ABB manager mining automation in Western Australia, Richard Marsh believes major companies understand the importance of electrification as they work towards carbon neutral operations by 2050.
It is “a very big commitment but a very serious commitment,” Marsh says. “People are being recruited into roles that are driving mining companies to have that capability.”
The conversion to an all-electric mine makes business sense for a number of reasons.
Even though polluting energy sources are the cheapest today, operators often forget to account for their secondary cost in calculating the total price tag.
If you have a fair energy price and calculate all the costs of your energy as well as its environmental costs, including the cost of decommissioning nuclear power plants, an all-electric mine becomes very economic. The efficiency of an electric drive train is also much, much higher than that of a combustion engine. And quite quickly an all-electric mine becomes sustainable.
Electric machines also incur lower costs because they require less maintenance and therefore reduce equipment downtime. Diesel-powered mining trucks can result in excessive downtime due to internal mechanisms related to the gear box, lubrication system and engine that are prone to breakdowns. An electric-driven train, on the other hand, is much more robust than a combustion engine-powered drive train.
The highest potential of all-electric mines in currently observed in North America and Europe, facilitating close to 100 per cent renewable energy production. If your electricity is produced by fossil fuel, then you’re not in the right place from an ecological point of view.