Four years ago, Anglo American could not find any industry partners to support its idea of replacing giant diesel trucks in surface mining with climate-friendly green hydrogen vehicles. After backing the concept with up to $70 million of its investment, the global mining company last week unveiled a new 220-ton vehicle capable of carrying around 290 tonnes of ore without global variability in process emissions.
Like rivals such as Glencore and Rio Tinto, Anglo Americans feel pressure to cut carbon pollution from investors worried about global warming. Replacing mine haul trucks with hydrogen-fuelled trucks will reduce emissions from Anglo American’s open-pit mines by 80 per cent, an essential step in the company’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2040.
Anglo’s prototype truck is part of the company’s NuGen program, including a solar system for producing green hydrogen at the mine. Electrolyzers use energy from the sun to split water and produce hydrogen. Anglo received help from technology and hydrogen energy companies, including Engie SA, First Mode Holdings Inc., Ballard Power Systems Inc. and NPROXX BV.
Much work remains to be done to reduce the cost of converting existing diesel trucks to hydrogen. O’Neill said that the company had spent tens of millions of dollars rolling out its prototype. A typical diesel mining truck can cost anywhere from $6 million to $7 million each. As technology develops, economies of scale will come into play, and costs will come down, he said.
Under the watchful eye of executives, employees and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the modified Komatsu 930E prototype, a blue-and-yellow behemoth, tumbled over piles of dirt and was recycled on Friday. It is powered by a 1.2 MW battery pack and eight 100 kW hydrogen fuel cells.
The original plan was to convert 40 of Mogalakwena’s diesel trucks to hydrogen by 2026. This will require 140 megawatts of solar power and a massive expansion of on-site hydrogen conversion and storage facilities. Mogalakwena-based Anglo mining company Carl van den Ordel said that the plan was to get power through the national grid from wind and solar plants on cloudy days.
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By 2030, the company plans to convert its global fleet of 400 mine haul trucks operating in its platinum, copper and iron ore businesses to hydrogen. In terms of emissions reductions, the impact is equivalent to taking 500,000 diesel cars off the road, the company said. The hydrogen truck business is now part of Anglo American, the former conglomerate that shrunk into a pure-play mining business after moving its headquarters from Johannesburg to London in 1999.