Electrification gains priority on mining agenda

A growing number of companies globally are looking to electrify their mines as an attractive way to reduce costs, improve energy efficiency and steward their licence to operate.

Mine electrification is increasingly viewed as a solution to reduce the steady increase of energy costs, which make up one-third of a mining company’s total cost base, according to a report by Ernst and Young (EY).

Electrification could assist companies in accessing deposits which are becoming deeper, more remote and difficult to access.

As companies begin swapping their diesel-powered equipment to electric-driven machines, the move, however, needs to be accompanied with a commitment to renewable sources.

“Switching from diesel to electric not only makes economic sense, but enables a greater level of onsite health and safety,” the report stated.

Mine electrification would require less maintenance and human intervention in an operation, increasing demand for data and digital literacy skills across all phases of the mining value chain.

There will be less demand for skills in vehicle operations, materials extraction, operations and control, equipment maintenance and blast hole drilling, according to the report.

“This workplace won’t necessarily be smaller, but it will be skilled differently,” the report stated.

“For example, ‘driverless trucks’ will result in shifting skill profiles from heavy licence drivers, to employees with data processing, digital literacy and technical planning skills.”

The findings challenge the assumption that a mine provides jobs only for people who do physical labour in developing economies.

The survey was commissioned by EY and conducted by the Sustainable Minerals Institute at The University of Queensland and the Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering at The University of British Columbia (Canada).