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The ICMM, its member companies and some of the world’s leading mine vehicle and equipment suppliers and technology providers, have been working diligently on an ambitious plan to accelerate safety and the innovative development of a new generation of mine vehicles.
The initiative aims is to make mining vehicles cleaner and safer, International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) director of health, safety and product stewardship SARAH BELL tells CHANTELLE KOTZE.
In recognition of the ICMM’s stance on climate change made through its position statement, as well as its aim to reduce vehicle collision related incidents, safety and to improve health exposures through a reduction in diesel particulates, ICMM and its member CEOs launched the Innovation for Cleaner Safer Vehicles (ICSV) programme in October 2018.
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Now, almost a year later, a significant amount of headway has been made in addressing the programme’s safety three ambitions that enable an operational environment that allows performance outcomes which are aimed at introducing greenhouse gas emission-free surface mining vehicles by 2040, making collision avoidance technology available to mining companies by 2025 and minimising the operational impact of diesel particulate matter by 2025.
According to Bell, the ICSV programme allows for collaboration among mining equipment suppliers in a non-competitive space to encourage safety innovation amongst them and drive adoption of the solutions provided by industry.
The objective of the programme is to simultaneously address all three of these abovementioned performance outcomes, by creating the need for the mining equipment suppliers to work towards and ultimately create solutions for the industry-wide challenges through new technology innovations and developments.
Bell states that this new model of safety collaboration along the supply chain is significant given that mining equipment suppliers had previously signalled investment challenges in this next stage of technology innovation.
This collaboration sends a strong signal that a big portion of industry suppliers want to embrace this unique opportunity, building their confidence to accelerate their innovation investment.
While the 26 ICMM member companies (which together constitute around 30% of total global metal production) recognise the threat of climate change and have adopted policies on transitioning to a low carbon economy.
Although ICMM members continue to individually demonstrate a commitment towards the climate change agenda it is reasonable to suggest that no real action had been taken at a collective industry-level when it comes to direct equipment emissions (also known as Scope 1 emissions) until the launch of the ICSV programme, Bell points out.
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This is due in part to not being able to achieve this as a group of mining and metals companies alone – hence the collaboration with the mining equipment suppliers to drive the collective agenda forward.
The first ambition within the ICSV programme – reducing greenhouse gas emissions – aims to promote operational and technological innovation to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions from surface mobile mining equipment by increasing energy-efficiency and developing greenhouse gas reduction technologies, with the target of achieving greenhouse gas-free surface mining vehicles by 2040.
Because mobile mining equipment accounts for up to as much as 30% of the emissions at a mine, it is critical to find ways of reducing this and ultimately eliminating it, Bell explains.
The second ambition – ensuring safer vehicle interactions – aims to promote and accelerate the development of collision avoidance technology capable of eliminating fatalities from vehicle interactions. The aim is for this technology to be available to mining companies by 2025.
The impetus to improve vehicle safety in the mining industry is crucial in that the highest number of fatalities among ICMM member companies in 2018 (15 out of 50 fatalities, or 30% of total fatalities) were attributed to mobile equipment and transportation-related incidents, which has overtaken fall-of-ground as the leading cause of fatalities over the past years.
This has highlighted the need for a step-change in prevention efforts by the ICMM Council as a means towards achieving zero harm, not only by ICMM members but the mining industry at large where the number of mobile equipment and transportation fatalities are even greater, Bell believes.
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The third ambition – reducing diesel particulate matter emissions – will promote operational and technical innovations to minimise the impact of diesel particulate matter or diesel exhaust in underground mining operations by 2025.
Bell notes that while diesel particulate matter is primarily a health issue, by implementing abatement technologies or through the use of electric equipment, underground mining operations could also work towards reducing and eliminating greenhouse gas emissions.
The ICSV programme is being guided and governed by a CEO advisory group comprising six representatives, three from ICMM member companies including:
And three from participating mining equipment suppliers including:
Successes and achievements
In the past four months, the programme stakeholders have defined technology pathways that set out the steps and the functional and technical requirements needed to be taken by industry to achieve the three ambitions.
These technology pathways will be further refined throughout the remainder of the year through robust discussion among the stakeholders on the challenges, constraints and opportunities.
By the end of the year, the ICMM hopes to have approval on the technology pathways by the 26-member company CEOs.
This, Bell believes, will send a strong signal to the OEMs and technology developers that the Council is committed to embracing and adopting their new technologies and will then motivate the OEMs to accelerate their technology development.
The collaboration brought about through the ICSV programme will also send a strong signal that a significant portion of industry suppliers want to embrace this unique opportunity to accelerate their innovation investment,” Bell adds.
Technologies being explored
There is a lot of activity going on in all three of the ambitions that were set, says Bell, adding that these activities are beginning to accelerate all the time.
In terms of both opencast and underground mining applications, battery equipment is rapidly developing. The storage density and lifespan of batteries are being improved on and the rapid development of hybrid systems and improvements in trolley-assist systems for large surface haul trucks is also under way – all in a bid to reduce the total diesel consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In terms of collision avoidance or proximity detection systems on vehicles, the ICSV has gained valuable insight into challenges regarding the retrofitting of these systems and is looking at improving the way in which the systems are retrofitted to existing equipment.
South Africa is a leader in terms of having the largest deployment of proximity detection systems, and has enabled the ICMM to map out the most efficient ways of retrofitting these systems going forward.
The ICSV programme is aimed at benefitting the entire mining sector, not just ICMM members and is open to other equipment manufacturers who would like to join.
It is also hoped that the first-adopters of the technology will motivate the fast followers and ultimately result in an industry shift towards cleaner and safer mining vehicles and equipment.
In the case of collision avoidance and DPM reduction technologies - “The future is already here,” Bell believes, but notes that it is just unevenly distributed.
She believes that the technology pathways will help demystify how existing or evolving technology can benefit the entire industry.
However, Bell acknowledges that technology alone is not a silver bullet and hopes that by considering mine design and the mine operating conditions required to enable safe and effective adoption of new technologies will address this.