Mobile PlantSafety

Boliden, Epiroc & ABB – underground electric trolley truck system

2 Mins read

Heavy haulage and the electrification play that is currently revolutionising the underground mining industry, is surely one of the final pieces of the fossil free puzzle? The long trams now seen from deepening mines across the globe require huge amounts of diesel power to haul tonnes of material up the 1:7 decline gradient.

An obvious work around may be a battery system, similar to those being used in underground light vehicles and boggers. However, what if battery technology isn’t quite there yet to deliver reliable power for trucking distances that require 60+ tonnes being dragged over 15km uphill?

This week, a three way joint venture between Boliden, Epiroc and ABB showcased their latest advancement in an underground truck trolley system:

“The system will build on Epiroc’s zero emissions mining haul truck Minetruck MT42 Battery and is highly suitable for long haul ramps. It will feature a trolley pantograph which is to be connected to an overhead contact power line. ABB will provide the electric trolley truck system design, definition of standards and vehicle interface, as well as rectifier substation for the test track.”

The clear advantages would be reduced CO2 emissions and possible removal of diesel particulates within the underground workings. If the system allows for charging in motion, whilst the truck navigates the underground decline and then is released to operate on battery charge intra level or on the surface dumping pad, this would be an amazing advance! A system like this could really revolutionise the heavy haulage sector, and the trials in Sweden will be fascinating to follow over the rest of 2021. Similar systems are seen in Open Pits, although they are not commonplace. 

There are several logistical issues that I can see arising as a result; primarily around the ability to stay connected and receive charge amongst all of the other services and accessories that hang on the backs (roof of tunnel). This would require a very malleable connection (via the described pantograph) between the power line and the truck. Further to this is, it could create issues with reattaching to the power line network when trucks pass one another within the mine’s thoroughfares, constraining passing activities to certain designated areas.

This announcement is very well timed with the Australian and global market now really pushing toward electrification of underground fleets. This falls in line with global CO2 emission requirements, as well as an improved environmental standards required for underground miners. This integration play, although significantly more constrained than a battery model, could viably deliver heavy haulage at the world’s deepest mines – this will be one to watch closely!

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