Epiroc taps experts for underground EV insights

Epiroc

The Scooptram ST14 battery electric loader from Epiroc.

Epiroc has partnered with mining and minerals advisory Fraser McGill to better understand the impacts of battery electric vehicles in underground mining.

While the companies didn’t set out to partner, Epiroc and Fraser McGill crossed paths over a platinum group metals project in South Africa and decided to dive deeper into what makes a successful electric vehicle.

Epiroc Mining and Construction manager of global customer relationships Don Thompson and Fraser McGill director Rob McGill said the collaboration was a natural progression for both industry leaders.

“I’d been interested in battery vehicle technologies, specifically to reduce the ventilation and the cooling requirements, but hadn’t had the opportunity to look at battery vehicles in detail,” McGill said.

“We weren’t looking to partner with one supplier. We were conducting a broad assessment, looking at the impact of battery electric vehicles on large underground projects – not specifically Epiroc’s equipment.

“But Epiroc was the furthest ahead in the game, and still is.”

Epiroc first introduced its battery electric fleet in Canada in 2016 before the next generation came in 2018.

These initial phases allowed the impact study with Fraser McGill to take shape, according to Thompson.

“For this study, we provided the technical comparison of diesel versus battery electric, and the benefits thereof, because we can supply the diesel equivalent of a battery electric machine,” Thompson said.

“We could provide a comparison of heat generation – with ventilation, there’s a significant reduction of what is required. We could also provide the emissions.”

Fraser McGill combined its industry expertise – having conducted over 100 similar studies – with Epiroc’s knowledge of the product type to compare against historical data on diesel vehicles.

Once an understanding was achieved on the specific requirements for electric vehicles, the advisory worked closely with Epiroc and the mine operator to implement the most efficient solutions.

“We provided the specifications on the chargers required. We provided a number of scenarios and battery selections, and different layouts of charging stations,” Thompson said.

“Fraser McGill would recommend where the client should put the charging station and we could recommend the capacity of the chargers, based on the size and number of vehicles.”

While these recommendations were tailored to a specific greenfield operation, it would also be possible to do similar work with a brownfield one too.

McGill said this would come in the form of upgrades like a haul road redesign.

“If we predominantly hauled rock on the incline versus the decline, we would significantly increase our battery operating cost. It’s something we can quantify already, but it requires that redesign,” he said.

Thompson said that the client was well invested with the study and that it couldn’t have been done without the help of a specialist advisory.

More studies of this nature will be key in the future, if mines are to take advantage of such technologies, they both added.

“It’s been a good experience, and we rely on working with experts. We are thrilled to have worked with a technology leader like Epiroc,” McGill said.

“Another client has shown an interest in battery electric technology for a new mine they are developing. They want to do a comparative study and we hope to collaborate with Fraser McGill on this, too,” Thompson concluded.

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