ADVANCING TOWARDS AN ELECTRIC MINE

CRCMINING is developing wireless energy transfer systems that will be key enablers for the all-electric underground mine of the future. This approach will facilitate reduced carcinogenic pollutants, energy consumption and downtime, with increased energy efficiency and productivity.

In the future mines will be significantly different. There will be a greater array of generation sources and greater diversity of loads and associated technologies. This will present miners with challenges as well as opportunities to reduce mining's carbon footprint and energy costs.

Due to the need to eliminate carcinogenic pollution as well as the drive to increase energy efficiency, mines will continue to focus on reducing the use of fossil fuels via an increase in the application of electric powered machines.

Electric machines have much higher energy efficiency relative to their diesel counterparts and reliability is also higher which will result in lower maintenance costs. But most importantly, electrical machines do not emit carcinogenic pollutants. A reduction in these particulate emissions will reduce the ventilation requirements which account for up to 40% of an underground mine's energy use and are a significant component of a mine's infrastructure.

Traditionally electrically driven machines in mining operations have had significant constraints around their operation, by requiring trailing cables or battery change out systems. There are distinct disadvantages with each of these approaches. Trailing cables are range limited by cable length and are often damaged during operation and require vigilant maintenance. Battery-based systems are limited by their relatively low energy density and require regular battery interchange which reduces the machine's productivity. The electric mine requires solutions that provide operational flexibility.

Wireless energy transfer systems are a rapidly evolving technology which efficiently transfers large amounts of energy across an air gap. Commercial systems are being used to charge trams and buses in different cities around the world. Pilot projects are also scheduled to extend the technology to cars and high speed trains. This technology has reached a tipping point where its adoption into a mining environment has potential to provide significant operational and economic benefits.

CRCMining is developing an innovative modular energy transfer system that will wirelessly charge the batteries of electrically enabled underground mining vehicles whilst in both static and dynamic operation. The approach will eliminate the range limitations and maintenance issues associated with cables and productivity losses due to the battery interchange. A wireless system has the potential to work continuously.

The centre's current project also aims at developing a framework for an open systems approach, in which wireless charging is compatible between multiple platforms, machines and manufacturers, providing a common charging interface. This project is being carried out in conjunction with leading mining stakeholders.

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