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While the role of opencast mining contractors is generally focused on production targets, there is a growing expectation among mining customers that all strategic partners will contribute to driving sustainability.

According to Jeremy Petter-Bowyer, managing director at SPH Kundalila, the mining sector’s commitment to a lower carbon footprint will need the whole supply chain to contribute.

“Already we see a number of mining companies actively testing hydrogen fuel cells in large dump trucks as a way of moving away from generating diesel emissions,” says Petter-Bowyer. “Opencast contractors like us are watching these trends closely, as they could be the way of the future.”

In a chemical reaction catalysed by platinum, hydrogen enters the fuel cell and mixes with oxygen to generate electricity, which in turn powers motors to drive the wheels. There are also efforts underway to produce hydrogen in more sustainable ways.

“The future holds a steep learning curve for OEMS, contractors and customers alike,” he says. “The particular challenge for opencast contractors will be to maintain our performance levels while transitioning to lower carbon technologies, as customers have always relied on us to deliver the highest possible efficiencies.”

As countries around the world start implementing their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) in mitigation of climate change, he expects that governments will pass more laws to incentivise the shift away from carbon fuels.

“This will further add to the pressure of compliance, and mines will have to be sure that their opencast contractors are not only efficient miners but also far-sighted in terms of compliance,” he concludes.

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