of Komatsu, SMS, ABB, BC Hydro and CleanBC. This project, the first of its kind in North America and a key plank of Copper Mountain’s goal of achieving net zero GHG emissions by 2035, was designed to support four full-sized, trolley-capable 830E-5 Komatsu trucks at a time with hauling ore up a 1-km section of ramp in the operation’s main pit to its primary crusher.

Since commissioning the project, the company has amended its plan to convert seven trucks to trolley assist operation, now saying a total of 11 trolley-capable Komatsu trucks will be available to use trolley assist in the pit.

Each truck is expected to reduce diesel use by approximately 400 litres per hour, the company says, which equates to approximately 1 t of CO2 emissions.

“The trolley assist system will reduce annual carbon emissions by 30% compared to 2019 levels,” Copper Mountain says. “This is based on calculated savings of 6,000 t CO2e/y for the initial seven trucks as calculated for the trial, which, when scaled to the full fleet of 28 trucks, would produce a savings of 24,000 t CO2e/y, or approximately 30% compared to 2019 levels.”

With additional trolley sections planned over the next five-to-seven years, Copper Mountain says it could see a reduction of carbon emissions of up to 50% compared with 2019 levels.

The fact the Copper Mountain Mine is connected to the BC electricity grid, which has one of the lowest carbon intensities in the world due to being powered by clean and reliable hydroelectric power, makes the trolley assist project even more ‘sustainable’.

The company says it has been working with BC Hydro to upgrade the power supply infrastructure to the Copper Mountain Mine to provide more power for trolley assist and future power demands as it decarbonises and explores additional ways to electrify its operation.

Alongside the trolley assist project, Copper Mountain says it is working with partners to reduce emissions from diesel-powered haul trucks.

In 2021, it established a partnership with Cummins, Komatsu and SMS to test the use of a renewable diesel in haul trucks, and it continues to advance other partnerships to further reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Outside of trucks, Copper Mountain said it has targets to electrify its shovels in 2023 and drills in 2024.

Also in 2021, Copper Mountain collaborated with the B.C. Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation and IBM to build a digital carbon emissions certification system called Mines Digital Trust. Using blockchain technology to attach ESG disclosures to metal production, this program enabled transparency along the supply chain and allowed third parties to track responsible producers through the Open Climate Network, led by the OpenEarth Foundation and the UN Global Innovation, the company said.

Caravel Minerals takes HPGR use forward to DFS

Caravel Minerals has issued a prefeasibility study update on its namesake project in Western Australia, which, among other things, outlines opportunities to incorporate high pressure grinding rolls (HPGRs) and coarse particle flotation (CPF).

The company only issued the original prefeasibility study in July of this year. This outlined a dual train plant and infrastructure build costing some A$1.2 billion ($806 million), with parallel development of two 13.9 Mt/y capacity trains for a total throughput capacity of 27.8 Mt/y.

Over an initial 28-year mine life, annual production was expected to come in around 62,000 t of copper in concentrate in this study.

The company said at this point that optimisation studies by Ausenco were already in progress for a single train circa-27 Mt/y design, with the pending results expected to show substantial reductions in capital expenditure and operating costs.

That study has now come out, with the company saying the single train design and the adoption of HGPR and CPF are forecast to reduce processing cash unit costs by up to A$1.23/t of ore and reduce capital costs by around A$100 million.

What’s more, the company is also anticipating reductions in both power demand and water consumption with the use of these new technologies.

After seeing such results, Caravel says it will take forward HPGR use over SAG mills in its definitive feasibility study.

It also said the inclusion of CPF in the process flowsheet had the potential to reduce capital and operating costs when compared with the original prefeasibility study flowsheet.

The original Caravel PFS mentioned the potential use of diesel-electric autonomous haulage trucks with electric trolley assist and electric power for drills and face shovels. Mining operation opportunities also included the use of shovel-grade sensors, with the company saying XRF-based bucket sampling was under consideration.

Ferrexpo signs off on fleet electrification plan with trolley assist deployment

Ukraine-focused iron ore producer Ferrexpo says it is moving forward with a plan to electrify its mining fleet via trolley assist, with the first stage of this transition signed off by the Executive Committee in the first half of 2022.

Part of Ferrexpo’s strategy is to use modern technology to update and expand its operations, and the company has stood firm on this focus despite the ongoing war in Ukraine. This has seen the company continune to invest in autonomous and electric solutions to enable the long-term sustainability of its operations.

In the first half of the year, the Executive Committee met and approved the first stage of the electrification of the mining fleet, representing planning activities for the installation of a trolley-assist network up the haul ramp at its mines. Detailed engineering work is now underway for the conversion of 11 trucks to be electric-drive so that they could serve as a trial for this technology on a larger scale at Ferrexpo’s operations.

“If successful, the group intends to expand this project to include additional trucks and/or additional mines in the deployment of this technology, which is expected to have material benefits,” it said.

Among the benefits highlighted by the company are:

  • Cycle times and productivity: electric-drive trucks operating up-ramp on a trolley-assist network are able to fully utilise the power of the truck’s engine and, therefore, are expected to travel 10-20% faster up the haul ramp. This will reduce cycle times, meaning each truck will be capable of transporting more rock during each shift; and
  • Diesel consumption rates and greenhouse gas emissions: during the fully-loaded, up-ramp part of a haul truck’s cycle, each truck will consume approximately 50% of its diesel consumption. By operating using clean electricity, the group expects to have a material saving on the mining department’s greenhouse gas emissions, since diesel consumption represents the main source of emissions in mining activities, with diesel representing 40% of Scope 1 CO2e emissions in 2021 (2020: 40%).

The iron ore pellet producer previously said it was embarking on scoping studies investigating trolley assist technology at its Poltava mine in Ukraine, as part of its plans to reduce both C1 costs and Scope 1 carbon emissions.

And, in December 2020, Ferrexpo Acting CEO, Jim North, told IM that the company planned to move to electric drive haul trucks in the next few years as a precursor to applying trolley assist at the operation.

Antofagasta’s automation and electrification journey bearing fruit

Antofagasta’s purpose of ‘Developing Mining for a Better Future’ has seen the Chile-based copper producer lead from the front in terms of the adoption of both automation and electrification.

The company launched a digital roadmap all the way back in 2017, which, over the following years, has seen it advance projects to automate blasthole drills and haulage trucks, leverage remote operation centres and integrate advanced data analytics into its decision-making process.

Backed by a digitally-literate talent pool and underwritten by a series of roadmap and plans, Antofagasta is setting itself up for the long term.

When it comes to electrification, the company has played a key role in furthering research on the use of hydrogen fuel cells in haulage applications on mine site conditions. It has also signed up as a patron in the Charge On Innovation Challenge, being one of 19 companies looking to accelerate commercialisation of interoperable solutions that can safely deliver electricity to large battery-electric off-road haul trucks.

Outside of consortium projects, it has announced plans to also study and test the development of battery-powered trucks at its Antucoya operation and has outlined plans for a trolley assist pilot project at the Los Pelambres copper mine in Chile.

And, in April 2022, the company reached the goal of all its mines operating on fully renewable power.

Alan Muchnik, VP Strategy & Innovation for Antofagasta, says all of these developments epitomise the company’s overarching aims.

“The objective we have is to develop the next generation of mining practices to enable growth and reduce our company’s environmental footprint,” he told IM.

In addition to the digital roadmap the company outlined five years ago, Antofagasta has been carrying out all its electrification projects under the guise of an Electromobility Plan – part of its wider climate change strategy.

Following the achievement of its previous emissions reduction target of cutting both its Scope 1 and Scope 2 carbon dioxide emissions by 300,000 tonnes of CO2e between 2018 and 2022 – a goal it achieved two years early – the company set a more ambitious target in 2021. This is looking to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 – in line with Chile’s national commitment – and reduce emissions by 30% by 2025, relative to 2020 performance. One element of the company’s efforts to reduce emissions has, as mentioned, seen its operations run solely from renewable energy as of April this year.

According to Antofagasta’s own calculations, in 2020, two-thirds of its greenhouse gas emissions from diesel combustion were attributable to its mine haulage trucks.

Komatsu 980E-5 trucks at Esperanza Sur (part of Centinela)

“In this respect, Antofagasta is actively participating in initiatives that seek to replace the diesel used by mining haulage trucks,” Muchnik said.

“As part of that electromobility roadmap, we have considered our participation in early-adoption projects with a view to pilot and scale promising technologies.”

With the HYDRA Consortium – which includes Antofagasta, ENGIE, Mining3, CSIRO Chile, Liebherr and Mitsui & Co – specifically, the company has been one of the driving forces of hydrogen haulage adoption on mine site conditions.

It has confirmed that it will test a fuel cell and battery powertrain propulsion system at its Centinela mine, with the first HYDRA prototype expected to start functional testing shortly. This will allow Antofagasta to assess the powertrain’s behaviour and performance under real mine conditions, including at high altitude with suspended dust. It will also help establish technical and safety protocols for hydrogen use at scale in mining, which will be vital for the fuel’s successful deployment across the industry.

The trolley assist project at Los Pelambres under study, meanwhile, consists of implementing a trolley system on, first, uphill ramps. This will consist of one lane of a two-lane ramp, which will allow for trucks coming behind to leave the trolley and overtake a stopped truck still on the line.

“Some of these projects may bring an early opportunity to transform specific sites as we transition towards the longer-term prevailing solution to implement at our sites and help reduce our Scope 1 footprint,” Muchnik said.

“Each mine has their unique characteristics and different technologies may become more attractive depending on those characteristics or may become complementary in enabling that diesel replacement.”

Of course, automating the haulage and blasthole drilling processes will help the company reduce its Scope 1 emissions through more efficient operations. It will also help offset some of the higher costs of inputs and inflation that come with operating in Chile.

Similarly, all of Antofagasta’s sites have strong data analytics teams to identify opportunities for efficiency gains and continuous improvement.

Reflecting on the gradual rollout of automation across the company’s operations, Muchnik referred to the overarching roadmap the company outlined in 2017.

“This roadmap considered different strategic programs with rollout options that improve productivity and safety, with automation being a relevant dimension,” he said. “It was built on the concept of knowledge transfer to enable other companies of the group to benefit and learn from the experiences at specific sites.”

That has worked from the looks of it, going from Epiroc Pit Viper autonomous drill deployments at Los Pelambres to the rollout of the technology at Esperanza Sur (part of Centinela).

A fleet of 11 autonomous electric drive Komatsu 980E-5 trucks have also gone live at Esperanza Sur over this time frame.

“Another good part of that is the Integrated Remote Operating Centres (IROC) we have setup to support these operations,” Muchnik said. “We recently opened an IROC for Centinela in the city of Antofagasta and, following the same transfer process, Los Pelambres is expected to go live with their IROC here in Santiago, in the second half of 2022.”

Integrated Remote Operations Centre for Centinela, based in the city of Antofagasta

Muchnik says one of the many benefits of the IROCs is the ability to attract and retain talent for Antofagasta’s operations.

“It is not just about bringing in new talent but working with our people to be allow them to move with this transformation and become digitally literate to help us prepare for an autonomous and remotely-operated future,” he said.

An in-house digital academy that Muchnik and his colleagues launched in 2020 has been vital in this process.

“It has enabled a different mindset within our workforce, preparing them for the transition through training and learning.

“This has ensured all of our employees go through the journey with us.”

Seabridge Gold weighs automation and trolley assist haulage for KSM project

Seabridge Gold has completed an updated prefeasibility study for its KSM Project in British Columbia, Canada, that focuses on open-pit mining only, while planning for both autonomous mine operations and trolley assist haulage.

The 2022 PFS, prepared by Tetra Tech, shows a considerably more sustainable and profitable mining operation than its 2016 predecessor, now consisting of an all open-pit mine plan that includes the Mitchell, East Mitchell and Sulphurets deposits only, it said.

The primary reasons for the improvements in the plan arise from the acquisition of the East Mitchell open-pit resource and an expansion to planned mill throughput – to 195,000 t/d, from 130,000 t/d, the company said.

The many design improvements over the 2016 PFS include a smaller environmental footprint, reduced waste rock production, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, a 50% increase in mill throughput and the elimination of capital-intensive block cave mining, it added.

While total capital has been reduced to $9.6 billion (from $10.5 billion) – with increases from inflation and mill expansion being wholly offset by the elimination of block cave mining from the PFS plan – the initial capital cost has increased to $6.4 billion (from $5 billion) due to inflation.

Life of mine production (33 years) at KSM consists of 1.03 Moz of gold, 178 MIb (80,739 t) of copper, 3 Moz of silver and 4.2 MIb of molybdenum.

The open-pit-only mine production plan using ultra class mining starts in the higher grade Mitchell pit, Seabridge Gold says.  Production from the high grade upper East Mitchell zone is introduced in Year 3. Waste mined from the Sulphurets, East Mitchell and Mitchell pit is placed in the Mitchell rock storage facility (RSF) until Mitchell pit is mined out by Year 25. Final waste from East Mitchell is backfilled into the mined-out Mitchell pit from Year 25 onward along with some waste rehandled from the Mitchell RSF.

Autonomous mine operations where applicable and an integrated remote operations centre reduce on-site personnel, the company noted, while adding that electrification of the haul truck fleet with trolley assist would reduce carbon emissions and overall mine energy costs by replacing diesel with low-cost energy from electricity.

First Quantum to operate world’s largest ultra-class truck trolley fleet with Liebherr T 284

The day after announcing it will accelerate the implementation of its existing low carbon solutions and trigger future projects at MINExpo 2021, Liebherr has confirmed that it will supply a further 11 T 284 trucks to operate on trolley lines at First Quantum Minerals Limited (FQML)’s Sentinel and Cobre Panama mines with the miner claiming, in the process, the title of the world’s largest ultra-class truck fleet on trolley.

In 2013, Liebherr received an initial request from FQML to develop a 360 t trolley-capable haul truck for mine sites in Panama and Zambia. The trucks were required to integrate with the trolley power line that FQML had designed and developed for the sites.

Agreeing to this partnership, Liebherr engineers began developing, testing and verifying the trolley solution. Two Liebherr T 284 trucks with the Trolley Assist System were commissioned at Sentinel copper mine in Zambia in 2016 and testing of the trolley solution began in February of 2017, with 12 months allotted for the customer to evaluate the trucks, the trolley and the customer service.

At the end of the trial period, FQML expressed it was pleased with the results of the Trolley Assist System and the performance of the T 284, leading to an order for six more trolley-capable T 284 trucks at Sentinel mine, along with 30-trolley-capable T 284 trucks for Cobre Panama copper mine in Panama, Liebherr says.

As a mark of success of the partnership between FQML and Liebherr, along with the performance of the T 284 with trolley solution, FQML recently confirmed an order for a further 11 T 284 trucks. These three trucks for Sentinel mine and eight trucks for Cobre Panama mine will join the existing fleets operating with the Trolley Assist System. This soon-to-be fleet of 38 T 284s in Panama will claim the title of the world’s largest ultra-class truck fleet on trolley, according to Liebherr.

“Trolley Assist truck systems have become integral to the development of First Quantum’s large scale open-pit truck haulage operations,” an FQML representative says. “Over the last decade, First Quantum has emerged as one of the industry leaders in implementation of Trolley Assist systems across mine planning and design, installation, operations, and maintenance. We consider our purpose designed Trolley Assist systems deliver a step change in measurable haulage performance through increased truck productivity, improved maintenance cost, and reduced carbon emissions.

“During the past five years, Liebherr has proven itself as a proactive partner in the development of Trolley Assist capable truck fleet systems. First Quantum has selected the Liebherr T 284 ultra-class truck for some of our Trolley Assist deployments at our large-scale mining operations in Zambia and, more recently, as the sole deployed truck at our Panama mining operations. With a high degree of co-operation between our organisations, we see this partnership continuing to grow in years to come.”

Oliver Hoelzer, Director of Mining Liebherr-Panamá, says: “Even before the arrival of the very first truck, Liebherr Panama’s relationship with FQML Panama has been more of a mutual partnership than a pure business relationship. Our highly committed team recognises that Liebherr’s own success is intrinsically linked to the success of FQML.”

Liebherr has also delivered six trolley-capable 100 t T 236 haul trucks to the Erzberg iron ore mine in Austria, bringing the total number of Liebherr trucks with the Trolley Assist System to 56 once FQML’s newest fleet has been commissioned.

Liebherr aims to offer fossil fuel free solutions for its entire digging, dozing, and hauling product range by 2030.