From electrically driven haul trucks to predictive analytics and improved lighting, digital technologies are helping create the mine sites of tomorrow
Following the COP26 event in Glasgow, U.K., in November 2021, pressure from the international community is building to reduce industrial emissions and tackle climate change. The acceleration seen in electric vehicle development and adoption in mining, as well as associated electrification programs can only be a positive step for the sector, which is often seen as negatively impacting the environment, yet has a critical role in supplying the metals necessary for the green energy transition.
Steve Lomas, general manager, global mining at HELLA, said, “For a heavy mobile equipment industry such as mining, ongoing digital transformation holds the promise of improving productivity and performance by enabling innovation and reducing the costs of a range of business processes.
“With mobile equipment becoming increasingly connected and automated, the use of smart connected vehicles and componentry is enabling improvements in safety and is generating increased understanding of total cost of ownership, life cycle management and more.”
For operators, intelligent and autonomous solutions are no longer considered luxuries: they are necessities. As most mines are in remote and challenging locations where operations run all day, every day, having vehicles that can operate with minimal human direction (semi-autonomous) or independently (autonomous) is an additional bonus.
As such, digitalization assists in optimizing mining equipment fleets by monitoring productivity and gathering data to help to improve recovery. They also contribute to building highly efficient operations and systems. In an autonomous mining operation, high-performance computing platforms can provide the processing power to capture, monitor and use data from technology-equipped machines for greater insight into equipment performance.
They also allow operations to be managed from a single, remote location, which can translate into significant productivity gains. An example being drill rig operators having the option to select sophisticated onboard intelligence to determine optimum drilling locations and drill patterns.
HELLA: Lighting the Way to Safer Mines
“Within HELLA, after undertaking a comprehensive voice of customer survey in mid-2017, we recognized and acknowledged the need to develop a future product roadmap that not only offered a broader choice of lighting solutions for a wider range of applications, but that were smart, with increased robustness, flexibility and environmentally friendly,” explained Lomas.
“This is reflected within the total design scope, choice of materials used, and additional testing procedures incorporated for our smart mining products.”
For the development of intelligent products, like the RokLUME 280N SMART, HELLA partners with subject-matter specialists, including renowned university and business partners.
“The university does the preliminary development of the algorithms, while our electronics partner programs the software according to the specifications, and produces the hardware, including the sensor technology,” said Daniel Hochwarter, head of electronic development at HELLA Fahrzeugteile Austria GmbH.
Safety, environmental and operational responsibilities are just three of the big-ticket items that HELLA Mining is being asked to help miners with. For example, with the increasing drive toward autonomous mining, having vehicle and infrastructure lighting that offers a true 360° smart integral solution and can meet any seasonal, environment or operational changes is crucial.
Lomas added: “This is a journey that mine lighting companies are only just beginning, but one which is challenging and exciting nevertheless!”
HELLA presented its complete lighting product range for mining applications at MINExpo 2021 in Las Vegas, U.S., last September. This featured several new models including the RokLUME 280N SMART work lamp. The RokLUME 280N SMART can adjust its light according to the weather or driving conditions. Experience shows that visibility in dusty, snowy or foggy conditions can be significantly improved by using green or amber light. With the RokLUME 280N SMART, operators can change the color accordingly. In addition, the intelligent work lamp is equipped with a dimming function to reduce blinding. It can also be used as a daytime running light; fuel consumption and CO2 emissions can be reduced by dimming the light in bright conditions. The color temperature can also be continuously adjusted from warm white to cold white to increase visibility and safety in different situations.
For easy conversion, the RokLUME 280N SMART has the same dimensions as the standard RokLUME 280N work lamp and also has a 2-pin Deutsch DT plug. The work lamp is available in six different light distribution variants: with Diffuse Flood, Close Range, Long Range, Pencil Beam, Tunnel Flood (perfect for underground mining) or ZEROGLARE illumination. All light distributions are equipped with smart functions for individual light adjustment. The work lamp is also equipped with a lifetime function. The system gives advance warning before the headlamp’s service life expires, thus preventing unplanned downtime. Anti-theft protection and a memory function for saving individual illumination settings are also integrated.
The second generation of the RokLUME 280N was also on show. This has a new ZEROGLARE reflector, improved light patterns and extended illumination variants. In order to warn and protect the area surrounding mining equipment, the RokLUME S700 RED with the VISIOTECH projection technology projects a wide red marking on the ground to visualize hazardous zones. The High Bay and Floodlight models for warehouse, workshop, high mast and conveyor illumination are new to the product range. Both new work lamps are highly efficient lights and contribute to CO2 reduction in comparison to metal halide lamps.
New and Under Development
The SMART Cornering Light from HELLA ensures greater safety in mines, especially when turning vehicles left or right. When turning vehicles in the dark, particularly in tight underground mines, drivers often only realize that there is a wall or obstacle in the way when it is too late. The SMART Cornering Light is quick and easy to retrofit. It enables drivers to see obstacles in good time and take the appropriate action. This helps to prevent accidents and downtime for vehicle repairs as well as additional costs.
A new flexible LED light strip from HELLA —FlexaTec — is also available for industrial applications. FlexaTec is available in different section lengths that can be combined to a total length of up to 80 or 100 meters depending on the country. It is available as both 110 and 230 V AC version and is made of a non-flammable material (PVC flammability class V0). Installation is easy, thanks to the specially designed clips, so FlexaTec can be easily installed in underground mining applications. The light ensures homogenous illumination of the working environment.
HELLA Mining also has several exciting R&D projects under way. Highlights include a Smart Demo System and app control for lighting systems.
Hochwarter explained: “A compact transportable frame equipped with several innovative predevelopments gives an overall impression of our smart lighting system. This construction can be mounted easily on different vehicles to quickly experience the benefits of smart lighting during driving. The only thing necessary for this is a power connection from the vehicle and our intuitive app to set the different light functions via a smart phone. Also, a simple control panel can be connected anywhere on the vehicles power supply with our patented powerline communication (e.g., in the cab) to control the work lights.”
A Smart Modem/Smart Switch is also under development, which enables control of different lighting applications on each area of a vehicle. With configuration as Smart Switch, the solution can be connected easily between standard devices and the existing wiring to enable independent switching or dimming functionality, as well as group functionality without additional BUS cables.
“Our powerline communication in combination with a device called Gateway enables communication through the complete vehicle,” Hochwarter said. “Assembled as Smart Modem, it is possible to use various sensors for customer-related applications where no BUS connection is available.”
Camera as well as GPS-based object recognition systems are also in the pipeline. Object recognition in combination with HELLA’s matrix lighting system serves as a driver assistance tool and helps the driver to focus on important work areas. Vehicles detected in the surrounding area are automatically faded out to allow glare-free operation even with oncoming vehicles. Workers in the danger zone can warned by flashing of the affected light segments.
For more information on HELLA Mining and its solutions, visit www.hella.com/mining.
Green Mining: Ask the RWE Experts
“Green mining” is a term that is often overused or misinterpreted today. But what does it actually mean, and why is the concept so important to the sustainability of the mining industry?
“The term ‘green mining’ covers several topics related to environmentally friendly mining,” Arie-Johann Heiertz, head of mining and materials handling at RWE TI, said. “Firstly, it covers carbon reduction strategies, and thus the reduction or complete elimination of CO2 emissions from mining operations. Secondly, green mining also deals with the topics of reducing dust emissions and water consumption. With a shift from conventional diesel-driven equipment to more continuous mining technologies in combination with a renewable energy power supply, several of these challenges can be nearly fully eliminated.”
The mining industry is currently going through a period of intense change. Miners of all sizes are learning how to navigate fast-moving international standards, legislation and environmental protection laws. Furthermore, to meet future shareholder requirements and maintain their social license to operate, mining companies must be able to demonstrate a green footprint.
RWE TI offers consulting services for the full lifecycle of mining projects, from initial scoping studies through to mine reclamation.
Heiertz explained: “For a greenfield project, effective green mine planning starts right from the beginning, normally with a scoping study, which is then further developed into a prefeasibility and later a feasibility study. After the planning and financing phase, in the implementation phase, RWE TI does implementation planning and equipment tendering. This is further developed in the operational phase where RWE TI offers construction supervision for continuous mining equipment and general operational services.
“Many clients are also approaching us with brownfield projects and seeking support to reach their production and emission reduction targets. Here, RWE TI offers full expertise in the field of mine optimization and is able to source and integrate any technology on the market fully independent of any supplier.”
RWE TI’s experience as both a mine operator and power provider mean it has unique capabilities in the field of green mining.
“This dual perspective is one of our unique selling points,” Heiertz said. “Nowadays, most operators are trying to combine electrically driven mining equipment with renewable energy. As RWE Group is a major renewable energy developer worldwide and also a major mine operator in Germany, we have plenty of knowledge of both worlds and are able to channel this into client projects. Here, the utilization of renewable energy is not always in direct combination with continuous mining technologies.”
IPCC Aids Decarbonization
Continuous mining systems like in-pit crushing and conveying (IPCC) can play a significant role in lowering the carbon footprint and emissions generated by open-pit mining operations.
“Continuous mining offers a reliable way to utilize electrical mining equipment,” explained Heiertz. “The technology has been proven through decades of operation in projects worldwide and can offer a quick substitute for conventional diesel-driven mining equipment. When electrical mining equipment is used in combination with renewable power supplies, carbon emissions can be drastically reduced. This is also the case when diesel-driven equipment is partly substituted by IPCC.”
In line with the current global focus on mine decarbonization, there is a major trend toward the selection of electrical mining equipment. Heiertz said that, especially for deep mineral deposits, the use of continuous mining technologies offers great potential for lowering operational costs, introducing a high degree of automation, achieving low-to-zero dust emissions and carbon emissions savings.
“Together with clients, we can quickly assess whether it’s worthwhile and economically feasible to utilize IPCC or continuous mining technology,” he said. “As a consultant, we are not fixed on a certain technology so can offer a fully objective opinion. Our goal is to find the most suitable, most feasible technology for the client. If the client looks to optimize the operation right from the start, that’s when the greatest benefits can be realized.”
Tackling Dust at the Source
Dust control is another important aspect of green mining. Heiertz and his team are seeing a growing interest in dust control solutions as mines look to improve their environmental performance.
Heiertz explained: “Many mine operators worldwide are seeking advice in dust control. Based on RWE TI’s operations in a very densely populated area of Germany, we have developed a lot of practical knowledge in this field. We’re transferring that knowhow to our client’s projects too.”
In order to realize an effective dust control strategy, it’s essential to understand the source of dust on site.
“Addressing the dust source is the most effective way to control emissions,” Heiertz said. “Most operators are spending a huge amount every year to fight dust particles in the air. These can be reduced to an absolute minimum if the dust source is properly understood and tackled right from the beginning.”
RWE TI provides green mining consulting services to a number of major mining houses globally. One of its flagship projects is the S11D iron-ore mine in northern Brazil. With the support of RWE, the client — Vale — is successfully operating a continuous mining operation at the lowest cost-per-ton in a very environmentally friendly way.
“We also have a client in Chile, which is transporting copper ore from mine sites at a very high-altitude down to the processing facilities on a lower level,” Heiertz said. “This conveyor is producing 10 MW of green electricity, which can then be used for other processes in the mine.”
To find out more about RWE TI’s projects and services, visit www.group.rwe/en/bespoke-solutions/solutions-for-mining.
Rolls-Royce Powers the Mines of Tomorrow
“We at Rolls-Royce see digitalization and electrification as key enablers for mining operators, equipment manufacturers and service providers alike,” said Scott Woodruff, vice president, oil and gas, mining business, Rolls-Royce business unit Power Systems. “The mining industry has been working with electrically driven (both diesel-electric) equipment for decades. The electric-driven mining dump truck became popular in the mid-1990s, and this drive technology continues getting more efficient. Examples of current developments are equipment health monitoring, semi- and fully autonomous ready power solutions.”
Digitalization and continued electrification in mining will bring even better efficiency and low-cost operation. Woodruff and his team see great potential in the hybridization of drive systems, combining ultra-low emissions diesel engines with mobile energy storage solutions such as batteries.
“We believe that optimizing the prime mover in coordination with energy storage solutions is the best direction for mobile mining machinery to significantly reduce carbon emissions,” he explained. “At MINExpo 2021, we presented a possible mtu concept for a hybrid haul truck that would cut CO2 emissions by as much as 30%. The concept is based on existing mtu products and technologies: a state-of-the-art mtu 12-V 2000 ultra-low emissions mining engine, together with an mtu EnergyPack battery system.”
As part of this concept, the team simulated operations with a haul truck whose mtu 16-V 4000 engine, with an output of 1,865 KW, was replaced by an mtu 16-V 2000 engine, with an output of 1,163 KW, combined with batteries. This downsizing combined with using energy recuperated when breaking led to a reduction in CO2 emissions of 20% to 30% based on the operational data and calculations, depending on the topographic profile — all with identical performance to the conventional version of the truck.
“We are convinced that hybridization, along with other technologies such as sustainable fuels, will play an important role on the way to net-zero carbon emissions,” Woodruff added. “We at Rolls-Royce Power Systems are transforming from an engine manufacturer to a provider of integrated sustainable solutions for the carbon-neutral future. Under our program ‘Net Zero at Power Systems,’ we have committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions of our new products by 35% by 2030 compared to 2019. This goal is to be reached by using sustainable fuels and building on new CO2-free technologies such as fuel cells.”
mtu products for mining are already digitally enabled and ready for different drive system technologies. Rolls-Royce is supporting the electrification technology journey by developing new reciprocating engines that are not only compatible with state-of-the-art drive systems, but are able to produce power more precisely while reducing CO2 and harmful exhaust gas emissions.
In addition, the company is offering digital solutions that enable mining operators to use this power more economically, environmentally friendly and reliably. On the basis of real-time power system and equipment health monitoring, customers can make better decisions about maintenance interventions, which leads to much less downtime and safer operations. It also saves expenses for unnecessary maintenance.
Increase Efficiency, Drive Down Emissions
This digital monitoring system called mtu Go Manage is backed by extensive experience across diverse applications, including Rolls-Royce’s civil aviation technologies and mtu marine propulsion solutions. Rolls-Royce is evolving this digital tool as a flexible solution that works in parallel to advanced mining operating systems.
“The mining industry must have reliable and safe technologies for their mobile equipment that enable the reduction of carbon emissions. This includes solutions that make existing equipment cleaner,” Woodruff said. “Technologies that we are already offering or developing include our low emissions Tier 4 diesel engines, engines able to run with sustainable fuels and hybrid technologies.”
In line with this ambition, Rolls-Royce has launched a number of new mtu power solutions including the mtu Series 4000. It’s ultra-low emissions comply with EPA Tier 4 regulations for mobile power solutions. The company is also readying mtu Series 4000 engines for use with sustainable fuels from 2023 and has launched new mtu Series 500 gensets and hydrogen-ready power generation solutions.
“We are also offering engines below 560 kW with the option for EPA/EU-V certifications and CO2 optimization (Dual Certification) and our new lineup of MSHA underground mining engines,” Woodruff added. “Finally, we have showcased for the first time at the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 our new mtu fuel cells, which we will produce in series from 2025, first for use in power generation applications.”
For more information, see www.mtu-solutions.com/eu/en/applications/mining.html.
Liebherr Showcases Options for Zero-emissions Mining
The global mining industry has demonstrated its commitment to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in support of the Paris agreement, with many major mining houses announcing decarbonization targets over the past two years. This increased focus on emission reductions has accelerated the implementation of Liebherr’s existing low-carbon solutions like trolley-assisted haul trucks and has triggered future projects to offer completely fossil-fuel-free mining equipment options. Digitalization is also a central topic in assisting operations to achieve a high level of on-site safety, maintenance and overall equipment effectiveness, further reducing the cost per ton moved.
Dr. Jörg Lukowski, vice president at Liebherr Mining, explained: “Liebherr Mining’s strategy to reduce GHG emissions will mainly focus on the operational phase of machinery, as studies have shown that more than 90% of GHG emissions over the complete lifecycle of equipment occur during this phase. Liebherr Mining’s Zero Emission Program, which was established to develop these future solutions, is well aligned with our customer’s requirements and the values of the Liebherr Group as an independent and responsible, family-owned company.”
Liebherr has existing electric mining equipment solutions and has supplied electrified haul trucks and mining excavators in multiple countries. For most Liebherr haul trucks, the company offers a trolley solution, including switch-back capable trolley technology for the T 236. With the T 264 trolley components production ready in 2022, all Liebherr trucks will soon be available with a trolley assist system, providing a low emission solution for customers.
The Liebherr Group has more than 30 years of experience in electric-driven machines for earthmoving, material handling and mining applications. The group has existing in-house core competencies, across all 13 of its product segments in digitalization, electrification, batteries, internal combustion engines, injection systems and alternative renewable fuels.
Today, Liebherr Mining offers the largest range of electric-driven excavators on the market, ranging from 130-800 tons in weight; the R 9150, R 9200, R 9250, R 9350, R 9400 and R 9800 are all available with electric drive systems, and an electric drive version of the R 9600 will soon be ready. As part of this, Liebherr is engaging with multiple major mining companies for decarbonization analysis, as part of their approach to zero-emission mining.
Liebherr made three major announcements at MINExpo in September 2021. The first focused on autonomy, announcing a global framework agreement with Hexagon to advance the next generation of mine automation systems.
“Going forward, Hexagon technology, including its autonomous mission management system, will be used in the mine automation options offered by Liebherr to our customers,” Dr. Lukowski said. “A high level of safety, flexibility and seamless integration are the hallmarks of Liebherr’s offerings, which includes our complete autonomous haulage solution.”
Liebherr’s customers wish to have solutions for mixed fleets of equipment. In order to respond to this requirement, the company has developed and proven the world’s first open software interface between its Autonomy Kit and independent suppliers of traffic management systems (TMS). The protocol will not only enable customers to choose their preferred TMS, but will also enable autonomous machines, including autonomous light vehicles, to coexist within a common autonomous ecosystem.
Dr. Lukowski explained: “The interface control document (ICD) developed by Liebherr enables the next generation of interoperable mine automation. Having proven the software interface with multiple TMS providers, Liebherr will now make the protocol available for wider industry adoption. The protocol will also be provided to the International Standards Organization as we continue to pursue our vision of open interoperable mine automation for the benefit of the industry’s operators and suppliers.
“From the beginning, our approach has focused on developing machine automation solutions that are truly interoperable. As a result, our system architectures enable seamless integration at multiple layers to unlock value for customers that has not been possible until now.”
Enabling Emission-free Mine Sites
The two other MINExpo agreements support emissions reduction. First, a collaboration with ABB will explore the development of state-of-the-art technology and equipment for the overall electrification of mine sites, with a particular focus on trolley support.
Liebherr is also working on options outside of the electrification field to offer completely fossil-fuel-free mining equipment. This initiative translates into a partnership with energy specialist ENGIE. The collaboration aims to evaluate different renewable energies, in particular renewable hydrogen, and hydrogen-derived fuels, to develop an integrated wheel-to-wheel solution for the mining industry.
The Liebherr mining technology product portfolio includes digital services, assistance systems and onboard analytics, and machine automation product lines. Together, these products support operator’s performance, optimize diagnostic processes and automate machine functions, while integrating machine data and OEM expertise within the customer’s chosen technology landscapes. Liebherr’s products in this field utilize data generated by machines to provide customers with rich data and insights required to drive fleet performance, increase utilization, enhance machine health and availability, and improve the customer’s service journey.
These systems also enable remote monitoring of mining operations, reducing the time and costs related to manual data gathering, and allow mine management to focus on maximizing overall mine performance. Beyond that, the systems enable the integration of Liebherr’s technology, engineering knowledge, and mining expertise with customer’s technology landscapes in order to maximize value generated from machine data. The total portfolio relates to three product clusters: MyAssets, MyOperations and MyMaintenance.
Going forward, Liebherr is working on bringing the new technology portfolio it presented at MINExpo 2021 to the market with further developments in the different technology fields, like excavator automation.
“We will also continue to upgrade our existing equipment portfolio through machine performance and efficiency improvement, supported by the Liebherr vertical integration of the D98 engine,” added Dr. Lukowski. “The Liebherr Mining Zero Emission program will be central; we are looking forward to making some more exciting announcements in that regards.”
For more information, visit www.liebherr.com/en/gbr/products/mining-equipment/mining-equipment.html.
Wirtgen Previews 220 SM(i) Surface Miner
At the MINExpo tradeshow in Las Vegas in September 2021, the Wirtgen Group presented its field-tested 220 SM(i) 60-ton-class surface miner for the first time in North America.
With a cutting width 7 ft 3 in (2.2 m) and a cutting depth of up to 11.8 in (300 mm), the new 220 SM(i) surface miner is well suited to the selective extraction of metals and minerals. The 220 SM(i) features a spacious ROPS/FOPS operator’s cabin, which can be heated or air-conditioned and is soundproofed and isolated from vibrations. An operator-friendly multifunctional joystick controls all key functions of the machine.
Sales of another new model are scheduled to begin imminently. The new 280 SM(i), successor to the 2500 SM, has a slewable operator’s cabin and Wirtgen said it will be adding further models to its surface miner range in the near future. In addition to premium technologies, the Wirtgen Group offers a comprehensive range of services including a 360° solutions concept for projects, which also offers assistance with financing.
For more information, visit www.wirtgen-group.com/en-gb/products/writgen/technologies/surface-mining/.