The technology is already beginning to offer a cleaner, cooler and more efficient alternative to diesel-powered mining, according to New Scientist. Electric tools are starting to emerge more frequently when it comes to mining operations, offering a clean and efficient way to access challenging areas of a mine. To cope with such an expansion, McKinsey has suggested that in the transition to a net-zero economy, the mining sector will likely need to reduce “at least 85%” of its emissions by 2050.
Mining Digital has previously considered how the shift to electric has impacted the global mining industry. It now considers some of the top electric tools used and which companies successfully incorporate them into operations.
10: Virtual reality (VR) systems
VR can be used to create 3D models of underground mines, which can help engineers and geologists visualise and understand the layout of a mine. This proves useful for planning and designing new mines or for identifying and preventing hazards. It also aims to help worker safety whilst also improving efficiency across mining networks.
As reported by Mining Technology, Augmented Reality in Mining, enterprise uses of AR are expected to contribute to 65% of AR revenue by 2030, by which time project revenue from AR will top US$150bn. To-date, companies like Normet have focused their VR simulator training on sprayed concrete operators.
9: Hydraulic Ladders
Electric ladders can offer plenty of benefits to mining as they are motorised, which allows for faster and more efficient movement between multiple levels of a mining operation. Workers are able to move around quickly but also safely, accessing difficult areas. As a result, maintenance, inspections and repairs can be made more manageable.
Hedweld has a range of hydraulic ladders through Safe-Away, whose access ladders and stairs provide innovative and technologically advanced access systems that are designed to improve safety as well as efficiency in mining and earthmoving areas.
8: Ventilation Systems
Electric ventilation systems work well to improve air quality on site, allowing for greater control especially in underground mines. They can work to remove more harmful gases, dust and fumes that are generated during mining operations, thereby improving the working environment for miners.
Stantec in particular focuses on ventilating its underground mines for worker safety to ensure that airflow is sufficient. The company states that the team understands the “interdependency” between a mine’s ventilation system, achieving production goals, and energy efficiency.
7: Battery powered electric vehicles
Battery electric vehicles are changing the way that mining is conducted, with much fewer carbon emissions, as well as a safer working environment. Swedish engineering company Sandvik has a fleet of electric mining vehicles that assist with the company’s operations in Canada.
In addition, companies like Epiroc in particular have built battery driven trucks which are robust and deal with demanding underground applications. Epiroc’s trucks in particular have been constructed with zero emissions in mind, as well as battery power which leads to lower operational costs.
6: Haul Trucks
Electric haul trucks not only ensure less exhaust emissions on site, but also less noise due to being powered by electricity. The trucks also make working conditions safer for human workforces on account of some of them being self-driving (autonomous).
Komatsu uses electric drive mining trucks for both construction and mining operations. The company has a very broad range of 30 to 400 tonne capacity trucks to help its customers meet their productivity targets, ultimately pushing innovations in suspension, transmission, and autonomous operation.
Powered conveyor systems and electric conveyor belts work similarly to the more traditional conveyors used in mining. The conveyors are powered by electricity instead of gravity and specialise in moving large, heavy loads, as well as smaller loads and parts. They often work to increase efficiency at a mining site.
In particular, Torex, a Canadian gold mining company that operates in Guerrero state, Mexico, uses a range of electric equipment. Its ropecon, a fully-electric rope-based conveyor belt system, is used to transport ore at their mining site.
Not only are electric crushers more environmentally friendly and energy efficient, they waste less energy during the process which can result in cost savings overtime. In addition, noise pollution can be reduced as they are generally quieter than diesel-powered crushers, ultimately helping create a better working environment for staff wellbeing.
In 2022, mining equipment maker Metso Outotec announced that it was planning to develop a range of track-mounted crushers. The company has been developing these as part of the Lokotrack range with a total investment of US$21.7mn.
With the use of automation increasing across the mining industry, electric drills can be integrated easily due to the ability to operate them remotely. This increases safety whilst mining as it reduces the need for a human operator in more hazardous areas of the mine.
In April 2023, Skanska started its trial of a ‘world-first’ electric drilling rig. The plug-in rig was tested with BAUER Maschinen GmbH, the engine manufacturer. The rig’s electric engine, eBG33, replaced the original diesel engine and is powered by its own electric sub-station, eliminating the need to rely on a fuel-powered generator as a backup.
Electric shovels maintain a constant digging power and have a lifetime of approximately 120,000 hours. This means that it is able to work for many years, making it appropriate for mines with a use life of around 20 years in duration.
Liebherr Group offers electric-powered mining shovels, including R 9800 and R 9200 models and are used in open-pit mining operations. With the company having more than 30 years of experience in electric machines, it prides itself on being able to reduce the environmental footprint of mining operations, as well as good scalability.
Loaders that are electric or battery driven have multiple benefits, especially when it comes to underground mining. These include the ability to have cleaner air, less noise, and less heat. In addition, operational costs are usually lower and the loader operator is able to work in a less noisy, more comfortable environment, thereby improving their health and safety long-term.
Caterpillar is one company who has a range of electric underground loaders, with charging capabilities so there is no need to handle batteries. It is able to charge quickly and has auto-digging capabilities which enables it to be very powerful.
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