There are two types of mine operators that are looking at battery technology
Existing mines that want to go deeper are looking at battery technology, says Andrew Lyon, General Manager for Atlas Copco Mining and Rock Excavation.
Lyon, who spoke to MINING.com at the CIM convention in May, was introducing his company's new battery operated Scooptram 7. Lowering the overall operating and capital cost of the mine is what's driving battery adoption.
As well as existing mines, Lyon said that new mines are being considered that will use battery technology entirely.
"Currently the mines that are talking to us are about to go deeper," says Lyon.
"They want to continue their mine life without having to put more capital into ventilation infrastructure, which is incredibly expensive.
"Other mining operators are talking to us about new mines that will be all battery, which is going to enable them to enter in the market and operate the mine cheaper again because of lower ventilation costs."
Transcript of video conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.
MINING.com Who are you?
Andrew Lyon: Hi I am Andrew Lyon, General Manager for Atlas Copco Mining and Rock Excavation here in Canada.
MINING.com What does Atlas Copco do?
Andrew Lyon: Atlas Copco does a number of things. It's the larger compressor, manufacturer and distributor around the world. In our particular case, we are one of one of the largest mining manufacturer services and distributors as well as consumables all over the world.
MINING.com Can you tell me about the new product that you have at CIM this week?
Andrew Lyon: Yes, we are very proud to launch our first battery ST7 or Scooptram 7. It came into fruition—or I suppose conceived—over three years ago for us here in Canada, and that's why we are very proud of it. The need came about by a particular mine in Ontario that needed to extend its mine life by requiring battery-operated equipment. So, we were approached and we discussed the need and hence the manufacture and now the launch of this machine here in CIM
MINING.com Why does a battery extend mine life?
Andrew Lyon: Many mines, particularly old ones, get down to a certain depth and ventilation becomes the greatest restriction—ventilation to enable people to breath down there safely. The other thing is as mines get deeper, the rock temperature gets hotter and in many cases mines need to refrigerate the area to enable conditions safe working. So the battery alternative has no emissions and no particulates. That reduces a lot of the ventilation air that is required and there is very little heat that comes from the battery units, and that differential is almost 20 degrees. So that's a huge difference between battery operated equipment and conventional diesel.
MINING.com Can you tell me about the battery operations and trials?
Andrew Lyon: We trialed the battery-powered ST7 for two years before we made the machine commercially available, and we worked very closely with Kirkland Lake Gold. They were the first innovators—as I call them. So we now have two pieces of equipment: the equipment we are launching here—the ST7. We also have two prototype trucks operating in the mine as well, which we are very proud of.
MINING.com Can you talk about how you will be marketing the vehicle?
Andrew Lyon: One of the most important things to understand with this equipment is having this broad base. It's like any piece of new equipment, The charging is not the problem; it's the support and understanding how the battery technology works. So this launch here is a North American launch at this stage. Why? Because we have the battery technology people in the US, we have the training here in Canada and we feel very comfortable that we can support any customer in North America. Obviously, we are very interested and any visitors that come to the stand from other parts of the world. If someone would like six of these scoops somewhere in the world I am sure we will make the effort to put the infrastructure in place to support them. So we hope that we will expand this over the next year or two throughout the world.
MINING.com Can you tell me operationally how it is different from a diesel?
Andrew Lyon: Not a lot, really. They are very simplistic, actually. The battery is very simple and you can change a battery in 10 minutes. A battery takes 2.5 hours to charge, and we are getting four hours of operation, approximately, depending on equipment cycle. Compared to diesel, you don't have to look for filters and check the oil. The operation of the machine is the exactly the same as that of a diesel. The control mechanisms are exactly the same. In fact the battery machine has more power. We had to cut it back and increase the traction control on the machine, otherwise you are ripping the tires apart. So we actually are getting incredibly positive feedback from operators. They feel more comfortable in it. It's quieter—silent for that matter and there is no heat coming from it.
MINING.com And the torque is different as well to because it's using battery technology instead of a regular diesel powered motor?
Andrew Lyon: Exactly, the electric is very efficient compared to diesel. So the amount of power we have available gives us both the extended life up to four hours, but it also gives us more horsepower than we would ordinarily have with the diesel motor. So we had to harness that and bring it back under control. And we have done a few unique things to extend the life of the battery- that being sparing in how we disperse that energy into the hydraulics and pumps when we need it.
MINING.com Are there any trends you see in the industry? What are customers asking for?
Andrew Lyon: I think there are batteries in the future. It won’t surpass diesel in the next few years. It's horses for courses. Currently the mines that are talking to us are about to go deeper. They want to continue their mine life without having to put more capital into ventilation infrastructure, which is incredibly expensive. Other mining operators are talking to us about new mines that will be all battery, which is going to enable them to enter in the market and operate the mine cheaper again because of lower ventilation costs. The mines may even get approvals quicker because it's environmentally friendly, which is popular. So battery technology will continue to grow. The trend is growing. Other manufacturers—like utility vehicles—are being asked if they can add batteries to their machines. The only restriction is only how big can we go.
MINING.com Thank you for your time.
Andrew Lyon: Absolutely.