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A cleaner way of mining

A cleaner way of mining 

The mining industry is one of the world’s most energy-intensive sectors. Sandvik is now leading an initiative to find solutions to reduce the industry’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Mining companies over the world all face the same challenges: the rising cost of oil, electricity and a potential new carbon tax. In addition, ore and mineral reserves are increasingly harder to reach, which means it requires more energy to get the same amount of ore and minerals as before.

Anglo American is one of the world’s largest mining companies, which fight on a daily basis to reduce energy consumption. “Unstable energy costs are affecting us wherever we work. In certain regions there can be carbon taxes and unreliable access to energy to contend with as well,” says Stan Pillay, manager for climate and energy change at Anglo American.

According to a study carried out by Sandvik Mining and Construction, the total proportion of energy and carbon emission costs in mining operations could rise from a current range of 15–20 percent, to as high as 50 percent in the next 10–15 years.

Ten of the world’s 15 largest mining companies took part in the study, aimed at analyzing work practices and methods in their mines. In addition to the study, a database has been set up to identify ways of saving energy costs, from small actions like switching off conveyors during blasting, to larger changes like in-pit crushing. An important goal of the study is not just to give an update on the present situation, but to deliver concrete answers.

“We want to be able to provide our customers with solutions they can take onboard in response to both economic and legislative pressures,” says Andrew Philpott, Director Strategic Relations at Sandvik Mining and Construction.

Findings from the study point already to potential areas for savings. Only 5–10 percent of the energy used in mining is directly linked to the value–adding components of ore mining, transportation and processing. The rest is lost in the value chain, mostly in auxiliary systems or the extraction and processing of worthless rock. A huge amount of energy is seeping through the cracks and mining companies need to capture it.

By taking the initiative in the study and maintaining continuous dialogue with the largest players in the mining industry, Sandvik spearheads the future of mining’s operating costs and changes that must be carried out in terms of both work methods and equipment.

The energy efficiency that needs reaching will not be brought about by an isolated solution but will need fresh thinking at every stage of mine running and mine planning.

“Products can help, but products alone will not bring about the large changes that will need to deal with the current energy and climate questions. Much more is required for the overall change we need here,” says Philpott.

“The challenge lies in envisioning the mine of the future. It is a tough task, but an important opportunity.”

Stan Pillay at Anglo American shares this vision: “When we model a life of mine, the five-year forecast, or set out the mine’s monthly section level planning, each should reflect the energy goals for that time. The aim is to integrate energy and carbon emissions into short, medium and long-term planning." Through Sandvik’s study and with companies coming together to share their knowledge, this goal may be closer than you think.

The solution – IPCC
IPCC (In-Pit Crushing and Conveying) is a complete crushing and conveying system, which combines several processes like crushing, transportation and mobile equipment, into a single solution. The system is based on hydraulic excavators or rope shovels, along with fully mobile crushers or semi–mobile crushing stations.

The system’s advantage is that it enables continuous transporting and crushing operations inside the mine. This saves energy and operational costs partly because it reduces reliance on trucks. Trucks have high operating costs with lifetimes of only six to eight years and they require a lot of maintenance and consume a lot of expensive wear parts. On average, six or seven people are required to run a 24-hour operation of one truck, including maintenance and construction of access roads. The new solution reduces or eliminates these costs.

Energy Efficiency in numbers

3–5 years
Within this time period energy consumption can be reduced by 10–15 percent if a mining company employs more energy–efficient methods.

If the mining industry converts from diesel engines to those driven by electricity generated by alternatives made from renewable sources, carbon emissions would decrease by 20 percent.

If nothing is done, energy will account for half of the mining companies’ costs within 10–15 years.

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