Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the world’s largest platinum producer, launched today the first of five fuel cell-powered locomotive prototypes to be tested at its mining operations in South Africa.
The company said in a statement it first locomotive would be surface tested over the next few months at the company's Khomanani mine, in Rustenburg, to establish the viability of commercialization.
Amplats delivered the project in collaboration with Vehicle Projects, Trident South Africa and Battery Electric.
The new technology is designed to offer a more environmentally friendly and safer means of underground transportation, as well as greater energy efficiency than traditional rail transport.
Amplats chief executive officer Neville Nicolau commented: "These innovative locomotives will provide us with an opportunity to mine platinum in a more economic, energy-secure, and environmentally-benign manner.
"The locomotives will not require any electricity from the grid to function and will not emit noxious gases."
Developing fuel cells in South Africa goes beyond locomotives, however, and is part of a wider strategy to deliver better employment prospects and growth to the country.
Cynthia Carroll, Chief Executive of Anglo American plc. and Chairperson of Anglo American Platinum Limited, said the event marked a “leap forward” for fuel cells.
“The platinum-based hydrogen fuel cells, used to power the locomotive we are unveiling today, offer one of the most exciting opportunities for South Africa in the green economy. At Anglo American, we believe that with platinum at its heart, a South African fuel cell industry would support the country’s drive for jobs and help to meet its energy challenges,” Carroll said.
Last year, Anglo American Platinum investigated various uses for fuel cells in its own operations. Mining locomotives were identified as an ideal opportunity and the project partners were identified through a global search to pioneer development. Trident, the original equipment manufacturer of current locomotive models, worked with the fuel cell system developers to ensure seamless integration. The locomotives use Ballard PEMFC stacks, which contain platinum as a catalyst.