Ventilation currently represents around 50% of underground metal mines’ overall energy costs. Producers are looking to go deeper and still remain economic, while also eliminating fine diesel particulate matter from the underground work environment.
Couple these aims with the need to achieve clean-energy targets and it’s clear that there are a myriad of drivers for the introduction of battery-powered vehicles that are engineered for life underground.
“Interest is coming from two sources,” says Jani Vilenius, director of research and technology development, PA Rock Drills and Technologies, at Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology, one of the first OEMs to introduce a battery-propelled drill rig. “Battery technology is being applied more widely in other industries and, for that reason, its applicability in mining is also being questioned, creating a technology push.
“On the other hand, future mining conditions are going to be even tougher than today, creating the need for greener and more efficient technologies. Battery cell production has ramped up in recent years to be ready for the automotive and green-energy industries. The mining industry has acknowledged that an improved work environment with better air quality, plus the application of new battery technologies, may enable an increase in the productivity of underground units, giving the ingredients for a new way of mining.”
Batteries of some sort or design have been around in mining for decades. However, with advances in chemistry and associated technologies such as DC motors and charging technologies, what exists now are batteries that are much more suitable for the underground mining environment.
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