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BHP & Rio Tinto (RIO) Team up for Electric Haul Truck Trials

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BHP Group (BHP - Free Report) has joined forces with Rio Tinto (RIO - Free Report) to trial large battery-powered haul trucks manufactured by Caterpillar Inc. (CAT - Free Report) and Komatsu (KMTUY - Free Report) . This testing, set to take place in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, aims to accelerate the potential deployment of these trucks. This collaboration between two leading global miners with two of the world’s largest haul truck manufacturers also seeks to address the critical challenge of zero-emissions haulage.

The trials will kick off in the second half of 2024 with two Cat 793 haul trucks. This will be followed by two Komatsu 930 haul trucks in 2026. BHP will trial the Caterpillar trucks, while Rio Tinto will test the Komatsu trucks. In 2021, Rio Tinto and BHP worked with both Caterpillar and Komatsu to support the development and validation of their prototype battery-electric haul trucks. The trucks included in the current trials are based on these prototypes.

Both companies will conduct independent trials of the battery-electric haul trucks, including testing of battery, static and dynamic charging systems, to evaluate performance and productivity in the Pilbara environment. Results of the trials will be shared between BHP and Rio Tinto. Testing two types of battery-electric haul trucks in the actual mining conditions will provide better data. Combined efforts will expedite the learning for both companies.

Based on the findings of these tests, Caterpillar and Komatsu will be able to work on refining their truck and battery design. This will likely pave the way for the testing of a larger number of haul trucks and ultimately, the potential deployment of battery-run haul truck fleets into RIO’s and BHP’s mining operations.

This collaboration aligns with both Rio Tinto and BHP’s ambition of attaining net zero operational greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Carbon emissions from diesel consumption in RIO’s mining equipment and rail fleet accounted for 12% of Rio Tinto’s Scope 1 and 2 emissions in 2023. Carbon emissions from the combustion of diesel accounted for around 40% of BHP’s Scope 1 and 2 emissions in fiscal 2020.

The replacement of diesel as a fuel source necessitates a complete overhaul of the mining operations. This entails re-evaluating mine planning practices and haulage network operations, and incorporating additional safety and operational considerations arising from these changes. The trials are therefore critical to the success of this initiative, as they provide a platform to test and learn how these new technologies can function and integrate seamlessly within mining operations.

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