Various energy sources are necessary for the transition to net zero, explains Marshall Girtman
The global push for electrification in the mining industry is a topic often debated. At the heart of the issue is whether current trends leading to net zero emissions are worth the investment necessary to support the implementation of equipment and vehicles requiring this new technology.
Traditionally, mining operations have been powered primarily by diesel fuel, along with hardwired power sources connected to the electrical grid. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by diesel engines have led to a shift towards hybrid technology and battery electric vehicles and equipment.
Reaching net zero through electrification
Those who support the electrification of vehicles and equipment have the vision of reaching a net zero solution, in which all fuel and energy come from renewable resources free from GHG emissions. Several global mining companies have committed to a net zero solution within the next 20 to 30 years. This has spawned many equipment and vehicle manufacturers to implement new technologies regarding battery electrification, low-carbon fuels, and hybrid technologies to support this shift.
Although this transition from diesel power to net zero solutions has been well received by many, others have justifiable concerns. One concern is whether these new technologies will adequately support the rigorous demands and run times of mining operations, while maintaining cost effectiveness. Another concern is if there will be adequate amounts of raw materials to produce and store energy, particularly regarding the critical minerals required for battery electrification.
The solution may actually be a combination of each of these positions. The mining industry must continue to operate using established methods and equipment while transitioning to implement new technology and machinery. This transition period may last for a sustained period of time, and will likely require multiple types of energy sources to meet the rigorous demands of the mining industry.
Expert analysis on net zero solutions
Special Mine Services (SMS), manufacturer of SMS Connectors, is actively analysing how it can contribute to this transition from traditional fuel sources to the net zero solution. With a history of providing hardwired power solutions to the global mining industry, SMS understands the demands of the sector. Its experience allows the company to continue to offer proven solutions while researching and potentially developing new products that will align with the quickly changing technologies currently being implemented.
One example of this is the company’s manufacture of various jumper assemblies, specifically designed for load-haul-dump (LHD) mining vehicles that use battery electric systems. These jumper assemblies allow the LHD vehicle to connect to an external power source while the batteries are being changed. This eliminates the downtime of equipment while batteries are being replaced, thereby allowing mining operations to continue without disruption.
Without question, the change to a net zero solution is coming. During this transition period, mining operations must continue to use various energy sources to maintain production capacity and competitiveness. SMS integrates into this transition period by offering proven sources of power while developing and implementing new ones, thereby supporting the investment into new technologies.
Marshall Girtman is with Special Mine Services