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South32, Gold Fields and 12 others form Australian consortium to decarbonise mining - Engineering News

Thursday, 4 March 2021

PERTH ( – Fourteen mining and mining services companies, including South32, Oz Minerals, Independence Group, Gold Fields, Barminco Sandvik and Epiroc have come together to form the Electric Mine Consortium aimed at decarbonising the mining industry.

The Consortium was built on a 2020 report from State of Play, which covered extensive research aimed at understanding the drivers and barriers of mine electrification, identifying the key enabling technologies and enabling collaboration to accelerate adoption of this technology.

The State of Play survey found that 57% of respondents expected the energy transition to be the global trend which would have the biggest impact on the resources industry over the next 15 years, with 89% expecting mine sites to be electrified within the next 20 years.

The survey also found that 61% of respondents expected the next generation of mines to be electric, and that 83% expected renewable energy technologies to significantly change mining operations over the next 15 years, while 98% expected mine automation technology would benefit the most from electrification.

"Our data shows renewables, all electric systems and batteries will help fuel the change toward a healthier, economically viable future of mining, but uncertainty remains when it comes to which area to invest in first, and how," said State of Play co-founder Graeme Stanway.

"Here in Australia, we have an abundance of renewables that the industry is tapping into, particularly in our most remote operations. Local mine sites have the opportunity to install solar, wind and battery energy storage systems to power their operations at a much cheaper cost than many global players."

The Consortium is aimed at collaboratively resolving key technology choices, shaping the supplier ecosystem, influencing policy, and communicating the business case.

The Consortium noted that the way energy was generated, stored and harnessed was undergoing a period of major change, and that a global ecosystem had begun to emerge to underpin the innovation and scaling of electrification technologies. A rare trifecta, electrification will provide economic, health and environmental value for the mining industry, CEO's of the mining companies said in a joint statement.

"Electrification creates enormous opportunities for operational cost savings, innovative mine designs and resilience against uncertainty. It will reduce the exposure to carcinogenic diesel particulates and reduce scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 100%. The value upside of this not only increases productivity in existing assets, but also improves a company's ability to unlock deeper and more remote ore bodies."

Oz Minerals CEO Andrew Cole said that the company had a strategic aspiration to emit zero Scope 1 emissions and to systematically reduce its scope 2 and 3 emissions across its value chain.

"We are committed to investigating various technologies and strategies, such as the electrification of mining equipment, to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions at our assets."

Electrification of mine sites is a key technical foundation for the automation of equipment, which itself provides a large step forward in productivity and safety, while also improving economics through simplified, interoperable electric-drive equipment.

The CEOs collectively agreed that the industry should focus more on collaboration to overcome cost barriers and uncertainty in technology choices that may be beyond the capacity of individual companies alone.

Gold Fields' Rob Derries noting that there was a lack of understanding on the supporting infrastructure requirements for all electric equipment and vehicles.

"This working group aims to establish OEM agnostic charging standards by prototyping a potential open charging system," he added.

South32's Michelle Keegan said that while they are available, the economic and operating assumptions for light battery electric vehicles on site are unclear.

"This working group will progressively convert a light vehicle fleet to battery electric across multiple consortium mine sites."

"Mine scale energy storage technologies are not yet operationally or economically proven in mining. This working group aims to test mine scale remote energy storage through installation of multiple technologies across 5+ sites," said Michael Hegarty at IGO.

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