Optimizing energy usage across the mining value chain
Applying automation and electrification solutions is key to building zero-carbon mines.
The mining industry is at a point where sustainability and decarbonization have become the top priorities of the world’s mining companies. As conversations around climate change intensify and the Paris Agreement commitments drive governments and companies towards net-zero emissions, efforts to implement automation and electrification solutions that significantly reduce costs and improve the environmental footprint are ramping up. The mining industry still accounts for up to 7 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.
Adopting new technologies will change how mines and mining assets function. ABB has been contributing with its portfolio of integrated automation, electrification and digital solutions, drawing on 130 years of experience in the mining industry which began when our first electrical motor for a mine hoist was commissioned in Sweden. Today, we help mines optimize operations and energy usage while enabling the implementation of an all-electric mine approach powered by our digital solutions and systems. Our people help the industry transform into intelligent, integrated operations, and we are constantly upskilling and acquiring new team members to push the boundaries of technology to drive performance to new levels.
Key drivers of change
The future of mining depends on how efficiently and aggressively automation and electrification solutions are implemented at every stage of the mining process. Electricity transformation of off-grid mining to battery energy storage and renewables are already on many mining companies’ agendas. Mining sites are testing fully electric or hybrid-electric vehicles that will help them to move away from fossil fuels and reduce dependency on diesel. Such solutions optimize mine performance while cutting costs and reducing pollution.
Although the industry may have made significant progress on its journey towards the all-electric mine, the key is to achieve electrification across the fleet. Reliable electric motors with less maintenance are part of the solution and will help mines to become even more energy efficient with vastly reduced levels of CO₂ emissions, while staying competitive.
I firmly believe, we’ve reached a milestone to help convert existing mining operations from fossil fuel energy to all-electric. Mines can become even more energy efficient with vastly reduced levels of CO₂ emissions, while staying competitive and ensuring high productivity.
Impact of digitalization
By implementing digital technologies, data can be analyzed and applied in ways that were never possible before, enabling significant improvements in productivity and environmental sustainability. A smart and transparent digital ecosystem involving all aspects of the production in real time will enable mining firms to react to supply chain and production disruptions and anticipate them, by creating ‘what-if’ scenarios, and adjusting the production in real time according to changing situations.
The integration of the digital layer and the electrical infrastructure becomes more important then ever especially when there is a volatility in the energy prices and demand at the sites.
From collaboration to evolution
To bring about a holistic change and help mining operations become more sustainable, reaping the benefits of automation, electrification and digital solutions, all stakeholders must work together, particularly at a time when interoperability has become a market request. Industry suppliers need to build standards together enabling customers to make one-off investments. We at ABB, follow open standards to remain vendor-agnostic as mine fleets often include multiple vendors, making our solutions easily accessible across all vehicle types and OEMs.
One example of such a collaboration is our project with mining and minerals group LKAB, leading providers of mining equipment Epiroc and Sandvik and technical consulting company Combitech, where we are working together to set a new world standard for mining at great depths. Working collaboratively will be one step in LKABs ambition to enable reductions in carbon dioxide emissions of between 40 and 50 million tonnes per year at steelmaking customers. That corresponds to nearly all of Sweden’s current annual greenhouse gas emissions.
Watch the LKAB Deep Talks session Digital, autonomous and electric – setting a new world standard for mining broadcasted live on February 24, 2022, during Expo 2020.
Transforming mining operations is essential for building a sustainable world. Cellphones, computers, batteries, wind farms…virtually every aspect of modern life relies on the ores mined from the earth and even if we all strive to maximize recycling it will not cover the needs when we to accelerate the sustainable transition of our society. Mining is therefore essential but the energy requirements of the modern mine simply cannot be sustainably met with diesel machinery alone. We are committed to working with mines to bring about that transformation.
Learn more about ABB in mining and mineral processing industry.