Codelco will test a hybrid LHD at its El Teniente Division as part of its sustainability plan, which also includes battery-powered utility equipment and buses, the company said. The Komatsu LHD uses a diesel engine to power electric drives. The LHD also has a Switch Reluctance (SR) Hybrid Drive system that has the ability to store retarding energy and put it to use when needed most.

Komatsu said the hybrid LHDs have higher acceleration and cycle times, almost double that of competitive LHDs. A high-efficiency electric driveline is expected to reduce operating costs by 30% compared to mechanical drive LHDs, including up to 20% reduction in fuel costs, the company said.

“Within the framework of our Master Plan for Sustainability, at Codelco, we set up a transition program to gradually decarbonize the energy matrix of our operations,” said Octavio Araneda, vice president, Codelco South Central. “One side of this initiative is our strategy of electromobility with underground production equipment.”

El Teniente is also using an electric scissor lift underground, with an operating cost 70% lower than the diesel version and a 100% decrease of emissions and noise, Araneda said. Two 100% electric-powered buses transport workers from Rancagua to El Teniente operations at 3,100 meters above sea level and a 100% electric bus for urban use within Rancagua. It will also provide daily and free transportation service to school children from Coya who study in Rancagua and Machalí, Araneda added.

Codelco’s electromobility strategy also contemplates the incorporation of an electric bus for the Chuquicamanta Division for the first half of this year. During the year, El Teniente will add three additional electric buses, a second LHD, this time 100% electric, and an electric mini-van for the interior of the mine.