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First-ever fuel-cell haul truck to be built

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Anglo American is eating its own dog food.

The platinum group metal miner announced today that it tapped ENGIE, a low-carbon energy service provider, to help it develop the first ever hydrogen-powered mining haul truck.

The 300-tonne haul truck will be converted to run on hydrogen. ENGIE will provide the hydrogen generation technology while Anglo American will develop the truck.

In July Anglo American announced plans to build the truck. A South African carbon tax may have been a spur to find internal-combustion engine alternatives.

The South African miner also has a stake in seeing hydrogen fuel-cell technology find its footing since the engines, like internal combustion engines, require a catalyst made from a platinum group metal to operate.

While lithium-ion technology is leaping to the fore, some analysts argue that fuel cell has some key advantages. Matt Watson, an analyst at Precious Metals Commodity Management, said fuel cell technology is a natural fit for industrial applications, such as powering buses, trains, ships and long-haul trucks. There is little down-time since the engine runs on a fuel like internal combustion engines. There is no waiting for a battery to be re-charged. Fuel cells vehicles are also lighter than battery-powered vehicles, especially at industrial sizes.

ENGIE said the modifications to the existing truck include replacing the diesel tank with hydrogen tanks, and replacing the engine with hydrogen fuel cells and a battery pack. The hydrogen will be provided by the solar power generation capacity at the mining site.

ENGIE expects the first motion of the hydrogen powered truck in 2020, followed by a testing and validation program at Anglo American’s Mogalakwena Platinum Group Metals mine in South Africa. Additional trucks are expected to be rolled out at other Anglo American operations.

“We are delighted to join forces with Anglo American to design the first solution that aims to decarbonize heavy-duty mobility in the mining sector. This is part of ENGIE’s strategy to develop industrial-scale hydrogen-based solutions to help our energy-intensive customers in their journey to carbon neutrality”, said Michèle Azalbert, CEO of ENGIE’s Hydrogen Business Unit.

Tony O’Neill, Technical Director of Anglo American, commented: “We are extremely pleased to be partnering with ENGIE, and we look forward to developing and implementing this step-change technology.”

Anglo American is a leading PGM miner. It produced 1.12 million ounces of PGMs in the second quarter of this year.

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