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Heavy equipment manufacturer adopts cutting-edge innovations for sustainable mining

Komatsu’s 4800XPC rope shovel is not only an engineering marvel but once fully assembled, will also be the first of its kind in Africa

Komatsu GM for mining operations Hermann Hollhumer

13th February 2024

By: Shannon de Ryhove

Contributing Editor

     

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Leading heavy equipment manufacturer Komatsu provided insights into the company's pioneering development in the mining sector during an exclusive interview at the Investing in African Mining Indaba, in Cape Town, earlier this month.

Komatsu GM for mining operations Hermann Hollhumer said the company’s major strides towards sustainability include the assembly of the world's largest rope shovel at multinational mining company Anglo American’s Mogalakwena mine in Mokopane, in Limpopo.

“This shovel is not only an engineering marvel but also the first of its kind in Africa,” Hollhumer emphasised.

“Rope shovels are the most energy-efficient loading tools available, reflecting Komatsu's and the mine’s commitment to reducing emissions and enhancing environmental efficiency. The machine's electric nature potentially positions it as a green asset, particularly if powered by renewable sources.”

Further, Hollhumer shed light on the environmental impact of the rope shovel assembly process. The equipment is manufactured in the US, with final assembly taking place in South Africa, involving a team of around 70 South African team members.

The project is set to be commissioned by the end of March 2024, and demonstrates Komatsu's dedication to timely and quality delivery despite challenges which included the rainy season and holiday transport embargoes.

Looking ahead, Komatsu envisions extending the use of large size rope shovels to other mines. Hollhumer shared that Komatsu continued to develop models for the future, showcasing the company's commitment to continuous improvement and innovation.

“Our focus is not only on technological advancements but also on sustainability, which aligns with the industry's growing emphasis on reducing emissions and environmental impact,” he notes.

He also highlighted the introduction of high-spec engines, such as the Tier 4 internal combustion engines. These engines significantly reduce carbon dioxide emission levels. Komatsu continues the development of the agnostic power train which includes a roadmap for battery-powered equipment, for both surface and underground hard rock equipment.

“Komatsu has agreed to acquire American Battery Solutions, Inc. (ABS) in 2023, which highlights a significant move towards embracing battery technology,” he said.

“Komatsu’s recent developments emphasise our dedication to sustainability and cutting-edge technology in the mining sector. The focus on battery-powered equipment and the assembly of environmentally efficient rope shovels aligns with the global push towards greener mining practices,” said Hollhumer.

As the industry continues to evolve, Komatsu remains at the forefront, prioritising customer needs and embracing positive disruptions for a sustainable future.

“Our guiding principle is always to prioritise the customer's perspective, highly valuing what matters to them. With a long-term outlook on the industry's trajectory, we recognise the inevitability of change in mining. Adopting a mindset that actively listens to customer needs, positions us to view changes as positive disruptions,” he said.

Hollhumer noted that these shifts could be gradual or transformative and were not solely reliant on technological advancements.

“By encompassing environmental and social dimensions, every element, from technology to environment and social considerations, remains consistently vital in our approach,” he concluded.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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