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Electric-powered bus a first for the mining industry

Friday, October 14th, 2022

The Australian mining sector has welcomed its first electric-powered coach, unveiled by Covalent Lithium and Northfleet.

The Australian mining sector has welcomed its first electric-powered coach, unveiled by Covalent Lithium and Northfleet at the Australasia Bus and Coach Expo in Sydney in early October.

Why a bus in the mining industry? The answer lies in the ongoing electrification of vehicles across the sector.

The 57-seat coach will operate out of Covalent’s Mt Holland Mine in Western Australia, using its 450km range to transport mine site personnel daily to and from work.

The long-range sustainable transport solution comes in response to Covalent’s commitment to reducing its carbon impact.

“Once operational, our project will be providing 50,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide per year – enabling the production of 1.1million electric vehicles annually,” Covalent Lithium general manager of Mt Holland, Tim Gilbert said.

Covalent’s WA-based Earl Grey Lithium Project will be a fully integrated operation, overseeing the end-to-end production of battery-quality lithium hydroxide. This includes a refinery in Kwinana along with a mine and concentrator at its Mt Holland Project.

“The need to work with our clients to offer carbon-neutral transport solutions has never been more important,” Northfleet managing director Toby Hagen said.

There is a burgeoning demand for clean energy alternatives within the resources sector.

Mining is responsible for 4-7 per cent of global glasshouse gas (GHG) emissions; however, the industry plays a vital role in the decarbonisation solution as it provides the raw materials needed for low-carbon technologies. In order to meet environmental, social and governance (ESG) targets, sustainable methods are imperative in order to accelerate production and operation without increasing emissions.

Electrification within the industry, such as projects like Covalent Lithium’s electric bus, is a viable emission-reduction tactic. Diesel fuel mining trucks, for example, require a large amount of torque to pull the weight that they do, burning 350L per hour on average and comprising 30–50 per cent of their mines’ total energy consumption.

Launched in 2021, the Charge On Innovation Challenge sought the global contribution of advanced technological concepts to assist in the electrification of extensive haul truck systems. The challenge concluded in May this year, with eight innovators announced as finalists.

Along with the challenge’s founding benefactors – BHP, Rio Tinto and Vale – the finalists will collaborate with interested mining companies, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and investors in order to speed up the development of the technology needed to enable the eventual introduction of zero-emission fleets.

“With this group of innovators, we’re taking another step in the right direction towards changing the way haul truck systems operate in the mining sector,” Rio Tinto chief technical officer Mark Davies said.

“Through collaborations like this, where we all come together to create change, we can drive long-term benefits for our industry and the environment.”

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