Mining will always be an inherently anti-environment activity to some degree due to the whole “digging stuff out of the ground” thing. But mining companies are a part of society, and as society as a whole looks for ways to decarbonize, so too does the mining industry.
In South Africa, mining company Anglo American wants to set an example at its platinum mine in Mogalakwena, which has become home to one of the world’s largest electric vehicles—a 210-metric-ton (463,000-lb) truck powered by hydrogen fuel cells .
The nuGen haul truck started life as a Komatsu 930E with a diesel-electric powertrain, in which a 16-cylinder engine acted as a generator to power the truck’s electric traction motors. Now, that diesel engine is gone, and the haul truck’s traction motors are powered by eight 100 kW hydrogen fuel cell modules from Ballard and a lithium-ion battery pack from Williams Advanced Engineering capable of outputting 1.1 MW, integrated by First Mode in Seattle.
“At First Mode, we know we are at a ‘fire-everything’ moment. The urgency in front of us requires that we deploy every tool and every technology to battle climate change,” said Chris Voorhees, president and CEO of First Mode. “I’m so proud of the team and our partnership with Anglo American, focused on decarbonization at the source to effect the meaningful, necessary change we all seek. We hope that this zero-emission clean energy breakthrough will inspire others to create significant action in the fight for our planet.”
Peak power for the fuel cell powertrain is 2 MW (2,682 hp), which is sufficient for the haul truck to retain its 300-metric-ton (661,000-lb) payload rating. When fully laden, the massive truck and its payload will tip the scales at 510 metric tons (1.1 million lbs).
Of course, the hydrogen has to come from somewhere, which is why Anglo American will make it on-site using a 3.5 MW electrolyzer, with electricity coming from a 100 MW solar array. When fully operational, it should be capable of producing up to a metric ton of hydrogen a day.
Anglo American says that large trucks like this account for up to 80 percent of its diesel consumption at mine sites, and big mining trucks could be responsible for about 3 percent of carbon emissions globally. The company plans to have 40 hydrogen-powered nuGens working at Mogalakwena by the end of this decade, as well as six other sites, including copper mines in Chile and iron ore mining in South Africa.