First Mining Drc-Zambia March/April 2020

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FEATURE

Optimize your operations with the right wireless network.

Photo Credit: AgnicoEagle

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eal-time data access for underground mines has traditionally been a challenge. The lack of broadband network connection and the nature of the environment has led to some of these challenges. The benefits of implementing a reliable and scalable wireless network in underground mines are huge not only for personnel safety but to remain competitive through optimized production and maintenance cost reduction. Communication infrastructure is becoming an increasingly vital component of efficient and productive underground mining operations, but the constantly changing nature of a mine, the highly mobile fleet, and the inherent environmental challenges may present a hurdle. Providing a solution that can support the large amounts of throughput necessary for remote controlled or even autonomous operations in these environments, without the necessary infrastructure, is challenging. While all wireless technologies have their pros and cons, they are not all equal when it comes to last mile connectivity.

Most currently 5G deployments are very much focused on delivering enhanced mobile broadband to consumers. But leveraging connectivity to digitize and transform industries is drawing significant interest from the telecom ecosystem given the trends around stagnant ARPU and slowing device upgrades. Combining high speeds, low latency and massive internet of things presents the opportunity to open up new markets on the back of new technologies and business cases. Private wireless field automation networks advance open-pit mining fleet management. Mining is a capital-intensive business requiring expensive heavy equipment operating in some of the world’s most hostile environments. The challenge is maximising capital utilisation by focusing the invested capital on revenuegenerating activities, ie, getting more of the best quality material from ground to port in the shortest time possible. High network availability (99.999%) is required to support mission-critical fleet management implementations. To meet

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this requirement, wireless networks must have a built-in redundancy mechanism to minimise the probability of transmission failures. A mine is a dynamic mobile environment with vehicles and people requiring seamless mobility as they roam between access points in the network AMBRA Solutions: Reliable Telecom Solutions for Mining Up to now, LMR (VHF/UHF) and Wi-Fi technologies have been widely used on mining sites to provide voice and data services respectively. However, those two technologies are limited in their flexibility to adapt the dynamic mining environments. 802.11 based solutions require a lot of infrastructure while LMR only provides voice capabilities. Since 2013, voice and data have been delivered to mining users using a single LTE infrastructure. LTE is now a disruptive technology that allow mining companies to increase the safety of their workers and increase their productivity by remotely controlling mining equipment.

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