Chilean Copper Mine Tests Battery-Electric Scharf Truck

Copper miner Codelco said it has started testing its first electric mining truck at its El Teniente  underground mine located at an altitude of 3100 meters (10,170 ft.) in the Chilean Andes.

The fully electric SMT Scharf E-Cruiser will operate in a joint project with the Engie Chile electric utility company, which will handle data monitoring and load management during the vehicle’s test period at the high-altitude mine. The company said the truck is its first light-duty electric truck and that it is expected to cover extensive stretches outside and inside the mine.

“At Codelco, we are taking the first steps in a great revolution that is taking place worldwide, which is electrification,” said Codelco CEO Octavio Araneda. “We have defined a path towards increasing the incorporation of electric energy. We have a road map for underground mining projected to 2030, in which the majority of the production equipment will be electric.”

The new truck, which uses the drivetrain from its four-wheel-drive Toyota platform, was adapted to mining with a 100% electric system based on a Li-NMC (lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide) battery with immersion cooled cells and a permanent magnet motor with 59 kW peak power. It will be validated during its operation in terms of power and energy consumption in the underground mine and high mountain road conditions. The German manufacturer said the truck has a 150 km range and a charging time of 2 hours at 22 kW.

Codelco said the type of truck is one of the most common in the country’s mining industry — and that its fleet alone contains more than 1300 diesel versions.

The company said that because a large part of the electromobility solutions available in the market are not necessarily designed for large mining conditions, it must develop pilot experiments to collect operational data to use when determining the requirements for future implementation.

Recharging times, vehicle wear, user experience and driving safety are some of the aspects that will be monitored during the 12-month test.

In early 2018, SMT Scharf AG acquired RDH Mining Equipment. The Ontario, Canada-based hard rock and tunneling equipment manufacturer has pioneered battery-driven mining equipment since 2011.

Last year, the Codelco mine completed a test of an RDH-Scharf Liftmaster 600EB battery-powered mobile work platform as part of its sustainability plan. It has also added a hybrid Komatsu LHD (load-haul-dump) and two 100% electric King Long electric buses to transport workers from the city of Rancagua to the El Teniente operations. The mining company noted that the Chinese-built buses use 300 kg (660 lb.) of copper versus 80 kg (176 lb.) in an engine-powered bus.

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