Q&A with Vale’s Alex Mulloy on green energy vehicles

Interviewed by Chantal Hortop

Alex Mulloy, Mining Engineering Intern at Vale, will present at the GMG-CIM Sudbury Forum, June 12-13 in Sudbury, Ontario on Green Energy Vehicles – A Vale Base Metals Review. The electric mine is one of the key topics at this forum, so we asked him a bit more about his presentation and his topic.

What first brought Vale to make the change to green energy vehicles?

Green energy vehicles represent significant potential for operational benefit as well as reducing Vale’s environmental footprint and greenhouse gas emissions. From the testing we have done in our underground mines, the green energy vehicles provide improved working conditions such as healthier work environments for our workforce with cleaner and cooler air compared to diesel engine environments. The economic benefits are related to the improvement in operating intensity. Electric vehicles really do make the best use of underground airflows to allow for much higher production and value compared to semi-automated ventilation systems with diesel fleets.

What benefits has the company seen in the time it has been using these vehicles?

Vale has seen great benefit with electric-trolley haulage trucks that have been used in our underground operations since 1995. These vehicles were brought into the operation because of restricted air capacity during mine expansion. We have realized the benefits as compared to diesel equivalents, namely with low heat generation, zero diesel emissions and high-speed operating performance.  Similar benefits are anticipated with the introduction of new state-of-the-art battery electric vehicles. Initial trials with small production battery-electric equipment to-date have been excellent. Overall, there are tremendous economic and health business drivers for this technology.

What are some of the challenges in this kind of shift, i.e. turning away from vehicles using traditional fuels?

The transition from fossil fuel to electrically powered vehicles will not be without its challenges. Vale is conducting risk assessments and change management workshops as well as investing in engineering studies to understand and prepare for a multitude of challenges and scenarios, ranging from determining which charging strategy yields the highest vehicle availability, to understanding whether or not the power grid can handle the charging load. Vale is looking for green energy vehicles to achieve the duty cycle of a traditional diesel vehicle, minimize vehicle downtime with lower maintenance costs and leverage automation opportunities. We recognize that the introduction of green energy vehicles and other new systems and approaches as defined in our Vale Technology Roadmap adds complexity and challenges – both technically and socially – yet the rewards will be well-worth our efforts.

Who are you most hoping to reach with your presentation on green energy vehicles at the forum in Sudbury?

Vale hopes to reach all participants of the Sudbury forum, from other mining operators to members of the service and supply sector, plus academics, government and research institutes. A collaborative environment greatly improves the chances of success during the implementation of new technologies.  The forum supports the creation of a collaborative ecosystem.

 

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