Transforming the future of mining in the heart of Finland

Electrifying and automating every step of the mining process is key to decarbonizing the industry.

Energy-intensive industries including top mining companies are working towards achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. A recent study by McKinsey, “Creating the zero-carbon mine,” shows that to achieve a 1.5°C climate-change target by 2050, the mining industry will need to reduce direct CO2 emissions to zero. 

To meet the emission target, more automation and electrification solutions need to be implemented at every stage of the mining process. The report emphasizes that such solutions will not only become economic for mining companies in this decade but also play a crucial role in transforming mining operations to become sustainable. 

ABB with more than 130 years of experience in the mining industry has taken up an all-electric mine approach through the ABB Ability™ eMine fit-for-purpose solution designed to meet the operational demands of the modern mine. The solution is backed by our decades of real-world experience in electrifying, automating and digitally connecting mine equipment and operations. 

The drive for digital transformation often requires backing from the government agencies and institutions such as the Finnish government, which aims to make the country carbon neutral by 2035. I believe this target is driving top European miners to digitally transform their mining operations in Finland, a country which is known for its stable social conditions, a skilled workforce and a well-developed mineral cluster that has been a key contributor in rapidly transforming the country’s mining activities.

Going back to the source of energy supply

Our journey in the mining industry started in 1891 when we delivered the first electrical motor for a mine hoist in Sweden. Since then, we have been working towards providing a sustainable future to the mining industry by implementing electrification and automation solutions that focus on transforming mining operations and significantly reducing emissions from diesel, electricity generation, supply chain and transport. 

I believe, that for a complete digital transformation, one needs to go back to the source of energy used in mining operations. Deriving energy from renewable sources plays a key role in building an all-electric mine. The McKinsey study reports that in mining 40 to 50 percent of CO2 emissions come from diesel used in mobile equipment, with another 30 to 35 percent from nonrenewable electricity. Hence, sourcing energy from renewables including hydropower and solar power is essential. 

Electrification and automation – two pillars of digital transformation

With electric vehicles (EV) commuting on our streets, mining equipment carrying bulk materials onsite must switch from diesel to electric vehicles including onsite haul trucks that carry the bulk of materials and act as the link between mine to port. The eMine™ solution has proven to be a catalyst in this transformative journey by combining both electrification and automation capabilities. 

For example, our ABB Ability™ eMine Trolley System can reduce diesel consumption by up to 90 percent while haul trucks are on an electric trolley system. One such project we did for Copper Mountain Mining in Canada deserves a mention. We recently commissioned a complete open-pit haul truck trolley assist solution. Copper Mountain announced that this project is aimed at cutting carbon emissions at the Copper Mountain Mine by at least 30%, paving a solid foundation to achieve the company’s goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2035.

Apart from the trolley system, our mining solutions include ABB Ability™ eMine Charging Systems, which ensures the equipment can perform when it needs to, and the trucks can charge when they need to. 

Driving digital mining through collaboration

Providing digital solutions to our customers is not enough. Collaborating with leading mining companies is crucial for the development and expansion of our eMine solutions. In Northern Europe, one of our fastest-growing markets in mining, we have collaborated with top Swedish mining companies such as Boliden to deploy our wide range of mining solutions as a part of a pilot program at the Aitik mine, the country’s largest open-pit copper mine.

In the pilot program, we have implemented our complete digital suite of ABB Ability™ MineOptimize that will enhance mine performance through predictive maintenance and remote monitoring while reducing costs and higher emissions. This will pave the way for Boliden to meet its sustainability targets in time. We have also implemented the trolley pilot project at Boliden’s Kevitsa mine in Finland, one of the largest nickel reserves in the country. In 2020, the country had nine metallic mineral mines and 36 industrial mineral mines operating. A total of 48.6 Mt of ore was extracted in Finland’s metallic mineral mines and industrial mineral mines last year.

As we continue implementing our digital innovations and expanding our digital footprint in the mining industry, I see ABB writing the future of sustainable mining operations and enabling our customers to build a safe work environment for their employees and the world at large. After all, we all have a role to play in keeping our planet safe and sustainable. 

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About the author

Kari Korpinen

Regional Sales Manager, Europe, Mining, Aluminium and Cement Industries, ABB. Leading the vision for process automation engineering and large project sales in the mining, cement, and aluminium industries, Kari Korpinen has worked with customers for over 30 years and brings in extensive knowledge. He started his career at ABB in 1985 as a project engineer and has held various positions in engineering, product management, and sales. His international experience in large electrical and automation projects comes primarily from the mining and mineral processing industries.
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