Mining contractor Murray Engineering has unveiled a light electric vehicle for use at underground mines, part of a deal with Siemens to develop charging infrastructure that will help decarbonise the dirty process of minerals extraction.
The plan was first announced last year, and the vehicles and charging infrastructure were revealed at the Austmine conference in Perth this week. The vehicle uses a 79-series Toyota Landcruiser chassis fitted with a 40-50 kWh lithium titanate battery – a process carried out by Murray.
The vehicles and chargers will be able to operate both below and above ground. Siemens said the Sicharge UC high power DC chargers would provide output range from 125kW to 600kW. The chargers will allow vehicles to be recharged in 10 minutes, Murray said.
The charging stations will be housed in heavy-duty, air conditioned enclosures to protect the unit from “harsh underground conditions and enable ease of manoeuvrability”.
Murray said it had partnered with Gold Fields Australia in the development phase of the light electric vehicles, and would begin the underground trial at Gold Fields’ Granny Smith mine near Laverton in September.
The development is a step towards the mining industry’s goal of reaching net zero emissions some time this century, as outlined last year by the Mineral Council of Australia.
A number of mining companies have made their own commitments to decarbonising their operations by 2050 – though these commitments almost invariably exclude the downstream emissions from burning fossil fuels or from processing non fossil-fuel minerals such as iron ore or bauxite.
Still, the industry itself is carbon intensive, and decarbonising operations will mean powering all machinery, facilities and transportation with renewably-generated electricity, hydrogen, ammonia or biofuels.
James Fernyhough is a reporter at RenewEconomy and The Driven. He has worked at The Australian Financial Review and the Financial Times, and is interested in all things related to climate change and the transition to a low-carbon economy.