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Gold Fields

Gold Fields’ St Ives operation in Western Australia’s Eastern Goldfields will become the first Australian mine to receive the new Sandvik LH518B 18-tonne BEV (battery electric vehicle) underground loader.

The operation will also receive an Artisan Z50 50-tonne BEV truck, and both vehicles will work in the Hamlet North mine as part of a major production study over the next two years.

The battery electric technology used by the vehicles eliminates underground emissions and significantly reduces heat and noise compared to diesel vehicles.

Sandvik’s AutoSwap self-swapping battery system allows for a fresh battery to be installed in under six minutes for the Z50 and LH518B, delivering a major advantage over ‘fast-recharge’ battery vehicles.

Gold Fields’ Australia operations vice president Graeme Ovens said the company had been interested in exploring the potential of BEVs for a long time.

“We travelled around the world looking at different suppliers and we came to the conclusion that Sandvik was ahead of the market with their concepts and what they were doing,” he said.

Sandvik load and haul business line manager Andrew Dawson said information gathered will be analysed and used to enhance not only the vehicles at the St Ives operation, but also future Sandvik BEVs.

“The real-world data that we gather will be invaluable,” he said.

“Our expectation is that these battery electric vehicles will prove not only clean and reliable, but that they will deliver extremely high levels of uptime.”

Ovens said a key advantage of the Sandvik BEV system compared to fast-charge battery vehicles was the ability to swap batteries and get back to work.

“The machine won’t be parked for half an hour or 45 minutes while it charges,” he said. “You can swap the battery in six minutes or less and keep the machine operating.

“Fast-recharge systems just can’t match the speed of changing the battery.”

“One of the biggest benefits is no diesel fumes and a better working environment for the people underground. There’s less heat, less fumes, and it’s a quieter a machine than diesel.”

If the trial delivers strong results, Ovens expects such vehicles will become widely used across Gold Fields’ operations.

“If this trial is successful, and we believe it will be, then we will look at rolling this technology out to our remaining underground mines in Australia,” he said.

“We have also had our South Deep mine in South Africa asking for this technology. They will be keeping a watchful eye on the results of the trial.”

Gold Fields is due to take delivery of the Z50 in the next few weeks and the LH518B in December.