Marshall Girtman explains why collaboration and interoperability are necessary for a successful transition to electrification.
The electrification of the mining industry is not a new concept. The electrification of underground mining equipment began in the 1960s to reduce emissions in confined spaces. This trend continued with the electrification of surface equipment in the 1970s to simplify machine maintenance and operations.
With this history, it was not surprising that several major mining companies and OEMs signed a commitment per the Paris Climate Accord, which led to a consensus to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030 and to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
As the industry transitions to reach the net zero goals, there are several challenges to overcome. Perhaps the primary challenge is the amount of electricity required for net zero electrification. Some estimate two to three times the amount of electricity is required for mine sites to charge vehicles and equipment. This amount of electricity will require the mine site infrastructure to be redesigned. The infrastructure within the mine site must be redeveloped to accommodate various methods of power sources, as well as infrastructure outside the mine site to support supply chain operations, particularly in remote areas. New technology must also be adapted to
fit the specific needs of each mine site.
Critical minerals required for electrification are another challenge to overcome. For instance, the demand for copper will continue to increase to support battery electrification. Several experts estimate the current supply of copper will only meet half of the copper demand in 2030. This high demand applies to several other minerals necessary for battery electrification, such as lithium, cobalt and zinc.
Hybrid power solutions are necessary to overcome these challenges. Alternative fuels, such as hydrogen, along with alternative sources of energy, such as wind and solar, must supplement the demand placed on grid power. Additionally, most mining operations will require static charging stations as well as dynamic charging solutions to fully transition their fleet of equipment to electrification.
Collaboration and interoperability among mining companies and OEMs are required for the successful implementation of these hybrid solutions. Key areas of collaboration and interoperability are the standardisation of technical specifications, usage requirements, and equipment design.
A pioneering approach
Special Mine Services (SMS), the manufacturer of SMS Connectors, is actively collaborating with other OEMs to synchronise current products to established standards, as well as developing new technologies to meet the needs of the electrification demand in the mining industry.
One example of this is its manufacture of battery jumper assemblies. These enable vehicles and equipment to connect to a hardwired power source during battery swaps, which allows critical equipment to continue operations without disruptions.
The electrification of the mining industry is evolving at a rapid pace. To be successful during this transition, collaboration and interoperability are crucial requirements. Special Mine Services is one of many component providers that stands ready to meet the growing demands of this evolving industry.
Marshall Girtman is with Special Mine Services.