Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) will play a role in improving health and safety, boosting efficiencies and achieving sustainability goals, including by combining on-mine renewable energy generation with BEVs, says mining equipment company Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions.
“In countries where grid power is unreliable, this strategy also holds the promise of more streamlined and uninterrupted operations,” adds Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions load and haul business line manager Deon Lambert.
The mining industry is searching for sustainability solutions and efficiency gains and BEVs are presenting exciting opportunities, he states.
“Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions already has a range of battery-powered load haul dump (LHD) vehicles and trucks in operation globally and mines in Southern Africa are now looking at how BEVs can serve their specific strategic priorities,” he points out.
The company has a solid reference base of its battery-powered LHDs and trucks operating in the field, and it has made considerable progress in introducing BEV technology into mines, including 4 t LHDs in 2 m to 3 m tunnels to 65 t trucks in 5 m to 6 m tunnels.
“The BEV proposition is well-proven. The key is to ensure that there is the right level of site readiness before bringing any innovation into an existing process,” says Lambert.
However, BEVs cannot, on their own, improve on the carbon footprint of an older, cable-trailing fleet if the mine’s source of electricity is a coal-fired power grid, he adds.
“Key to the enabling infrastructure for a productive BEV fleet is the necessary expertise for maintaining and servicing all technical aspects to achieve the expected performance levels,” he emphasises.
Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions has a process of skills development under way for its people in Southern Africa, and this will be rolled out into an upskilling process for customer personnel, says Lambert.
“The entry of BEVs into our market is an exciting development for the future of mining. To fully leverage its value, though, we need strong partnerships at mine level for mines and suppliers to succeed in this technological journey together,” he says.
An advantage of the company's technology and design is that it minimises the new infrastructure that mines need to put in place to run its BEVs, he added.
“Our LH518B underground loader, which will soon be introduced to this region, needs no cranes or forklifts to change the battery, for example.”
Equipped with Sandvik’s AutoConnect and AutoSwap functions, the loader can change batteries on its own in six minutes. Similarly, the battery charging facilities, complete with cooling component, can be readily moved and installed to suit the location of the fleet. The charger is also designed to have only a light impact on mines' electrical network, Lambert says.
Importantly, Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions can offer extended technical support to mining customers employing BEVs for the first time. Service-level agreements can include close monitoring and maintenance of equipment, as well as batteries-as-a-service options rather than buying batteries.