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BHP, Rio Tinto Speed Up Electric Haul Truck Trials

Komatsu, Caterpillar Trucks Tested for Emission Reduction Goals

by Ikeoluwa Ogungbangbe

Two of the biggest mining companies in the world, BHP and Rio Tinto, are collaborating to accelerate the testing of large battery-electric haul trucks being developed by Komatsu and Caterpillar, in an innovative step toward sustainable mining. A major step toward their goal of achieving net-zero status by 2050 and reducing operational emissions is being taken with this collaboration.

These trials, which are slated to take place in Western Australia’s Pilbara are intended to assess the productivity and performance of these novel vehicles. BHP will test the trucks made by Caterpillar, and Rio Tinto will test the vehicles made by Komatsu. In particular, Rio Tinto anticipates that BHP will begin testing the Caterpillar CAT 793 trucks in the second half of 2024, and Rio Tinto expects to begin testing the Komatsu 930 haul trucks by 2026.

The head of Rio Tinto Iron Ore, Simon Trott, stressed the importance of these tests in meeting environmental goals. “We must work together to achieve this goal quickly and effectively because there is no obvious road to net zero without zero-emission haulage,” Trott said. This view was mirrored by Geraldine Slattery, president of BHP’s operations in Australia, who pointed out that collaborations and technical advancements are critical to the industry’s progress toward operational decarbonization.

By adding renewable energy sources into their power supplies, both corporations have previously achieved significant progress in reducing their Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions. This change has prepared the way for more breakthroughs in battery-electric technology, which will reduce the amount of diesel used in their operations. “Our goal is to improve upon that progress through the development of battery-electric technology to reduce diesel usage across our operations,” said Slattery.”

The two trials in the difficult Pilbara climate are intended to produce useful information and quicken the process of understanding the effectiveness of battery-electric haulage. The miners intend to test two distinct vehicle types in order to obtain an extensive understanding of the capabilities and applicability of these technologies in large-scale mining operations.

These mining giants and their allies are working together on a larger scale as part of this initiative. BHP, Rio Tinto, Caterpillar, and Komatsu had already joined forces in 2021 to design and test a fleet of battery-electric haul trucks in prototype form. Before this, a program was started by BHP, Rio Tinto, and another prominent player in the sector, Vale, with the objective of encouraging the creation of novel ideas for large-scale haul trucks that run on batteries.

Moreover, in an effort to push the boundaries of sustainable production, Rio Tinto and BHP have formed a partnership with BlueScope Steel, Australia’s largest steelmaker, with a goal to produce “green iron” by 2027. This venture highlights their commitment to integrating more environmentally friendly practices throughout their production processes.

For these mining operations, diesel use continues to be a major environmental concern. In 2023, Rio Tinto’s Scope 1 and 2 emissions were 12% due to the company’s use of diesel. Similarly, over 40% of BHP’s Scope 1 and 2 emissions in the 2020 fiscal year came from diesel combustion. Therefore, if these electric haul truck trials are successful, it might be a significant step in lowering these numbers and establishing new standards for sustainability in the mining industry.

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