Decarbonizing the Mine
MO I RANA, DUNDERLAND VALLEY. Eyeing the future of mining, Rana Gruber is making a gear switch and replacing its entire underground diesel fleet with battery electric vehicles from Sandvik. The goal? Becoming the world’s first CO2 emission-free mine by the end of 2025.
SITUATED IN THE dreamy Norwegian mountains, far away from urban cityscapes, is Mo i Rana, a small mining town close to the Dunderland Valley known for its picturesque surroundings and the local iron ore deposit run by Rana Gruber.
The Norwegian mining company has set an official goal of becoming the world’s first CO2 emission-free mine, as early as 2025. A major step towards this goal has been to enter into a partnership with Sandvik, and by providing their experience, expertise and equipment for electric mine operations, Sandvik has become something more than a supplier for Rana Gruber. They’ve become a partner.
For Rana Gruber, the partnership with Sandvik is what really makes the electric shift possible. It’s a partnership that goes beyond providing BEV equipment. Sandvik also offers in-house consultation services to effectively plan the required infrastructure to support the transition to BEV, as well as aftermarket support, such as Battery as a Service. The cooperation agreement between Rana Gruber and Sandvik was signed in November 2021 with the purpose of building a long-term development plan with clear targets.
Sandvik Fleet and Services
As of May 2023, Sandvik has delivered two DL422iE production drills and two more will be delivered in 2024. During 2023 and 2024 Sandvik will deliver four LH518iB loaders, seven TH550B trucks, three DD422iE development drills, and two DS412iE bolters. Rock tools, parts, services and Battery as a Service (BaaS) are also included in the agreement.
In addition to implementing a full underground mining BEV fleet, the two companies are collaboratively developing strategies for operator and maintenance personnel training as well as future product development.
“Initially, the goal of becoming CO2 emission free by the end of 2025 was connected to the steel industry,” says Nancy Stien Schreiner, Sustainability Manager at Rana Gruber. “We wanted to provide a sustainable and environmental product.”
RANA GRUBER IS a relatively small mining company, which makes them suitable for an ambitious goal like becoming CO2 emission free within just a couple of years. Industry peers have set similar goals, but Schreiner knows Rana Gruber has this advantage.
“Because of our size, we’re able to switch gears quickly.”
Sandvik’s Trans4Mine is an in-house service assisting customers to achieve best practice in sustainability, safety, productivity and performance via feasibility studies and customized fleet recommendations. In 2022, a Trans4Mine study was carried out by Sandvik and Rana Gruber, which resulted in the proposed underground BEV fleet, including drill rigs, loaders, trucks, roof bolters and longhole rigs.
Gunnar Moe is the CEO of Rana Gruber and points to assistance with mine planning from Sandvik as valued by Rana.
“Locations where it is most suitable to establish charging stations and workshops is something Sandvik can advise on,” he says. “They have huge competence when it comes to their machines, maintenance and battery operation. This will continue to be important in our business; we know that Sandvik is only a phone call away, and they will provide us with whatever it is that we need. We very much appreciate that.”
Jonas Høgli is a drill operator at Rana Gruber and is currently operating their first battery-electric drill, the Sandvik DL422iE. “I liked how Sandvik traveled to Mo i Rana and taught us how to operate the drill,” Høgli says. “That way, we received a complete introduction before we placed the drill into production.”
The iron ore deposits of the Dunderland Valley, located just outside of the mine town Mo i Rana, have more than 200 years of mining history. Rana Gruber AS was founded in 1937 by A/S Sydvaranger and the German Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG, and the German-owned shares were acquired by the Norwegian state after World War II ended in 1945. At the end of the 1980s, the company transitioned to an export mine, mostly because of their specialty products, and became privately owned by LNS Eiendom in 1991. Since 2016 Rana Gruber has been listed on the Oslo Stock Market.
He also appreciates the benefits that come with an electric battery, as opposed to a diesel engine. “Removing all the fumes and the fact that the drill is so much more environmentally friendly are some of the most positive aspects to me.”
THE SANDVIK DL422IE is the first in a row of BEV machines to be delivered. It runs on four separate battery cells which can be removed and replaced individually. This way, maintenance is made much easier, since the likelihood of all four battery cells malfunc- tioning at the same time is very low. The four cells run on 25 percent power each, which means the drill can still be used even without one or two cells.
In preparation for the arrival of the new BEV fleet, Rana Gruber and Sandvik have initiated a training program for new operator recruits.
Ole Martin Røssvoll supervises the drill operators at Rana Gruber, and praises Sandvik’s range of Digital Driller training simulators for operator and maintenance training.
“We have an entirely new tool to bring us into this new era of digital learning,” says Røssvoll. “We can train employees to operate a series of machines, and simulating mine work like this will provide new operators with a fantastic starting point.”
He is quick to highlight Sandvik ́s support quality and response time. “We don’t have to wait a very long to have a Sandvik technician on the line,” Røssvoll says. “They are very fast in proposing exactly what we need, and the support in general is great surrounding this whole process.”
Based just outside of Mo i Rana in northern Norway, Rana Gruber has around 300 employees with an annual production capacity of 1.8 million metric tons of iron ore, coming from five deposits in the Dunderland Valley, most of which is hematite and magnetite.
The company also offers specialized products traded under the flagship brand Colorana®. Rana exports almost all of their production to European buyers.