Developing the Clean-Running Mining Trucks of the Future
12th November 2021
Having largely tackled its GHG emissions coming from power generation, Antofagasta is now focused on the development of low-emission mining trucks
Antofagasta has aggressively adopted measures within its Climate Change Strategy to mitigate the potential impacts of its operations, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 580,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) by the end of 2020 – achieving early its target set in 2017 to reduce emissions by 300,000 tonnes by 2022.
As part of its strategy, the company has converted all its electricity supply contracts to clean energy sources and all four of the Group’s mining operations will use 100% renewable energy by the end of 2022. The target is to now reduce its direct and indirect emissions (Scope 1 and 2) by 30% by 2025 compared to 2020, signifying a reduction of 730,000 tonnes of CO2e, and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 or earlier, technology permitting.
With most of its emissions from power generation addressed, Antofagasta is now focusing on another main source of GHG emissions – diesel combustion. According to the company’s own calculations, in 2020 a full two-thirds of its GHG emissions from diesel combustion were attributable to mine haulage trucks. In response, Antofagasta is looking to be an early adopter of technology that will drastically reduce these haulage truck emissions or eliminate them altogether.
"As a mining group focused on innovation, we are interested in collaborating and contributing to the development of the mining industry of the future, with new technologies that will help us tackle climate change. With innovations such as these we can move faster towards our goal of making our operations carbon neutral by 2050 at the latest," says Iván Arriagada, CEO of Antofagasta.
To achieve this, Antofagasta is participating in several initiatives that could lead to the introduction of electric-powered and hydrogen-fuelled machinery.
“As part of the company’s Electromobility Roadmap, a vital component of its Climate Change Strategy, it is seeking to participate in testing the feasibility of early adoption projects, with a view to piloting and scaling up promising technologies,” according to Andrés Alonso, Energy and Water Resources Manager at Antofagasta Minerals.
With this in mind, Antofagasta partnered with the Centre for the Sustainable Acceleration for Electromobility (CASE), a technological consortium backed by Chile’s Economic Development Agency (Corfo) and led by the University of Chile. Under this alliance, the company will participate in a study on the development of electric powered haulage trucks at its Antucoya mine.
In addition, Antofagasta has joined as a sponsor of Charge On, an international open innovation challenge for suppliers to develop solutions to supply electricity safely, sustainably and quickly to battery-powered mining trucks. It is reviewing several compelling proposals to define the most relevant on which to advance, notes Alonso, which could be used in consortium with other mining companies.
In early 2021, the company became the first mining company in Chile to join the Chilean Hydrogen Association (H2 Chile), an organisation that promotes the development of green hydrogen, an energy that Chile has the potential to produce competitively due to its abundance of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.
"In the future green hydrogen could power fleets of trucks and other equipment in mining operations, replacing diesel, which would contribute significantly to further emissions reductions, beyond energy supply from renewable sources," says René Aguilar, Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability at Antofagasta Minerals.
Further on down Antofagasta’s roadmap is a project to install a hydrogen fuel cell and battery-powered powertrain in large mining equipment, such as mine haulage trucks. As part of these efforts, it has joined the Hydra Consortium – comprised of energy multinational Engie, Australian mining think tank Mining3, CSIRO Chile and Mitsui & Co, among others – which aims to develop and test the technology needed to replace the use of diesel in heavy-duty vehicles and thus reduce GHG emissions.
As part of this initiative, Antofagasta Minerals will be the first mining company to set up a pilot scheme to advance the use of hydrogen, whereby the fuel cells and a prototype battery-powered powertrain will be installed to simulate the operation of a hydrogen-fuelled mine haulage truck. The idea, according to Alonso, will be to understand how this will perform at high altitude and extreme temperatures such as those which can be found at a mining operation in Chile. The testing will be done at Centinela in 2022.
"We are very pleased to contribute to the development of the use this new fuel and to test it in real mining conditions. If this pilot scheme delivers favourable results, we hope to have mine haulage trucks using hydrogen in another five years," explains Carlos Espinoza, General Manager of Centinela.