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Collaboration for Innovation: Accelerating the Implementation of Zero Emission Vehicles for the Mining and Metals Industry

14 November 2022

Diesel-powered mining vehicles account for anywhere from 30-80 per cent of direct emissions at a mine site, depending on the site geography and commodity being mined. This is because there are currently only limited alternatives to diesel-powered trucks available at scale.

Traditionally, diesel engines have been the only option for powering trucks the size and weight of small houses that carry the hundreds of tonnes worth of ore across mine sites every day – many of which are situated in harsh environments such as deserts or mountain regions with extreme temperatures.

Mining produces minerals and metals that are vital to sustainable development such as lithium and nickel for batteries and copper for electric and electronic components. ICMM’s Innovation for Cleaner, Safer Vehicles (ICSV) initiative is working to address this challenge, by bringing together ICMM members, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and technology suppliers to accelerate the introduction of zero-emission mining vehicles as soon as possible. These new generation vehicles will be critical in reducing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of companies.

Encouragingly, thanks to pull from ICMM members, research and development funds for zero-emissions vehicles have been brought forward, and members have already established collaborations to advance breakthrough solutions at leading sites. We hope that this proven collaboration model can be replicated across other industries – but for now, learn more about how some of our participants are driving progress towards the aims of our ICSV initiative.

ICMM Members Replacing Diesel Fleets With Battery-Electric and Hydrogen Vehicles

  • BHP’s Escondida mine in Chile is the world’s largest copper producer, requiring one of the largest fleets of haul trucks in the industry. The entire fleet, currently 160 trucks, is expected to be replaced by 2033, with ICSV participant Caterpillar’s new electric drive and other future low/zero-emission powertrain trucks. The first trucks are due to arrive on site in the second half of 2023. Find out more here.
  • Boliden has installed trolley assist technology at its Aitik copper mine in Sweden and Kevitsa copper-nickel mine in Finland to significantly reduce emissions by substituting diesel power with electricity from overhead cables during the most demanding part of the truck work cycle. With 17 trucks, from ICSV participants Caterpillar and Komatsu, already operating under trolley assist, Boliden targets having a combined fleet of 27 diesel-electric trolley-assisted haul trucks by 2023. Find out more here.
  • Newmont has developed a strategic alliance with Caterpillar to deliver a fully connected, zero emissions mining system including battery-electric autonomous haulage vehicles. Through an initial investment of $100 million, the collaboration will be for surface and underground mining, focusing on Newmont’s Cripple Creek and Victor mines in the USA and Tanami mine in Australia. Caterpillar expects to deliver 26 battery electric vehicles to both mines, along with mine systems across Newmont’s global portfolio. Find out more here.
  • Teck Resources Limited announced an agreement with Caterpillar to deploy 30 zero-emission large haul trucks on its sites beginning in 2027. Find out more here.
  • Glencore is partnering with Epiroc to deliver a fleet of 23 battery electric machines – including haul trucks and other mobile equipment – for its new Onaping Depth nickel and copper mine in Canada, due to start production in 2024. This will be one of the world’s first all-electric mines. Find out more here.
  • Vale S.A. has recently received two battery-electric haul trucks in its Indonesian and Brazilian operations, that together with the 41 battery-electric equipment in its underground mines in Canada, will help to create knowledge and the capabilities for wider and safer rollout of zero-emissions machinery across its operations globally.
  • Rio Tinto is collaborating with ICSV participants, including Komatsu and Caterpillar, to identify decarbonisation options for the haul truck fleet of their Pilbara, Australia Iron Ore businesses. Rio Tinto has also partnered with an established on-road truck manufacturer to develop smaller autonomous trucks that can contribute to reduced emissions and drive greater efficiency, with a trial underway at the Channar mine in the Pilbara. Find out more about Rio Tinto’s Komatsu and Caterpillar partnerships.
  • And – even further than just piloting technologies – as part of its FutureSmartMiningTM programme, Anglo American has pioneered a nuGenTM Zero Emission Haulage Solution (ZEHS), which is an ambitious project that marks the world’s first large haul mining truck that is hydrogen-powered. With a total laden weight of 510 tonnes (a 220 tonne truck with 290 tonne load capacity), this truck is fully capable of carrying out activities identical to diesel-fuelled trucks, without creating any GHG emissions. Anglo American plans to retrofit 40 diesel-powered trucks at its Mogalakwena mine in South Africa as part of the project, which will eliminate up to 80 per cent of diesel emissions at the site. Find out more here.

ICSV OEM Participants Developing the Next Generation of Zero Emission Vehicles

  • Caterpillar is focused on contributing to a reduced carbon future, and based on close collaboration with its customers, has accelerated its development strategy for battery electric mining trucks, based on a prototype available in 2022, pilots starting in 2025 and production starting in 2027. BHP, Rio Tinto, Newmont, Teck and Freeport-McMoRan are currently some of the miners collaborating with Caterpillar on replacing their trucks.
  • Komatsu and several of its customers have formed the Komatsu Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Alliance to work together to rapidly innovate in support of carbon reduction targets. Founding members of the alliance are Rio Tinto, BHP, Codelco and Boliden. Through the alliance framework, Komatsu’s GHG partners will work directly with Komatsu to actively collaborate on product planning, development, testing and deployment of its next generation of zero-emission mining equipment and infrastructure. The alliance’s initial target is advancing Komatsu’s power agnostic truck concept for a haulage vehicle that can run on a variety of power sources including diesel electric, electric, trolley (wired), battery power and even hydrogen fuel cells.
  • Sandvik launched its AutoMine® Concept Underground Drill in September 2022 – the second machine in its Next Generation Automation range of battery electric, zero emission concept vehicles for underground mining – as part of a field-proven product offering for underground drilling, loading, and hauling.