Electric-Powered Equipment Promotes Sustainable Mining,

Wed, 10/21/2015 - 15:33

Sustainability is a hot topic in the mining industry, leading to the creation of the Sustainable Mining and Innovation for the Future project (SMIFU). This ambitious conceptual study will portray a vision for sustainable mining up to 2030 and beyond. The project has a number of objectives, such as no human exposure at the production face, no harmful emissions, no accidents, and the conversion of waste into product. The program aims to reduce ore losses, energy consumption, CO2 emissions, man hours per tonne, and deposit waste creation by over 30%. The consortium responsible for SMIFU consists of Swedish mining companies Boliden Mineral AB and LKAB, the Polish mining company KGHM, two universities, Atlas Copco, and other leading global suppliers.

Atlas Copco is betting on the development of innovative products such as those of its Green Line. To promote the energy reduction goals envisioned by the SMIFU, the Green Line offers underground trucks and electric powered, loadhaul-dump trucks (LHDs), commonly known as scooptrams. This represents a step in the right direction since loading and haulage represents the second highest energy consumption in a mine, after ventilation and cooling systems. The Green Line includes two trucks, the Electric Minetrucks EMT35 and EMT50, which have capacities of 35 and 50 tonnes respectively. The trucks are powered by an overhead, electrified trolley rail but they can also be disengaged to make use of a small, onboard diesel engine, with an output of just 80kW, for repositioning. These trucks can also increase productivity since they are twice as fast as any diesel powered equivalent travelling up a 15% gradient. Moreover, the empty trucks that are travelling down are able to regenerate the energy using a regenerative braking system.

The Green Line’s electric scooptrams reduce energy consumption by about 70% compared to diesel powered LHDs. They share a large number of components with their diesel counterpart, which makes it easier to provide maintenance and replace spare parts. The scooptrams are powered by a mobile trailer-mounted generator, Gentrail GT325, which can power a fleet of LHDs or act as a backup emergency power source. Additionally, this electric equipment represents an improvement for the working conditions of mine operators. “The Green Line increases the wellbeing of workers, as no harmful gases are emitted by the electric powered scooptrams and trucks,” says Carlos Caicedo, Director General and General Manager of Mining and Rock Excavation of Atlas Copco Mexicana. Even when powered by electricity made from coal, the CO2 emissions are reduced by as much as 25% compared to diesel powered vehicles. If this electricity was powered by renewable energies, CO2 emissions would be negligible. Through the creation of the Green Line, Atlas Copco helps to make sustainable mining a possibility and exposes the importance of sustainability for the company. “Today, our sustainability KPIs are just as important as our financial KPIs,” states Caicedo. “It is important to implement sustainable practices in our company since we have more than 40,000 employees worldwide.” While electric-powered technology might represent an increased initial investment, Caicedo reassures that the energy cost savings, which can amount up to a 70% reduction, make the investment worthwhile.