Billions of litres of diesel are consumed annually by the global mining industry, which is under severe pressure from weak commodity prices. Up to 80% of this consumption comes from haulage trucks moving uphill on ramps. A Namibian uranium mine is overcoming this challenge with six 11 MW Siemens substations that provide electric power to overhead DC power lines, which in turn provide power to the adapted diesel-electric haulage trucks.
Siemens SA recently launched one of three completed units at its North Riding facilities to be used to power a fleet of Komatsu 960E trucks, which are among the industry’s biggest and highest capacity mine haulage vehicles, having a load capacity of 327 tonnes.
Each containerised substation boasts 1,8 kV of DC voltage and up to 10 000 A to ensure that it can run two trucks continuously, three trucks for ten minutes or four trucks for one minute, along the overhead power lines. This combination of substation and overhead line is known as trolley assist technology in the mining industry.
The ribbon cutting party with the substation in the background.
“A trolley assist solution is installed on any uphill stretch between the mineral ore loading pit and offloading points, as the speed on the gradient is limited by the diesel engine’s horsepower,” explains Siemens SA project manager, Phiwa Thindwa. “With the inclusion of the electric drives, the electric power supplied to the wheel motors of the haulage trucks enables the vehicles to move faster uphill, which results in quicker turnaround times and higher productivity for the mining operation.
“Engine operating and maintenance costs are directly linked to hours of operation of the haulage trucks and using trolley assist on gradients reduces the cycle time of the haulage trucks, thus increasing the intervals for maintenance. This leads to longer intervals between engine overhauls, which are proportional to the hours that the haulage truck is in operation. The end result is reduced downtime and improved productivity on an around-the-clock basis.”
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