Equipment electrification has emerged as a game-changing alternative to diesel-powered operations as the mining industry confronts the imperative of reducing its environmental impact while maintaining economic viability. The road to zero emissions requires vehicles and machinery powered by renewable energy to achieve the industry’s economic, environmental and health goals and mitigate the risk of future carbon emission penalties.

However, transitioning from a fossil fuel-powered mine to an electrically powered operation requires a systemic shift in energy technology.

Jaco Botha, managing director at 4Sight OT Simulation.

Jaco Botha, managing director at 4Sight OT Simulation. Supplied by 4Sight

De-risking decarbonisation

“This requires a significant, often high-risk investment for mine operators. As such, every implementation first needs a comprehensive understanding of the impact on mine operations, including the cost-effectiveness and the viability of the proposed solution,” explains Jaco Botha, managing director at 4Sight OT Simulation.

In this regard, the right simulation solution empowers mining companies to test the viability of investments aimed at migrating their fleets from diesel powered equipment to battery electric vehicles (BEV) to reduce their carbon footprint, drive profitability and meet their sustainability targets.

“As more operators move into the era of sustainable mining, simulation technology will become an indispensable tool to identify opportunities and de-risk their decarbonisation strategy,” adds Botha.


Unique electric mine simulation solution

To meet this strategic need, 4Sight and SimGenics developed a comprehensive, integrated simulation solution by integrating SimMine® with Simgenics’s SIMUPACT®, able to incorporate mine design software and can rapidly model new or existing mines.

The SimMine integrated platform offers a full-scope simulation approach that delivers unparalleled insights into the cost and carbon footprint impact throughout a mine’s entire life cycle. It enables mining companies to test various electrification scenarios to identify the required charging infrastructure and mitigate various other risks to ensure a smooth and efficient transition.

By harnessing advanced modelling techniques and cutting-edge technologies, the full scope solution integrates an event-based and continuous simulation model that empowers mining companies to make informed decisions that optimise operations, reduce environmental impact and maximise profitability.

“Existing simulation platforms are limited to solving models in either an event-based or a continuous fashion, which limits the scope of the mine processes that providers can simulate accurately, and the insights offered by the results,” elaborates Botha.

“This problem is particularly limiting when comparing the full scope of a diesel versus electric mine, since you need to solve both event-based and continuous models synchronously to produce accurate results over the life of mine to reduce risks.”


The synchronised model

The 4Sight integrated mine simulation solution solves event-based and continuous models as a single synchronised model, producing highly accurate, day-to-day results for optimal schedules, costing and carbon footprint monitoring of an electric, hybrid or diesel version of a mine, or a combination thereof.

Continuous simulation areas focus on operational aspects such as controls, electrical grid supply, renewable energy, electric reticulation and ventilation systems while event-based simulations cover aspects such as artificial intelligence (AI), ore production and handling systems, and vehicle simulations.

These synchronised simulation applications can deliver clear and integrated results to unlock mine electrification’s full potential. Key areas of application include:

Fleet optimisation: SimMine provides a comparative analysis of fossil fuel-powered, hybrid and Battery Electrical Vehicles (BEVs) for various production stages. Variables such as movement across a route network in relation to various ore interfaces to the ore handling systems, speed, fuel consumption, power consumption, regeneration per vehicle type depending on payload, and mine gradients are considered, facilitating dynamic fleet sizing and performance optimisation.

“The SimMine vehicle simulation interfaces with the electrical simulation to allow synchronisation and plan vehicle run times in relation to battery life to boost efficiency, and also interfaces with the ventilation simulation to determine factors such as how heat or emissions affect mine ventilation design for the various vehicle options,” explains Botha.

In this regard, Botha says ventilation makes up approximately 35% of total energy consumption in mines and that electric machines use 25% of the ventilation used by diesel-powered machines.

“Ventilation is very expensive and operators can use less with electrification. This can result in potential savings that may prove sufficient to offset the energy needed to charge batteries, which is what a simulation can accurately determine.”

Initial trials also show great promise in terms of machine productivity because of the superior acceleration and top speed of BEV’s, notwithstanding significant potential savings in maintenance downtime and cost.

Charging station strategies: Mining companies can also use simulation to determine the optimal location and number of charging stations required for the mine’s entire life cycle. Moreover, SimMine allows operators to explore the impact of various charge options, such as battery swap versus fast charging, to minimise downtime and enhance operational efficiency.

Additional factors considered include battery discharge rates based on a BEV’s power consumption parameters related to loading and tipping, variable speeds, and battery regeneration on decline gradients.

Ore handling systems: SimMine includes ore handling simulations for both development and production phases, providing insights into buffer capacity requirements, energy supply considerations, and control logic to regulate the system’s behaviour.

Environmental impact: Electrification plays a central role in the decarbonisation journey by facilitating the consumption, transitioning and optimisation of renewable energy. It aids mines in meeting regulatory requirements and appealing to environmentally conscious customers.


Delivering tangible cost, operational benefits

Through simulations, mining companies can uncover opportunities to reduce operating costs through optimised BEV utilisation by identifying scenarios such as routes and schedules that maximise performance and reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions.

SimMine also delivers highly accurate, day-to-day results for optimal shift schedules, costing and carbon footprint monitoring of electric, hybrid, or diesel mine configurations to improve efficiency.

Presented at the annual Electric Mine 2023 Conference in Tucson, AZ and also at SAIMM’s Global Mining Guidelines (GMG) – Tomorrow’s Mining forum, 4Sight and Simgenics shared how a simulation study effectively quantified carbon footprint reductions on Scope 1 and 2 emissions through BEV usage, and how transitioning away from diesel power could save the mine through reduced maintenance costs and a lower TCO.

“Results provided by these simulations are accurate and provide significant insights to assist decision-makers when choosing between electric, hybrid or diesel mine production strategies,” continues Botha.

“With its full-scope simulation capabilities, 4Sight empowers mining companies to optimise their electric mine fleets, reduce their carbon footprint, and unlock the potential for sustainable and profitable operations, paving the way for a greener, more prosperous future,” he concludes.

Source: Supplied by 4Sight