Clearing the electrification hurdle

Epiroc is breaking down the barriers associated with going electric.

Through customer collaboration and ever-evolving research and development, Epiroc continues to set the tone for electrification in the Australian mining industry.

And with Federal Government initiatives such as the Safeguard Mechanism requiring mining companies to pay for carbon credits to offset their emissions, the need to adopt green technologies is becoming increasingly pressing.

Epiroc offers a wide range of battery-electric vehicles for the Australian resources sector. This includes Epiroc’s battery-electric underground mining trucks (Minetruck range), loaders (Scooptram range), face drill rigs/jumbos (Boomer range), rock reinforcement rigs (Boltec range) and production drilling rigs (Simba range).

Epiroc’s Scooptram ST14 underground loader is available in battery-electric.
Image: Epiroc

Operators can buy these machines new or Epiroc can retrofit an existing diesel machine with battery capability. This can coincide with a zero-hour rebuild.

To best facilitate an electric transition, the esteemed original equipment manufacturer (OEM) works closely with its mining customers to understand their electrification barriers and how to best overcome them, before building out a roadmap that doesn’t compromise operational productivity.

“Customers have different strategies around their electrification journey, and it’s important for Epiroc to be able to come up with an agile solution that isn’t just about supplying a new machine,” Epiroc Australia electrification support lead Karl Van Mourik told Australian Mining.

“A solution could involve scoping out a machine and considering what a battery conversion might look at the midlife stage. Maybe their infrastructure isn’t quite ready but maybe they can see an electrification opportunity down the track, and they can tie that in with a new battery-electric machine.

“There are many different avenues to implementing battery-electric technologies.”

Customers daunted by the scope of electrification can be rest assured that Epiroc has the support networks available to support their electrification journey.

This includes the OEM’s Batteries as a Service (BaaS) offering, which sees Epiroc take ownership and full responsibility for the batteries, from certification to maintenance and technology upgrades.

Van Mourik said BaaS ensures batteries are maintained with the same vigilance and precision as Epiroc would maintain its machinery.

“The service is done by us,” he said. “We’ll ensure that you’ve always got the latest technology because as we own the battery, we’ll do all the updates for you as battery technologies improve.

“And when it comes to maintenance, once you reach a certain cut-off point for battery usage we’ll then install a new battery, guaranteeing battery usage and reducing unnecessary downtime associated with reactive battery changeouts.”

Ahead of the recent Electric Mine Conference in Perth, Epiroc completed the first-ever diesel-to-battery conversion of its Minetruck MT42 to be the basis of BluVein’s dynamic charging solution and slotted electric rail system.

BluVein’s solution sees an enclosed electrified e-rail system mounted above a mining vehicle together with the BluVein hammer that connects the electric vehicle to the rail.

The system provides power for driving the vehicle, typically a mine truck, and charges the truck’s batteries while it is hauling load up a ramp and out of an underground mine.

Once proven, this technology has the potential to be a key enabler for electrifying underground mines.

Van Mourik discussed the advantages of deploying a battery-electric truck underground.

Epiroc’s Batteries as a Service offering sees Epiroc take ownership and full responsibility for the batteries.
Image: Epiroc

“Battery-electric vehicles typically have a higher speed-on-grade because of the efficiency of electric motors and less loss incurred through your drive train,” he said. “So once the mine truck is integrated into the cycle times and patterns of the existing fleet, it has the potential to boost productivity.

“An electric truck provides a solution for any mine that has a problem with heat, diesel particulates, noise, vibration, or other environmental factors that are affecting their working group.

“As mines get deeper, maybe an operator needs to go electric because the environmental conditions in the mine dictate that.”

When combined with the ability to drive down carbon emissions, these advantages suddenly give an operator a mine site that meets the environmental, social and governance (ESG) obligations put to it by stakeholders and investors.

As Epiroc bolsters its electrification offering, the OEM understands the importance of growing its business both organically and inorganically.

The recent acquisition of Perth-based JTMEC is one example of Epiroc’s commitment to inorganic growth.

An electrification infrastructure solutions provider for underground and surface mines, JTMEC offers high-voltage installation and maintenance expertise, transformer servicing and testing, engineering design, feasibility studies, and training.

Epiroc’s addition of JTMEC followed on from the acquisition of Meglab, a Canadian company that designs, manufactures, installs and supports practical and cost-effective electrification and telecommunications infrastructure on mine sites.

Another acquisition that has boosted Epiroc’s battery-electric capability is the addition of FVT Research, which designs diesel-to-battery conversion kits and rebuilds mining machines into electric versions.

In 2021, FVT participated in a successful project to convert the diesel-powered Epiroc Scooptram ST1030 loader to battery-electric. The company has recently been integrated into Epiroc’s new electrification solutions business line.

Epiroc understands that going electric isn’t as simple as deploying a fleet of battery-electric loaders, trucks and drills into a mine. The transition also necessitates associated infrastructure and maintenance expertise.

Luckily enough for the Australian mining industry, Epiroc has been proactive, building out its business to ensure it has the expertise to attend to any battery-electric queries or concerns.

This feature appeared in the June 2024 issue of Australian Mining.

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