BHP Seeks Approval for Electric Trolley System at Escondida

BHP Group BHP has submitted an Environmental Impact Statement to Chile's environmental regulator to seek approval to build an electric trolley system that will assist in the movement of trucks at the Escondida mine. This $250-million project will help cut down the fuel consumption of BHP’s extraction trucks and also advance its goal of achieving net-zero operational greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.The project entails the construction of an electrical substation and transmission lines within and around the Escondida Norte pit. These facilities will electrically assist in the movement of the trucks in the mine. This will be more beneficial in the areas where the trucks have to ascend loaded with ore and typically consume more fuel.With this new technology, the trucks will be propelled by electrical power instead of diesel. Overall, the implementation of this system will cut down operational greenhouse gas emissions while improving productivity associated with truck performance given the higher travel speed.Escondida, located in the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile, is the world's largest producer of copper concentrates and cathodes. BHP operates and owns 57.5% of the Escondida mine, a joint venture with Rio Tinto RIO (30%) and Japan-based JECO Corp (12.5%). Escondida’s two pits feed three concentrator plants and two leaching operations (oxide and sulphide). The trolley project is in addition to other technological transformation initiatives that the company currently has for the progressive incorporation of autonomy in its mining process. Escondida currently operates six autonomous trucks. By 2025, it expects to have the largest fleet of autonomous equipment in South America.Carbon emissions from the combustion of diesel account for a major part of BHP’s Scope 1 and 2 emissions. The company is, thus, focused on initiatives to replace diesel from its operations.  This will require a complete overhaul of the mining operations.To this end, BHP and Rio Tinto, in May 2024, announced that they will trial large battery-powered haul trucks manufactured by Caterpillar Inc. CAT and Komatsu KMTUY in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. This testing aims to accelerate the potential deployment of these trucks.The trials will kick off in the second half of 2024 with two Cat 793 haul trucks. This will be followed by two Komatsu 930 haul trucks in 2026. BHP will trial the Caterpillar trucks while Rio Tinto will test the Komatsu trucks. In 2021, Rio Tinto and BHP worked with both Caterpillar and Komatsu to support the development and validation of their prototype battery-electric haul trucks.Based on the findings of these tests, Caterpillar and Komatsu will be able to work on refining their truck and battery design. This will likely pave the way for the testing of a larger number of haul trucks and ultimately, the potential deployment of battery-run haul truck fleets into RIO’s and BHP’s mining operations.This collaboration between two leading global miners with two of the world’s largest haul truck manufacturers marks a significant step toward addressing the critical challenge of zero-emissions haulage.

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Matt Earle

Matthew Earle is the Founder of MiningFeeds. In 2005, Matt founded MiningNerds.com to provide data and information to the mining investment community. This site was merged with Highgrade Review to form MiningFeeds. Matt has a B.Sc. degree with a minor in geology from the University of Toronto.

By Matt Earle

Matthew Earle is the Founder of MiningFeeds. In 2005, Matt founded MiningNerds.com to provide data and information to the mining investment community. This site was merged with Highgrade Review to form MiningFeeds. Matt has a B.Sc. degree with a minor in geology from the University of Toronto.

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