Aramine miniLoader L140B with its QRS battery replacement system. Credit: Aramine
Despite the disruptions of the pandemic, battery equipment manufacturers report that demand for battery electric vehicles (BEVs) is only increasing – a trend that holds true globally and among both large and smaller miners.
While during the initial phase of the pandemic, miners focused their attention on operational issues and worker safety, planning for the ongoing shift away from diesel-powered vehicles continued, says Stuart Lister, vice-president, marketing and communications with Ontario-based MacLean Engineering.
“All the work going on behind the scenes by mining companies and consulting engineers. . . continued unabated,” Lister says.
“What did change last year was that almost every major mining company issued long-term carbon reduction goals, which zero emissions fleets will be a big part of, so this sets the stage for a ramp up of adoption around the mining world.”
With demand set to intensify, here’s a look at some of the BEV equipment original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) rolled out in 2020 and early this year, and what they’re working on for 2021 and beyond.
Following on Aramine’s electric miniloader launched 2018 and diesel-electric hybrid minidriller launched 2019, in 2020, the company launched its QRS – quick battery replacement system – for use with the miniLoader L140B. The system improves productivity by speeding up batery replacement to just a few minutes.
The QRS system can be adapted with a kit on a previously sold miniLoader L140B with fixed frame.
To go with the QRS, Aramine has created a stationary changing bench with a crane in order to assist and facilitate the battery replacement. The crane helps to remove and quickly and easily replace the battery pack, while the dock allows up to three packs to be charged at the same time.
This system is optional because some mines are already equipped with a mobile crane. A mobile station is also being tested for more flexibility.
Aramine is also working on a new battery powered mining loader, the L350B, with an incomparable “size to capacity” ratio, to carry even more in smaller gallery sections (tramming capacity of 3.5 tonnes for a width of 1.5 metres compared to the miniLoader’s 1.4 tonnes for a width of 1.1 metres).
Aramine, based in France, plans to launch the new machine at MinExpo 2021 this year.
The company is also working on a fully electric, battery powered miniDriller as a complement to the miniLoader L140B. The machine will be Aramine’s first battery-powered drill rig and is scheduled for release at the end of 2021.
After launching its second generation of BEVs in late 2019, Epiroc’s main BEV news in 2020 was centred on the launch of its unique Batteries as a Service (BaaS) offering, and continuing to add conversion kits to its diesel fleet (Scooptram ST 1030s and Scooptram ST 14s). Epiroc aims to offer its complete range of underground mining equipment as battery electric versions by 2025.
In February, the company also partnered with Collège Boréal on a Battery Electric Vehicle Maintenance program, which is one of the first of its kind in Canada.
The Swedish-headquartered company announced the world’s first BaaS deal last July, with Vale. The concept eliminates the risk of owning batteries for miners, with Epiroc taking full responsibility for battery certification, monitoring, maintenance, technology upgrades, and guaranteeing their lifespan. Epiroc also removes old batteries and ensures they are used for secondary applications and recycled.
As part of the agreement with Vale, the miner also ordered 10 Epiroc BEVs (including Scooptram ST14 loaders, Boomer M2C drill rigs and Minetruck MT42 trucks) for two of its operations in Canada.
This March, Epiroc released its Boomer M20 face drill rig, which comes in a battery option. The machine is the first jumbo drill rig with internal hydraulics and a hoseless design – eliminating the need for constant hose repairs due to mine wear and tear. It also offers on-board automation features, teleremote capabilities and digital drill plans for high reliability and precision. The battery version has an on-board charger, with charging automatically taking place while connected to the grid for drilling.
In 2021, Epiroc is also set to launch its first two loader retrofit kits, with more conversion kits for its diesel equipment planned in future.
In addition, this year, the company is focused on the delivery of a new battery charger, which has been specifically designed and developed for underground mining applications. The new chargers allow operations to modulate the charge of machines to suit their specific needs on site, and are protected against dust, heat, humidity, etc.
“Epiroc’s electrification portfolio has now reached the second generation equipment, which is currently being delivered in our Canadian market,” says Shawn Samuels, product manager Rocvolt, Epiroc Canada. “With our Batteries as a Service (BaaS) offering gaining momentum, we expect our battery electric business to continue growing exponentially.”
Jama Mining Machines
Swedish-based machine manufacturer Jama launched the battery-powered SBU 8000E for underground scaling in September, with sales beginning this year. The machine is the world’s first battery-powered scaler that is fully electric and has been equipped with a battery solution developed in collaboration with Epiroc.
The SBU 8000 mechanical scaler has been a popular machine for decades. The new SBU 8000E features a completely rebuilt driveline. The diesel engine and associated components have been replaced by a powerful 160-kW electric motor with control units and is powered by a modular battery solution that is automatically charged during scrapping.
The battery that drives the SBU 8000E is state-of-the-art and manufactured by Northvolt in Sweden. The battery and driveline have been developed in collaboration with Epiroc and provide the same power as the diesel-powered scaler. Each individual part of the battery is monitored and checked separately, and it is also the world’s first certified battery system specially developed for the mining industry’s extreme demands on safety and robustness. The system is certified for global markets (including CE, UL and CSA).
Jama and Epiroc have also created a BaaS solution for the vehicle’s batteries, whereby customers subscribe to energy storage capacity (see Epiroc above). Batteries will be collected and recyled by Northvolt.
Jama plans to add new BEV products to its line late this year/early 2022.
Sudbury, Ont.-based Kovatera’s most recent BEV unit, the KT200e Electric Utility Vehicle, was released in February 2020. The vehicle is customized to the client’s needs and can come with a standard 44kW battery, or if a longer range of 50 to 90 km is needed between charges, the battery can be upgraded. Charge time from completely drained is about 1.5 hours with an additional optional 25kW 600v on-board charger. Kovatera says the battery life matches the economic life of the unit at seven to nine years.
BEV leader MacLean Engineering, based in Collingwood, Ont., added two pieces of equipment to its EV series for underground mining in early 2021.
In March, the company released the ss5 BEV Shotcrete Sprayer – its first BEV sprayer – and TM3 Transmixer, a mobile concrete truck.
The ss5 is the first articulated EV sprayer specifically designed for underground mining, and features a complete redesign of the previous MacLean sprayer. This includes a new carrier and a new, ergonomically designed operator’s cab with enhanced visibility and noise attenuation to support in-cab spraying. In addition, new dosing control and real-time thickness measurement technologies have been integrated into the design to reduce the amount of process chemicals used, and to improve the quality and reduce the quantity of shotcrete applied.
The launch of the two latest MacLean battery electric mining vehicles means the company can now offer a complete, full-fleet electrification across the ground support, secondary reduction, and utility vehicle product lines. It’s also added in-house mine planning advisory capacity to its product management team so it’s able to support customers on every step of their EV switch – from change management planning to training, to field service, to remote monitoring and diagnostics.
For 2021, the company’s working on the launch of a heavy duty grader, as well as other machines. In addition, it’s working on battery sizing optionality to better fit the application and duty, as well as a battery chiller package option for deep mines with high ambient temperatures.
Collingwood, Ont.-based MEDATech released its Western Star 4900XD, 24-tonne mining haul truck built in collaboration with Tardif Diesel, in January. The truck, retrofitted with MEDATech’s ALTDrive battery/electric powertrain system, is the first BEV haul truck on the market for surface operations.
With a 24-tonne capacity, the truck has 310 kWh of onboard stored energy, and a 150-kW onboard charger; When fully drained it takes about 2.5 hours to charge the batteries. The coming quick-charge technology from ABB will be able to deliver 380 kW of power to the battery in 12 minutes. Configured as a haul truck, the 4900XD harnesses the power of regenerative braking on the way down slopes, saving the brakes and providing significant battery recharge.
In March, the company sold a fifth wheel BEV haul truck (Western Star 4900EX) to Teck Resources for its Highland Valley Copper Operations in B.C.
And in May, the company will take delivery of an ultra-fast charging system designed by ABB Power System & Charging Solutions to work with the truck.
“Fast charging is a critical part of making battery-electric technology viable for industrial fleets, which operate 24/7,” says MEDATech president Robert Rennie. “We are going to need to fine-tune ultra-fast charging in order to make it a no-brainer for customers. The technology is there; it’s just a matter of streamlining rollout and installation.”
MEDATech’s focus for 2021, in addition to incorporating the fast-charging ability into the Western Star 4900 XD, is on commercializing its ALTDrive battery/electric powertrain system, which was developed over a decade ago. The company aims to move it from one-off builds to providing a range of set offerings, from design through to a complete vehicle build, commissioning and support. MEDATech reports that it’s getting more inquiries for the technology than ever before.
The company is also working on complete mine energy optimization and in collaboration with McMaster University, has been developing a modelling system that optimizes energy usage in any given mine, including diesel versus battery swapping, versus fast charging. MEDATech says the modelling system is extremely comprehensive and includes optimal infrastructure layout – resulting in the most efficient mining operation possible. The company will be testing the system with an Ontario mine in 2021.
Equipment manufacturer Mine Master, based in Poland, released a new battery driven bolter to be tested in underground conditions in March, with a new electric drill rig to follow.
The Roof Master 1.8 KE is undergoing testing at a KGHM mine in Lubin, Poland. The machine is designed to work in galleries from 3 to 5.8 metres in height. It is equipped with a mechanized bolting mast for 9 bolts with a height of 1.8 metres. The on-board, 120 kWh, sodium-nickel battery can be recharged with the existing mine power network in the 500–1,000 voltage range. For this purpose a battery charger is built on the machine chassis. The battery will also recharge as the rig is tramming downhill.
The first feedback from KGHM mine operators has been enthusiastic and the mine will also soon begin testing Mine Master’s electric drill rig, Face Master 1.7 LE.
The machine is designed to drill blast holes between 41 mm and 76 mm in diameter and with a net length of 3.2 metres in heights above 1.7 metres. It has a closed, air-conditioned cabin that gives the operator very good visibility even in lowered positions, and can be up-lifted during drilling for better visibility.
Normet says it is seeing a “huge increase in demand” for its SmartDrive line of vehicles, first introduced at Bauma in April 2019. There are seven vehicles that are part of the SmartDrive product family, all of which can be charged at any time from a typical underground AC socket. Normet also offers optional fast chargers for demanding operations that need to charge batteries quickly during operation or a break.
Normet’s Charmec MC 605 VE SD emulsion charger, first tested at First Quantum Minerals’ Pyhasalmi mine in Finland in summer 2019, was used for the first time in Australia last year.
Its Spraymec 8100 VC SD is currently working at tunnelling site in Norway, with a second to be delivered soon. The sprayer is also working on tunnelling site in Sydney, Australia.
This year, the company, which is based in Finland, plans to release additional SmartDrive personnel carrier models, explosive charging applications and logistical application models such as various bulk material carriers, including for concrete, lube, water.
It also has a lot of products in the current R&D pipeline that will be available in early 2022.
Normet’s vision is to continue to expand its SmartDrive range by developing both smaller and larger payload fully battery electric optimized platforms to comprehensively cover all of its tunnelling and mining customers’ needs. It also plans to continuously improve SmartDrive technology through optimization of all onboard systems, including battery technology.
In September, Sandvik released its 18-tonne LH518B loader – the world’s highest-capacity battery electric loader, and its first Sandvik-branded BEV loader. The vehicle was designed in collaboration with its Artisan unit, which it acquired in early 2019, and which recently moved to a larger location in California to enhance production and testing facilities and accelerate BEV development and deliveries to market.
With independent front and rear drivetrains that give it “unmatched productivity” the loader has “exceptional capacity for its size,” according to the company. Designed for a 5-metre heading, the LH518B has the lowest height in its class and a 30 km/h top speed. The loader uses an AutoSwap self-swapping system to change the battery, with no overhead cranes or external infrastructure required.
Other 2020 news included an agreement in November with Barrick Gold for a three-year trial of four Artisan Z50 BEV trucks at the Turquoise Ridge mine (part of the Nevada Gold Mines JV with Newmont), in Nevada.
In terms of its future BEV rollout, Sandvik is currently working on a 65-tonne battery truck (timeline not yet released), and is also working to launch a complete line of battery-electric underground drills by the end of 2021.
In addition, Sandvik is developing the LH514BE loader, which combines battery technology with a traditional cable loader. This loader gets its power for mucking from the mine network by its cable, but for transfer drive it gets its energy from the on-board tramming battery pack. The Swedish-headquartered company says this will make what used to be a traditional electric loader much more flexible and more powerful in uphill tramming, where the battery boosts the speed.
After a decade of “rough mining use,” Sandvik’s lithium iron phosphate batteries “have demonstrated their reliability and safety” for load and haul mining equipment, says Brian Huff, Sandvik’s vice-president of Technology for the Battery Hybrid and Electric Vehicles business unit.
He adds that the company has recently been focusing on improving the efficiency and speed of swapping batteries in order to minimize downtime and improve productivity.
“One way we are doing that is by automating the battery connection process. With AutoConnect, the operator can complete a battery swap without leaving the cabin and manually connecting the new battery, which means the process takes only 3.5 minutes,” he says. “Along with those improvements, we’re looking at ways to increase power and cycle life to further improve productivity and total cost of ownership.”