As consumers, we may not stop to consider how the global mining industry plays a role in our daily lives.

Consider that the average American uses approximately 3.4 tons of coal and nearly 40,000 pounds of newly mined materials each year, according to the National Mining Association. With a rising global demand for energy and other commodities – especially in emerging markets such as China, India and Brazil – mining has never been a more vital industry.

Drilling for and extracting these resources requires an extraordinary amount of energy, primarily diesel fuel and electricity. As such, conservation and productivity are issues mining companies located around the world face. A recent survey of mining executives commissioned by Mincom asked respondents to identify their current challenges by level of urgency, yielding these responses:

• Ensuring workplace safety (71 percent)
• Improving performance and operational effectiveness (67 percent)
• Managing capital projects (46 percent)
• Recruiting and retaining a skilled workforce (38 percent)
• Addressing environmental concerns (37 percent)

At Sandvik Mining, we are developing mining equipment that meets the top safety and efficiency
standards, and we are investing in technology that can be retrofitted to older equipment to improve its operation. For instance, the Sandvik Compressor Management System (CMS) provides a solution to the inherent inefficiencies of rotary blasthole drills that have a direct connection between the engine and compressor. This patented solution can be installed on new or existing Sandvik rotary drills and has been proven to reduce fuel consumption by 20-35 percent, extend the life of the engine and compressor and lower emissions. We recently teamed up with Cloud Peak Energy to put our CMS to the test.

Cloud Peak Energy is headquartered in Wyoming and is one of the largest coal producers in the United States, supplying the country with about 4 percent of its sustainable electricity. The company operates three surface coal mines in the Powder River Basin (PRB) and is the only pure-play PRB company – meaning it is the only company that mines exclusively in the PRB. As one of the safest coal producers in the United States, Cloud Peak Energy specializes in the production of low sulfur, subbituminous coal.

Cloud Peak Energy chose to have the Sandvik CMS retrofitted onto a 14-year-old rotary drill at its Cordero Rojo coal mine located in Gillette, Wyoming. The companies chose this machine because it has been in full production for years, providing a solid reference point for the historic fuel consumption.

And though the rig is approaching 60,000 hours, Cloud Peak Energy expects to keep the machine in production for years to come, giving time to track the progress of the CMS. Once the system was installed and calibrated, Sandvik engineers used the machine’s Engine Control Module (ECM) data as a reference point.

Before the installation, the drill was using 22.9 gallons of fuel per hour. After running the Sandvik CMS for five weeks, the rig was only using 16.9 gallons per hour – a reduction of 26.2 percent.

This cut translates to significant savings of approximately 24,000 gallons of fuel*, $108,000* and more than 300 tonnes of carbon emissions* annually – on fuel alone. Additional savings are expected from increasing the engine life. Impressed with the trial results, Cloud Peak Energy purchased two new Sandvik drill rigs for 2013 with Sandvik CMS installed.

With this customer trial, we wanted to prove that the CMS could consistently produce significant savings for our customers. We will continue to collaborate with customers to ensure we are bringing industry-leading products to market that make mining operations safer, cleaner and more efficient.

*based on 4,500 hours of operation and $4/gallon

Ken Stapylton is Vice President Surface Mining at Sandvik Mining.