Mining giant Anglo American Plc on Friday unveiled the world’s largest hydrogen-powered truck at a platinum mine weighing 220 tonnes.
The project aims to replace a fleet of 40 diesel-fueled vehicles that each use about a million litres of the fossil fuel a year.
The NuGen project at the Mogalakwena mine, owned by Anglo American subsidiary Anglo American Platinum Ltd., will use power from a 140-megawatt solar plant to supply hydrogen electrolysers to split water and provide the trucks, which can carry up 315 tons of ore each, with hydrogen fuel.
According to Julian Soles, head of Technology Development, Mining & Sustainability at Anglo American, the project is expected to be fully completed by 2026. And this is a first step in making eight of the company’s mines carbon neutral by 2030.
The company mines metals around the world ranging from platinum, copper and iron ore. It targets to make all its operations to similar status by 2040.
“People told us three years ago this is not going to happen, this is not a good idea. They are now beginning to take real notice,” Soles said at a presentation in the South African city of Polokwane.
“The vision for us is to see this rolled out across our business and the mining industry. It’s Anglo’s choice whether to commercialize this.”
Approximately “80% of our diesel consumption at our large mines is through the use of large trucks,” Soles said.
“What we actually had to build was a full ecosystem. A solar photovoltaic site, an electrolyser and a refueling system to create a zero emission haulage system.”
For eight decades, the mining company dominated South Africa’s economy before moving its headquarters to London in 1999. It initially approached a number of equipment manufacturers with the idea of building a hydrogen-powered truck fleet.
When it was rejected, it took the decision to convert its diesel fleet to use the clean fuel itself.
The use of hydrogen doesn’t emit climate-warming gases while diesel does. And with water being split to create the fuel using energy from the sun, there are no carbon emissions from its manufacturing process either.
The trucks are equipped with fuel cells that include platinum in their components. Mogalakwena is the world’s biggest open-pit platinum group metals mine.
“It’s a smart step for Anglo American, but it’s a giant leap for South Africa’ s hydrogen economy…. The hydrogen economy is beckoning us,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a speech at the mine to launch the NuGen program.
Anglo and its global mining peers are under increasing criticism to cut greenhouse-gas emissions and improve their environmental performance.
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