This year, First Mode is retrofitting a Komatsu 930E, similar to the above, with a hybrid battery and hydrogen fuel cell powerplants. (Photo: Komatsu)

Top truck and shovel OEMs enter partnerships and develop solutions to help customers achieve their most critical goals, which align with the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda

By Jesse Morton, Technical Writer

Calendar year 2030 is the deadline set by the United Nations (U.N.), its Net Zero Coalition, and the World Economic Forum for Global Compact participants to reduce carbon emissions attributed to their operations by at least 45%. Mining industry Compact participants, as well as society at large, has much to accomplish before then to make that happen, according to the top suppliers of truck-shovel mining solutions.

For example, a new supply chain is required, and will be created during a period when supply chains across all sectors are disrupted. Meanwhile, miners are expected to innovate, embrace rapid change, and adopt new solutions, while hamstrung by staffing shortages. These two challenges alone are substantial.

The OEMs all either directly or indirectly support the U.N. 2030 Agenda. They also say that they will not confound the trending push by the U.N. and activist investors for zero-emissions solutions with the very real and timely needs of customers.

All signs right now seem to point to a future of sustainable development, they said. But when and how the mining industry gets there will be dictated by the definitive needs of society and mining companies, not ideologues. The solutions and partnerships making headlines today reveal the pragmatism and optimism that could lead to success for both miners and society.

A Committed, but Practical Approach

On April 20, Hitachi Construction Machinery Co. (HCM) joined the U.N. Global Compact, becoming one of more than 22,000 companies and organizations partnering with the global governance body on its 2030 Agenda. By joining the Compact, the participant agrees to “engage in partnerships that advance the U.N. Global Compact’s principles and support broader U.N. goals, such as the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals,” according to the U.N.

Even before joining the Compact, HCM was in line with the Agenda. For example, the company signed a non-exclusive memorandum of understanding with ABB Ltd., which joined the Compact in 2000. The partnership seeks to explore opportunities for mine operators to target carbon-neutral operations. HCM told Coal Age that the MOU will help it bring to market solutions “that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from heavy mining machinery.”

For example, the partnership is developing “an engineless full-battery rigid dump truck” that could use a “proven trolley system, drawing its energy from overhead lines, allowing simultaneous charging of the onboard battery system while providing energy to power the truck (dynamic charging).” The partnership is also exploring multiple charging methods.

Also, recently, HCM made headlines for partnering with First Quantum Minerals on battery-powered trolley trucks for Kansanshi copper-gold mine in Zambia. The first truck will have an ABB battery and an onboard charger, and will begin feasibility trials this year.

The battery can also be charged by captured power from a retarder braking system.

Kansanshi, located near Solwezi in the North Western Province, is the ideal mine for the project. It already has in place trolley assist systems and dozens of Hitachi trucks.

The project is an example of the pragmatic duality practiced by HCM regarding electrification of trucks, shovels, and truck-shovel mining solutions. The company envisions itself as committed to “developing solutions that allow society to grow in harmony with nature,” said John Schellenberg, mining product manager, customer care, HCM. The company is also, at the same time, relatively conservative in its approach to that. The solutions it develops draw on 30 years of “electrifying mining products.” The word new cannot always be used to describe them.

“Hitachi Construction Machinery has taken what we hope is a practical approach to developing technology in this space,” Schellenberg said. “We did a lot of analysis of operations before committing to a design direction, and then focused on solutions that we could prove had economic value with currently available technology.”

This is not to say HCM engineers don’t have their eyes to the horizon, he said. “We know there will be many innovations in the coming years that will provide a number of new solutions, but we wanted to demonstrate that there are opportunities with today’s technologies to help customers meet their financial and social obligations,” he said. “This does not mean we are not following new technology development closely. We are.”

HCM is just careful to participate in the hype. It starts projects and partnerships because they meet the very real demands of customers, Schellenberg said. “While there certainly is a lot of social pressure on the mining and mining equipment suppliers to transition away from hydrocarbon fuels, there is also an economic case to be made for the technology shift,” he said.

“Almost all mining companies need a strong financial case to justify the transition in technology,” Schellenberg said. “Regional energy costs, and the energy intensity of an application are the main factors in creating that financial case.”

In June 2022, Liebherr delivered five T 264 trucks for Thiess to Encuentro copper mine in northern Chile. The units are designed to be retrofitted with zero-emissions technologies. (Photo: Liebherr)

Electric and battery-electric truck, shovel, and truck-shovel mining solutions can offer higher energy output than does the diesel competition. “Diesel engines’ power output is very dependent on the size of the engine, and haul trucks are very space and weight constrained,” Schellenberg said. “Electrical energy output through battery or hybrid systems can exceed the output of a conventional diesel engine.”

That means future trucks could have a much higher power-to-weight ratio than do today’s diesel trucks. They could give more production for their carbon footprint, which will soon be taxed. “This allows for more flexibility in mine design and operational practices,” Schellenberg said.

Other efficiency gains could come by reducing energy loss. For example, “whenever a truck brakes, energy is converted to heat and dissipated,” he said.

“In the case of shovels, slowing or braking of the swing circuit is again losing energy,” Schellenberg said. “Newer technologies would allow us to capture the energy from these actions and use it.”

HCM annually invests up to 3% of total revenue in research and development, which includes research into autonomous haulage. So far that has yielded substantial tangible results. In 2020, HCM and Rajant Corp. announced four autonomous haul trucks were operating in an Australian coal mine. The partners reported the number was to rise over the years to more than 40.

HCM said it expects “to extend our solutions delivery into other regions not in a distant future, and digger automation, starting with operator-assist functionalities, have been piloted for commercial release to support customers.” Future innovations, it said, will “leverage consistency of digital skills investments balanced to flexibility in utilizing fleet assets effectively.”

HCM’s pragmatic approach to following the Agenda helps it hedge against the uncertainties of a world in voluntary transition from the known to the still theoretical. With the Agenda, “we are replacing or exchanging the main energy source used to power the mining vehicles,” Schellenberg said. “A completely new ecosystem, from supply, transmission, storage, and vehicle management needs to be developed in a very short frame.”

Conversely, the fossil fuel industry enjoyed an expansive, multigenerational timeframe to nearly monopolize the global energy supply system, he said. The 2030 Agenda is “trying to replace that system in only a couple of decades while competing with the rest of society for resources.”

The pre-series R 9300 G8 at the Tabang coal mine helps Indonesia’s PPT Karunia increase production. The unit is capable of adopting future technologies that enable automation and reduced emissions. (Photo: Liebherr)

Promising Technology, a Pragmatic Outlook

Komatsu said that the path to emissions-free truck-shovel mining in 2030 and beyond faces very real challenges, but that the company is eager and well positioned for the journey.

“Yes, the global supply chain, which is currently under duress, is going to need to develop to meet the upcoming needs of OEMs and customers,” said Patrick Singleton, product director, electric drive trucks. “This will unquestionably cause increased pressure and likely new approaches to the supply chain.”

Autonomous mining solutions will be key to answering labor shortages that could otherwise pose a potential roadblock to the needed innovation by mining companies, he said. “Automation is not a new paradigm in mining by any stretch of the imagination, but as mining becomes more autonomous, the labor crunch will wane and new and different kinds of positions within mining will be created.”

The “final pillar,” he said, is fleet management. “The ‘magic’ of the truly efficient electrified operation will be the ability to sequence haulage assets to a variety of static and dynamic charging sources, as well as highlighting units that require maintenance.”

These trends will culminate in the fully electrified mines and mining operations of 2030 and beyond. “It is impossible to overstate how this transformation touches on technological advancement in almost every element of mining we see today,” Singleton said. “Operations will require a variety of future technology development including various charging options and other infrastructure elements, which can be blended between various OEMs, depending on the specific mine site needs.”

Currently, admittedly, “the technology is very much in the early stages of development,” he said.

“When technology is in these early ‘can we?’ development phases, the costs are typically higher,” Singleton said. “As with any adoption curve, some customers want to be out in front, and the functional and marketing benefits that come with early technology adoption are also tangible.”

Early technology from Komatsu would include the EVX truck, a proof-of-concept power-agnostic design showcased at MINExpo, where it was a “major success,” he said. “We have had other encouraging design successes that indicate that we have systems under development that can help optimize equipment performance in the electrified mining environment,” Singleton said. “As always, all development comes with a note of caution in that it needs to be stressed in order to understand its true capability.”

Other technology development milestones include the partnership between Cummins and Komatsu to develop zero-emissions haulage equipment, announced in June 2022. The companies plan to focus on, among other things, hydrogen fuel cell solutions for trucks.

In December 2022, Frontrunner AHS, Komatsu’s autonomous truck haulage solution, passed a major milestone. Approximately 5.5 billion metric tons (mt) of material, across 20 active sites, has been moved using AHS. Currently, an order for 62 new 930E trucks equipped with AHS for Los Bronces copper mine in Chile is being delivered. The mine could serve as a venue to showcase AHS, Komatsu said.

Separately, a Komatsu 930E-4 is being retrofitted with a hybrid battery and hydrogen fuel cell powerplants for trials at First Mode’s new proving grounds in Washington (U.S.A.) this year. Roughly a year ago, First Mode and partners deployed a proof-of-concept hydrogen-powered haul truck at Anglo American’s Mogalakwena mine in South Africa.

Komatsu’s partnerships to arrive at solutions that ultimately reduce carbon emissions exemplify the efforts of Komatsu’s Greenhouse Gas Alliance, Singleton said. “This is a forum for sharing ideas in a truly unprecedented way.”

The Alliance launched in 2021 with the initial target of advancing Komatsu’s power-agnostic truck concept to market by 2030. But the Alliance goes beyond developing specific solutions for a specific task.

“Through the Alliance framework, Komatsu’s GHG partners work directly with us to actively collaborate on product planning, development, testing and deployment of the next generation of zero-emission mining equipment and infrastructure,” Singleton said. “We are collaborating with and utilizing the input and expertise of infrastructure providers and developers as well as our customers.”

Komatsu Ltd. signed the U.N. Global Compact in 2008 and is committed to the 2030 Agenda. Singleton said that the hype around the Agenda and the rush to 2030 deadlines presents a challenge to suppliers, who will undoubtedly require “patience.” Conceptually, the technology needed is within the sights of the OEMs today, he said.

“However, getting it supplied on a production scale and hardening it for the mining environment are the areas where things are going to need the appropriate amount of time to find and clear the fuses in the design,” he said. “Of course, supply chains are going to have to develop that can support batteries and flexible infrastructure elements, but I believe we can, and will, overcome those hurdles.”

They will be overcome, in part, because of the hype. “The investment by OEMs, suppliers, and most importantly, customers is at a level that we may never have seen in the industry,” Singleton said. “And this is truly a situation where necessity is the mother of invention,” he said. “With this type of desire and investment, alternative solutions are bound to come to the forefront.”

Committed to the Industry

Liebherr Australia and Foretscue Metals Group are co-developing trucks with zero-emissions power system technologies. Announced in June, 2022, the effort includes Williams Advanced Engineering, and is meant to “support global initiatives to reduce emissions,” Liebherr said.

This year, the OEM reported the sale and delivery of truck-shovel mining solutions that feature advanced technologies, to include automation, that help miners improve efficiencies, reduce fuel usage, and cut emissions.

In February, Liebherr reported Nguvu Mining ordered a fleet of 13 Liebherr T 236 trucks for the Nzema Gold mine in Ghana’s Western Region, roughly 80 km from the port of Takoraidi. Leadership at the mine said multiple factors prompted the purchase.

“Liebherr’s open and transparent communications and its ongoing strong commitment towards a well-established support network, with a large stock of spare parts in Ghana, were key deciding factors for Nguvu Mining,” said Nguvu Mining CEO Angela List.

The mine plans to produce 350,000 oz per year. The trucks are uniquely equipped to haul overburden and oxide ore at the mine, said Loïc Siegel, regional sales manager, Africa.

“With the T 236’s high ‘take-off torque’ and accomplished electric drive system, mining operations will benefit from increased traction upon inclines above 12%, while having the option to switch to trolley assist and propulsion purely upon electricity,” he said. “These 100-mt-class machines will prove to be a valuable partner to Nguvu Holdings as it works towards its goals.”

The mine operates two Komatsu PC1250 excavators and 11 Caterpillar 777Es, which will be replaced by the Liebherr fleet.

Liebherr Ghana will provide technicians and operator training and will support the commissioning. “The mine will be well prepared at commissioning,” Siegel said.

Separately, Liebherr reported mining contractor Karunia purchased four R 9300 G8 excavators for Tabang coal mine in the Kutai Kartanegara Regency of East Kalimantan, Indonesia. The purchase follows successful trials of a pre-series unit.

The miner described the unit as ideal for the application, said Bertrand Bedo, Liebherr regional sales manager, Asia.

“Production, availability and fuel consumption figures measured since the startup in September 2022 are meeting or exceeding the targets,” Bedo said. “Operators are saying the machine is fast, smooth and precise.”

The excavator “helped Karunia achieve its ever-increasing production targets,” Liebherr said. The miner said “the performance of the R 9300 G8 has been staggering and surpassed all expectations.”

The excavators “will play a crucial role in increasing the efficiency of Karunia’s operation,” Liebherr said.

The R 9300 G8 was released at the last bauma exhibition in Germany. It is the second model in the G8 portfolio, features advanced technologies, and is capable of adopting future technologies that enable automation and reduced emissions, Bedo said.

“Liebherr Power Efficiency, available as standard on the R 9300, is a proprietary management system for the engine and hydraulic system controls, which substantially reduces fuel consumption without compromising the overall productivity of the machine,” Bedo said. “Compared to previous model, the machine achieves 25% more mt moved per liter through 15% less fuel burn and 5% more productivity.”

The excavators will be delivered from late 2023 to early 2024 and will join the R 9300 pre-series unit that has been on site since September 2022.

Also in February, Liebherr reported a second 800-mt-class R 9800 G6 was commissioned for PT Amman Mineral Nusa Tenggara at the Batu Hijau mine in West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia.

At a ceremony marking the milestone, the project manager noted how the assembly took 20 days, less than half the time it normally would.

The miner’s first R 9800 G6 was commissioned in April 2021. Since then, “Liebherr Indonesia has received positive feedback from the customer,” the OEM said.

“According to the mining company, the first R 9800 has been an important asset in helping AMMAN meet its production targets,” Liebherr said. “The arrival of the second R 9800 will boost overall production even further.”

The model is the largest excavator in the portfolio, and is best paired with trucks with a capacity of more than 240 mt.

Stakeholders witnessed a live demonstration of some of the capabilities of Caterpillar’s first battery electric 793 truck at the OEM’s proving grounds near Tucson, Arizona. (Photo: Caterpillar)

The miner is “Indonesia’s second-largest copper and gold mining and processing company,” Liebherr said.

Liebherr also reported it supplied 11 T 264 trucks to Thiess in 2022. Five went to Encuentro copper mine in northern Chile in June, and six went to a mine in the U.S.A.

“These mining trucks will help to increase the productivity and efficiency of Encuentro mine with their payload of 240 mt, high speed on grade, incredibly fast cycle times, and the best power-to-payload ratio in their class,” Liebherr said.

The T 264 delivers “increased operator safety with an ergonomically designed cab, maximum visibility during operation, and protection against both roll-over and falling objects,” it said. “These trucks are designed so that zero-emissions technology can be retrofitted into the machines, thus future-proofing Thiess’ investment in this equipment.”

The trucks deployed in the U.S.A. were built to operate at high altitudes, and had heated dump bodies, bigger fuel tanks, and engine heaters. They were built at Liebherr’s Newport News, Virginia, factory, and were delivered ahead of schedule.

The OEM used “all of its capabilities to deliver a reliable product” ahead of deadline, said Shane Kuhlmey, divisional director, mining, Liebherr U.S.A. “As Thiess expands in America, we will be right there with them providing high-quality solutions that deliver on our commitments to the mining industry.”

A Focus on Increased Value

In Q4 2022, Caterpillar reported it completed development of and successfully demonstrated its first battery-electric 793 truck. The truck was demonstrated on a 7-km course and, while fully loaded, achieved a top speed of 60 km/h.

On a downhill leg of the run, the truck captured braking energy.

The 793 completed the run with enough battery energy to “perform additional complete cycles,” Cat reported.

The truck was co-developed at an accelerated pace with Early Learner program mining partners BHP, Freeport-McMoRan, Newmont Corp., Rio Tinto, and Teck Resources Ltd. “The Early Learner program launched in 2021 and focuses on accelerating the development and validation of Caterpillar’s battery electric trucks at participating customers’ sites,” Cat said.

Separately, at roughly the same time, Caterpillar announced a new iteration of the 793 with “up to 6% more payload than the 793F.” It “boasts the highest payload in its size class, up to 244 mt.”

The new 793 offers 10% faster cycle times. “With its gross 1,976-kW rating, the engine can be ordered in U.S. EPA Tier 2 equivalent or Tier 4 Final/EU Stage 5 configurations to meet any region’s emissions standards,” Caterpillar said.

The truck has fully integrated electronics, and is shipped with Cat Product Link Elite with 4G/LTE connectivity or optional dual-mode cellular/satellite or local WiFi networks. MineStar Command for hauling is optional.

The unit has the same cab as
the 785 and 789. It has two screens that consolidate all machine data, controls and guidance information. Cat Detect object detection comes standard.

The new 793 is designed to last more than 100,000 hours, Cat said. Its “long-life frame features mild steel to provide flexibility, durability and resistance to impact loads, and the frame, powertrain, engine and components are built to be rebuilt.”

Also in Q4 2022 and Q1 2023, Caterpillar reported passing two of what the company called “significant milestones.”

In January, Caterpillar reported its next-generation hydraulic shovels are now helping customers achieve higher production at a lower cost compared to competitive machines. “Next Generation 6060s are improving our customers’ experience as we speak,” said Paul Taylor, HMS value stream manager.

The new 6060 has an array of features that help it do that. For increased safety and productivity, the “state-of-the art cab” is “quieter and more comfortable, and provides 40% greater visibility than previous cabs,” Cat said. The cab allows “operators to load more and experience less fatigue over the course of a shift.”

The shovel features optimized electronic architecture that is designed for future updates. It “delivers additional performance and reliability advantages, helps operators be more productive, enables a proactive approach to maintenance, and improves connectivity to optional advanced technologies,” Cat said.

Automation tools that assist operators include Hydraulic Optimization, Enhanced Motion Control, and Payload.

Hydraulic Optimization “dynamically assigns individual pumps or groups of pumps to deliver the exact flow and pressure that each hydraulic function requires,” Cat said. “This approach reduces waste and heat, prolongs component lives and conserves energy.”

Enhanced Motion Control “helps improve operator performance while protecting the machine from damage,” Cat said. “Payload provides on-the-go weighing of material to improve loading efficiency.”

The shovel uses some designs, components and parts that are common to other Cat equipment, which streamlines maintenance and helps the customer weather trending supply chain disruptions. “Parts are stocked around the world for fast, efficient service,” Cat said. “Service literature is easy to read and understand so technicians have the information they need to perform maintenance and repairs.”

The 6060 is designed to use solutions that will give it power source options. “Recognizing that sustainability and carbon footprint are key focus areas for miners today, next-generation shovel innovation is closely tied to mining companies’ energy transitions goals,” Cat said. “In the future, next generation shovels will be power agnostic, with two different options for the power module: diesel or electric drive,” the OEM said. “They will be almost the same machine except for the power module, which can even be swapped years down the road.”

These features combine to offer a range of benefits, foremost of which is superior reliability. “The best thing we can do for customers with the next-generation shovels is to make them more reliable than the ones before,” said Paul Taylor, HMS value stream manager.”

Meeting the critical needs of customers is what drives innovation at Caterpillar, said Matt Jacobs, HMS sales manager. “When we’re developing new features or updating our current offerings, we want to make sure those improvements are always focused on increasing the value customers get from our machines,” he said.

“We know we’ve achieved that goal when our customers can increase their production and profit with our shovels,” Jacobs said. “And we’re proud to say that our next generation shovels are on track to do just that.”

This article and the following sidebar were first published in the May 2023 edition of E&MJ.

The WLS-M Off-Road Truck Volumetric Scanner is easy to install and operate, requires no calibration or maintenance, and offers in-motion load scanning. (Photo: Walz Scale-Scanner)

NTEP-certified Volumetric Scanner For In-motion Load Scanning

By Jesse Morton, Technical Writer

Walz Scale–Scanner reported the WLS-M Off-Road Truck Volumetric Scanner system is NTEP certified, and is “the first and only scanner system to achieve this certification in the world.” The system can help a customer increase productivity and contend with the big trending challenges of the day.

Available for use with all types of mining trucks, the system is described as “the next revolution in production monitoring for mining operations.” The main hardware is a stoplight-sized over-the-road LiDAR scanner. For material density, weight and volume data, the system can integrate the supplier’s portable scales. A high-definition camera system for more detailed imagery is available.

The local software can operate independently or be integrated, and can be accessed on the cloud via subscription for an easy review of the data using handheld devices.

The system offers in-motion load scanning. It requires no calibration or maintenance. Features include a built-in ticketing system, graphical load images, a real-time load volume measurement system, and cloud-based reporting.

Deliverables can include autonomous payload monitoring, 3D load placement imagery, real-time material density tracking per load, and real-time carry back monitoring and alerts.

The solution will give engineers an “extensive dataset” on which to base decisions, said Derek Schussele, technical sales, Walz Scale–Scanner. “Our solution offers a better understanding of the overall production process, including cycle times, hauled volume, hauled mass, bulk density, unit and truck performance compared to capacity, driver performance, overload, underload, carry-back detection, truck body load distribution,  and load placement.”

Mine management can use the “technology to ensure that their team is meeting, or exceeding, production goals,” he said. “Also, and perhaps more importantly, to have the information at hand to communicate with their team to improve their daily action items.”

Foremost of the benefits offered is the capability to increase productivity. “With the seemingly ever-increasing regulatory environment, the first focus for the scale and scanner is efficiency and maximizing production,” Schussele said. “The miner can see the truck haulage data in near real time and that enables them to communicate with all mining teammates with actionable communication.”

One customer in India was able to use the system to help increase haulage efficiency from “high 78% to over 93%,” he said.

To address supply chain challenges, “we took action to expand and invest in our rental fleet,” Schussele said. “Walz Scale currently possesses the largest inventory of rental portable mining scales, and volumetric scanners.”

“In addition to expanding our rental fleet, we have made a considerable component inventory investment, so that when a scanner, scale or pair order is placed, we don’t let world happenings dictate our business and service model,” Schussele said. “This ultimately helps our clients and partners focus on the task at hand.”

Walz Scale–Scanner service experts can help a shorthanded customer deploy a system and complete
a study. “We can provide our greatest asset, our people,” he said.

The WLS-M Off-Road Truck Volumetric Scanner can be integrated into a system to deliver autonomous payload monitoring, 3D load placement imagery, real-time material density tracking per load, and real-time carry back monitoring and alerts. (Image: Walz Scale–Scanner)

The supplier offers technicians to “work with you on-site and complete a full spectrum weight and volume payload study,” Schussele said. “This includes performing the entire study plus generating the after-action report via our Payload Pro Software.”

The WLS-M Off-Road Truck Volumetric Scanner requires minimal labor. “Our clients have the ability to have the scanner, which can also be paired with a scale, to run automatically,” he said. “This eliminates the need for someone to operate the Walz system and frees up mine staff to perform and focus on additional means and ways to increase efficiency around the mine site.”

Automation also offers safety benefits. “The scale and scanner systems can be run automatically with no attendant present,” Schussele said. “This keeps personnel away from the trucks, further aiding a safety mindset.”

The data the system gathers can be used to improve worksite safety.

“The system provides information about overload,” he said. “Another unique safety aspect of the volumetric scanner is to see if there is carry-back in a truck body, prior to the truck entering the service bay.”

Reducing carryback “prevents material from sloughing off the body, in the raised position, and possibly injuring a technician,” Schussele said. “The scanner allows the customer to clean out the body prior to servicing the truck.”

Adoption requires minimal infrastructure, which can help a miner meet regulations. “Of course the systems may be installed in a permanent location, but otherwise it allows the mine site to configure the systems with portability in mind,” he said, “easily moving the measurement asset to the most efficient location and path for scanning and weighing.”

The NTEP certification caps “years of development, testing, and perfecting,” and launches “the next chapter in the Walz story,” he said. “Adaptation and advancement has always been a hallmark of mining and we try to lead the way with weighing and volumetric scanning solutions.”