South Africa mines start using the world’s biggest hydrogen trucks

The world’s biggest hydrogen-powered trucks are now being used at a platinum mine in South Africa. Deployed by Anglo American, the aim is to replace the fleet of forty diesel-powered mining trucks that use about a million litres of diesel per year. The NuGen project will use power from a solar plant to supply a hydrogen electrolyser to split water and provide the trucks, which can carry up 315t of ore each, with hydrogen fuel.

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“People told us three years ago this is not going to happen, this is not a good idea. They are now beginning to take real notice,” head of technology development, mining and sustainability at Anglo American Julian Soles said at a presentation in Polokwane. “The vision for us is to see this rolled out across our business and the mining industry. It’s Anglo’s choice whether to commercialise this.” The company hopes to convert its entire fleet of massive mining vehicles to hydrogen technology by 2040, and wants to make eight of its mines completely carbon neutral by 2030.

About “80% of our diesel consumption at our large mines is through the use of large trucks”, Soles said. “What we actually had to build was a full ecosystem. A solar photovoltaic site, an electrolyser and a refuelling system to create a zero emission haulage system.”

The major benefit of hydrogen powered-vehicles is that is doesn’t emit any greenhouse gases, of course, although extracting and storing the gas in the needed state can be quite costly.

These new trucks are equipped with fuel cells that include platinum in their components. Mogalakwena is the world’s biggest open-pit platinum group metals mine. Anglo and its global mining peers are under increasing pressure to cut greenhouse gas emissions and improve their environmental performance. The company last year spun off its South African thermal coal assets while rivals such as Glencore have pledged to reduce their emissions.