Underground electric loaders improve operational costs, eliminate noise and diesel emissions and minimize the need for underground ventilation. Atlas Copco’s new battery powered loaders match the power of diesel loaders, and offer smart automated functions.

”The air in an underground mine is a very exclusive resource. It has to be temperature controlled and pumped down through thousands of meters of ventilation shafts, and that is expensive. Diesel powered loaders quickly pollute the valuable air, which has to be ventilated in another costly process”, says Erik Svedlund, Product Manager for Electric Vehicles – Underground Material Handling at Atlas Copco.

”The battery powered loader Scooptram ST7 was developed to improve the working environment and reduce the environmental footprint. At the same time, it reduces operational costs overall”.

Obvious benefits

”Traditionally, underground mobile equipment in the mining sector has relied on diesel engines. Loaders and trucks consume about 80 percent of the diesel fuel underground. The loaders are most often used in dead ends of the mine, which are the most difficult to ventilate. There are already electric scoops in underground mines, but these units have to be tethered via an electric cable. Thus, they have limited range and other operating challenges”, Erik Svedlund says.

Compared to diesel loaders, Atlas Copco’s battery powered loaders offer improved working conditions, reduced operational costs, and a smaller carbon footprint. Photo: Atlas Copco.

”The problem is rather convoluted. To make the greatest impact on work environment and ventilation costs, it was an obvious choice for Atlas Copco to launch a battery driven loader as our first product of this type. On the surface, it looks just like a diesel powered loader, and it matches their capacity and performance. The big difference is the battery pack. Zero emissions underground, cleaner air, less noise and heat are all obvious benefits with battery power. They add up to a reduced environmental footprint, higher worker satisfaction, and a better standing in the community for the mining company. Some of these profits in a broader sense of the word are hard to quantify, but easy to understand.”, Erik says, underlining a number of the advantages battery power can provide:

  • 50-80 percent less energy is required for ventilation.
  • The carbon footprint is reduced substantially, especially if the electricity is produced from renewable energy sources.
  • With battery power, 80 percent less heat is generated. This results in lower air cooling costs underground.
  •  The air in the mine is 100 percent diesel emissions free.
  • Higher efficiency: compared to diesel, battery powered loaders consume 80 percent less energy.

”As the trend for deeper mines continues, mining companies seek to gain more control over their operations. The Scooptram ST7 Battery answers this challenge with automated functions. For example, the ability to control multiple loaders from a safe, remote location, planning and repeating the perfect production cycle every time”, Erik Svedlund says.

Innovations in battery technology

”The initiative to create battery operated equipment has been driven by new developments in battery technology. The loader has an operational time of 4 hours on a full charge. A quick charge during lunchtime can extend the running time to a full shift. Quick battery change enables a 24/7 operation with just two batteries. For us, the Scooptram ST7 Battery is the first step in powering heavy, mobile equipment underground”.

”The loader has been introduced in North America and will then gradually be rolled out globally. In the future we might see a broader range of battery powered equipment including scoops, trucks and drills”, Erik Svedlund says.

The article was published in October 2017.