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Electrifying world's largest copper mine

Metal Tech News - July 10, 2024

BHP applies for $250 million trolley system to lower greenhouse gas emissions, increase haul truck efficiency at Escondida.

Toward its goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, mining giant BHP has applied for the permits needed to install a $250 million electric trolley to help pull ore-laden haul trucks out of the open pit at Escondida, the largest copper-producing mine on Earth.

Operated under a joint venture with Rio Tinto (30%) and Japan-based JECO Corp. (12.5%), Escondida produces roughly 2 billion pounds of copper critical to the energy transition per year.

In 2019, BHP set in motion plans to power Escondida with 100% renewable energy by the mid-2020s. With authorization from the Chilean government, some of that zero-carbon electricity will be used for the "Implementation of the Mining Truck Electrification System in Escondida Norte" project, which will involve trolleys to assist trucks loaded with ore out of the enormous open-pit.

"The electric trolley system is one of the initiatives with which we seek to move towards a safer and more sustainable way of operating hand-in-hand with technology," said Escondida President Alejandro Tapia. "This project will allow us to reduce the fuel consumption of our extraction trucks and thus advance our goal of net zero operational greenhouse gas emissions by 2050."

In addition to lowering greenhouse gas emissions by assisting trucks when they would typically be burning the most fuel, the trolley assist is expected to increase ore haulage efficiency by allowing fully loaded trucks to travel faster.

Caterpillar Inc.

Testing carried out by Caterpillar AT Boliden's Aitik mine in Sweden found that electric trolley assist can reduce haul truck fuel and engine costs by more than 90% and double the speed a fully loaded truck can haul ore up a 10% grade.

BHP has submitted an environmental impact statement for a new electrical substation, transmission lines, and other infrastructure related to the trolley assist to the Chilean Environmental Impact Assessment System.

If approved, the mining truck electrification system is expected to cost approximately $250 million to install and employ an average of 112 people per day during construction.

The trolley assist project is part of larger technological transformation initiatives BHP is implementing at Escondida and its other mining operations, including the progressive incorporation of autonomy. To date, Escondida has six autonomous trucks in full operation, and by 2025, BHP expects the Chilean mine to have the largest autonomous mining equipment fleet in South America.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Metal Tech News

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With more than 16 years of covering mining, Shane is renowned for his insights and and in-depth analysis of mining, mineral exploration and technology metals.


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