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Copper Mountain mine adds to electric fleet

December 20, 2023
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Introducing a new piece of technology to a customer is always a proud moment for SMS Equipment, but the handover at Copper Mountain mine last month held extra significance – in size, scale and sustainability.

Standing 9.7 meters tall and 10 meters wide, the Komatsu PC8000-11 is the largest surface mining excavator on the market. With an impressive list of technical specifications, the model supplied to Hudbay Minerals Inc. (Hudbay) delivers more than a hefty payload – it will operate solely on electricity.

Officials from SMS Equipment, Komatsu Germany (KGM) and Hudbay gathered at Copper Mountain mine on October 11th to celebrate the arrival of this sizeable new addition to the operation’s electric fleet. The mine currently operates two other electric PC8000s, seven Komatsu 830E-5 hybrid trucks and an award-winning trolley-assist haulage system.

“Embracing a sustainable future through electrification is an important step in our collective journey to decarbonization,” said Dennis Chmielewski, Executive Vice President, Mining at SMS Equipment at the event. “We are a proud equipment, service and technology solutions partner to Hudbay and a long-time supporter of the Copper Mountain mine trolley-assist project. The addition of a large-capacity excavator to the mine’s electric infrastructure marks exciting progress on its path to net zero.”

Exceptional equipment for ambitious targets

The Copper Mountain mine near Princeton, BC, produces roughly 100 million pounds of copper equivalent each year. Managing environmental responsibilities, says mine owner Hudbay, is essential to its operations in the province and around the world. The company is pursuing a 50 percent reduction in Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions across its operations by 2030 with a goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

Electrification is a key strategy in meeting those targets.

“Diesel is the largest source of GHG emissions at Copper Mountain, as well as one of our highest expenses,” said Walt Halipchuk, Director of Sustainability and Assets, Hudbay. “Electric equipment and infrastructure, like our trolley-assist system, significantly reduce our reliance on the fuel.”

Copper Mountain is one of the only open pit mines in North America to operate an electric trolley-assist haulage system. The one-kilometre haul ramp and seven pantograph-equipped electric haul trucks that comprise the project were commissioned in the spring of 2022, in partnership with SMS Equipment, Komatsu, ABB, Clean BC and B.C. Hydro. An additional four trucks are to be adapted for the trolley system later this year.

Electric excavators and other equipment contribute to the mine’s electric ecosystem. The PC8000-11 electric excavators operate in the mine’s loading station, powered by a nearby substation. Haul trucks are loaded by the shovels, then drive a short distance before attaching to the electric infrastructure of the trolley system via a pantograph. Once connected, they are able to drive more than twice as fast as their diesel-powered counterparts while displacing approximately 400 litres of diesel per hour, or about one tonne of CO2 emissions.

Partners in innovation

Both Chmielewski and Halipchuk reinforced the power of partnerships as industry seeks to decarbonize.

“The journey to net-zero is not one we can navigate alone,” added Halipchuk. “With the help of value-added partners like SMS Equipment and Komatsu, we can explore our challenges and find sustainable solutions without sacrificing productivity, efficiency or profitability.”

“Every good decarbonization program starts with a strategy,” said Chmielewski. “Working with customers like Hudbay, leading-edge technology providers like Komatsu, industry experts, government advisors and other partners, we can help bring that strategy to reality.”

SMS Equipment’s Mining Sale Representative, Jason McCleery, further reflected on the long-standing relationship with Copper Mountain.

“We are incredibly proud to partner with the Copper Mountain mine on this industry-leading electrification project,” he said. “We have many to thank for its success. Walt Halipchuk has shown incredible leadership in sustainability and has been a strategic partner with us for many years. Thank you as well to our SMS Equipment Kamloops branch for building a long-lasting relationship with Copper Mountain based on trust, exceptional service and steadfast support.”

A celebration fit for a king-sized machine

A machine of grand proportions deserves an equally grand welcome.

The nearly 800 metric ton Komatsu PC8000-11 was made in Germany and assembled at Copper Mountain Mine earlier this year over the course of 36 days. Komatsu officials were on-site for the handover ceremony and reception for 150 Hudbay employees and SMS Equipment representatives.

“We’ve enjoyed a long history of partnership with SMS Equipment and Copper Mountain Mine on their electrification journey,” said Ansgar Thole, President & MD Komatsu Germany GmbH. “The strong collaboration between our companies has allowed for an exceptionally high lifetime of the PC8000s already on site. We will continue to work together to achieve high performance with this new equipment.”

Thole closed the event with a sendoff to attendees: “We at KGM wish all of you a highly productive and safe operation.”

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