Mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP have collaborated to test battery-electric haul truck technology in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

This initiative aims to expedite the deployment of this sustainable technology in mining operations.

The two companies will partner with manufacturers Caterpillar and Komatsu to independently trial their battery-electric haul trucks.

The testing will focus on battery performance, as well as static and dynamic charging systems, to evaluate their efficiency and productivity in Pilbara.

This joint effort is aligned with the commitments of BHP, Rio Tinto, Komatsu, and Caterpillar to achieve net zero operational greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Two Cat 793 haul trucks are to be tested in the second half of 2024 while two Komatsu 930 haul trucks will undergo trial from 2026. The trials will take place at different sites within Pilbara.

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BHP will test the Caterpillar models while Rio Tinto will assess the Komatsu trucks. The outcomes of these trials will be shared between the two companies, fostering a collaborative approach to innovation.

These trials mark the initial phase of battery-electric haul truck testing at the Pilbara operations of BHP and Rio Tinto.

BHP Australia president Geraldine Slattery said: “We need to address the way we plan our mines, operate our haulage networks, and consider the additional safety and operational considerations that these changes will bring. This is why trials are so critical to our success as we test and learn how these new technologies could work and integrate into our mines.

“We’ve already seen a step-change reduction in Scope 1 and 2 operational greenhouse gas emissions through switching some of our supply to renewable electricity, and we are looking to build on that progress through the development of battery-electric technology to reduce diesel usage across our operations.”

Continuous testing and development with each manufacturer are expected, which will guide further testing of a larger fleet and the potential widespread implementation of battery-electric haul trucks in their operations.

Rio Tinto iron ore CEO Simon Trott said: “This collaboration brings together two leading global miners with two of the world’s biggest manufacturers of haul trucks to work on solving the critical challenge of zero-emissions haulage.

“Testing two types of battery-electric haul trucks in Pilbara conditions will provide better data, and by combining our efforts with BHP, we will accelerate learning.”

Last year, Rio Tinto transitioned heavy machinery at its Boron mine in California, US, to renewable diesel to decarbonise its global operations.