BHP, Rio to share Pilbara ultra-class BE test insights

Staff reporter

BHP and Rio Tinto have decided to work together to try to speed up testing and possibly deployment of large battery-electric mine haul trucks in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

The majors will work with manufacturers Caterpillar and Komatsu to conduct independent trials of new BE trucks, including testing of battery, static and dynamic charging systems, to assess performance and productivity in the Pilbara.

Back in August 2021 BHP said it would work with Caterpillar to develop and deploy “zero-emissions mining trucks”. Rio Tinto said at the same time it would extend its long-term partnership with Komatsu “to fast-track the development and implementation of zero-emission mining haulage solutions, including haul trucks”.

Major Pilbara iron ore rival Fortescue is working with Germany’s Liebherr on BE and hydrogen fuel-cell truck development, and other equipment conversion to non-diesel power, in a race to zero carbon emissions it claims to be winning.

BHP and Rio said in a joint statement they aimed to trial two Caterpillar 793 (240-tonne-payload) trucks from the second half of this year and two Komatsu 930 (290t payload) trucks from 2026, and share the results.

The trials represented the first stage of BE haul truck testing at their Pilbara operations, the miners said.

“There is no clear path to net zero without zero-emissions haulage, so it’s important that we work together to get there as quickly and efficiently as we can,” Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Simon Trott said.

BHP president Australia Geraldine Slattery said replacing diesel as a fuel source required development of “a whole new operational ecosystem to surround the fleet”.

“We need to address the way we plan our mines, operate our haulage networks, and consider the additional safety and operational considerations that these changes will bring,” she said.

“This is why trials are so critical to our success as we seek to test and learn how these new technologies will work in practice and integrate into our mines.”


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