Fortescue plugs in electric excavator

19 February, 2024

Fortescue plugs in electric excavator as lineup of zero emission mining equipment expands.

Fortescue is a prominent player in both mining and green energy sectors. They have recently announced the successful deployment of Australia’s first operational electric excavator. This happened at its Cloudbreak mine site in the Pilbara region. This milestone forms a key component of the company’s decarbonisation strategy. The aim is to transition its existing diesel-fueled mining fleet to electrified and green hydrogen-powered vehicles by 2030.

The excavator, originally diesel-powered, has been converted to run on electricity. It is now powered by a 6.6 kV substation and over two kilometers of high-voltage trailing cable. This marks the initial phase of a broader plan.  Fortescue is expecting delivery of two more R 9400 E electric excavators from German-Swiss equipment manufacturer Liebherr within the next year.

Dino Otranto, CEO of Fortescue Metals, hailed the commissioning of this fully electric excavator as a significant achievement for the company. Further to this, the Australian mining industry as a whole.

“The commissioning of this fully electric excavator is a massive achievement by the team and is the first of its kind in Australia for the mining industry,” Fortescue Metals Chief Executive Officer Dino Otranto said.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to work with industry experts who have been using trailing cable for decades, and then repurpose this in our own operations as part of our decarbonisation journey.”

Otranto underscored Fortescue’s commitment to emissions reduction across its mining operations. It has a vision for all electrified mining equipment to be powered by renewable energy sources. Notably, the Cloudbreak site, is already making strides in this direction. This site is partially powered by Alinta’s 60 MW Chichester Hub Solar Farm.

In addition to the electric excavator, Fortescue is actively exploring alternative technologies for its mining fleet. This includes trials of battery-electric haul trucks and hydrogen fuel cell haul trucks at its Christmas Creek iron ore mining operation.

AngloGold Ashanti’s Sunrise Dam gold mine site

Meanwhile, AngloGold Ashanti is also making headway in the realm of zero-emission mining equipment. This has been demonstrated with trials of a battery-electric underground mining truck at its Sunrise Dam gold mine site. The TH665B truck boasts impressive capabilities, including zero diesel emissions underground and enhanced operational efficiency. This truck is delivered by Swedish engineering company Sandvik.

Andrew Dawson, Business Line Manager for Load and Haul at Sandvik, highlighted the truck’s innovative battery self-swapping system, which facilitates rapid and hassle-free battery swaps in just minutes, without requiring extensive infrastructure. He emphasised the invaluable insights gained from observing the prototype in action in Australian conditions, informing further development as the TH665B progresses towards commercial production.