One of the largest underground mines puts Volvo’s new diesel engine to the test

On the surface, temperatures fall below -30°C at Kiruna, one of the world’s largest underground mines. Located in Lapland, northern Sweden, the Kiruna mine is blanketed by harsh snowy weather during the winter months. Underground, temperatures are not as extreme, but the conditions are equally demanding in a much different way. On the surface and underground, a fleet of Volvo equipment works around the clock to move 76,000 metric tons (mt) per day of iron ore. LTH Traktor, a sub-contractor for LKAB, ensures its machinery is as powerful, fuel efficient and emissions-friendly as possible to keep the site operating at peak performance.

“Fuel is a huge part of our budget—and with diesel prices continuously rising, it’s vital for us to reduce our fuel consumption for the economics of our business,” said Martin Fredrikson, site manager, LTH Traktor. “But another consideration for us when we purchase construction equipment is that we are contracted to meet LKAB’s stringent emissions regulations—and therefore our construction machinery must too.”

LTH Traktor operates 177 Volvo machines at the Kiruna mine site to transport and load raw ore and gray rock—including 19 excavators, 15 articulated haulers and 43 wheel loaders. Its fleet includes eight wheel loaders from the newly-launched G-Series (one L60G, two L120Gs, one L180G, three L220Gs and one L250G) that are in operation for between 20-24 hours per day.

The new G-Series wheel loaders are lean, clean machines that offer a more efficient, low emissions engine, according to Volvo. The V-ACT Tier 4i/Stage IIIB offers high torque performance to work more efficiently at low engine speeds and is combined with perfectly-matched electronic fuel injection for optimal power and low fuel consumption. “Since purchasing the latest Volvo CE G-Series machines, our operators have commented that they are considerably more fuel efficient—and of course the engine and transmission play a big role in that,” Fredrikson said.

Today more underground mines have opted for cleaner diesel-powered machinery similar to this Tier 4i/Stage IIIB classified engine that can remove NOx and particulate matter from the emissions. The G-Series wheel loaders’ regeneration system works effectively in the background to remove these emissions, without having to stop the machine, or even losing any power. By combining the new regeneration system with better fuel consumption and enhanced machine performance, operators can carry out regeneration while the machine is still in operation.

“The regeneration function works well and we’ve noticed a big decrease in particle emissions. This has been extremely positive for our underground work environment. Volvo’s engines are a lot further ahead in terms of technology—this manufacturer has really listened to the customers and worked hard to meet their needs,” Fredrikson said.

LTH Traktor works with its local construction equipment dealer—Swecon Anläggningsmaskiner—to find the best machinery for the application and to adapt that machinery to work underground. “The support Volvo CE and its Swedish dealer provides us with is invaluable,” Fredrikson said. “Swecon specialists attend the site to demonstrate to our operators how to reduce both fuel consumption and machine wear.”

Swecon’s technicians have the tools and training to service and maintain Volvo CE machinery at peak performance. Using diagnostic technology, these specialists know how to help customers maximize machine uptime, productivity and residual value through routine wear inspections, comprehensive maintenance and repair agreements.

Where it’s available, the G-Series wheel loader comes fitted with CareTrack, Volvo’s telematics system. It provides information for better planning and smarter working—including fuel consumption reports, location reports, fault alerts and service reminders.

“CareTrack is very helpful for us to measure the machine’s performance,” Fredrikson said. “It’s helpful to see which machines suit which jobs best, and our operators can also monitor their own performance. Our main goal is to deliver on the promises we make to LKAB—and to do this we need excellent support for our machines to ensure they’re in operation as much as possible. Volvo CE offers us this support when we need it.”