A view to the future of mining in the Middle East

    18 Dec 2021

    Electrification within mining is on the rise, and operators are on board with the transition, which is essential if the industry is going to supply the many minerals and metals required for electric devices, vehicles and infrastructure more sustainably. This is the first idea of the article by Mohammed AlMousa, country managing director, ABB Saudi Arabia, and Ramzi Akkawi, eMine™ transformation manager, ABB, written for Plantmachineryvehicles.



    Technology leaders can guide on the practical steps needed to navigate the energy transition with regional or country specifics in mind. There is no time like the present to build on past mine planning to go all-electric.

    Industrial conversation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has for the last two years centered around the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program1, as part of the wider Vision 20302. Leadership around sustainability, digitalization and technology is in demand, and in mining there is a drive to develop the right projects and allow the industry to emerge as the third pillar of the Kingdom’s industry, behind the obvious energy and petrochemicals sectors. In mining, the desire to accelerate electrification tied together with automation and digital solutions is there.

    Electrification stands as the enabler, but it is not a straightforward choice, with many barriers to execution. However, Saudi Arabia stands in a position where it has established industrial infrastructure and can attract international expertise and investment too. It has a widely reported $1.3 trillion worth of potential mineral value, including copper, gold, iron ore, phosphate and rare earth minerals, which are in demand for the technologies to establish a sustainable future. Taking the Paris Agreement goals on climate change, the global supply of some metals and minerals will have to rise at least fourfold on current production – but again Saudi Arabia has these in its geology and can go some way to supporting global requirements.

    Actions taken in industry are also increasingly following and feeding into the Saudi Green Initiative3, which has the objective to unify the Kingdom’s sustainability efforts to increase reliance on clean energy, offset the impact of fossil fuels and combat climate change. It has goals to reduce carbon emissions by 4 percent of global contributions, plant 10 billion trees and raise protected land areas to 30 percent of total land area.

    At ABB we are drawing on 130 years of experience in the industry to help design mines where electrification and digital are integrated, from hoists to grinding and from conveyors to vehicles. It is possible to optimize all processes and equipment, integrating stable and efficient systems to maximize energy and resource use. We can support operators to meet their targets and stay competitive, with high productivity and a sustainable approach from the beginning of their projects. Energy efficient and CO₂-free mining is possible and the challenge to make this happen in every world region is on.

    The benefits are not only environmental, but also financial, with leaders already recognizing that the use of diesel machinery with high-fuel costs and its associated ventilation requirements – which can account for around 50 percent of a mine’s energy use in some cases – cannot go on. Overall, the industry is responsible for up to 7 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions4. Electrification provides a chance to move away from this current reality, meeting Paris Agreement and national regulations, but also creating OPEX savings, developing pioneering mine designs and increasing both productivity and long-term profitability.


    Electrify to strength the third pillar of Saudi Arabia’s industry

    Vision 2030 has objectives to diversify the Kingdom’s industrial offerings and mining is a key area where this will happen. Saudi Arabia’s leaders have committed to a national mineral resources database and their Mining and Mining Industries Development Strategy, which has sparked greater interest and innovative thinking for the future of mining. To date, the strategy has identified nearly 40 initiatives, which are up and running and the national mindset is to meet international requirements for stability and predictability within the mining industry.

    Saudi Arabia’s legal and regulatory framework for mining is under transformation and is designed to ensure efficient and transparent licensing. It will make doing business easier and support a dynamic and more sustainable mining industry. Investors and technology leaders can be assured that they will be supported as they navigate through regulations and negotiations. The Kingdom also has significant attractions with a geographical position straddling MENA, Europe and Asia and established roads, rail and port infrastructure. Crucially, for the development of mining, electricity networks are strong.

    Transitioning to the all-electric mine is going to take such new approaches. This has already begun with industry-academia and industry player partnership groups emerging across mining communities. Deals are also being struck between technology, component and instrumentation companies, vehicle manufacturers and energy providers. New plans and designs are required as operations will have to look very different in the near future. Infrastructure is needed as well as significant upskilling of people so the technology being used is understood to best advance mining operations.


    ABB Ability™ eMine to make the all-electric mine possible

    The ABB Ability™ eMine is a portfolio of electrification technologies which makes the all-electric mine possible from mine to port and is integrated with digital applications and services to monitor and optimize energy usage.

    ABB has recently introduced ABB Ability™ eMine, a portfolio of electrification technologies which makes the all-electric mine possible from mine to port and is integrated with digital applications and services to monitor and optimize energy usage. It can be used to electrify any piece of mining equipment across hoisting, grinding, hauling and material handling and the entire process area. Built on decades of electrification experience and expertise, it will include the forthcoming ABB Ability™ eMine FastCharge – currently in pilot phase – which provides high-power electric charging for mining trucks. It also incorporates ABB Ability™ eMine Trolley System which can reduce diesel consumption with trolley-assisted hauling by up to 90 percent compared to purely diesel-driven hauling, thus lowering energy costs and environmental impact. The new flagship technology ABB Ability™ eMine FastCharge will be significant for the future of mining.

    The ABB Ability™ eMine FastCharge provides high-power electric charging for mining trucks.

    The ABB Ability™ eMine Trolley System can reduce diesel consumption with trolley-assisted hauling by up to 90% compared to purely diesel-driven hauling.

    The eMine™ provides integral design planning and thinking to maximize the value of electrification, helping to design the hauling process in the most optimized way with electrical solutions that match mine constraints and help to meet production targets. ABB is supporting mine operators to map their journey towards the all-electric mine from phasing out diesel to embedding a new mindset and new team skills. By fully integrating electrification and digital systems from the mine to the port it is possible to reduce overall costs and improve mine performance as well as significantly lowering environmental impact. Wider benefits include increased safety through automation, lower noise and higher air quality – which results in lower ventilation requirements and associated costs.

    This milestone electrification portfolio fits neatly under the ABB Ability™ MineOptimize portfolio of engineering capabilities, system solutions, digital applications and collaborative services which unifies and optimizes the lifecycle of any mine, mineral processing plant and enterprise, from design and build to operation and service. It draws on automation and information management platforms, which are based on proven standardized building blocks, deep domain expertise and connectivity, and ensures the right people have the right information at the right time. It offers a cross-functional, enterprise-wide approach to digital transformation in mining.

    In the case of electrification, miners are clear that they cannot go on this journey alone. Partnerships and co-creation of solutions with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), other mining companies and governments are needed to successfully integrate electrification in mines. Through eMine™ ABB will constantly conduct new collaborations with known partners – OEMs in most cases – but also with others. This effort is to define the best collaborative strategy according to the goals of the project and the specificity of the target market. We believe we can convince many in the supply chain to work together for mutual benefit in meeting important challenges and this work has already started.


    Bringing our electrification approach for your future

    We have committed to helping customers realize the all-electric mine, helping mines move towards carbon neutral operations and drawing upon the 130 years of experience in the mining industry. By deploying world-class electrification, automation and digital solutions we are optimizing processes and equipment and integrating stable, efficient systems.

    Aligning with national commitments, including those clearly stated by Saudi Arabia, we are on the journey towards the all-electric mine. Our belief is in our electrification approach as we see it as the best route, together with our close collaboration with partners, to meet national and international demands. We’re looking forward to seeing what is possible here in Saudi Arabia and also around the world.

    1. https://www.vision2030.gov.sa/v2030/vrps/nidlp/
    2. https://www.vision2030.gov.sa/
    3. https://www.saudigreeninitiative.org/about-saudi-green-initiative/
    4. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability/our-insights/climate-risk-and-decarbonization-what-every-mining-ceo-needs-to-know


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