Caterpillar committed to better mining
Cat sustainable mining equipment, tech on display at MINExpo Metal Tech News - September 15, 2021
Last updated 9/28/2021 at 3:25pm
LAS VEGAS – From heavy equipment training simulators to the largest and most powerful electric drive dozer on Earth, Caterpillar's 55,000-square-foot mecca in the Central Hall of MINExpo 2021 in Las Vegas is showcasing how the global equipment manufacturer is helping its customers to mine more efficiently, effectively, safely, and sustainably.
"After waiting an extra year, the mining industry is ready to reconnect at MINExpo. We are excited to show our customers and the industry the advancements Caterpillar has made not only in equipment, technology and services but also in how we are helping customers mine more sustainably," said Caterpillar Resource Industries Group President Denise Johnson.
The manufacturer of the famed "yellow iron" that digs, loads, hauls, and grades millions of tons of dirt and rock at mines around the globe, however, does not see its innovations on display at MINExpo as equipment and technology built for the mining sector. Instead, the theme of the exhibit is "Together, we're mining better," to celebrate how next-generation Cat's are developed in partnership with the mining sector.
"That certainly reflects Caterpillar's commitment to helping our customers mine more efficiently, safely, and sustainably," Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Jim Umpleby said during a Sept. 14 presentation at MINExpo.
One of the most recent examples of this collaboration is a partnership forged with BHP to develop and deploy zero-emissions mining trucks that will help the global mining giant's long-term goal of achieving net-zero operational greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
"Caterpillar is pleased to work with BHP on the next generation of large mining trucks and mine site technology," said Johnson. "Deeply integrating our teams and timelines, will allow for faster deployment to deliver zero-emissions solutions."
Considering the Cat technologies on display at MINExpo, Caterpillar's team is already making significant headway toward developing the zero-emissions solutions BHP seeks, as well as a broad range of other technologies to help mining companies achieve their environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG), and sustainability ambitions.
Following the global trend of developing battery-electric underground mining as a vanguard of the transition to zero-emissions mining equipment, Caterpillar debuted the new Cat R1700 XE LHD underground loader.
This first battery-electric underground loader built by Caterpillar quietly produces 53,300 pounds of lift and tilt breakout force and 15 metric tons of payload capacity without the heat and emissions of a diesel-powered machine.
While reducing the carbon footprint is the most obvious advantage this underground electric loader offers, the environmental and economic benefits are compounded in an underground mine setting, where the lack of emissions means that less money and energy is invested into ventilation to keep the underground air fresh.
To optimize runtime and improve safety, R1700 XE batteries stay on the machine for charging, eliminating the need for regular battery handling and swapping.
Caterpillar says these batteries can be fully recharged in as little as 20 minutes with the new portable Cat MEC500 Mobile Equipment Charger. A first of its kind in the industry, this charger can be moved via towing, fork truck, or the R1700 XE loader itself.
Cat electric drives surface
While Caterpillar's electric mining equipment may have been born underground, a new Cat machine has surfaced that is enormous, powerful, and impressive.
With an electric drive, the Cat D11 XE dozer unveiled at MINExpo is the most advanced, lowest emission-per-ton dozer in the world, built to deliver the lowest cost per cubic meter of earth moved ever.
The electric drive in the prototype on display at MINExpo – one of only three in the world – optimizes the power delivered to the ground in the newest iteration of Caterpillar's largest dozer. Taking the place of gears and other mechanical drive components, the electric drive makes Cat D11 XE more maneuverable and lower cost to maintain, while also reducing the emissions.
Though not fully electric, the electric drive is also a step toward eventually powering Caterpillar's earthmoving dozers with hydrogen or even battery packs.
Johnson, however, told Metal Tech News that while the electric drives are a vital component to transitioning Cat dozers to all-electric, future lower-emissions models will be engineered around the chosen power sources instead of adapting batteries, fuel cells, or other alternatives to past equipment designs.
More surface mining Cat equipment is expected to be on its way in the near future, thanks to a partnership with Nouveau Monde Graphite Inc., an emerging Canadian miner that aspires to provide carbon-neutral graphite for the lithium-ion batteries powering electric vehicles and storing renewable energy.
Looking to accelerate and tailor the development of equipment for Nouveau Monde's Matawinie graphite mine in Quebec, Caterpillar will work with Nouveau Monde's team throughout the design, building, and testing of the zero-emission fleet and infrastructure prior to commercial production.
"The collaboration between Caterpillar and Nouveau Monde marks an important milestone in the mining industry," said Johnson. "Through integrated technology, machines and services, the entire Caterpillar team is proud to support Nouveau Monde as they work towards constructing and establishing their first zero-emission mine."
The Caterpillar team is "very excited" for this opportunity to develop a zero-emissions mine from the ground up.
"It gives us that opportunity to be deeply engaged with the people on the ground and really understand their goals," Marc Cameron, vice president of Caterpillar's Resource Industries told Metal Tech News.
This collaboration is expected to result in Caterpillar becoming the exclusive supplier of an all-electric mining fleet for commercial deployment at Nouveau Monde's Matawinie graphite mine by 2028.
Find out more about the Caterpillar-Nouveau Monde collaboration at Electric Cats for a Nouveau graphite mine in the June 23, 2021 edition of Metal Tech News.
Technology and automation
While reducing emissions is high on the list of sustainability priorities for global mining companies, optimizing safety and productivity are also key objectives where Caterpillar is working together with the sector to make mining better.
"Technology and automation are critical components for substantially improving machine uptime availability and productivity," said Cameron. "Through Cat MineStar Solutions, Caterpillar offers customers scalable technologies to fit the mine's specific needs. The exhibit's technology and automation stage will focus on the real value that Caterpillar technology options provide customers."
MINExpo is offering many global mining executives and managers a first look at Caterpillar's recently introduced Cat MineStar Edge, which brings visibility to the entire mining operation to show how activities early in the process impact those further down the value chain.
Caterpillar says MineStar Edge makes it possible to measure, manage, analyze, and improve the entire mining operation.
Equipped with MineStar Command for hauling, the new Cat 777G water truck provides a glimpse into the future for autonomously lowering dust levels at the mine site while maintaining haul road safety. Featuring the market's first autonomous water delivery system, the machine integrates truck, tank, and sprayer and knows where and when to water haul roads.
Caterpillar Chief Technology Officer Karl Weiss said the company's decision to automate water trucks and their delivery systems is in direct response to mining customers that needed these vehicles to work seamlessly and not interrupt the productivity of the other equipment at an operation.
Earlier this year, Caterpillar reported that haul trucks equipped with MineStar Command had autonomously delivered more than 3 billion metric tons of material – traveling more than 68.3 million miles, equivalent to more than 2,740 trips around Earth without an accident related to MineStar.
"We are really proud of that," Weiss said.
Representing the Caterpillar fleet of autonomous trucks, a Cat 794 AC electric drive with factory-installed Cat MineStar Command for hauling is on display at MINExpo.
Exhibiting how technology can improve mine safety, the Cat MineStar Detect Driver Safety System, also on display at the world's largest mining show, details how the system monitors eye-closure and head pose to alert the driver via seat vibration or audio alarm the moment fatigue or distraction is identified.
MineStar DSS has been shown to reduce 97% of the most significant fatigue events, 80% of average fatigue events, and 91% of distraction events.
Caterpillar's enormous exhibit at MINExpo also features several Cat Command stations and trailers that offer attendees the chance to experience effective remote control and semi-autonomous drilling, dozing, and underground operations.