Chile’s national copper mining company Codelco is testing an Epiroc battery-powered LHD at its El Teniente mine. The equipment, which has been in operation since November at the Diablo mining area, will complete its first stage of tests in April. If the preliminary performance evaluation is successful, a second stage of testing will take place for another six months, the company said.

To observe the behavior of the machine firsthand, executives from Epiroc recently traveled from Sweden to the mine. Corporate and divisional executives also participated in the visit.

“We hope to confirm the key performance indicators that this equipment could achieve, and project it into a future operation to develop an electromobility path to use with a greater number of loaders,” said Codelco’s Corporate Innovation Manager Sebastián Gil.

Gonzalo Ramírez, corporate director of innovation in process decarbonization for Codelco, provided highlights of the collaborative work between Epiroc and Codelco. “Switching from diesel to electric creates adaptive challenges from an operational point of view, which requires rethinking certain processes and procedures to maximize the utilization of this LHD,” he said.

Along the same lines, John Swift, general manager of Epiroc Chile, offered that “both companies have aligned visions and goals, so it is easy to solve problems together. We expect to learn more, and the teams are working as planned and this will have a significant impact on the working conditions for operators as well as Codelco’s sustainability goals.”

In addition to being zero emission equipment and reducing energy use costs by 70%, the electric LHD improves the quality of life for the operators by emitting less noise and vibrations.

“Although we have detected some gaps, so far the LHD is very comfortable in terms of ergonomics for operators, it is quite silent and there is a better temperature inside than in a conventional LHD,” said Francisco Castro, head of the Diablo mining area. Regarding performance, he assures that “the cycle times are very similar to those of diesel equipment, but we must also consider that we are just starting out and practice will help us improve.”

Along these lines, the director of innovation at El Teniente, Andrés Latorre, pointed out that “the biggest challenge is to match or eventually exceed the productive capacity of this LHD with respect to the diesel-powered LHD. The target production that we have to achieve in the Diablo mining area is challenging and the idea is to reach satisfactory numbers between March and April of this year.”