Global mining companies are lowering their reliance on fossil fuels and reducing carbon emissions by innovations in electric and battery-powered mining equipment.
Battery and electric power
Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are the main options for long life operational transport infrastructure, and together with digital innovations in monitoring, maintenance, worker safety, digital twinning, etc, all help mines to demonstrate their zero carbon credentials.
Electrification will have the largest impact on underground mining, as without noxious diesel exhaust fumes and the heat such powered equipment generates, mines would not require hugely expensive-to-run ventilation and cooling infrastructure. An important side benefit is an increased protection for workers from excessive heat and bad air.
The current crop of lithium-ion batteries utilises an electrolyte that is made mainly from ethylene carbonate. Although the electrolyte is designed to lend stability to both the anode and cathode, it is flammable, and raises concerns of battery fires and subsequent toxic gassing.
Companies, however, are researching to make safer solid-state batteries, that use a non-combustible glass electrolyte, which will have a longer cycle life (battery life) with a high volumetric energy density and fast rates of charge and discharge - ideal for enclosed underground work environments.
Higher performance batteries
Such developments of high-performance batteries will help ease the route toward increased automation and electrification of mines, making extraction easier and cheaper while maintaining ore grades, and supporting the electrical equipment market's growth and, consequently, the battery powered mining equipment market.
Mining machines are now being designed that can use on-board and remote data analytics and statistical techniques to predict equipment health and create just-in-time maintenance schedules.
They can also have devices installed that can measure the volume of ore available in the ground using drilled core samples and analysing composition against stored data, reducing time spent in face inspection and core logging.
Analysis of mine operations
There is virtually no aspect of underground and opencast mining operations that are not being analysed to gauge whether fossil fuels can be replaced by electricity to power all activities. It is now generally accepted that battery and electric power reduce greenhouse gases, but there are also other great benefits.
Ventilation costs plummet as around 40% - 50% less ventilation is required with battery or electric-powered machines, compared to those running on diesel. There are also lower overall cooling requirements, less noise pollution, and lower maintenance costs, with battery vehicles having significantly fewer parts compared with diesel systems.
Ferrit´s Electric and Battery powered Machines
Ferrit's R&D is working on a new battery concept, which will be applicable not only to its own-brand equipment and machinery but could be marketed as a product on its own merit to other mine equipment manufacturers and also those companies that already have battery-powered machinery and equipment in its inventory.
Electric and battery power designs for transportation are expanding, with hundreds of thousands of cars, trucks, buses, off-road vehicles, and even some ships and intercity and commuter railways are running on green power. Ferrit plans to stay at the leading edge of this phenomenon by investing in sustainable R&D for all its future products and services.