Chile’s Codelco trials fully-electric loader in bid to cut emissions

A huge fully electric-powered 14-ton loading shovel has begun operating at Chile’s century-old El Teniente copper mine, in what state miner Codelco (COBRE.UL) said on Wednesday was a first for South America.

Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, said the equipment the loader and hauler, developed by Swedish manufacturer Epiroc (EPIRa.ST) is the first 100% electric machinery of its kind to operate in the region.

This comes as global leaders meet in Egypt for the COP 27 climate summit to discuss how to mitigate the harmful costs of rising fossil fuel emissions.

The loader, which runs off rechargeable batteries, will be tested for a year in the key Chilean copper mine, while the company compares its performance with diesel-run machinery.

“We hope there will be more autonomy [with batteries] which can allow us to reach the levels of productivity achieved with conventional technology,” Chief Executive Officer Andre Sougarret said during the project’s launch.

In one year, the new system is set save 433 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and 160,000 liters (42,267.53 U.S. gallons) of diesel consumption. It would also reduce noise and cut maintenance costs by some 60%.

El Teniente, located in the highlands some 76 kilometers (47 miles) southeast of Chile’s capital, produced 459,817 metric tons of copper last year.

Halfway through this year, the site saw the introduction of a fleet of electric buses for workers, three years after the world’s first hybrid cargo truck was launched there.

Codelco plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2030, as it looks to meet targets set by Chile’s government in recent years. Leftist President Gabriel Boric has looked to toughening climate regulations, while investors grow ever more concerned by environmental precautions.