BEV: Encouraging Low-Carbon Mines.

Battery electric vehicles are electric vehicles that employ exclusively chemical energy stored in rechargeable battery packs, with no minor source of propulsion.

FREMONT, CA: Electric vehicles are critical to mining reaching net-zero, with diesel vehicles accounting for 30%-50% of greenhouse discharges at a mine site.

BEVs are now reviewed proven technology, which has accelerated takeup within mining operations, with suppliers fast-tracking the production and extension of their vehicle options. This is especially the case for underground mines, where tethered or battery-powered load, haul, and dump vehicles are turning more common.

For example, Epiroc, MacLean Engineering, Normet, and Sandvik, now provide a range of various BEVs designed explicitly for underground operations.

Carbon intensity

Today, mining vehicles account for 30%-50 % (up to 80% in some vital mining jurisdictions) of the total straight greenhouse gas discharges at a mine site. Almost 28,000 large mine hauling trucks are in service, nearly all diesel-powered, which swallow roughly 900,000 liters of diesel and discharge over 68 million tonnes of CO2 annually.

As miners continue exploiting global reserves, accessible deposits have become deeper and more costly, with the development period to get to the ore considerably longer. To attain net-zero mining, electrification of the fleet must occur. Removing 6.1 billion liters of diesel yearly at copper mines (equivalent to 0.1% of global oil demand) would keep around a quarter of their greenhouse gas discharges.

Both hydrogen fuel cells and BEVs provide two possible long-term solutions. Nevertheless, with hydrogen technology still to get off the ground, BEVs provide the best solution.

Effectiveness of BEVs

Using BEVs could save high ventilation and cooling costs, improve worker health, and generate a fraction of the noise of conventional diesel-powered machines. On average, the switch to a completely electric mobile fleet results in a 40% to 50% decrease in ventilation demands. This is equivalent to substantial cost savings in power and ventilation infrastructure.

Other advantages include maintenance costs, with battery vehicles having 25% or fewer parts than diesel propulsion systems.

In northern Ontario, Newmont Goldcorp's Borden Lake mine now boasts 16 battery-electric utility vehicles from MacLean Engineering, bolters, a block-holer, cassette carriers, and scissor lifts. Here, both BEV suppliers and the miners have worked carefully together to adapt the mine to the requirements of BEVs.

Collaboration

One of the best means for BEVs to gain greater prominence within mining circles is a collaboration between miners and vendors, assisting an increase in both market share and the infrastructural changes required within the mines to permit the use of BEVs.

ICMM (The International Council on Mining & Metals ) Innovation for Cleaner, Safer Vehicles (ICSV) initiative illustrates this collaborative approach. ICMM members represent about 30% of the global metals market, with over 650 assets in over 50 countries, providing a critical mass for change that creates market pull.

They argue that this will build the widespread confidence needed to accelerate the innovation investment needed to expand commercial solutions for the industry and fulfill the initiative's ambitions.

The initiative is working towards the attainment of three main ambitions:

- Introduce greenhouse gas zero-emission surface mining vehicles by 2040.

- Minimize the operational influence of diesel exhaust by 2025.

- Make vehicle collision avoidance technology accessible to mining companies by 2025.

The ICSV recognizes that mining companies can't achieve these outcomes alone, but by working with industry partners, they have an opportunity to succeed.

Prospects

Nevertheless, it is vital to note that BEVs alone will not act as a silver bullet. They are not a one-size fit solution for all mines, with some mines unsuitable for BEVs and some incapable of affording the new fleet of BEVs. Also, early adopters of EVs in mining ( typically with trolley EVs) had to scrap them because manufacturers would no longer maintain them.

Electrification allows for safer operations, automation, and regenerative braking to boost efficiency. Still, these efficiencies will not offset the increased energy intensity of more deep, remote, and lower-grade mines. This makes collaboration even more crucial to support mines incompetent to fund an electric fleet independently.

There is important promise in the progress companies such as Epiroc and Sandvik have made in providing high-quality BEVs that significantly enhance mining performance, and with collaborative initiatives such as the ICSV initiative, a greater uptake and deployment of these vehicles could allow more and more miners to adopt the technology within their mines.