Home > Zeppelins and airships: Mining's transportation of the future?

Zeppelins and airships: Mining's transportation of the future?

Editorial
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Russia faces many of the same infrastructure problems as Australia.

Poor roads, massive distances to be covered, and heavy infrastructure costs to build the roads and then maintain them in harsh environments.

One Russian miner is looking to a unique alternative to overcome this issues - Zeppelins.

Amur Minerals Corp's Robin Young wants to use airships to haul heavy mining equipment to site, according to Bloomberg.

Young sees this as a viable alternative to building a 350 kilometre, $150 million road to bring in heavy equipment.


And his company is not the only one looking to utilise airships.

Gold miner Petropavlovsk has invested in a zeppelin manufacturer and predicts a wide uptake in mining.

"To build a bridge to take a Toyota Land Cruiser isn’t horrifically expensive," Petropavlovsk CEO Peter Hambro said.

"To build a bridge that will take a Caterpillar 777 is very, very expensive."

Airship and blimp manufacturers are looking to mining to revitalise the industry, which never really recovered after the Hindenburg disaster in the 1930s.

But companies such as Worldwide Aeros and Hybrid Air Vehicles say that with better design and non-flammable gas a stable, they're already beginning to negotiate contracts to haul heavy equipment.

Hybrid Air is believed to be in discussions with two companies for mining equipment haulage service in Canada.

It is understood that the zeppelins are able to move loads as large as 227 tonnes at 160 kilometres per hour, with fuel costs about the third of traditional cargo planes, and no need to organise traffic to lift the equipment through a city or regional area.

"Anything that allows us to move heavy weights over difficult terrain without spending a lot of money on the infrastructure is attractive," Hambro added.

However not every miner is rushing to the scene.

Russia's largest gold miner Polyus Gold International also considered zeppelins, but soon abandoned the move as "we couldn't find a suitable offer on the market" it said.

Norilsk Nickel also looked at airships to transport equipment to construct a mine in Siberia but instead used conventional planes and then built icebreaker ships to get the nickel from the site in the Arctic region.

It is unknown whether they will see a market for transportation in Australia.

Zeppelins have previously been used for aerial survey in the mining industry.

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