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    Hindustan Zinc Mulls at EV Adoption; A Quantum Leap Towards Green Mining

    Decarbonisation is the topic that is discussed in every cornerstone with a flap of possibility to achieve net-zero emission. The mining industry is one of the major emitters of carbon. According to a report, it alone emits 4.5Gt of CO2 equivalent per year. As a result of which many mining companies are targeting to achieve net-zero carbon targets and lead a greener production procedure. It comes even prominently after PM Modi’s announcement of achieving net-zero emission in India by 2070 at COP26.

    Hindustan Zinc Limited, India’s largest and world’s second-largest zinc miner took this very step to contribute to the net-zero emission target by adopting to Electric Vehicle revolution and becoming the first mining company in India to induct EVs in underground mining. They even vowed to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and are very much elated towards achieving the reduction of carbon emissions by 2025.

    In lieu of the same, there have been many recent developments to achieve the targets. Hindustan Zinc & Epiroc Rock Drills AB (Sweden) signed an MoU for Zero Emission and Sustainable Mining. Under the MoU, they introduced battery electric vehicles for underground mining. The collaboration with Epiroc will strengthen their commitment to green and responsible mining. It brings them closer to the goal of carbon neutrality, which is a part of our Sustainability Development Goals 2025 project.

    To have an extensive look at the recent development and innovation towards their target to achieve carbon neutrality and sustainable development, ELE Times Sub Editor Sheeba Chauhan got this opportunity to sit with Arun Misra, CEO, Hindustan Zinc Limited.

    Excerpt:

    TimesEV: Hindustan Zinc is India’s paramount in the mining industry. Its adoption to the EV revolution is significant. our readers would like to know, what brings this massive transformation? –

    Arun Misra: Hindustan Zinc has vowed to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and committed to emissions reduction as part of our Sustainability Development Goals 2025. We have tapped various modern technologies and solutions to aid our journey towards achieving these goals. This list of measures includes Battery Electric Vehicles, switching to renewable power, which is being introduced in our operations.

    Why EVs, you ask? Well, quite simply because the future is electric. We actively sought out and successfully forged partnerships with leading manufacturers to put together an environment-friendly fleet of electric equipment that will, first, help Hindustan Zinc reduce its carbon emissions by replacing diesel-powered equipment. The new fleet will also help boost the productivity and efficiency of the company’s mining operations.

    We, at Hindustan Zinc intend to invest $1 billion over the next five years to induct electric and battery-operated equipment to replace its existing fossil-fuel-powered mining equipment fleet. We have already signed Memorandums of Understanding with multiple global manufacturers, including Normet Group Oy, Sandvik, and Epiroc. The MoU with Epiroc makes Hindustan Zinc the first mining company in India to set to introduce Battery Electric Utility Vehicles in underground mining. It will also help Hindustan Zinc achieve its Sustainable Development Goal (SGD) of 0.5mn tCO2e reduction by 2025 and the goal to ensure zero noise pollution, zero harm to the environment, and zero carbon emissions.

    Besides electric vehicles, we are also leveraging various advanced solutions to enhance the efficiency of our operational processes. One of the more unique technologies we have added to our arsenal is the MMI solution, which helps Hindustan Zinc cut down its energy consumption via situational awareness, short interval control, machine data integration, and traffic awareness.

    TimesEV: Hindustan Zinc & Epiroc Rock Drills AB (Sweden) sign an MoU for Zero Emission and Sustainable Mining. Tell us more about the agreement. How is it going to help in underground mining operations?

    Arun Misra: The company has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Epiroc Rock Drills to advance the cause of zero emissions and sustainable mining. Under the purview of this MoU, we have introduced battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in underground mining and became the first mining company in the country to induct electric vehicles in underground mines. This move will allow us to reduce carbon emissions and, thus, realize environment-friendly mining operations. The collaboration with Epiroc strengthens our commitment to green and responsible mining. It brings us closer to the goal of carbon neutrality, which is a part of our Sustainability Development Goals 2025 project. The collaboration will also allow, in the future, for the induction of a fleet of highly efficient electric-powered equipment to replace diesel-fuelled equipment. This MoU is the first step in the mutual journey towards safer and more sustainable mining operations.

    Now, about how this MoU serves the goal of achieving improved mining operations – you see, the use of BEVs enables cost savings in ventilation and cooling and helps improve worker health. Another notable benefit offered by Epiroc’s equipment is that they generate a fraction of the noise compared to traditional diesel-powered machines. On average, switching to a fully-electric mobile fleet results in a 40% to 50% reduction in ventilation demands. This translates into considerable cost savings in power usage and necessary ventilation infrastructure.

    Furthermore, the use of BEVs also helps eliminate diesel particulate matter, a carcinogen, from underground mines while also alleviating the levels of heat and vibrations generated. Other benefits include reduced maintenance costs because battery vehicles use about 25% fewer parts than diesel propulsion systems.

    TimesEV: As the company is jumping into the EV Revolution, we would love to hear about the company’s framework around it.

    Arun Misra: Hindustan Zinc’s enthusiastic participation in the EV revolution has taken myriad forms. However, the more essential efforts include transitioning to electric vehicles for underground mining operations and employees’ surface mobility. This transition has seen us do away with diesel and other fossil-fuel-based vehicles in favour of state-of-the-art zero-emission electric vehicles, including its fleet for security staff and passenger EVs at the mines and underground mining operations.

    However, the EV revolution’s relevance for us extends much beyond the use of electric vehicles. Batteries for electric vehicles also offer the scope for participation, primarily through two key opportunities: one, zinc batteries, which are set to become more popular than lithium-ion batteries in the future. The second opportunity is presented by the sustained demand for lead-acid batteries, which are being increasingly used for internal applications in next-gen EVs. Hence, the outlook for zinc and lead demand remains positive for the coming year and beyond, which is excellent news for us.

    TimesEV: Hindustan Zinc has signed an agreement with Finnish technology firm Normet Group Oy. What opportunity does it bring to the EV Revolution?

    Arun Misra: Both Hindustan Zinc and Normet Group Oy believe safety, sustainability, innovation, and technology are essential facets of their respective business operations. This shared belief aligns well with the global trend of cross-industry partnerships to enhance efficiencies and share expertise. With the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Normet, we became India’s first mining company to use battery-powered service equipment and utility vehicles in underground mining.

    The MoU sees the addition of the Normet SmartDrive to HINDUSTAN ZINC’s fleet; a modular Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV), the SmartDrive is designed to optimize energy consumption and performance in underground mining and tunnelling applications. It also enables better productivity, reduced operating costs, and, most importantly, zero local emissions.

    The Normet SmartDrive EV will help us achieve tremendous cost savings in high-speed diesel usage and vehicle maintenance. A standard Normet machine consumes 15-17 litres of HSD per hour and has an average lifecycle of 20,000 hours. Replacing these HSD vehicles with Normet SmartDrive will allow us to save roughly 3 lakh litres of HSD per vehicle. So, replacing just three HSD vehicles with Normet SmartDrive EVs will help save about 10 lakh litres of fuel.

    TimesEV: The adoption of EVs is the best alternative for traditional vehicles. Do you think Hindustan Zinc will be successful in bringing green mining with the adoption of EV? 

    Arun Misra: There is no denying that EVs are one of the leading tools for battling environmental pollution, which remains a top global concern. This is because emissions from internal combustion engines are not only among the biggest but also the most toxic air pollutants in the world. Hence, the use of electric vehicles actively serves the cause of environmental conservation and mitigation of ill-effects of fossil fuel emissions.

    TimesEV: Long hours of mining generate uncountable amounts of carbon footprints. Hindustan Zinc has become the first mining company in India to introduce electric vehicles in UG mines. The move is significantly appreciable though, there must have been a lot of challenges in your ways. Please tell us about the same.

    Arun Misra: As noted above, Hindustan Zinc’s MoU with Epiroc has undoubtedly played a critical role in our goal to achieve carbon neutrality. And as many companies and industries embrace long-term partnerships to pursue environment-friendly operations, efficiency, and other such goals, challenges are quickly addressed as long as the partners share the same values. Thankfully, Epiroc’s and our processes are underpinned by the same safety, sustainability, innovation, and technology values, making the partnership with Epiroc effortless.

    However, that is not to say that we did not face any challenges. Our efforts to embrace electric vehicles in its operations have often been impeded by issues related to battery electric vehicles. Some of the critical issues we have faced so far include the prolonged waiting times involved in delivering such equipment: while the delivery time for diesel-run equipment and vehicles is 2-3 months, it takes an average of 1-1.5 years for BEVs to be delivered to buyers. Then there is also the non-availability of the desired size of battery-electric equipment. Currently, the market offers electric equipment with a maximum capacity of 50 tonnes. BEVs with increased capacity is still under development.

    Other commonplace issues in this context include

    • Inadequate charging facilities, the need for more infrastructure for storage of additional batteries, battery swapping, EV charging facilities inside premises, etc
    • prolonged battery charging times; and
    • Substandard battery life.

    TimesEV: From the doors of IIT Kharagpur to Hindustan Zinc Limited, the journey must have been hardworking and astonishing. Please tell us more about your journey.

    Arun Misra: After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from IIT Kharagpur, I joined Tata Steel as a graduate trainee. During my stint in Tata Steel, I obtained a diploma in Mining and Beneficiation from the University of New South Wales in Sydney and another in General Management from CEDEP in France. I remained with the organization for 30-31 years, serving in various strategic positions across Plant Operations, Mining Operations, and Safety & Project Management.

    My journey led me to Hindustan Zinc in 2019, when I was appointed as the company’s deputy CEO. I was elevated to the role of CEO and WTD on 1 August 2020. To sum it up: I was at the helm of the world’s second-largest integrated producer of lead and zinc in under ten months of first joining the organization.

    My professional journey has included numerous other milestones, including being the first-ever Indian to serve as the chairperson of the International Zinc Association. Some of the more notable awards I have received thus far include ‘CEO of the Year.’