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Sustainability Week 2020: Putting our best fleet forward

June 10, 2020

The Rokian R400, a personnel carrier at Creighton Mine. Photo: Vale Archive

From mid-size personnel carriers to large haul trucks, Vale’s growing fleet of battery-powered Green Energy Vehicles (GEVs) is helping to steer our company toward a more sustainable future.

“By the end of this year we hope to have upward of 20 battery-powered vehicles operating within North Atlantic’s operations,” said Alex Mulloy, mining engineer, Base Metals Technology and Innovation. 

With any new technology, investment in our people will be a priority.

The plan is for the EVs to be operating on a trial basis at our Creighton, Coleman, Copper Cliff, Garson and Thompson mines by the end of 2020.

“The vehicles are going to be evaluated with feedback from operations, as well as operating data, to help us understand how they perform in terms of reliability, functionality and the benefits they can offer our people and the business.”

The benefits so far include the following:

  • Health and safety improvements for our employees underground: EVs are much quieter than diesel vehicles, and produce less heat and zero exhaust emissions. “From an operator comfort perspective, EVs are certainly an improvement,” said Alex.
  • Cost savings: EVs can reduce underground ventilation demands and the associated operating and capital expenditure.
  • Environmental benefits: EVs contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. 

“EVs certainly complement the efforts of the business in terms of greenhouse gas and carbon reduction,” said Alex. “It’s a great technology. Not only does it enable operational benefit and improvement, it also contributes to our greater goals of reducing our emissions and the impact on the environment.

Natalie Kari, principal engineer, Strategic Electric Vehicle Implementation, agreed, pointing out that sustainability is reflected in all of Vale’s values including Life Matters Most, Value Our People, Prize Our Planet, Do What’s Right, Improve Together, and Making it Happen

“Exhaust emissions from diesel engines are one of the larger contributors to environmental pollution.  Electric vehicles are an opportunity to increase safety by improving operating conditions and creating a safe work environment. Reducing noise, vibrations, heat, greenhouse gas emissions, and diesel particulate matter while improving air quality contributes to creating an attractive work environment for top talent,” she explained.

“With increased challenging mine conditions at depth, electric vehicles also provide an opportunity to sustain productivity by enabling mines to produce in areas that otherwise may not be feasible without these benefits, contributing towards mining for years to come.” (Natalie was recently featured in a Vale News story. Click here to read it.) 

The Artisan Z40 haul truck at Vale’s test ramp prior to delivery to Coleman Mine. Photo: Vale Archive

New Pact With Society

Our company takes sustainability very seriously. Vale is aligned with the Paris climate-change agreement, and we are committed to being carbon neutral by 2050, with a 33 per cent reduction in GHG emissions across our company by 2030. Vale has made a New Pact with Society to become a leader in sustainability and foster a safer and more sustainable mining industry.

At a Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce President’s Series Luncheon in early February, Dino Otranto, COO, North Atlantic Operations and Asian Refineries said: “We must have a New Pact with Society and set ambitious sustainability targets to protect our planet.”

Next steps

As the EV trials continue, feedback and data will be collected at each of the sites. So far, the reaction from the sites has been encouraging.

“The feedback we’ve gotten to date has been very positive,” explained Alex. “The sites have really stepped up in terms of their support and their buy-in. Employees have even told us that if they had the option to choose between a diesel or an electric piece of equipment for their shift, they would likely choose the EV given the improvement and benefit it provides.”

These trials will help steer business investment decisions in the years to come.

“Over the coming months, a number of large prime mover vehicles will be delivered,” said Alex. “When those vehicles arrive, it will be an exciting step in the journey because most of the question marks around the performance of EVs relate to the large vehicles, so that’ll be a chance for us to really put this technology to the test.”

This is an Epiroc ST7 underground at Coleman Mine. Photo: Vale Archive

Natalie added, “Our company’s next major steps include collaborating with internal and external industry stakeholders towards safe implementation, comprehensive trial data collection and validation of a robust model towards a final approved five-year implementation strategy. With any new technology, investment in our people will be a priority to ensure they are equipped with the tools necessary for successful operation and maintenance. 

“It is thrilling to be a part of leading this effort in a time of increased innovation and environmental awareness,” she continued. “The movement from traditional diesel to electric vehicle brings a feeling of social pride in creating a healthier workplace.”

Learn more about an exciting trial at Creighton Mine of the electric Rokion R100 crew truck.

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