As the mining sector shifts its focus towards accelerating sustainability and improving efficiency, the ability to assess the costs and benefits of the clean energy transformation for a mine site is critical for future operational success. RPMGlobal is assisting lay the groundwork for this transition, as MiningMagazine learns.
Amid a renewed focus on reducing carbon emissions, mining companies and governments are taking real steps towards implementing decarbonisation efforts. Several major mining companies have already pledged to achieve zero net emissions by 2050, or earlier. With truck haulage a major contributor to an open cut mines' overall emissions, there is a steadfast need for the industry to address these emissions to achieve this goal.
According to Deloitte's Tracking The Trends 2021 report, decarbonising the mining industry is on the top of the agenda, which RPMGlobal Chief Executive Officer Richard Mathews said presents a significant opportunity for the entire industry.
"Improving operational efficiency and building sustainable outcomes are key imperatives for the sector—they are no longer mutually exclusive," he said.
"The changing environment and push for decarbonisation in mining presents vast opportunities for creative problem-solving and greater adoption of new technology in order to achieve improved operational sustainability.
"As a METS company, RPMGlobal's domain expertise in energy transition, combined with our leading haulage technology, means we are uniquely positioned to become a leader in haulage system decarbonisation," he added.
With the momentum building around electrification of mining fleets as an avenue for the clean energy transformation of mine sites, it's important that operations continue to invest in innovative technologies and partnerships to drive positive and sustained change.
Harnessing technology to support the industry's decarbonisation agenda
With the industry having crossed a tipping point on the acceptability of emissions as part of the production process, electrification is generally accepted as one of the key solutions to the emissions challenge.
There are an array of benefits to electrification which include elimination of carbon emissions from diesel, improved productivity and efficiency, unlocking deeper and more remote orebodies and a gateway technology to automation which in itself has the potential to unlock significant further productivity gains.
However, challenges and concerns about the realities of achieving operational decarbonisation initiatives are still aplenty, including questions around capital investment and the fact there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
According to Mathews, RPMGlobal's unique offering and positioning in the market that involves combing innovative technology and leading mining expertise provides a solid foundation to add value to the industry on their efforts.
"As technology leaders and specialists in providing expert advice to the global mining industry on their most critical issues, the changing energy landscape presents both challenges and opportunities that we are helping our clients to better understand," he said.
As part of RPMGlobal's efforts to help its client's transition to a greener way of operating, the company has added battery capabilities to its leading haulage simulation tool, HAULSIM—a 4-D Discrete Event Simulation (DES) tool which enables the user to build a digital twin of any mining operation to evaluate different haulage scenarios.
"There is a significant opportunity to reduce carbon emissions from open pit operations by introducing haul road electrification technology as a means to limit diesel fuels usage and costs," Mathews said.
Whilst sustainable mining may sound like a paradox, Mathews said technology enablement and simulation to produce optimal haulage routes that minimise energy use and maximise deployment of Electric Vehicle alternatives has never been more important.
"Playing a role in this important initiative sweeping the industry is a change that RPMGlobal is passionate about leading," Mathews says.
"For example, for a miner or OEM to be able to quickly calculate the environmental and social benefits and considerations, together with the financial and operational differentiators between diesel powered and electric vehicles, will be enormous in the coming years," he added.
Accelerating industry's decarbonisation agenda
As the industry seeks to make tangible strides towards decarbonisation, RPMGlobal's Advisory team are working closely with its clients to navigate the changes in the market through studies in electrification, mine closure and fugitive emission assessments.
RPMGlobal recently completed a study for a major tier one miner that investigated the amount of trolley infrastructure required to achieve sustainable electric haulage using battery powered dump trucks and employing trolley assist systems.
The high level, practical study assessed the amount of trolley infrastructure required to achieve sustainable electric haulage using battery powered trucks, leveraging RPMGlobal's leading simulation technology. Outputs of the studies included quantification of parameters such as fuel savings, length and positioning of trolley assist lines and sustainability of battery charge across a number of open cut mine profiles.
"The opportunity to integrate new electrification systems into the mine haul cycle is a key step to improving operational sustainability, and we are pleased to be collaborating with the industry on these game-changing projects that are driving positive outcomes," Mathews said.
Philippe Baudry, RPMGlobal's Executive General Manager—Advisory Services anticipated further demand for similar types of studies, prompting internal strategy discussions about ways the company can continue to leverage its decades of industry experience to emerge as the industry's go-to partner for their decarbonisation needs.
"With the pace of technological advancement, together with the industry's broader business case in support of decarbonisation, the ability to quantify the pros and cons of electrification and investigate the environmental and economic benefits that electric haulage systems bring, will be a major transformation imperative in the coming decade," he said.
"The goal of co-creating value for the mine and society has no doubt become a top priority for the sector and through our unique offering, our team are helping the industry gain a deeper understanding around the positive impacts of haulage electrification."
Going forward, other potential haulage technologies, such as hydrogen, will also need to be considered as part of the transition to a carbon neutral mine.
"Staying abreast of the latest advancements in this space, including significant investments by some of Australia's leading mining companies, will be key to supporting our clients as they start to plan their next mine or fleet replacement schedule," Mathews says.
"Some of our clients are already requesting that we model greenhouse gas emissions in mining trade off studies as part of identifying the preferred development profile. The answer to which is the best profile to use is no longer driven purely by the economics, but now needs to consider greenhouse gas emission targets set by companies."