The electrification of mines offers a lot more than lower carbon emissions and improved worker benefits, according to a recent survey of miners and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

Commissioned by multinational professional services firm EY, the survey was conducted by the Sustainable Minerals Institute at The University of Queensland (Australia) and The Norman B Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering at The University of British Columbia (Canada).

The survey demonstrates that reaping the full benefits of an electricity-powered mining future would require rethinking of mine design fundamentals.

EY Global Mining and Metals leader Paul Mitchell said: “The world is already ushering in a new energy system, where cleanly generated electricity will power almost every aspect of our lives.

“The mining sector is on the verge of an electrification revolution, driven by significant cost reduction potential, lowered carbon emissions and improved worker health benefits.

“This is critically important, given the World Health Organisation has declared that diesel particulates now belong in the same deadly category as asbestos, arsenic and mustard gas.”

According to the EY report, mining electrification will improve economics and strengthen the license to operate.

It revealed that electrification not only reduces operational costs, but also up-front capital expenses as it reduces the infrastructure needs of ventilation shafts in underground mines.

The survey also found that collaboration with OEMs, mining companies, and governments will enable successful integration of mining electrification and unveil the possibilities for miners to benefit through innovation and cost reduction.

It highlights the need for a phased implementation with a flexible mine design that caters to provide technology innovations in the future.

Mitchell added: “The future of electrification in mines requires a paradigm shift in thinking — from existing known and proven technologies to new emerging technologies.”