IMARC: wheeling and dealing on day one

Thousands of electric four-wheel drive vehicles equipped with smart software could soon be entering Australia’s mining sector as part of a deal between two climate firms.

On day one the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in Sydney yesterday (31 October 2023) Irish company CoolPlanet revealed plans to extend its partnership with Australia’s Climatech Zero, in a move in which the firms will offer electrified Toyota LandCruisers to the domestic mining industry.

The pair predict more than 6,000 of the low-emission vehicles could be in use by 2026.

CoolPlanet Chairman Norman Crowley said the vehicles would play an important role in cutting carbon emissions from mining and protecting workers as vehicles played a role in 28% of deaths suffered on mine sites.

“Mines will be able to eliminate diesel particulate matter and maximise vehicle safety.”

“Mines will be able to eliminate diesel particulate matter and maximise vehicle safety

IMARC was yesterday told that the modernisation of mining operations is transforming how the industry is securing the minerals the world needs more safely, efficiently, and sustainably.

Industry leaders said they were excited by the potential for electrification, automation, and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve mining operations. While acknowledging the challenges of distance, capital cost, geography and scale and they all agreed innovation was the key.

Electrifying moves

Electrification of predominantly diesel-powered mine vehicles, haulage trucks and fixed assets was cited as one example. Together with automation and digitisation, electrification was described as one of the most substantive technology shifts in mining for more than 70 years.

IMARC was told electrification can also improve safety and cost in underground environments by removing the need for elaborate ventilation systems. It also has health and safety benefits when the working environment is devoid of diesel exhaust fumes and heavy, hot, and noisy machinery.

Vice President of Hexagon Mining Simon Stone said innovation is helping increase the payload of haulage trucks, while at the same time reducing maintenance cost through smart technology.

“Autonomous vehicles will lead to less tyre wear, more predictability of cycle time and fuel burn and more consistent presentation of vehicles to loading and unloading facilities.

Increasing haulage trucks’ capacity will ultimately result in less trucks on the road and less drivers. This, however, requires legislative intervention, because currently the maximum amount haulage trucks can carry is 140 tonnes and for optimum operation, this would need to be 300 tonnes.”

James Agar, Group Procurement Officer at BHP told delegates that Australia’s largest miner is partnering with global tyre brands, Michelin, and Goodyear to help develop the next generation of haulage truck tyres.

Agar noted that increasing battery life of haulage trucks will become of increasing competitive advantage to mining companies. As a result, there are hopes the next generation tyres will increase efficiency by 1%-2% which has the potential to save millions of dollars in expenditure.

According to Paul Lucey, Principal Mine Electrification & Technology at Worley there are more than 16,500 haulage trucks in Australia, but their productivity is hampered by outdated design, their suitability to the task they are performing, and human intervention.

“We have effectively pulled apart dozens of haulage trucks and assessed every component for their efficiency. We have found there is up to 20% parasitic load – that is, components that don’t really do anything but add weight and create a drag on performance.

When you add the human tendency to put the foot flat on the floor, or to rev the engine to increase the speed of removing a tarpaulin, you can see where the inefficiencies start to add up.

“The haulage trucks of the future will use technology such as AI to reduce energy use, minimise engine and tyre wear and determine how to operate the machinery in the most efficient way.”

Mineral Exploration Account Executive at Fleet Space Technologies Bronwyn Murphy said a challenge the mining sector faces in the modernisation space is the public’s perception that it is behind the curve.

Murphy said in the mining industry there has been a swing in interest in technology and Fleet is optimistic that future generations will consider a career in mining.

Mining.com.au is an official media partner of IMARC, which will showcase 470-plus mining leaders and resource experts throughout 7 concurrent conferences.

The modernisation of mining was a key focus on day one of IMARC, with more than 8,500 delegates gathering to hear from industry experts about the sustainability opportunities and challenges facing the industry in the face of heightened community, shareholder and investor expectations.

This year’s event features the biggest ever exhibition of technology being deployed around the world, including electric haulage vehicles, drilling equipment, robotics, and processing machinery as well as AI, machine learning, IT, and communications.

Write to Adam Orlando at Mining.com.au

Images: CoolPlanet
Author Image
Written By Adam Orlando
Mining.com.au Editor-in-Chief Adam Orlando has more than 20 years’ experience in the media having held senior roles at various publications, including as Asia-Pacific Sector Head (Mining) at global newswire Acuris (formerly Mergermarket). Orlando has worked in newsrooms around the world including Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and Sydney.