The mining industry is beginning to look to heavy-duty battery electric vehicles to replace its fleets of diesel-powered machines. The move will improve safety, enable unmanned mining to take place, and slightly reduce the environmental harm caused by the industry.
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First Viable Electric Fleet in Australian Mining Industry
Batt Mobile Equipment, the Australian mining equipment supplier, has recently secured AUS$4.5 million of federal government funding to invest in heavy-duty battery electric vehicles for mining applications. The move, which will enable miners to stop using dangerous diesel machines, comes at the head of a boom in electric vehicle investment in the mining industry.
The investment will enable Batt Mobile Equipment to develop and build battery-powered electric vehicles for the mining industry. The company says their battery fleet will be the first alternative to diesel that is commercially and operationally viable.
What are the Benefits of Using Battery Electric Vehicles in Mining?
Replacing diesel-powered mining vehicles with an electric fleet removes the risk of diesel fumes. Exhaust in a mining environment is especially dangerous, as insufficient ventilation can lead to a build-up of unsafe fumes after time.
Battery electric vehicles with on-site renewable energy generation are necessary for the mining industry to move toward unmanned autonomous mining operations in the near future.
Unmanned mines are needed as finite earth materials become increasingly difficult to extract. Mining operations must take place in more dangerous and inaccessible locations than ever before, and returns on mining ventures are diminishing.
Switching to unmanned mines removes some labor expenses from mining venture budgets while enabling mining companies to extract resources from more extreme environments.
Switching to battery-powered electric vehicles will also slightly reduce the amount of environmental damage caused by the mining industry. It is a welcome and much-needed step toward a more sustainable version of the industry.
Widespread Investment in Battery Electric Vehicles in the Mining Industry
Around the world, mining companies are looking to electrify their operations, including switching to battery electric vehicles.
A mine in Queensland, Australia, already employs electric utility vehicles in relay applications underground. The mine has installed an electric vehicle charger to support this fleet.
Elphinstone, in Tasmania, Australia, will receive AUS$5.1 million of funding from the same Australian government scheme that recently invested in Batt Mobile Equipment. The grant is for developing a range of battery electric support vehicles for underground mining operations.
The scheme will also grant AUS$3.9 million to Vanadium Limited, based in Western Australia. The company will use this funding to fast-track manufacturing of large-scale vanadium redox flow battery systems. These systems can be used in off-grid settings like mining, as well as agriculture, rural communities, and even residential power grids.
Brisbane, Australia’s METS Lab No. 1 will also receive AUS$1.2 million to develop its own vanadium processing plant.
In Sweden, Volvo CE is developing an electric site solution to improve worker safety in quarries, reduce downtime, and move to a zero-emissions mining operation. The company is building eight HX2 battery electric vehicles, these are fully autonomous load carriers.
Volvo CE and Skanska Sweden demonstrated the HX2 machines at a Swedish quarry in 2018. Now, the transport stage of the mining operation is carried out entirely by battery electric vehicles.
In Quebec, Canada, Nouveau Monde has not confirmed the technology chosen for its all-electric mining fleet but is exploring options through its partnership with Caterpillar. Matawinie is expected to be the world’s first all-electric OPEN-PIT mining operation; underground all-electric sites are already in operation in Ontario, Canada.
It is clear that the mining industry is swiftly moving towards full electrification in the coming years. The move is motivated mostly by profit, as mining becomes less viable due to diminishing returns caused by depleted resources.
It will improve worker safety, however, and somewhat reduces the significant environmental damage caused by the industry.
References and Further Reading
Hill, Joshua (2021). Miners to Dump Diesel and Go Electric with Heavy Duty Underground Vehicles. The Driven. [Online] Available at: https://thedriven.io/2021/07/26/miners-to-dump-diesel-and-go-electric-with-heavy-duty-underground-vehicles/
Electric Vehicles and Robotics for Mining 2020-2030. (2020) Energy Industry Review. [Online] Available at: https://energyindustryreview.com/metals-mining/electric-vehicles-and-robotics-for-mining-2020-2030/