July 15, 2024

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‘A milestone in our commitment to advancing mining technologies’

Japan-based heavy equipment manufacturer Komatsu is taking electric vehicles underground in a big way. 

Building on earlier tech, including hybrid machines, Komatsu’s latest iteration of its jumbo drill and roof bolter offers “unique enhancements and additions,” per a May news release. The technology is geared for subterranean hardrock mining, a sector that harvests gold, silver, copper, and lithium, among other prized elements. Many of the minerals are needed for modern electronics. 

“As underground mining operations increasingly shift toward electrification of their fleets, our innovative, battery-powered Z2 jumbo drills and bolters will support that pivotal transition,” product director for underground drilling Johan Kempe said. 

The hardrock industry has drawbacks, including substantial pollution concerns noted by the National Wildlife Federation. 

The battery-electric equipment offering from Komatsu can contribute to a cleaner process, starting with the ditching of petroleum-based fuel. Ground-level diesel exhaust can hurt crops and trees as well as human lungs and hearts, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

The equipment, part of the Z2 line, features a modular battery driveline with an onboard energy supply designed for an intense workload. Ergonomics, intuitive controls, and other high-tech features are part of the package. 

It’s all for Komatsu’s aggressive air pollution goals. Last year, officials committed to cutting planet-warming fumes from 2010 levels in half by 2030.

The oft-marketed “net-zero” production milestone is supposed to be reached by 2050. It has become a boilerplate statement on strategic plans that some companies fail to meet despite trumpeting impressive strategies. But Komatsu seems committed to the plan, and the latest EV product line is key evidence. 

“It’s no secret that customers are looking to reduce fuel and decarbonize,” product manager Kurt Moncini said in a news release about the company’s climate goals, which also touted the company’s hybrid tech.

Less than a year later, completely battery-powered heavy machines are on the product list. 

“The rollout of our second generation Z2-class marks a milestone in our commitment to advancing mining technologies and building upon the proven success of our products to empower the future of mine operators,” Kempe said in the recent statement. 

The EV line is billed as being able to help increase productivity over diesel alternatives with the help of onboard charging and “100% compatibility with existing infrastructure,” according to Electrek. 

“As for whether or not its new EVs will deliver — well, it’s hard to argue with Komatsu engineers,” Electrek’s Jo Borrás wrote. “They’re smart, they’ve done the math, and they’ve built lithium-powered EVs specifically to mine for more lithium.”

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