International Mining September 2021

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© 2021 C a ter pillar. A ll Right s Re s er ve d. C AT, C AT ERPILL A R, L E T ’S D O T H E their r e s p e c tive logos, “C a ter pillar C or p or a te Yellow ”, the “Power Edg C a t “M o d e r n H e x ” t r a d e d r e s s a s w e l l a s c o r p o r a t e a n d p r o d u c t i d e n t i h e r e in , ar e t r a d e m ar k s o f C a t e r p ill ar a n d m a y n o t b e u s e d w i t h o u t p e r m

O P T I M I Z I N G O P E R A T IO N S . M I NI M I Z I N G I MP A C T. The mining industr y is always loooking for new ways to mine better. At MINE xpo® 2021, Caterpillar is excited to show you how we can help — sharing our exper tise and showcasing produccts, technologies and ser vices that address both your business needs and your sustainabilit y goals. At MINE xpo, we’ll introduce new Cat® machines that are produc u tive, reliable and fuel ef ficient, and highlight energy and power solutions that can help you reduce emissions. We’ll demonstrate technology and autonomy solutions that help you work more safely and ef ficiently. We’ll display par ts, components and ser vices that help you maximize the value of your equipment throughout its lifecycle. And we’ll share stories from around the world showcasing the ways Caterpillar, Cat dealers and our customers are mining better — together.

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W H E RE A RE Y O U ON Y O U R A U T ONOM Y JOUR N E Y ? There’s no solution that delivers a greater impact on your operation than autonomy. And there’s no provider with more experience in mining automation than Caterpillar. Our Cat® MineStar Command autonomy solutions for drills, dozers, trucks and underground loaders are scalable, growing and delivering real results on mine sites around the world. And they’re backed by a team of exper ts with years of experience implementing, suppor ting and m maximizing the benefits of autonomy. Wherever you are on yyour autonomy journey, there’s a Cat MineStar solution for your site. And we’re here to help you find it. C AT.C C O M /M I N I N G

AU T O N O M Y I N AC T I O N AT M I N E X P O 2 0 2 1 T h e C a t e r p ill a r e x h ib i t a t M I N E x p o

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CONTENTS .qxp_Layout 1 26/08/2021 13:07 Page 1


VENTILATION REPORTING South Africa-based VortexOHS is set to make ventilation and hygiene professionals’ work a lot faster


HIGH PROFILE – MICA An influential program looking to accelerate the development and commercialisation of innovative autonomous and clean technologies in the mining sector




MINE EXPLORATION Dan Gleeson talks exploration – specifically directional drilling – with the Alamos Gold team after they hit Island Gold Mine’s best-ever drill intersection





The move towards fully autonomous longwall operations continues apace, Dan Gleeson discovers HIGHWALL MINING India's Gainwell continues to grow its innovative highwall miner business, having supplied two machines now with a third one ready to ship and a fourth set for delivery by Q1 2022

AUTONOMY SENSORS Paul Moore focuses on the key sensors used in AHS – LiDAR & radar – and how they are evolving as autonomous system capabilities evolve

70 INTERVIEW – First Mode Paul Moore spoke in-depth to Chris Voorhees, the President and Founder of the main technology partner on Anglo American's FCEV mining truck project, Seattle,Washingtonbased First Mode


MINING AUTOMATION Paul Moore spoke to five companies all playing different roles in driving automation in the mining industry forward from robotics to c omplete mine solutions


HIGH PROFILE – Sedna Paul Moore caught up with Darryl Mitchell, CEO at specialist mining autonomy project integrator and facilitator Sedna



NETWORKS As demands on mining networks continue to increase due to greater use of digital technologies, high resolution cameras and automation, Paul Moore reviews some key surface and underground solutions


100 REMOTE MINING SERVICES As border closures and COVID-19-related restrictions took hold over the last year,on-site suppliers of key services have risen to the fore, reports Dan Gleeson


106 SHAFT SINKING With greenfield and brownfield developments back on the agenda, Dan Gleeson looks at some of the shaft sinking projects and contractors set to unlock this new growth



COVER: Caterpillar ®

The cover image this month shows a Cat 7495 Electric Rope Shovel loading an autonomous Cat 797F truck — one of a fleet of 797Fs that are the first to be equipped with MineStar Command for hauling and the first to be operating autonomously in the rough conditions of the Canadian oil sands. Command for hauling mining trucks now span class sizes from 210 to 400 short tons and include the 789D, 793D, 793F, 797F and the 297 t (327 ton) 794 AC with electric drive. In May 2021, Cat autonomous trucks surpassed the 3 billion tons hauled milestone.



BER 202


114 INTERVIEW – Siemens Christian Dirscherl, VP for Mining, Excavation and Transport outlines how its technology powers some of the world’s largest mining c onveyors, grinding mills, hoists and trolley assist truck fleets


118 INTERVIEW – FLSmidth CEO Thomas Schulz on how the company is arming itself to compete in this brave new sustainable world



The Belarussian mining truck major on its current and future roadmap for mining haul truck technology 1

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3 The Leader

4 World Prospects

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123 Forthcoming Events

IBC Classifieds SEPTEMBER 2021 | International Mining 1

How can the MissionZero Mine deliver sustainable productivity? Our aim is to enable miners to produce more but with optimised resource use, lower costs and a smaller footprint – what we call sustainable productivity. MissionZero, our sustainability ambition, supports this goal across the flowsheet.

What is the MissionZero Mine and what productivity and sustainabilty benefits can it really deliver? To answer this, we re-examined the entire mining flowsheet with an emphasis on areas with the most potential, such as a low-impact grinding circuit, flotation, ecobeneficiation and water management.

At MINExpo 2021, we will be taking customers through current and future technologies and solutions that can move us towards greener and more efficient mining processes. Visit us at MINExpo at Booth 4443 (Central Hall) or discover more online at

LEADER SEPTEMBER 2021 .qxp_final 26/08/2021 13:41 Page 1

VO LU M E 1 6 • N U M B E R 9


Potash patience


HP’s approach to developing the Jansen potash project in Saskatchewan, Canada, has been unorthodox to say the least.

Jansen S1 has been completed, significantly de-risking the project, BHP said.

Even before the major miner signed off the $5.7

First ore is targeted in 2027, with construction expected to take approximately six years, followed by a ramp-up period of two years.

billion of capital expenditure to build the Stage 1 project last month, it had invested $4.5 billion (pre-tax) Editorial Director Paul Moore BSc (Hons), MSc Email: Editor Daniel Gleeson BA (Hons) Email: Advertising Sales: Phil Playle Email: +44 (0)1442 870 829 Publishing Assistant Lynne Lane Email: Accounts Manager Nicola Shukla Marketing Assistant Joanna English BA (Hons)

in the asset. BHP has admitted it would not have sunk so much money into Jansen had it been assessing the project in its initial stages today, but the fact it has done so says as much about the company as it does about the dearth of world-class mining projects today. As the industry is continually being told, there are fewer and fewer Tier 1 assets such as Jansen up for grabs. While Stage 1 (S1) is expected to produce approximately 4.35 Mt/y of potash, the Jansen asset gives BHP a basin position with the potential for further expansions (subject to studies and approvals). This could see output rise to 12 Mt/y from Jansen, making BHP a sizeable potash producer in the process.

Circulation Assistant Jane Alter

The company has, arguably, been after this basin position since it made an audacious bid to gain control of Potash Corp of Saskatchewan in 2010, knowing that the province was home to one of the premier potash addresses in the world.

Design and Production Trevor Sheldon Email:

While this bid was unsuccessful, it started a love affair with a commodity that has lasted more than a decade.

Website: Annual Subscription Enquiries Emma Smith Email: Annual Subscription UK and Europe £160, €230 Rest of the world US$270 International Mining (ISSN No: 1747-146X) is published monthly by Team Publishing Ltd, GBR and is distributed in the USA by Asendia USA, 17B South Middlesex Avenue, Monroe NJ 08831 and additional mailing offices. Periodicals postage paid at New Brunswick NJ. POSTMASTER: send address changes to International Mining, 17B South Middlesex Avenue, Monroe NJ 08831 Printed by The Manson Group, St Albans, UK © Team Publishing Ltd 2021 ISSN 1747 -146X

IM uses, as preference, SI units throughout, so, for example, all tonnes are metric unless otherwise stated. All dollars are US unless otherwise stated

BHP, blessed with oodles of iron ore, metallurgical coal, petroleum, copper and nickel, has been looking to tie itself to a different commodity growth trajectory. At the same time, it knows the world will need to produce more food, more efficiently over future decades. Demand for potash has waned since its hostile PotashCorp takeover bid took place, while BHP has bid goodbye and welcomed two different CEOs. Yet, the underlying trend that saw the company go hostile with its PotashCorp advances remains intact. That is perhaps why the company has been more patient with Jansen than it would have been with any other asset. The investment to date has included construction of the shafts and associated infrastructure ($2.97 billion scope of work), as well as engineering and procurement activities, and preparation works related to Jansen S1 underground infrastructure. The shafts themselves – a 975 m deep production shaft and 1,005 m service shaft – were sunk by DMC Mining Services using Herrenknecht’s Shaft Boring Roadheader technology (read more about this technology in the Shaft Sinking feature). This novel cutting innovation came with benefits, as well as the usual drawbacks of employing new technology. The construction of two shafts and associated infrastructure at the site is 93% complete and expected to be completed in 2022, with Cementation Canada set to carry out the post liner excavation, steel and equipping of the shafts. To date about 50% of all engineering required for

This timeline puts Jansen smack bang in the middle of period of demand growth, according to Mike Henry, BHP CEO. “We anticipate that demand growth will progressively absorb the excess capacity currently present in the industry, with opportunity for new supply expected by the late 2020s or early 2030s,” he said. “That is broadly aligned with the expected timing of first production from Jansen.” And, according to the company, it is assets such as Jansen that will remain resilient throughout the cycles, putting BHP in the driving seat when it comes to term contract negotiations. It said in that same release: “Beyond the 2020s, the industry’s long run trend prices are expected to be determined by Canadian greenfield solution mines. In addition to consuming more energy and water than conventional mines like Jansen, solution mines tend to have higher operating costs and higher sustaining capital requirements.” Jansen S1 includes the design, engineering and construction of an underground potash mine and surface infrastructure including a processing facility, a product storage building and a continuous automated rail loading system. Jansen S1 product will be shipped to export markets through Westshore, in Delta, British Columbia, and the project includes funding for the required port infrastructure. This infrastructure will be constructed by Westshore Terminals Investment Corporation as part of an agreement with BHP. Henry said Jansen is aligned with BHP’s strategy of growing the company’s exposure to future-facing commodities in world-class assets, which are large, low cost and expandable. “This is an important milestone for BHP and an investment in a new commodity that we believe will create value for shareholders for generations,” he said. “In addition to its merits as a stand-alone project, Jansen also brings with it a series of high returning growth options in an attractive investment jurisdiction. In developing the Jansen project, BHP has had ongoing positive engagement and collaboration with First Nations and local communities, and with the provincial and federal governments. Jansen is designed with a focus on sustainability, including being designed for low greenhouse gas emissions and low water consumption.” Daniel Gleeson Editor

SEPTEMBER 2021 | International Mining 3

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WORLD PROSPECTS.qxp_proof 24/08/2021 14:31 Page 1


Rolls-Royce's mtu hybrid drive for mining trucks iesel engines remain the ideal prime mover for mining trucks. They are the benchmark for performance, availability, maintainability, refuelling range, costs, and are suitable for extreme environmental conditions. But they also account for about 50% of the GHG emissions of a typical mining operation. Reducing these emissions is a major lever for mining companies to achieve their ambitious decarbonisation goals. With their typical operating cycle — hauling loads uphill and returning to the loading position usually the same way downhill — mining trucks provide the opportunity to recuperate a considerable amount of energy downhill and store it in batteries. Depending on the topographic profile of the individual mine, up to 30% diesel fuel savings, respectively GHG reductions, are possible. Rolls-Royce is already offering mtu engines that fulfil the strict Tier 4 emissions standard to the mining industry, and with not aftertreatment which is unique in the market. These engines not only bring down fuel consumption – and thus CO2 emissions – by around 6% compared to Tier 2 engines, but also cut NOx emissions by 45% and particulate matter by 80%. At the same time they offer increased power with no power loss at altitudes of up to 5,500 m (18,000 ft) as well as reduced installation, maintenance and total ownership costs. But battery-hybrid powertrains are also a key milestone toward fully GHG-neutral mining truck propulsion, as they help to diminish the drawbacks of potential GHG-neutral fuels: scarcity, costs and/or limited energy storage density. In a recent presentation by Rolls-Royce Application Engineer Alexander Richter, who also is the technical Product Manager for its Series 2000 engines, the company presented the concept of a hybrid drive system for mining trucks, which it will also highlight at MINExpo in September.


A key point about the solution is that it is based on existing and proven mtu technologies. Richter said that Rolls-Royce envisions equipping mining trucks with battery packs (socalled mtu EnergyPacks), allowing for significant CO2 emissions reductions, less noise and cost savings for the customer at the same time. The batteries are in series production for hybrid trains which will soon enter service, first in the UK. The mtu EnergyPack is SIL 2 certified for rail passenger transportation and uses lithium–ion technology plus is liquid cooled/heated. They have 30.6 kWh capacity, 75 kW continuous power and 660V nominal voltage. They weigh about 370 kg with 1,600 mm x 750 mm x 220 mm dimensions. mtu DC/DC converters are integrated into the inverter cabinet plus the hybrid system is modular & scalable. The battery state of charge (SoC) is about 130 kWh, ie 22% of total capacity which is good for battery service life. Looking at CO2 savings, simulations for a 220 t truck used assumptions of cycle time 30 min; travel: 22 min plus queue, load, dump 8 min, so two cycles/h. This equates to 165 l/h and 2.65 kg CO2/l diesel fuel: total 6,500 h/year and 100,000 h truck life. Savings are 30% CO2 savings for a factory installed hybrid and 22% CO2 savings for a retrofit. The overall weight is higher with the hybrid – while 6 t are removed with the smaller engine and 2 t from the smaller tank, the batteries add 7.4 t and the DC/DC converters add 2 t. For the 220 t truck, there would be 20 x

All Australian coal BEVs partnership


6 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

flameproof and explosion protected diesel LHD utility vehicle. PPKME Global Head of Mining Dale McNamara said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to combine our respective industry expertise to introduce the first new Australian designed and built batteryelectric personnel carrier vehicle for the underground coal industry. Expanding our relationship to install Ampcontrol BEV technology into our COALTRAM utility vehicles will substantially benefit our customers and employees by developing new vehicles for all

underground mines.” Ampcontrol BEV technology builds upon the company’s expertise and industry reputation, centred around developing engineering solutions for use in hazardous environments, including underground coal mines. “We are thrilled to be working with the team at PPK Mining Equipment to power their fleet of industry-renowned underground vehicles. Our new BEV technology lets our partners and customers power their existing equipment, converting from diesel to battery-electric energy, and new vehicles under development with a solution where safety and efficiency are absolutely paramount,” added s

new agreement between two innovative Australian manufacturing and technology companies is set to deliver a range of new battery-electric vehicle (BEV) solutions for underground mining applications. The collaboration will see the installation of the latest world-class BEV technology designed by Ampcontrol into new PPK Mining Equipment (PPKME) personnel carrier vehicles. The companies will work together to also retrofit diesel drive trains in a range of other vehicles manufactured by PPKME, including the COALTRAM

EnergyPacks and 10 x DC/DC converters. There is a downsized engine – now using an mtu 16V 2000 S96, so 3,600 kg vs 9,500 kg and 36 l vs 60 l; 1,163 kW vs 1,865 kW (1,560 hp vs 2,500 hp) and Tier 4i vs Tier 2 with fuel efficiency optimised operation strategy. Plus obviously there is a reduced tank size. The 20 x EnergyPacks replace the original diesel tank so the downsized diesel tank can be moved to the opposite side (this is one of many options, to be agreed with customers). The batteries are recharged by recuperating braking energy when going downhill. This stored energy is used to provide power to the mining truck when going uphill loaded, which leads to fuel savings and allows for the downsizing of the truck’s engine. The solution is based on proven components, an it is planned as a retrofit offering for existing and also being available on newbuilt trucks and will be realised in partnership with customers. The mtu Hybrid System integrates as a subsystem into the truck architecture, plus FLANDERS Inc power electronics and controls can be utilised for retrofits. The powertrain controller and mtu Hybrid Controller continuously communicate dynamic power demand. Richter also said that in the not so distant future, two more technologies pioneered by Rolls-Royce may help mining operations become green and reach net zero carbon emissions: mtu engines are currently being prepared to run on sustainable fuels which are made from hydrogen with the help of renewable power. These fuels play a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in applications which are hard to electrify. By 2023, the newest generations of mtu Series 2000 and 4000 engines are set to be compatible with these fuels. Hydrogen also plays a salient role in another future technology Rolls-Royce is currently working on: Fuel cells will soon be part of the company’s portfolio – first in stationary applications (power generation) but possibly for mining as well at a later stage.

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WORLD PROSPECTS.qxp_proof 26/08/2021 14:51 Page 2

WORLD PROSPECTS Ampcontrol Managing Director & CEO Rod Henderson. Commenting on potential further opportunities, PPK Group Ltd Executive Chairman Robin Levison also added: “Given the proximity of Ampcontrol and PPKME workshops within the Hunter region of NSW, the geographical spread of customers and distinct areas of expertise, I see this unique ‘electrification project’ as the first step on a broader collaboration opportunity between Ampcontrol, PPK Group and our subsidiary

company LIS Energy Ltd. LIS Energy continues to commercialise its proprietary lithium sulphur battery technology through its joint venture research agreement with Deakin University; we are very enthusiastic about the potential future opportunities this project could present.” “We are looking forward to developing a strong association between PPKME and Ampcontrol, combining our engineering expertise, advanced technology solutions, and world-class manufacturing to deliver the future in battery

Dialight launches ProSite LED ialight Group, a leader in industrial LED lighting innovation, has launched its new ProSite LED floodlight range for the EMEA and APAC markets. Launched at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, USA, the floodlights are designed for industrial applications, providing, the company says, superior visibility to external worksites with crisp, near daylight illumination to ensure the safety and security of a diverse range of facilities including mine sites. The new ProSite series is currently available in 12,000-65,000 lumen models, reaching up to 165 lumens per watt, for mounting heights of up to 30 m. The floodlights integrate highly efficient precision optics, offering a wide range of beam patterns from narrow-spot to very wide, symmetric or asymmetric, and are capable of withstanding harsh environments, according to the company. The in-house designed optical surfaces precisely distribute the light over the target area with


minimum light spill for optimal illumination without wasted light or unnecessary light pollution, Dialight says. Offering maximum protection against water, dust, debris, vibration and impact with IP66/67, and IK10 (integrated polycarbonate optic/lens or lens cover) or IK08 (glass lens cover) ratings, the floodlights come with corrosion-resistant 316 stainless steel mounting hardware as standard.

BluVein signs up interest for trolley charging project even major mining companies have financially backed BluVein and its “next generation trolley-charging technology” for heavy mining vehicles, with the industry collaboration project now moving forward with final system development and construction of a technology demonstration pilot site in Brisbane, Australia. BluVein can now refer to Northern Star Resources, Newcrest Mining, Vale, Glencore, Agnico Eagle, AngloGold Ashanti and OZ Minerals as project partners. Some additional mining companies still in the process of joining the BluVein project will be announced as they officially come on board, BluVein said, while four major mining vehicle manufacturers have signed agreements to support BluVein controls and hardware integration into their vehicles. BluVein, a joint venture between EVIAS and Australia-based Olitek, is intent on laying the groundwork for multiple OEMs and mining companies to play in the mine electrification space


8 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

without the need to employ battery swapping or acquire larger, heavier batteries customised to cope with the current requirements placed on the heaviest diesel-powered machinery operating in the mining sector. It is doing this through adapting charging technology originally developed by Sweden-based EVIAS for electrified public highways. The application of this technology in mining could see operations employ smaller, lighter battery-electric vehicles that are connected to the mine site grid via its ingress protection-rated slotted Rail™

electric vehicles for our industry,” added Henderson.; The ProSite can also withstand a variety of environmental conditions and has a wide operating temperature range of -40°C to +65°C. With just four screws to access wiring, installation is quick and easy, the company claims. Several mounting options are available as well as a variety of accessories including wire guards, visors and bird spikes. The ProSite series also comes with Dialight’s industry-leading 10 year warranty. Launching the ProSite range, Fariyal Khanbabi, Dialight Group Chief Executive, said: “The ProSite series features Dialight’s hallmark dependability and efficiency in an innovative, compact new design that provides a brighter, safer and more secure work environment. “As a company, it is our priority to provide industry with products that perform to the highest standards, while also being cost-effective, easy to install and virtually maintenance free over their 10year lifespan so that nothing is wasted – whether that be money, time, or unnecessary environmental impact.” system. This system effectively eliminates all exposed high voltage conductors, providing significantly improved safety and ensures compliance with mine electrical regulations, according to BluVein. This is complemented with its Hammer™ technology and a sophisticated power distribution unit to effectively power electric motors and charge a vehicle’s on-board batteries. BluVein has been specifically designed for harsh mining environments and is completely agnostic to vehicle manufacturer. This standardisation is crucial, BluVein says, as it allows a mixed fleet of mining vehicle to use the same rail infrastructure. While underground mining looks like the most immediate application, BluVein says the technology also has applications in open-pit mining and quarrying. It is this technology to be trialled in a demonstration pilot in a simulated underground environment. BluVein says it plans on starting the trial install early works towards the end of this year for a mid- to late-2022 trial period. The BluVein project will be managed by the Canada Mining Innovation Council (CMIC).

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Mincon(DPS)_September21 PROOF.qxp_Layout 1 30/07/2021 10:51 Page 2

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Vale sends in the maintenance robots ale says it has been investing in different models of robots to assist employees in maintenance tasks, helping to remove them from risky situations and contributing to the company’s objective of becoming benchmark in mining safety. Currently, Vale works with three main robot models: two developed by the Vale Institute of Technology (ITV – Mining), which resemble “carts”, and one acquired from international supplier ANYbotics, ANYmal, nicknamed by Vale as “puppy.” Created in 2010, ITV keeps a robotics cell, which has been developing robots, drones and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions for operations. In 2015, Vale’s Speleology area started the SpeleoRobot project, which the following year was taken over by ITV in partnership with the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG). The remotely operated robotic device, with cameras and a lighting system, capable of moving over rough terrain, was initially designed to help speleologists working for Vale by mapping caves close to operations. As of 2017, the SpeleoRobot began to be tested in other operational functions, such as inspections in confined environments, which are difficult for people to access. Inspections have already been carried out in pipes, galleries and drains, in addition to services in plant equipment, such as mapping of ball mills and inspection of crusher teeth. The SpeleoRobot has already been used in more than 15 different services in the operations in the Brazilian states of Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo and Pará. Its interchangeable locomotion system allows the robot to move using wheels, tyres, treads or legs, providing mobility conditions on different types of terrain, and its sensing system allows for high resolution inspection, generation of threedimensional maps, in addition to other modular capabilities. Recently, some of the robot perception modules developed by ITV were exchanged with NASA, the US space agency. “These modules are being validated for use in an international underground robotics challenge,” comments


researcher Maira Saboia, from ITV. ITV is producing three more units of this robot, which will be leased to copper operations in Pará and iron ore operations in Vitória (Espírito Santo) and Itabira (Minas Gerais), where they will be used in inspections of mills, pipelines and other confined environments. The Robot for Inspection Services (ROSI) is also being developed by ITV, in partnership with the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). Designed since the beginning of the project as an inspection tool in Vale’s operational areas, ROSI focuses on conveyor belts, a critical piece of equipment for mining. For this, ROSI carries a robotic arm capable of acting with dexterity in the operational environment, being able to reposition sensors and collect samples in places with difficult access. The robot began to be developed in 2017 and is currently in the testing phase. “These robots were created within Vale by the employees themselves and are a constantly evolving technology,” explains researcher Gustavo Pessin, from ITV. “Development is opensource, completely open from hardware to software, and its structure is modular. Everything that is developed can be used in other robots and equipment and adapted to new situations or functionalities using resources within Vale.” In addition to developing equipment at home, Vale is also acquiring ANYmal, a quadruped robot created by ANYbotics, a Swiss company. Already used in other industries, the robot was adapted for mining operations with the support of a team from Vale. This year, a proof of concept was completed at the Cauê iron ore processing plant in Itabira (Minas Gerais). The success of the tests convinced Vale that it should purchase a unit of the robot. During the proof of concept, the robot manoeuvered around the platform and overcame obstacles such as going up and down stairs. It created and displayed a digitised map of the area under inspection, executed route planning and defined the way forward, focused on specific objects and instruments, transmitted images, recorded thermal images with temperature

Codelco's CIO-E in Santiago enters next phase


12 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

control of high-impact strategic activities. Divisional best practices will be captured, standardised and transferred, with a medium and long-term corporate cross-sectional view as the main focus. The CIO-E will be supported by an operational model of excellence, integrating with the Integrated Tactical Operation Centers (CIO-T) that are distributed in both the North District and the South Central District. The North District CIO-T is

the Chuquicamata CIO located inside the Ministro Hales Division (10 km from Calama). From that place the operations of the open pit and underground mine are monitored and controlled - primary, secondary and tertiary crushing, in addition to the milling operations of the concentrator. There are two more CIO-Ts with similar functions in the South Central District - in Rancagua for the El Teniente operations and in Los Andes for the Andina operations. The CIO-E will be managed by Vice Presidencies of Mining Resources Management


hilean copper miner Codelco's Integrated Strategic Operations Center (CIO-E), whose second phase will be inaugurated during September at the Codelco Headquarters in Santiago, is part of a massive digital transformation process being carried out by the company. The main function of the CIO-E will be to increase the value of the corporate business, through the optimisation of production processes, as well as the management and

measurements, among other functions. Using the robot minimises human exposure in hazardous locations, in addition to allowing remote asset inspection and data collection so that more effective decisions can be made. “With the robot, we eliminate risks pertaining to inspection activities, such as rotating equipment parts, noise and dust,” explains Rayner Teixeira, operational analyst responsible for developing ANYmal at Vale. “We also eliminate activities that have ergonomic risk, where the employee would need to perform a task in an uncomfortable position. The robot also gives us access to confined spaces, like the inside of a mill.” The robot will be used to carry out inspections of the grinding unit and the three-dimensional map of the Cauê mine. In addition to the gains in employee safety, a reduction in the number of stops and maintenance costs is expected, as well as greater reliability in inspection and the collection of parameters to control the performance of assets in real time. The company concludes: “Innovation is key for Vale to improve people’s lives and transform the future together with society. In its strategy, the company prioritises safety, reliability, low carbon agenda and generation of shared value. Ongoing safety innovation initiatives aim to remove employees from risk or reduce their exposure through the use of technologies such as autonomous vehicles, among others; identify and resolve causes of accidents with motor vehicles and energy equipment through operator fatigue detection systems and proximity alerts, for example; and elimination of risk scenarios.”;;

WHERE DOES THE NEXT GENERATION OF PRODUCTIVE HAULING BEGIN? It all starts with operators, who work in an environment designed by operators, for operators. Truck operators provided input, worked alongside us and shared their feedback to help us create a state-of-the-art operator environment designed for efficiency. With technology advancements, the Cat® 785 mining truck enhances operator safety and performance, provides more intuitive and predictable operation, delivers faster and easier access to data, and streamlines maintenance to boost efficiency and lower costs. The new 785 builds on a 35-year legacy and is ready for the future. The 785 delivers up to a 5% reduction in cycle times thanks to options such as larger tires and higher horsepower. The addition of automated functions and controls boost efficiency and shorten the operator learning curve. It hauls more every load, every cycle, and every shift. And it delivers a better bottom line to the most important quarry or mine in the world: yours.

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WORLD PROSPECTS and Development (VGRMD) and the of Technology and Automation of Business Processes (VTAP). The main function will be to generate opportunities for process optimisation and improvement for the business, in order to reach and have confidence in the technical limits of processes, and facilitate the finding, standardisation and transfer of best operational practices for Codelco. The new CIO-E is characterised by its cooperative work philosophy of maximum fluidity, dynamism and flexibility. For this it will have

accesses, corridors and spaces all with a direct view to the 'videowall' which will display strategic and key information associated with operations. These activities correspond to transversal support processes for remote maintenance, updating and consistency of operational systems, with an important focus on standardisation and automation of reportability systems. Corporate control and monitoring of strategic variables will become increasingly important for business success.

New Modular Mining open-technology platform dvancing toward its smart mining vision for customers where mining environments are connected, interoperable ecosystems that bring together the customer’s chosen equipment and technologies to accelerate value delivery and empower innovation, Komatsu has announced further alignment of its mining business segments to best serve the needs of its global customer base. Komatsu’s new Mining Technology Solutions team brings together experts from across its businesses to focus on rapid technology advancement. This new business unit includes the Modular Mining brand; a Komatsu technology brand focused on real-time digital offerings that are compatible with all makes of equipment. As part of this evolution, the MineWare brand is being discontinued and its


Argus and Pegasys solutions will now be part of the Modular Mining brand portfolio. All MineWare and Modular Mining employees have been integrated into the new Mining Technology Solutions team. Aligned around common goals of being more agile and collaborative, increasing efficiencies and leveraging the full capacity of Komatsu’s mining experience, the Mining Technology Solutions team has been developing the new Intellimine Synergy open-technology platform as part of the Modular Mining technology portfolio to debut at MINExpo International on September 13 in Las Vegas. “Designed to collect, integrate and process data in real time, Intellimine Synergy is on track to be an industry first for offering customers a single source of actionable insights through an open-technology platform that brings

together data from all relevant Komatsu, Modular Mining and third-party machines, mining processes, systems and technology applications.” “The number of data sources available to our customers now can be overwhelming,” said Jeffrey Dawes, President and CEO of Komatsu Mining. “So, we set out to provide a solution that seeks to cut through the noise; to provide a single source of real-time information that can assist, automate and help optimise the important decisions customers make every day.”

Metso Outotec takes elution & goldroom stage modular and compact etso Outotec is introducing the compact Elution and Goldroom plant, “a standardised solution for the forming of concentrated eluate to be processed for gold recovery by electrowinning.” The innovative plant design is based on pre-engineered modules to reduce engineering, delivery, and construction, as well as commissioning time and investment cost. It also provides the flexibility needed to meet the various process, layout, and regulatory requirements. “The launch of the Metso Outotec Elution and Goldroom plant is an important step in completing our capability to deliver a full Run-of-Mine ore to doré process flowsheet for our clients. Utilising standardised, pre-engineered modules allows for optimised delivery time and investment cost while still enabling customised automation and control,” notes Jan van Niekerk, Director, Gold Process Solutions at Metso Outotec. The Metso Outotec Elution and Goldroom plant can be delivered


14 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

standalone or as part of a holistic gold process solution to enable onsite production of gold doré. Metso Outotec offers compact plant flowsheet designs based on ZADRA or AARL technologies. The Elution and Goldroom plant features a heat recovery circuit to minimise energy consumption and efficient carbon dewatering to maximise carbon regeneration and minimise energy losses. The plant is available with four levels of automation – standard, upgraded, advanced, and premium – and can be controlled either from a

standalone control room or via the plant’s DCS system. Metso Outotec can dynamically model the plant’s acid wash, elution, and electrowinning circuits using its proprietary HSC Chemistry® software. The Elution and Goldroom plant is the final step in the gold process flowsheet, where the gold cyanide complex is desorbed from the activated carbon, recovered as a metal in the electrowinning cells, and refined to doré gold bars in the gold room. The activated carbon is regenerated for reuse in the cyanide leaching section. Key cited benefits include: n Based on standardised, pre-engineered modules to reduce investment cost and to optimise delivery lead time n Easy to operate, thanks to extensive automation options n Complete performance guarantee with risk mitigation based on advanced dynamic modelling n Safe, efficient training available via a virtual plant simulation platform

Your Partner for Innovation Underground Find out more about our solutions for ground support, backfill, injections and anchoring, water management and sprayed concrete at:

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Hitachi mining equipment goes direct in the Americas n a major change in how Hitachi mining machines will be supplied to American markets, John Deere’s marketing arrangement for Hitachibranded construction excavators and mining equipment in the Americas that has been in place since 1988 is set to end effective March 2022; Hitachi will now assume distribution and support for these products covering the whole mining range up to the largest models – hydraulic excavators up to the EX8000 and mining trucks up to the EH5000. The main driver behind the move is to be able to provide the mining industry in the Americas with the latest digital, automation and future powertrain solutions directly plus leverage better in the region the expertise Hitachi-owned companies like Wenco, Bradken and H-E Parts. It also comes ahead of Hitachi’s plans to roll out its comprehensive ConSite® Mine digital solution to support the operation of an entire mine. Hitachi in Japan stated: “Upon the dissolution of the alliance and starting from March 2022, Hitachi Construction Machinery will be able to provide the newest products, technologies, and services directly to our customers through our independent dealer network, as part of the integrated Hitachi Construction Machinery Group activities throughout the North, Central and South American markets.” It added: “Hitachi Construction Machinery Group will offer direct sales and services of compact to construction– sized hydraulic excavators, ultra–large mining machines, and, in addition, wheel loaders, all of which are recognised globally for their excellence in performance and quality, in these markets.” Going forward, Hitachi Construction Machinery will have Hitachi Construction Machinery Loaders America Inc (with headquarters in Georgia, and Chairman of the Board Masaaki Hirose, which currently serves as the production and distribution base for Hitachi branded wheel loaders) function as the hub of its activities in the Americas. Hitachi Construction Machinery will coordinate with the group companies in the region to build a new business structure. With the end of the agreement with Deere, Hitachi Construction Machinery will


16 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

become able to work with existing dealers in North, Central and South America to strengthen and expand its network in the future and to proactively develop business for customers involved in mining operations across the American continents. “Specifically, the Hitachi Construction Machinery Group’s activities, including the efforts we recently agreed to conduct with the ABB Group to achieve net zero emissions” (referring to their joint battery electric trolley assist mining truck project) “plus dump truck autonomous haulage system (AHS) for automated driving at mines, and autonomous operating technologies for ultra large mining excavators” are drawing considerable attention from customers in the global mining market. In addition to reducing CO2 emissions, more sophisticated and complex mine–wide management is also a major challenge to its mining customers. Hitachi Construction Machinery is also scheduled to begin offering ConSite® Mine on which it is working closely with Wenco International Mining Systems Ltd headquartered in Vancouver, Canada and headed up by President & CEO Andrew Pyne, a subsidiary “which is one of the world’s leading engineering companies for the operation and management of increasingly complex mining trucks, to develop new and expanded customer service.” In addition, it gives mining customers in the Americas better access to the technologies from Hitachi-owned Bradken Pty Ltd (headquarters New South Wales, Australia; CEO: Sean Winstone), which manufactures wear parts and related components for mining equipment, as

well as H–E Parts International LLC (headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia, USA; CEO: Simon Pelletier), which provides advanced maintenance services for mining, crushing, and construction machinery as well as being in the business of development, processing, and sales of components for mining equipment, both of which have a proven track record throughout the Americas markets. “We will work with these group companies and the ABB Group to develop and cultivate markets together.” In a related development, Wajax Corporation and Hitachi Construction Machinery Loaders America Inc have announced that, effective March 1, 2022, the companies plan to expand their current Canadian direct distribution relationship to include construction excavators, mining equipment and related aftermarket parts. Since 2001, these products have been supplied to Wajax via the John Deere third–party joint venture partner to Hitachi Construction Machinery (HCM). The expansion of the direct relationship between Wajax and Hitachi is expected to strengthen the competitive positioning of both companies in the Canadian construction and mining markets. Commenting on the change, Wajax’s President and CEO, Mark Foote, stated “Hitachi is Wajax’s largest manufacturing business partner and a very important contributor to our strategy. We are very pleased that our direct relationship will be significantly strengthened. Working directly with our partners at Hitachi will provide Wajax with enhanced access to product development and improved market responsiveness. We look forward to building on this already strong partnership in the core markets of construction and mining, as well as in additional areas in the future.” On behalf of Hitachi, Simon Wilson, Vice President of Sales, stated: “Wajax is one of Hitachi’s largest and most successful independent distributors globally and has been a valued partner for over two decades. The Canadian market is key to Hitachi’s strategy, and we look forward to the benefits of an expanded direct relationship with Wajax as our national construction and mining partner. We believe this change will increase our market share by providing customers with products that lead the market in terms of value, performance and reliability.”;

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PhotonAssay tech set for Western Africa debut hrysos’ PhotonAssay technology is set to make a debut in the Western Africa market after Capital Ltd’s MSALABS signed a provisional five-year agreement with Societe Des Mines De Morila SA at the Morila gold mine in Mali. The mine, which has an existing drilling contract with Capital Ltd, is 80%-owned by Firefinch. The ASX-listed company acquired the mine in November 2020 with the view to increase production at the 4.5 Mt/y mill from a current annual production profile of 40,000 oz/y of gold from tailings treatment, towards a target of 70,000-90,000 oz/y of gold through mining of small open pits, stocks and tailings from mid2021. In 2022, Firefinch plans to increase production to 150,000-200,000 oz/y by recommencing mining from the main Morila pit. The contract, which remains subject to final terms and conditions, could see the first PhotonAssay arrive on site before the end of the year. This would be the first Chrysos unit to be deployed in Western Africa, according to Capital. This news came out in the release of the company’s interim results, which outlined a 51.6% year-on-year boost in revenue to $98.7 million and a 238.6% boost in adjusted profit to


$12.7 million. MSALABS also has a PhotonAssay contract in place with Barrick Gold at the Bulyanhulu mine in Tanzania, which could see the deployment of at least six PhotonAssay units. Capital said the initial Chrysos unit had arrived in Tanzania and was in transit to the Bulyanhulu laboratory, with commissioning anticipated imminently, with the Chrysos team now on site. An additional Chrysos unit secured for Canada was scheduled for arrival in Val d’Or, Quebec, in the December quarter, representing an expansion of MSALABS’ presence in the country and entry into the prolific Abitibi Belt. Capital Ltd said offtake discussions are well advanced for the unit’s capacity. Capital Ltd Executive Chairman, Jamie Boyton, said of the Photon Assay tech: “Chrysos has the potential to disrupt the geochemical analysis sector and we are encouraged by the demand we see as we prepare to roll out the second unit in Val d’Or in Quebec, Canada, in the December quarter of this year, and the third at Morila in Mali soon thereafter.” Driven in part by increasing industry focus on safety, sustainability and sample turnaround time, Chrysos PhotonAssay is competing with the

Cat auto drilling coming to Bloom Lake hampion Iron Ltd has signed a Letter of Intent with Caterpillar Inc to implement artificial intelligence based Advanced Drilling Technologies on Cat equipment at its Bloom Lake Mine. The project will progressively implement a remote-controlled, semi–autonomous and fully autonomous Cat electric drilling fleet, utilising the technologies engineered, designed, and/or integrated by Caterpillar. With Champion contributing its experienced workforce, and Caterpillar’s independent dealer, Toromont Cat, its aftermarket support, the collaboration will aim to optimise Bloom Lake’s operational productivity and reduce energy consumption, while demonstrating the capabilities of Caterpillar’s advanced drilling technologies. A Drill-to-Mill strategy (D2M) is expected to be deployed based on a


20 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

series of tightly integrated systems, driven by Cat® MineStar™ solutions, designed to optimise the drilling, loading and hauling processes. D2M is focused on delivering improved milling performance by supplying optimised mill feed, while contending with dynamic operational conditions. Using real-time data, artificial intelligence and analytics, Caterpillar’s integrated technology” will support Champion’s ability to assess the status of machines, technologies, and material to enable more timely and accurate operational

centuries-old fire assay process in the gold assaying market. Chrysos says the technology, which originated out of a CSIRO project, is fast taking over fire assay to be the preferred technology of miners and laboratories seeking a solution to the supply chain and environmental challenges created by traditional gold assaying methods. Hitting samples with high-energy X-rays, PhotonAssay causes excitation of atomic nuclei allowing enhanced analysis of gold, silver and complementary elements in as little as two minutes, Chrysos claims. Importantly, the nondestructive process allows large samples of up to 500 g to be measured and provides a “true” bulk reading independent of the chemical or physical form of the sample. decisions and consistent execution across Champion’s entire mining value chain.” The goal of the collaborative effort will be to deliver a fully integrated drill–to–mill t echnology solution powered by data connectivity and advanced analytics to ultimately improve workflow between the mine and plant, providing a more efficient end-to-end enterprise process that delivers more consistent raw material for final product specification requirements. Champion’s CEO, David Cataford said, “We are honoured to collaborate with industry leaders like Caterpillar and Toromont Cat, and are confident that our workforce’s proven opera tional expertise and ingenuity will be an asset in deploying these technologies. The aim and vision of improving mining practices and ultimately reducing waste and energy use is the foundation of this collaboration. The entire Bloom Lake team has already demonstrated its ability to operate at a consistently high level, since commissioning the mine in 2018. In doing so, we have continuously strived to improve operations utilising the best existing and new prospective mining technologies. Drill-to-mill aligns with our core value of respecting the land that we exploit, as it will enable us to responsibly extract non-renewable resources using the best means possible.”;

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Integrating hygiene and ventilation reporting requirements South Africa-based VortexOHS is set to make ventilation and hygiene professionals’ work a lot faster owden’s pledge to provide “total mine ventilation solutions” to the industry has led to many corporate transactions and partnerships over recent years, with this customer vow showing no signs of abating. A recent tie-up with South Africa-based VortexOHS might have gone under the radar among all the Howden M&A noise, but it is arguably one of the more timely and important associations the company has made when it comes to speeding up and improving the work of ventilation and hygiene professionals across the industry. Many miners will be aware of VortexOHS’ work in the occupational hygiene space; its modular ventilation and occupational hygiene data collection and management system is used throughout South Africa and neighbouring nations for planning surveys, collecting information and generating hygiene reports. Packaged in a SQL server-based system, it can be worked on by multiple people from all over the world concurrently. This means a supervisor in South Africa can collaborate and download a report at the same time as a mine manager overseas. The generation of these reports, some of which are a required from South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), has become part and parcel of hygiene professionals’ daily workflows. Shane Ambrosio, Director and Consultant at VortexOHS, says the repository, which allows mine sites to, among other things, set up homogeneous exposure groups (HEGs), as well as a sample register and service history of all measuring instruments, was created in direct response to the needs of the mining industry. “Ventilation professionals, whenever they move from site-to-site, are governed by different ways of working,” he told IM. “No company or report is the same, with various employees compiling relevant data on spreadsheets or word documents with endless different formats. That is before mentioning the variances in the way these surveys measure and collect the data.”


Ambrosio, a ventilation professional by trade, realised the opportunity to create a database solution that could go some way to standardising the reporting process. What started as a solution to cater to the occupational hygiene requirements from the DMRE – which requests mines to submit statutory reports on personal exposure monitoring to occupational hygiene stressors – has evolved into a platform that could go some way to solving the industry’s needs for a complete ventilation reporting solution. Additionally, the system hopes to bring some level of standardisation to the market. Stephan Bergh, Mining Team Leader at Howden Africa, explained: “In South Africa and most of Africa – as the continent tends to follow suit – the Ventilation Engineering and Occupational Hygiene (VOHE) Department is one and the same. The legal appointee, in most instances, would look after both legs – occupational hygiene, which module one of VortexOHS speaks to from a statutory point of view, and ventilation surveys, which are the checks carried out on the workplace at prescribed intervals to make sure the hazards and risks employees are exposed to are within allowable limits. “Howden’s Total Mine Ventilation Solution (TMVS) is focused on building sustainable, value adding relationships. Our fully-integrated approach to mine ventilation is aimed at creating work environments which are safe and risk free to the health of employees. “The new modules in VortexOHS will assist in making VortexOHS a complete sampling and reporting tool for VOHE professionals. This allows Howden to support mines in meeting their statutory, legal and safety objectives in more efficient ways, and supports our vision of offering a single-point-of-contact solution.” For Ambrosio, the integration is an obvious one given that the ventilation and hygiene dynamic are so closely related.

“Noise aside, ventilation solves the majority of hygiene issues,” he said. “If you solve diesel particulate matter (DPM) emissions at a heading in your mine, for example, you don’t have heat stress problems as you have so much ventilation in that heading to clear the DPMs.” The way ventilation personnel are measuring and recording relevant information is continuing to evolve, which means Ambrosio has had to create a module for metal mines that can be customised and added to in the future. “We’re trying to create a system that is robust and completely flexible – a customised experience with strong guidelines as to what is required for these comprehensive reports,” he said. Buoyed by the interest – and backing – of a senior mining company that saw the potential to expand VortexOHS from the hygiene module, Ambrosio has been busy defining appropriate measurement metrics, building standardised components, incorporating sketches and finetuning the scheduling format to make the system easy to use, scalable and, most important, useful for the wider mining industry. “The idea is to build the relevant components once and then you can transfer these into different reports as you wish,” he explained. “It is pointless having the same element being measured in two different ways in two different reports, which is currently what happens.” While South Africa may have dominated sales of the VortexOHS hygiene module, this new, indevelopment module has global appeal, according to Ambrosio. Regional standards can be incorporated into reports as required and relevant calculations can be automated to inform the process and adapt to mine- and regulator-specific requirements. “If this achieves what I plan for it to achieve, it will make a lot of people’s lives a lot easier,” Ambrosio said. “It will come with a lot more in demand than the hygiene module, for sure.” The metal mine ventilation module should be complete by the end of the year, with additional modules for collieries and safety inspection to follow in 2022. IM

Screenshots from the prototype VortexOHS metal mine ventilation module showing survey components (left), and measurement definitions (right) 22 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021


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MICA: closing Canada’s mining innovation gap g

IM gets to the bottom of an influential program looking to accelerate the development and commercialisation of innovative autonomous and clean technologies in the mining sector he Government of Canada’s C$40 million ($31.9 million) investment in a C$112.4 million project to accelerate the development and commercialisation of innovative technologies geared towards making the mining sector more productive and sustainable has been a long time coming. It was way back in 2014 that the Ultra-deep Mining Network (UDMN), a pan-Canadian initiative led by the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI), was approved as part of the Business-led Network Centres of Excellence (BL-NCE) Program. UDMN, which ran from 2014-2019, had rock stress risk reduction, energy reduction, material transport and productivity, and improved human health and effectiveness as its four strategic themes. Its commercial success is still being felt to this date. While UDMN2 was not approved to go forward to the second stage, the idea behind the Mining Innovation Commercialization Accelerator (MICA) was already being germinated by CEMI more than five years ago as it filed the UDMN2 application. Fast forward to 2021, and CEMI’s new MICA Network now has the funds to connect stakeholders from a wide range of fields to bring innovative technologies to the fore. MICA’s mission is to accelerate the number and scale of home-grown Canadian mining Small-toMedium Enterprises (SMEs); commercialise new, late stage, high impact mining technologies; create regional networks and rapidly increase domestic and export sales; scale-up Canadian SMEs to participate in global mining supply chains; and build a national ecosystem as a network of collaborative regional networks. It is underwritten by four technical themes: n Increase mine production capacity, at lower cost; n Reduce mining energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions; n Implement smart, autonomous mining systems; and n Reduce tailings environmental risk and longterm liabilities. While MICA will be headquartered in Sudbury, Ontario – where CEMI is based – it will operate across Canada through main partners the Bradshaw Research Initiative for Minerals and Mining, InnoTech Alberta, Saskatchewan Polytechnic, MaRS, Le Groupe MISA and the College of the North Atlantic. By accelerating the development and


24 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

commercialisation of innovative autonomous and clean technologies in the mining sector, the initiative is expected to extend the operational lives of existing mines and reduce the time it takes to bring new mineral deposits into production. MICA, having activities that will span the country, is expected to support the creation of 900 jobs and at least 12 new businesses; the commercialisation of at least 30 new products, services or processes; and the generation of “inter-industry spill-over benefits” by introducing innovative non-mining technologies to the mining sector and vice versa. The network looks set to mobilise investments of at least C$100 million from the private sector and expand its membership to over 350 businesses and organisations across the country. Following the July announcement of government funding and with an appreciation of the work CEMI carried out on the UDMN, IM put some questions to CEMI President and CEO, Doug Morrison (pictured). IM: How do you intend to “bridge the innovationto-commercialisation gap” that currently exists in the mining space in Canada? DM: The SMEs are the most innovative companies in every sector of the economy but they don’t all have the complete range of skill sets that allow them to bring new products or services to market. Every company is different and, once we have identified their particular limitations, we find other consultants that can help them bridge that particular gap. For most SMEs, it is very rarely a technical problem, more likely an IP, marketing or investment issue, but, regardless, we try to find them the resources they need to move forward. IM: How will the program differ to those in other regions like NEXGEN SIMS in the EU or some of the initiatives run through METS Ignited in Australia? DM: I think the fundamental difference is that CEMI is not trying to solve a technology problem, so finding new technologies or companies with equipment modifications is not our first goal. Mining is first and foremost a business, and CEMI is trying to solve mining’s business problems with technology. So, we first look at the

biggest business problem – for most mines, it is labour then energy cost, or the cost of delaying first production revenue. We apply the Theory of Constraints, then analyse that part of the mining process “The fastest way to with discrete event produce more metal, more simulations to cheaply is to support the prioritise the critical development and parts of the problem. implementation of the technologies that make Only then do we this happen,” Doug look for the kinds of Morrison says answers these analyses point to. It must be a systems-led approach because there are no simple, silver-bullet answers – we need system solutions. So CEMI goes looking for point solutions that can be integrated into new system solutions that improve business outcomes – more ore value per day, lower cost per tonne, faster approvals, etc. We need to move more ore cheaper and faster and we need new mines to get into production sooner. We have identified the types of solutions industry needs, but they are not a collection of incremental changes, or pet projects – better candles don’t lead to the light bulb in this case. Disruptive solutions are, often, too uncomfortable for many companies to consider but they are absolutely necessary. IM: How does CEMI’s experience to date enable it to best leverage the C$40 million of government funding and at least C$100 million of private sector funding within the MICA network? DM: The first SME Network program CEMI managed was the UDMN project (2014-19) and this was focused only on the kinds of technologies needed to meet the needs of the hot, humid and seismically-active conditions in many mines in Canada, which have to operate at a depth below 2.5 km. We recognised there were several excellent projects we could not fund within the relatively narrow UDMN criteria, and we recognised the need for another network with a broader scope. This was the genesis of the MICA proposal. From the UDMN experience, we learned important lessons about managing a collaborative network of SMEs in a ‘managed cluster’ with rules of engagement to ensure the participants were treated equitably. When we could see some projects were not going to meet their target, we

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HIGH PROFILE MICA network participants include: • • • • • • • • • • • • •

NuBinary Inc A.U.G. Signals Ltd ROSOR Corp Jannatec Technologies MineVest Ltd Nokia Canada Carlson Software Inc HLS Hard-Line Solutions Inc Tap Report KPM-Accelerate Amplytica Inc FROSKR Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations – a GLENCORE company • Ionic Technology Group • SafeSight Exploration Inc

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Centric Mining Systems Inc Western Heritage Enviro Integrations Strategies Unmanned Aerial Services Inc Renix Inc Spinetector Canada Boart Longyear RHT RailHaul Technologies Inc Cascadia Scientific Inc 2S Water Incorporated Zero Energy Water Muddy River Technologies Inc Godelius FKC-Lake Shore Hyperspectral Intelligence Inc Clickmox Solutions Inc Notiform Inc Geomative Inc Econse Water Purification Systems Inc

had to manage a transition to stand-by projects to maximise the best use of the government funding. IM: How have you already started to “identify innovative solutions and integrate them into the system-solutions that the mining industry needs” and what types of private companies are looking to invest in the accelerator model? Is there funding coming from mining companies themselves? DM: We focus on helping SMEs commercialise solutions that will impact the mining business and we mostly rely on the SMEs to have identified their first adopter that will sponsor the project. One of the lessons from the UDMN project was that SMEs are absolutely reliable in their funding of innovation but this is less true for mining companies that are often constrained by their internal objectives and volatile budgets. While the initial UDMN proposal had equal funding commitments from SMEs and mining companies, a year later when the work began, the SMEs had to cover 75% of the costs as the corporate funding contracted. IM: How does the selection criteria work? What attributes must the technologies and companies have to qualify for MICA selection? Where has the ‘30 new products, services or processes’ number come from? Is this tied to the number of challenges you are looking to solve in the mining space? DM: It will be just as it was with the UDMN, except that the MICA Network focuses on higher technology-readiness level projects that are closer to market. As a result, the potential for commercial success is an important requirement. The four MICA themes were identified by the industry consultation group consisting of several senior mining executives who identified overall industry requirements.

26 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

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Paige Engineering Ltd Cypher Environmental ELEMISSION Inc Tunik Inc Enki GeoSolutions Inc Bio-Mine Ltd Creative eLearning Design TesMan Incorporated Naturallia Val D’Or MineSense Technologies Ltd Optimize Group Inc CleanTech Geomechanics Inc NTWIST Rock-Tech Mayhew Performance Ltd URE Consulting KA Imaging Inc E2metrix Inc FVT Research Copperstone Technologies Ltd

We are in the process of identifying subject matter experts with several decades of experience in deep hard-rock mines and tailings management, as well as serial innovators to establish technical and commercial criteria for the projects and then rank the proposals. The MICA targets for products and services is an extension of the results achieved by the UDMN, accepting that the technical range of MICA is much broader. IM: What will the selection panel look like in terms of mining industry experience? Where are you intending to source the panel representatives from? Will there be a streamlined process in terms of trialling prototypes/commercial units at mine sites? DM: What is important is to find industry experience that recognises that significant change in the industry is essential – the most innovative companies are more likely to be mid-tier or smaller. It is difficult to recognise any strategic innovation being driven by the largest mining companies – even the new trend towards batteryelectric vehicles was initiated by relatively small mining companies. Mining companies do a good job of producing resources on a massive scale, but adopting innovation is a difficult proposition given their business objectives. Fortunately, there are now alternatives to mine site trials and, in the case of tailings, there are many small legacy sites that can act as trial sites for new innovations. IM: Ahead of the announcement of funding in July, how many technologies/companies did you have on board waiting to submit ideas and start the process? How many of these do you expect to advance in the first year of the program? How

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contextere Hybrid Power Solutions Canada Silver Cobalt Works Gowling WLG Daniola Corporation FORTAI Tech Ltd iRing Inc Greenland Engineering & Technologies Group Novamera Inc intelline ApoSys Technologies Inc Nanoprecise Maestro Digital Mine Relamco Echion Group Sight Power Inc Cementation Panisolar Inc

many of these come from outside of the mining sector? DM: At the beginning of the submission process, we had around 80 mining SMEs that committed to over C$65 million of innovation investment and we will reserve the first tranche of funding for these companies. We expect at least as many proposals after our second request for proposals, but there is no way to predict what the ratio of mining to non-mining candidates will be. Ultimately, successful projects are secondary to establishing a strategic network of innovators to improve the economic, environmental and social performance of the global mining industry. IM: Why is now the right time to create such a network of innovators? DM: MICA’s strategic purpose is to help mining meet the challenge of the day; supplying the minerals and metals the global economy needs, at the scale and at the price that will accelerate the Green Transition to a low-carbon economy. The projections of greater metal demand and higher prices does not augur well. The latest IPCC Report makes it clear just how dire the climate change situation is, and we all know that the mining industry is key to making this transition happen within the next two decades. Higher metal prices cannot defeat carbon and new mines take decades to develop. The fastest way to produce more metal, more cheaply is to support the development and implementation of the technologies that make this happen. The economy-of-scale model is almost exhausted but high-performance methods through innovation can still save the planet. MICA is only a very small step on this journey, but it is an important one that the Canadian Government recognises and those from within and outside of the industry need to get involved in. IM

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HIGH PROFILE - ALAMOS GOLD.qxp_proof 24/08/2021 15:31 Page 1

MINERAL EXPLORATION Alamos Gold is anticipating gold output of 130,000-145,000 oz from Island this year


Drilling the golden goods at Island Dan Gleeson talks exploration – specifically directional drilling – with the Alamos Gold team after they hit Island Gold Mine’s best-ever drill intersection ohn A McCluskey, President and CEO of Alamos Gold, tends to look forward, not back, when talking about strategic decisions the Toronto- and New York-listed miner has made during his 18 years heading up the company. When discussing the acquisition of Richmont Mines, which included the flagship Island Gold Mine asset in Ontario, he allows himself a brief rumination on the market’s first impressions of the deal: “We acquired the asset for around $620 million in November of 2017. The consensus view in the market was we had overpaid for the asset.” That consensus view considered 1.8 Moz of mineral reserves and resources and production around the 100,000 oz/y mark, among other factors. “In less than three years, we had Island over the 4 Moz reserve and resource threshold – we’re now nearer to 5 Moz – and the consensus valuation for the asset from analysts covering us is around $1.4 billion.” That new valuation factors in a production rise – the company is anticipating gold output of 130,000-145,000 oz this year – and long-term growth prospects for the asset. The latter is evidenced by an Island Phase Three Expansion study published last year that envisaged a 2,000 t/d operation (currently 1,200 t/d) able to produce 236,000 oz/y starting in 2025. While McCluskey says the company was aware of these growth prospects back in November 2017, most market observers will be surprised they have been proven up so quickly after the Richmont Mines transaction. They probably underestimated what the use of surface directional drilling could do at Island. Originally leveraged by Richmont Mines’ Chief Geologist and now Island Gold Chief Geologist, Raynald Vincent, back in 2015, the exploration


30 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

technique has allowed Alamos to successfully step out from and infill holes Richmont and predecessors previously drilled. Scott R.G. Parsons, VP of Exploration for Alamos, says surface directional drilling, in combination with the exploration team’s understanding on the controls on gold mineralisation at Island and Alamos’ financial backing for exploration, has helped the company grow the asset rapidly. “The significant resource and reserve growth at Island in the last three years – adding 3 Moz net of 500,000 of mining depletion – was largely driven by surface directional drilling,” he told IM. “We could not have moved the asset forward in such a significant way without it.” The use of what Parsons says are “standard” surface drill rigs and Devico’s DeviDrill™ steerable wireline core barrels are allowing the company to hit mineralisation far below the

mine’s existing underground infrastructure. The DeviDrill tool can make multiple branches from a pilot hole, dramatically reducing both the time spent and the cost of drilling when compared with standard core drilling methods. At the same time, no time is lost on moving the drill rig between branch holes, as the core barrel can be steered from surface to complete the optimal drill patterns. The company has drilled 240 surface directional drill holes at Island for about 200,000 m of drilling using only 27 drill sites, Parsons explained. “Using conventional surface drilling, the 240 holes would have required significantly more drill sites,” he said. This would have involved moving the rig more frequently, making the process that much slower and expensive. Instead, thanks to this directional drilling technique, the company is sitting on an additional 3 Moz of gold resources and reserves garnered in the last three years. This has come with a discovery cost of just $11/oz. Accuracy, as Devico indicated, is another benefit of this technology. “Surface directional drilling is not only more effective than standard drilling practices, but we can hit our targets with 1% accuracy,” Parsons added. “So, if we’re drilling a 1,500 m hole, we can typically intersect our target within 15 m from plan, 1,500 m downhole. This predictable drilling spacing is critical for defining a mineral resource with the appropriate confidence level. “You’d never be able to do that with standard surface drilling.” This technique is not a silver exploration bullet, though. According to Parsons, it does not work everywhere.

The DeviDrill tool can make multiple branches from a pilot hole, dramatically reducing both the time spent and the cost of drilling when compared with standard core drilling methods (photo: Devico)



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HIGH PROFILE - ALAMOS GOLD.qxp_proof 24/08/2021 15:32 Page 2

MINERAL EXPLORATION Drill hole MH25-08 – 71.21 g/t Au (39.24 g/t cut) over 21.33 m – in addition to MH25-04 (28.97 g/t Au (26.89 g/t cut) over 21.76 m) have true widths approximately four times greater than the average width of the large high-grade inferred resource block defined upplunge of them (graphic: Alamos Gold

“It really all hinges around the quality of the orebody and our understanding of the deposit and the controls and the mineralisation,” he said. “Knowing we require a certain drill spacing to be able to define inferred mineral resources, we strategically target the down-plunge extensions of the ore shoots.” At Island, these ore shoots – which are the high-grade portions of the deposit – are laterally extensive in the lateral and vertical sense, Parsons explained. “With the surface directional drilling, we are able to specifically target these down-plunge extensions,” he said. “With one or two pilot holes and branch patterns, we can evaluate a large area down-plunge and along strike of the existing mineral reserves and resources. In some cases, other gold deposits can have ore shoots that are less predictable, or are not as extensive, so it would be a challenge to apply surface directional drilling without having a strong understanding of the controls of these shoots for targeting.” And, it should not be forgotten, it requires an investment in exploration that goes beyond simply reserve and resource replacement on an annual basis. Richmont, a much smaller company, was unable to bankroll such a strategy. Alamos has made a commitment to do this, as evidenced in the 16-year mine life outlined in the Island Phase III study and the $25 million it intends to invest in exploration this year. The use of surface directional drilling looks set to continue paying off beyond this study, with the company recently drilling its best-ever hole to date by leveraging the technique. Drill hole MH25-08 – 71.21 g/t Au (39.24 g/t cut) over 21.33 m – is the hole in question. This hole, in addition to the previously reported MH2504 (28.97 g/t Au (26.89 g/t cut) over 21.76 m), have true widths approximately four times greater than the average width of the large high-grade inferred resource block defined up-plunge of

32 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

them. This, the company said, demonstrates the zone has widened in this area, providing even further potential beyond the company’s current growth plans. “That one – MH25-08 – is the best drill hole ever drilled at Island,” Parsons said. “And that is after 1.3 million metres of drilling and over 7,000 drill holes dating back nearly 100-years. “That speaks to the potential of this deposit to continue to grow through exploration, and also highlights the prospectivity of the Michipicoten Greenstone Belt.”

More to come With 27,500 m of surface directional drilling scheduled for 2021 – and only 6,683 m carried out as of May 31 – more of these high-grade intercepts could soon come to the fore. And Parsons says the company can continue to use surface directional drilling some 500 m below where it is currently drilling down to at Island. On top of that, the company, having established the necessary underground exploration infrastructure, is equipping its underground drill rigs at Island for directional drilling, with 24,000 m of underground directional drilling planned this year (3,233 m completed as of the end of May). “This is allowing us to reduce our cost per metre compared with surface directional drilling and allowing us to drill more targets in a shorter amount of time,” Parsons said. “We will continue applying directional drilling technology as long as the orebody is continuing at depth to drill off those ore shoots.” At Young-Davidson, the company’s other core asset in Ontario, Canada, the company is also making plans to use underground directional drilling. “One of our plans going into 2022 is to evaluate opportunities to utilise directional drilling from underground exploration drifts established in lower and mid mines at Young-

Davidson to target mineralisation down-plunge at depth,” Parsons said. More broadly, Parsons thinks the company’s exploration team can leverage their understanding of the technology at other assets. “For us, it is a competitive advantage,” he said. “With a solid geological understanding of the deposit you are looking at and an understanding of the application and the benefits of directional drilling, we can recognise opportunities of what could be occurring at depth where others might not see potential until well into the future after underground infrastructure is established at depth.” There are obvious cost, time and accuracy benefits to using directional drilling, yet there is another benefit that may get lost along the way. Without the need to constantly move the surface drill rigs between drill pads, the footprint of these rigs is reduced. McCluskey says the technology has brought another ESG advantage to Island too. By being able to quickly drill off more targets and convert these into the resource base, Alamos has been able to think long term with its Island Gold Phase III Expansion and justify the expense of a shaft and paste backfill plant. This comes with a 35% reduction in emissions compared with using the mine’s existing ramp and diesel-powered truck haulage, he said, explaining that much of the Ontario grid is powered by renewable hydroelectricity. “This technology has given us the exploration success that has been converted into scale and allowed us to think longer term and afford the infrastructure to make it a ‘greener’ operation,” he said. With such a long list of benefits, more companies will be looking at directional drilling to prolong the life of their assets and make longterm decisions that make economic and sustainable sense. IM

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In it for the longwall The move towards fully autonomous longwall operations continues apace, Dan Gleeson discovers

The heart of FAMUR’s automation system is a gateway computer located near the face

espite all the headwinds – and there have been many over the last 24 months – the coal sector continues to outperform expectations with pricing, demand and innovation all defying the odds and perception that the coal sector is dead. If there was one recent news story to sum up the reality of today’s coal market it would be Glencore’s recent acquisition of the remaining stakes it did not already own in the Cerrejón coal operation in Colombia. The circa-$588 million transaction saw Glencore become the 100% owner of the operation, taking 33% stakes from BHP and Anglo American. The official press release was accompanied by a quote from the soon-to-be-departing Glencore CEO, Ivan Glasenberg, who laid down the facts: “Glencore has been involved with Cerrejón for more than 20 years. We know the asset well and believe that we are the most responsible steward for Cerrejón at this stage of its lifecycle. Disposing of fossil fuel assets and making them someone else’s issue is not the solution and it won’t reduce absolute emissions.” Further to this, he said he was confident Glencore could manage the decline of its fossil fuel portfolio “in a responsible manner that is also consistent with meeting the goals of the

Incidents such as a methane ignition at its Grosvenor underground mine, in May 2020, and “elevated readings” of gases at its Moranbah North mine, earlier this year, may have sped up this investment, but the overarching strategy has been in place for some time. In a May 2021 ‘Metallurgical Coal Safety Update’, Anglo American Australia said, over the last year, it had examined every aspect of the management of risk in its underground mines and put in place a range of measures to address issues that have arisen through investigations and evidence before the Board of Inquiry into the aforementioned incidents. By the time of the update, the company had invested more than A$60 million ($44 million) in technology pilots, additional gas drainage infrastructure, “expert reviews” and improvements in a range of processes and controls. “As the largest underground metallurgical coal miner in Australia, we will continue to leverage our scale to find new ways of addressing safety risks, drawing on international best practice and technology development, to ensure our systems and processes extend beyond current industry best-practice,” it said. In the same update, it reported strong progress in automation and remote operation


34 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

Paris Agreement, as demonstrated by our strengthened total emission reduction targets”. Even with this agreement in place, Glencore still plans to progressively expire the current mining concessions by 2034. This means Cerrejón, one of the largest surface mining operations in the world and a producer of high-quality thermal coal, is likely to keep mining for another 13 years. This will happen while Glencore cuts its absolute total emissions (Scope 1, 2 and 3) by 15% by 2026 compared with 2019 levels, showing that – in contrast to public opinion – major miners can retain coal operations while moving towards ‘greener’ operating philosophies.

Safely does it Anglo American, like Glencore, has ambitious emissions goals and is looking to achieve carbon neutrality across its operations by 2040. It plans to do this while retaining – or even building on – its position as the world’s third largest seaborne exporter of metallurgical coal, which it mines from open-pit and underground mines in Queensland, Australia. Anglo’s underground mines, specifically, have been undergoing significant investment over the past few years to make them safer, more automated and productive.

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MECHANISED COAL across its underground operations. At Moranbah North, for instance, following the establishment of a new Remote Operations Centre (ROC), the mine achieved a number of critical “industry firsts” in setting up exception management applications, which have supported stable remote operations when longwall mining restarted late in the June quarter. ‘Exception management’ is widely accepted as one of the last remaining elements to undergo the manual-to-autonomous shift, with James Sudworth, Global C&A Manager, Longwall Systems at Komatsu, saying in this same feature last year that it made up the elusive 2% of longwall operations to have not yet been automated. Anglo only recently took delivery of two new Eickhoff SL 900 shearers at Moranbah North, with features such as anti-collision radar, infrared seam detection, acoustic monitoring and LiDAR scanners likely to have helped achieve these ‘industry firsts’. Confronting the gas ignition potential head on, the company has also piloted pressure sensors on the longwall equipment at Moranbah North that can cut power from the longwall face, providing an additional control for an overpressure event. Gas monitoring bores from surface have also helped understand the gas situation underground. At its Grosvenor mine, where development activities restarted in June ahead of restarting longwall mining operations later this year, new longwall equipment set up for remote operations from the re-start of mining operations has arrived. This includes powered roof supports, an armoured face conveyor (AFC) and shearer, all of which had underwent local testing ahead of installation at the mine. The company was also planning to set up an ROC for Grosvenor that could align with the Moranbah North Mine ROC. Anglo said it was building a remote operations framework, including workforce engagement, risk assessment and critical ROC systems to help facilitate these changes at Grosvenor. At its Grasstree mine, the company successfully completed remote shears from surface, with the mine currently trialling key “ROC enablers”. Grasstree, part of the Capcoal complex in the Bowen Basin of Queensland, has an Eickhoff SL 750 shearer that the company has been carrying out these remote shears with. The Aquila Mine, also part of the Capcoal complex, is expected to become one of the world’s most technologically advanced underground mines when it starts up next year.

36 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

It is on track for remote longwall operations from the start of production, Anglo said. It’s not just on the longwall where Anglo has been taking automation leaps. The company has partnered with CSIRO to undertake a world-first trial of technology to

While COVID-19 had been a factor in accelerating the uptake in use of Komatsu’s Longwall Surface Control, James Sudworth says the drive to “reduce the number of operators on the face has been a strategic vision for most mine operators for several years”

support automation in the roadway development phase of underground coal mining, with navigation and horizon control work having recently started as part of this trial.

Since then, Komatsu has gone commercial with this system and clocked up several references across the globe. In Australia, this includes the Oaky North and Ulan West coal mines in Queensland and New South Wales, respectively (both owned by Glencore), and Appin 7 & 9 and Dendrobrium, in New South Wales (both owned by South32). In China, the company has also made in-roads with the technology, which allows the operator to control the longwall from a connected device (PC, mobile device, etc) with a web browser

Gaining control from surface It was Komatsu’s prototype Longwall Surface Control system that, arguably, started Anglo on the latest phase of its automation journey, helping conduct the company’s first longwall shear fully controlled from surface at Grosvenor in late 2018.

Tahmoor mining officials began working with Caterpillar in 2018 for upgrades to several longwall components, with the investment including the new Cat PMC-R 2.0 roof support controller

MECHANISED COAL.qxp_proof 25/08/2021 11:58 Page 3


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38 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

connected to the mine’s network. This functionality can, Komatsu says, reduce the number of operators on the face, increase productivity, reduce downtime and cut waste. Three operations in China have started to see the benefits of the solution, including the Boadin (Shandong Province), Yubei Xiaobaodang (Shanxi Province) and Xiegou (Shandong Province) mines. The installation at the operation owned by Yubei Xiaobaodang Mining Company, part of Yubei Coal (itself owned by Shaanxi Coal & Chemical Industry Group Co Ltd), came alongside a Komatsu shearer and AFC that will operate with an average cutting height of 2.5 m. The first trial operation saw Longwall Surface Control successfully demonstrated earlier this year, according to Sudworth, and the plan is to shortly commission this feature on a commercial scale. “The same goes for Xiegou equipment, which is still at the ‘mini-build phase’ of the project,” Sudworth said, adding: “We are seeing requests for Longwall Surface Control on all our Chinese contracts.” In the US, Komatsu says Longwall Surface Control is currently being used at Arch Resources’ Leer operation in West Virginia. Sudworth says most of the mines in these countries are requesting information on the feature, with Russian coal miners also expected to come to the table shortly. COVID-19 has been a factor in accelerating the uptake in use of Longwall Surface Control, yet the drive to reduce the number of operators on the face has been a “strategic vision for most mine operators for several years”, Sudworth said. The ultimate vision for Komatsu is to develop a fully autonomous longwall system, with Longwall Surface Control representing a “massive step” towards achieving that vision, he added. Sudworth, in this same feature last year, spelled out the challenges to achieve this feat – namely automating the shearer in-seam positioning, face creep management, cavity management, boot end alignment and steering and bretby management, among other elements under ‘exception management’ – and he remains confident the company could provide “innovative solutions to these problems”. The company recently made changes to its Joy-branded Powered Roof Support (PRS) offering which, Jason Savage, Senior Vice President Joy Underground Soft Rock for Komatsu, says will help provide flexibility to customers while continuing to offer the company’s core competencies it is known for in this space, namely Joy customengineered PRS solutions. The move will see Komatsu provide Joy-engineered PRS solutions through partnerships with PRS manufacturers. Sudworth expanded on this: “Our engineers will work closely with all parties throughout the quotation phase, including partnering with our customers on vendor selection to ultimately deliver a high-performance longwall system.” He said adapting the company’s longwall mining equipment business in such a way meant the company would best meet customer needs to reduce costs and maximise performance. Komatsu will continue to design innovative and bespoke roof supports, with customers having more flexibility to source custom-designed Joy roof supports that will be manufactured through partnerships, he added. At the same time, the company will continue to design and manufacture Joy AFCs, shearers and longwall controls (including PRS controls), as well as provide project management, quality and integration services for longwall systems, Sudworth added. And speaking of PRS controls, Komatsu is planning to show off the Joy RS20N AFC/PRS system at MINExpo, in Las Vegas, later this month. This is a faster, more powerful and reliable electronic control system that enables real-time decisions to be made from a remote location, enabling the removal of personnel from the mine face, according to Sudworth.

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MECHANISED COAL Future-proof platform It is use of a control system of another type that has been paying off for Tahmoor Coal Pty Ltd (a member of the SIMEC Group and part of the GFG Alliance) at its namesake coking coal mine in New South Wales. The current coking coal panel being mined at Tahmoor offers an approximate 2.1-m high seam and spans just shy of 280-m long from main to tail gates. The longwall system consists of 159 Cat roof supports measuring 1.75-m wide, which were, until recently, operated by Cat PM4 roof support control units. Running longwall operations 24 hours a day to meet production targets exceeding 60,000 t/week, the mine today produces some 2.5 Mt/y of run of mine (ROM) coal. The last complete longwall system upgrade made at the mine was over 15 years ago, with Tahmoor being the last company in Australia to purchase the Cat PM4 roof support control unit in 2004. The OEM introduced the PMC-R unit upgrade shortly after, according to James Yates, Automation Sales lead at Caterpillar Inc. With regulations driving strict limits on worker exposure to dust, remote control operation of the longwall system was deemed the best solution, Caterpillar said. This partially contributed to the mine’s latest system upgrade. In addition, the mine was looking for ways to increase longwall system reliability and reduce overall operating costs. Tahmoor mining officials began working with Caterpillar in 2018 for upgrades to several longwall components. The investment included the new Cat PMC-R 2.0 roof support controller and Caterpillar technology upgrade, combined with new power and “intrinsically safe” lighting systems for the roof supports, complete with colour change functionality. A new slope angle measurement (SAM-6) inclinometer system for measuring height and angle was also installed on the shields. This provides remote control operators with more information regarding the orientation of shields and added functionality for the roof supports to be set to height rather than only pressure. In addition, SAM-6 provides enhanced anti-collision and unintentional movement detection capability, bringing the 2004-model roof support structures up to the latest technological standard. Tahmoor also invested in numerous electrical system improvements to increase longwall operation and communication efficiency, including the Cat Remote configurable input/output system intrinsically safe programmable logic controller racks for coal clearance system drive monitoring and health. With materials delivered in the September quarter of 2020, system upgrades were completed for a December 2020 longwall operation restart. Despite so many new moving parts, the start-up process was extremely successful with a 20% reduction in start-up time, setting a new mine record, according to Caterpillar. Typical longwall system restart requires around 20 days from initial commencement to the first 100,000 t of ROM coal extracted, according to Yates. This start-up period, however, lasted only 15 days, with Yates attributing this to the major upgrade in technology designed to improve autonomous capability, plus the product support provided by the local Cat dealer, WesTrac. In the process, Tahmoor became the first mine in the world to production-validate the next generation of Caterpillar’s successful PMC-R series, the PMC-R 2.0. While the PM4 was cutting-edge for its time, the new PMC-R 2.0 system, according to Yates, is lightyears ahead of where Tahmoor’s previous roof support controls were. The new controllers increase functionality due to more memory and a faster processor, allowing for more complex application software, improved user interaction within the unit, and advanced visualisation and diagnostics with fast process data refresh rates. These, plus other

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VShields, part of the Cat VSoftware, graphically displays the overall health and condition of each roof support and provides complete local and global parameter control, Caterpillar says

enhancements, help to significantly improve the overall longwall performance and advance productivity and efficiency. The new PMC-R 2.0 roof support controller offers the same system topology as the PM4 and PMC-R but has undergone a complete electronic


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and network architecture update, according to Caterpillar. It will officially be launched in the December quarter of 2022. One benefit of the new design is its Ethernet backbone that delivers faster refresh rates and lower latency connections than the PM4 and PMC-R. The new controller has multiple processors compared with the PMC-R single processor, equipping it with the power required for future adaptation to autonomous technologies.

Its clock speed is more than 28 times faster than the PM4’s, while its 100 MB/s data transfer rate is more than 1,700 times faster to offer virtually realtime system feedback, which improves remote operation capabilities, Caterpillar said. These benefits provide the end-user with a “future-proof platform for expanded autonomous capability”, it added. Standard functionality includes the remote-control technology, providing the option for removal of the operator from the face and use of a machine interface graphical application running on a standard PC. This application allows the remote operator to issue automatic commands to an individual roof support or initiate automatic functions like Batch Advance or Shearer Random Batch (SRB) functions from the safety of a different location, including the surface control room. SRB start/stop flexibility has also increased with the new roof support controller. Tahmoor’s previous controller offered only main- and tailgate SRB starting points. In addition to main-to-tail and tail start sequences, SRB cycles with the PMC-R 2.0 can be set for all other sequences within the shear cycle, making remote initiation easier and safer.

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An unusual aspect of the most recent MIKRUS implementation was the remote start-up of the system without on-site presence of FAMUR service personnel in China This improves shearer batch efficiency and reduces the number of roof supports manually repositioned to increase productivity, Caterpillar said. Tahmoor also equipped its longwall system with the Cat Pan Angle Measurement System to help better understand the floor conditions and provide real-time indication of the pan line pitch and roll, enabling the operators to react quickly if the pan starts to dive and correct prior to incurring operational delays.

The PMC-R 2.0’s colour LCD graphical display provides 50% more information at a glance than the PM4 and PMC-R units, while the expanded VSoftware feature minimises downtime and helps schedule maintenance, according to Caterpillar. The VShields component graphically displays the overall health and condition of each roof support and provides complete local and global parameter control. The software’s valve cycle count application, meanwhile, provides an overview of the operation cycles of each solenoid valve in the roof support, chain tensioning system, hoses and staples. “This allows Tahmoor to monitor equipment condition and set trigger points that provide an

alert when a circuit is reaching a pre-defined limit, streamlining the maintenance management of hydraulic circuits,” Caterpillar said. Three test periods were conducted over the span of four months at Tahmoor to determine the advanced functionality and uptime availability of the new PMC-R 2.0 roof support controller. Evaluating calendar time, unscheduled downtime, scheduled production time and unplanned delays, the total PMC-R 2.0 availability reached 99.79%, exceeding the expected 98% availability. The controller’s advanced functionality test conducted in May 2021 consisted of 17 different acceptance parameters ranging from shearer drum height adjustments and automatic target lines to VShield operation and automatic shield tow functionality. The PMC-R 2.0 functioned within established parameters and passed all critical operating tests with minimal software updates required, according to Caterpillar. Since installing the system upgrades and new PMC-R 2.0 roof support controllers, Tahmoor has seen consistent and sustained improvement in longwall productivity and output, according to Caterpillar. Yates attributed the increased overall longwall system reliability to significant technology advancements, including automation improvements with the PMC-R 2.0 controllers, coupled with the experience and service support provided by Cat dealer WesTrac.

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MECHANISED COAL A longwall first There are not many truly global coal longwall technology companies but Poland-based FAMUR SA, headquartered in Katowice, is certainly one of them. The company has been making progress on two fronts of late: first, developing a FAMUR automated longwall system in response to increasing geological and human constraints during underground operations; and, second, managing the install of a major thin seam MIKRUS longwall system remotely at the height of the pandemic. The company, in March, said implementation and multi-stage tests of its first autonomous longwall had lasted almost a year and involved experts from FAMUR Group and Elsta Elektronica. The first project of this type carried out with full resources of companies from the FAMUR Group, its aim was to implement and test an integrated system of automatic control of the longwall system and, thus, achieve maximum automation of the longwall mining process under specific conditions. The activities carried out were a response to the expectations of customers around the world and means the company has joined a select club – including Komatsu and Caterpillar – in being able to offer this level of longwall technology. FAMUR stated: “Reliable and dependable communication between the systems in a mining

complex ensures the mutual reliability of equipment operation. It also improves safety by enabling, if necessary, to withdraw operators from the zone of special mining and geological hazard. “Depending on the current conditions in the mine, it is possible to apply different levels of automation – from the advancing cycle (lowering, advancing, extending) of a single powered roof support unit to the conveyor, through to advancing the group of powered roof support units and advancing the conveyor following the mining machine, up to automation of the operation of the shearer slotting in the face (cutting).” The heart of the system is a gateway computer located near the face. It receives data from the mining machine, the electro-hydraulic control system of the powered roof support, the AFC, the intelligent video cameras and, optionally, from the methane emission control system. For the purposes of the project, a data acquisition and archiving system was developed and applied. Remote monitoring of the longwall system operation is made possible by an event-oriented app for visualisation and control of the mining process. This allows the operator to obtain an overview of the basic process parameters, while being informed by the system about potential hazards to the longwall operators and production disturbances.


An important function in this regard is the use of video cameras to enable the detection of personnel in the monitored area. Using hardware support for artificial intelligence mechanisms, the video cameras locate personnel and notify the master longwall control system. The artificial intelligence algorithms can be trained and adapted to distinguish between, for instance, the clothing of the mine workers where the system is working. The automation project was initiated in October 2019 and was preceded by design work. The implementation of the machines into operation and testing of the system lasted until autumn 2020 and was carried out on the premises of the FAMUR machine park in Poland. “The tests carried out on the surface have not only given us the opportunity to avoid many of the risks associated with commissioning of the longwall system in complex operating conditions, it was also an opportunity to test over a dozen of FAMUR’s automation and communication projects and solutions, the implementation of which would not have been possible without conducting tests on the surface,” FAMUR said. “Gained knowledge, competence and experience will allow FAMUR to strengthen its position on the Polish market, and, in the long run, to gain competitive advantage abroad.”


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The aforementioned MIKRUS system, meanwhile, has been making inroads in China. Referred to as HEILONG (meaning The Black Dragon) in the Chinese market, MIKRUS combines the advantages of a plow and a longwall shearer for, FAMUR says, increased machine uptime in the longwall, faster sumping in the cut and increased levels of automation. The combination of cutting drums driven by a high-powered engine and a simple coal cutting head moved by drives results in the cutting head moving almost entirely into the tail-gate and main-gate gallery in an alternating travel path. This allows the cutting drum to sump in the coal perpendicularly from the gate or from the face of the drum to significantly shorten the process of sumping into the next cut. As a result, the oftenlong process of sumping the shearer diagonally into each cut takes just three minutes, after which time the cutting drums, now fully sumped in the face, can make another cut. This provides tangible economic benefits to the user, allowing more full cuts per shift. An additional advantage of using a cutting head with rotating drums is that there is no longwall face deviation from a straight line. For plow systems, there is, naturally, a banana-shaped deformation of the longwall face line. This deformation increases the resistance to the movement of the AFC and impedes the proper automatic advancement of the longwall powered roof support units, according to FAMUR. MIKRUS avoids this situation entirely, the company claims. “The cutting head of this system moves just like a printer head, taking one full step forward at each end of the longwall,” it explained. “This greatly simplifies the software that controls the automatic operation of the system and provides a real possibility of taking personnel out of the longwall entirely.” The premiere implementation of the first version of the MIKRUS mining system took place in 2013, but the technology has since come a long way. In July 2020, the MIKRUS complex commenced production at the Shigetai mine in the Shendong area of Shanxi province, China. It was the first longwall for thin seams to achieve a “full automatic cycle of longwall system operation”, FAMUR said. This is despite the significant interlayers of hard rock. At the user’s request, FAMUR ensured longwall compatibility with equipment from local Chinese suppliers, including an electro-hydraulic control system, AFC and beam stage loader (BSL) motors with integrated inverters, safety interlock systems and other minor systems. Another unusual aspect of this implementation was the remote start-up of the MIKRUS system without on-site presence of FAMUR service personnel in China. The lockdown caused by COVID-19 prevented the travel of service technicians from Poland at the crucial moment of delivery when the supplied longwall system was put into operation at the customer’s site. Thanks to cooperation with service technicians employed through a local Chinese partner, FAMUR was able to remotely start up the longwall system and successfully coordinate the automatic operation algorithm with the provided third-party systems, it said. Outside of this specific implementation, FAMUR says MIKRUS can automate longwall functions many other OEMs have struggled with. “Most attempts to automatically operate a longwall mining system have one missing link in the process,” it said. “It is the BSL, which usually requires manually-controlled progression, synchronous to the operation of the longwall face.” BSL systems, used together with a crusher, belt receiving section (commonly called a boot end) and advancing equipment, are designed for smooth transport of coal from high-volume coal faces to the conveyor belt system. The MIKRUS system, however, is equipped with an overlapping station that automatically advances the BSL, eliminating this bottleneck in the


Mining Contractors and Engineers

Consider it done — safely. SEPTEMBER 2021 | International Mining 45

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MECHANISED COAL UGCS, RPMGlobal’s scheduling package purpose-built for underground coal operations, has recently expanded to introduce an enterprise, parametric mine scheduling solution specifically for global longwall operations longwall automation process, according to FAMUR. The company’s proprietary SCADA system, SmartMine, aids this process, allowing visualisation of all system components, as well as parameter setting and control. As part of the system installation, a surface operator station was constructed from which it is possible to control the longwall system in a manner identical to the operator’s cabin underground, FAMUR said. For demonstration purposes and to highlight the onset of automation on the system at the Shigetai mine, remote control of the system via the Internet was recently presented at a mining conference more than 900 km from the mine, directly from the exhibition stand. The company concluded: “The MIKRUS system by FAMUR is the first in the world among its own category (equipment intended for thin seams) to have achieved fully automatic operation, including automatic advancement of the BSL. “With the use of this system, the much desired need to reduce the number of personnel at the longwall and simplify operations becomes natural, as a mere side effect of the applied mining technology.”

Software and support Speaking of new industry benchmarks, RPMGlobal claims to have, yet again, achieved a major milestone in the mine planning software industry with the introduction of longwall support to its Underground Coal Solutions (UGCS) software product. UGCS, RPMGlobal’s scheduling package purpose-built for underground coal operations,

already supported other common mining methods such as room and pillar, but the latest release introduces an enterprise, parametric mine scheduling solution specifically for global longwall operations. “Parametric scheduling in mining was pioneered by RPMGlobal to automate the repetitive and time-consuming tasks that can often take a mine planner days, weeks or even

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MECHANISED COAL months to perform,” RPMGlobal said. Parametric scheduling allows a planner to rapidly generate multiple scenarios quickly so they can investigate and refine the most attractive options. “The in-built intelligence in the UGCS solution does the heavy lifting, allowing engineers to focus on applying their skills to run different scenarios, deepen analysis and deliver more value,” RPMGlobal said. “It provides the engineer with tools that help them to identify options that deliver value that would have otherwise been overlooked.” RPMGlobal Chief Executive Officer, Richard Mathews, expected UGCS to transform the scheduling of longwall operations. “In other commodities and mining methods where XPAC Solutions are available, we have seen a step change in the planners’ mindset and capabilities,” he said. “Mine planners no longer need to be scripting experts and, with the workflow streamlining the process and Product Optimiser identifying optimum product paths, planners can focus on what they are trained to do.” UGCS builds on XPAC Solutions’ 40-year history and incorporates the introduction of a new, interactive, mixed method scheduling approach that combines the flexibility of manual scheduling with the benefit of automated scheduling. The user can select whether to schedule manually or automatically in any

combination and from any point of the schedule, according to RPMGlobal. This dynamic scheduling approach allows users to provide high-level guidance in terms of where each major item of equipment should work. The automated features then work within this guidance, establishing the detailed tasks the equipment will perform, factoring in the ground conditions, cutting height, quantity of rock in the cutting profile and impact of nearby equipment. This approach allows users to focus on the bigger scheduling issues at play with the comfort of knowing the detail is not being overlooked, RPMGlobal said. “And because the schedule considers each individual continuous miner and longwall, UGCS provides an unparalleled level of confidence in the practicality of the mining sequences produced,” it added. UGCS also allows greater flexibility when changing and updating models. It generates working section composites from imported geological data that accounts for the capacity of the different equipment used at the mine, while reflecting loss of coal and dilution from the roof, floor and partings. Working sections are used to create a detailed 3D mathematical model of the project that can be updated when changes occur, while ensuring the adoption of practical assumptions such as

mining rate. RPMGlobal’s Product Optimiser functionality is also available within UGCS. Product Optimiser determines the optimal way to blend, wash and stockpile coal products to maximise value from the mined coal. In addition to individual mining operations, it can be applied to complexes with multiple mines that use shared processing facilities. It is support of a different kind that Corum Group, part of Ukraine-based DTEK Energy, is pushing in Turkey. The company recently entered the Turkish market with a contract from coal mining company Imbat Madencilik for the pilot supply of KD90T 17.5/28 roof supports. Entering new markets such as Turkey and India is one of the company’s key goals, approved within the framework of an adopted development strategy to 2030. “The conclusion of a contract with Imbat Madencilik is an assessment of the quality of our company’s products and confirmation of the high qualification of the employees,” Oleg Nesterenko, Director of Corum Trading, said. “Due to mining and geological features in Turkey, coal mining is associated with other dangerous and complex challenges than in Ukraine. Therefore, occupational safety and modern technological solutions are in the foreground.”

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MECHANISED COAL Specialists of the Corum Group engineering and technical centre optimised the design of the KD90T 17.5/28 roof support to the customer’s conditions and agreed on the technical conditions for the tests, the company said. The supports were manufactured at the Korum Druzhkivsky Machine-Building Plant with shipment to the client expected shortly. Imbat Madencilik’s General Manager, Yavuz Burbut, said: “Corum experts paid a lot of attention to the issues that arise with our current fleet of mechanised roof supports from Poland and China, asked questions about the problems and suggested ways to solve them. That’s why we decided to try and test Corum products.” In Russia, meanwhile, China Coal Beijing Coal Mining Machinery Co Ltd (BMJ) recently delivered a new set of 175 hydraulic roof supports to EVRAZ-controlled Raspadskaya. The supports are for mining the number 48 seam in the Uskovskaya coal mine, which began operating in February. The working face length of this seam is 300 m with support height ranging from 1.7 m to 3.8 m and support capacity of 10,600 kN. Uskovskaya mine extracts GZh-grade coking coal, which, upon washing at the Kuznetskaya and Abashevskaya washing plants, is shipped to EVRAZ steel mills. The average production is 2.5 Mt/y.

The mine has been implementing its seam 48 access and development project since 2018 with other equipment acquired to further its longwall endeavours including two new Komatsu Joy shearers. The seam’s first longwall is expected to produce up to 6,000 t/d of coal, with the first longwall expected to be mined out by October.

Coal development It’s not just Anglo American making headway in mine development within the coal sector. China’s Northern Heavy Industries (NHI), part of Fangda Group and based in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, says it is creating a new era for the development of coal mining equipment in China with the use of tunnel boring machines (TBMs). China is rich in coal resources, yet these are often located at significant depths with complicated geological conditions. The application of the traditional drill and blast method, or roadheader excavation, often comes with slow progress, high cost, a poor working environment and poor tunnel formation in these conditions, according to NHI. As a result, the company has increasingly been applying TBMs in China’s coal industry in recent years. In 2014, a TBM with a diameter of 4.53 m was developed for rock roadways in the Zhangji

mine of Huainan Mining Group in Anhui Province. In 2015, it successfully advanced 2 km at a depth of 500 m underground, achieving a new record in coal mine rock roadway construction in the process – the highest daily advance being 30.7 m and average monthly advance being 404 m. The highest daily advance was 10 times higher than traditional technologies and the monthly advance fourand-a-half times higher, NHI said. A 6.33 m large-diameter full-section TBM for coal mine rock roadways was then successfully fabricated by NHI in April 2019. This machine was specifically designed for Shandong Energy’s New Dragon coal mine in the Xinjulong mining area. A TBM with a diameter of 4.53 m destined for the Xinyuan mine of Yangquan Coal Group was delivered in December 2019, which included further design and construction improvements on the two previously delivered machines. The latest TBMs from NHI, referred to as semicoal rock TBMs, can change from cutting rock strata to half coal and half rock (often found where there is rock in development areas with many thin coal seams) where needed. In May 2020, one of these machines was delivered to the Zhaizhen coal mine of Xinwen Mining Group, also part of Shandong Energy. The “Xinwen One” full-section semi-coal rock TBM has now been commissioned and is in full

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MECHANISED COAL operation. It is 60 m long, and its four-piece compound cutter disc has a diameter of 4.5 m. NHI claims to be the only heavy machinery manufacturing enterprise in the world that currently applies TBMs on a major scale to the construction of coal mine rock roadways. “The system of machines can be customised and designed according to the user’s requirements, such as mesh, arch frame, anchor rod, advance drilling, synchronous spray mixing (shotcreting), etc and a complete set of solutions can be provided for the special requirements of the project, such as well (shaft) transportation, site assembly, initial operation, disassembly, site transfer, etc,” the company said. Still on roadway development, Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions recently completed the world’s first upgrade of a MB670 bolter miner to the latest MB670-1 design specifications for the Urgalugol company, part of one of the largest coal mining enterprises in Russia, SUEK JSC. Since 2013, the Sandvik MB670 has been in operation at the Severnaya mine in the Khabarovsk Territory. The mine management decided to modernise the equipment, which personnel of the Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions service centre in Kemerovo carried out in parallel with an overhaul. The modernisation of the bolter miner was carried out in the shortest possible time: in four months, it was possible to completely replace the entire hydraulic and electrical system with the corresponding MB670-1 setup, as well as replace all high-pressure hoses with new ones made locally at the service centre as well as fittings, wear-resistant sheets and cylinders. All gearboxes were redesigned, and the geometry of the supporting structures was restored to factory dimensions. The upgrade of the MB670 miner for Urgalugol is notable for the fact it is the first Sandvik example of such a bolter miner refurbishment with simultaneous upgrade in the world. The parties, at the time of this first delivery, were negotiating the timing of the modernisation of a second miner.


Innovate. Digitalize now. SmartMining. Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions recently completed the world’s first upgrade of a MB670 bolter miner to the latest MB670-1 design specifications for the Urgalugol company, part of one of the largest coal mining enterprises in Russia, SUEK JSC Vitaly Pogudin, Head of the Kemerovo service centre of Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions in Kemerovo, said: “A reconditioned and modernised combine is almost indistinguishable from a new one. The project was completed in the shortest possible time due to the high professionalism of the team of the service centre in Kemerovo. Having saved the customer’s time and resources, we not only gave the machine a second life, but also improved its performance, which now corresponds to the level of the latest equipment in our line.” IM

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Gainwell’s highwall boom continues

Paul Moore reports that from its Asansol, West Bengal base, India’s Gainwell continues to grow its innovative highwall miner business, having supplied two machines now with a third one ready to ship and a fourth set for delivery by Q1 2022 oal is still booming in India and highwall miners are a part of that to the point where one of the country’s leading Caterpillar dealers, Gainwell, is now making these machines under license from Caterpillar over four years after it discontinued the business. Recently, IM Editorial Director Paul Moore caught up with Jayanta Bhattacharya, Head of Manufacturing and Dipankar Banerjee, Chief Operating Officer, Mining Business, about further developments in the market. The highwall miner is quite a unique product. Over 50 highwall mining machines are still working in the US, but very few elsewhere – a handful in Australia and India and some locally made machines in China such as a machine similar to the ADDCAR design made by CCTEG which is working in the Ordos Basin coal mines in Inner Mongolia. As background, in 2017 Gainwell approached Caterpillar saying that it had opportunities in India and would be interested in a technology licensing agreement given that new machine production had ended in the US. After a period of discussions this was signed in 2018 allowing the manufacture of highwall miners in India by Gainwell. The IP licensing included India and select overseas markets including China and Russia. Gainwell then invested in a new assembly shop in Asansol, near Kolkata in West Bengal in the heart of India’s coal mining belt, and made the first machine in 2019. The two existing highwall miners in India had been supplied as follows: one by Bucyrus (SHM unit) in the early 2010s just before Bucyrus was bought by Cat in 2011 to SECL’s Sharda opencast mine (operated by contractor Cuprum Bagrodia Ltd or CBL) and the second in 2015/2016 to Tata Steel for its West Bokaro Division South Eastern Quarry. As that machine was supplied by Caterpillar it was now known as an HW300 and was also put into service with CBL.


50 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

Banerjee commented: "In India there were two mines using highwall technology successfully and we always sensed there is good potential here due to the high population density and a lot of open pits with highwalls under which there remained large tonnage of coal reserves.” Gainwell supplied its first highwall miner to Coal India division Southeastern Coalfields (SECL) through CBL during February 2019 and the machine continues to deliver high production rates using a low seam cutting module. SECL sister company Eastern Coalfields (ECL) then placed an order through CBL for a Gainwell Highwall Miner in 2020. This has a low to mid-seam cutting module and is ready to go, with delivery to the customer due by end-August 2021 as IM went to press. On top of that, ECL has now ordered a second machine in July 2021, set to be delivered in Q1 2022, which will be equipped with a high seam cutting module. The other existing highwall miner user in India, Tata Steel, also approached Gainwell wanting another machine which was duly delivered in October 2020. All the new Gainwell units have been given the name GHWM300M. The Tata Steel unit has been successfully commissioned and went into coal production with mining contractor Resurgent Mining Solutions from end-November onwards. Gainwell has brought lot of improvements on this machine for Tata Steel including online diagnostics, complete operation through mobile application etc and the machine has also been performing very well. This was delivered with a low to mid-seam cutting module but has now also been supplied in 2021 with a high seam cutting module to enable Tata to switch between the two as needed. “It is performing above expectations, production rates are higher than planned or anticipated,” says Bhattacharya.

Summarising the remarkable turnaround for highwall mining in India – once the second ECL machine is delivered next year, ECL will have two Gainwell machines, SECL two machines (one older Bucyrus and one new Gainwell machine) and Tata one machine. So in total in Q1 2022 there will be no less than five large Highwall miners operating in India with three different customers. And there is a lot of interest elsewhere – Banerjee told IM that it has active quotes out with coal mining companies in Australia, China and Russia and it fully expects at least one export order to be finalised by end-2021. He added that a major expansion of the Asansol factory is now in advanced planning and in early 2022 construction will start – this will enable the manufacturing of three highwall miners at one time – so with a five to six month turnaround time it will enable six machines to be made per year in a single shift operation. Bhattacharya also told IM earlier this year that it is trying to increase the indigenisation of the machine in India. In the first machine, it had only about 7% Make-in-India content – by the second machine, this has risen to 28% and was higher again for the third machine. “Local manufacturing has really got strengthened in India in recent years with the growth of the domestic automobile industry and there are very good vendor base getting developed. All the testing of the equipment is also done in-house. Cat really helped us in the early days in handholding us but we are now becoming a world class manufacturer in our own right. Of course there have been challenges like finding right people with the requisite skill sets such as in niche electronics engineering but we were able to attract the right people and get them trained.” The company also pointed out that each highwall miner also has a high level of customisation depending on the options selected by the customer but also related to the seam thickness and geology it will be working with. This has led to the latest developments with supplying different types of cutting modules based on customer needs and requirements. IM


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AUTONOMY SENSORS Ouster LiDAR deployed on mining truck in China as part of automation solution from WAYTOUS

Sight beyond sight Autonomous haulage and other operations in mining rely on positioning, cameras and sensors. Paul Moore focuses on the key sensors used – LiDAR & radar – and how they are evolving as autonomous system capabilities evolve such as better sensor fusion n the world of sensors for mining, including LiDAR and radar in particular, it still is a case of using the best available. But as Hexagon’s Andrew Crose, VP - Autonomous told IM, it depends on what 'best available' means in terms of range, durability, price, etc. “Technologies are still evolving and improving rapidly, especially for the automotive industry which invests billions into better capabilities, robustness and lower cost. Some of these sensors are pretty well suited for the mining environment. Nevertheless, to make them work 24/7, worldwide, in any mine remains a formidable challenge and requires a significant effort in adaptation and testing.” But at the same time it is well known that most on-road autonomy deployments stay in areas with good weather, visibility and road conditions. “This is not a limitation we can accept in mining, not even initially," says Crose. "We therefore have to choose both the sensing technologies and the actual sensors very selectively to ensure they work in mining. In addition, and most importantly, we have to adapt the sensor processing and fusion to our needs.” He adds: “It’s tremendously helpful that we have already equipped more than 40,000 mining vehicles with V2V technologies, as these share


52 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

valuable information, such as trajectory and vehicle type, which is valuable when fusing the data with LiDAR or radar and helps avoid false alarms.” And of course positioning plays a key role. How has GNSS positioning evolved with mining autonomy? How has that improved? “It is probably more accurate to say that machine guidance has evolved to become more and more precise as GNSS positioning has become more precise. Now, with the availability of highprocessing power, and better and cheaper motion and orientation sensors to fuse with high-position GNSS, machine guidance becomes autonomous.” Crose points out that most of us are familiar with GPS, starting with satnav in cars where it is just another part of daily life. Phones provide a good enough position for driving location most of the time and navigating in most cities. “In normal conditions you can expect to be within a few metres horizontally of where you actually are and that is good enough. We can usually determine when the GPS map is telling us we are somewhere we know we are not. However, that is not nearly good enough for high-precision machine guidance and autonomous vehicles: here you need centimetre-level precision. GNSS precision has improved over time with techniques like real-time kinematics, wide-area

augmentation systems and so on. These techniques mostly address the factors that lead to errors in GNSS, providing signal correction information without changing the technology or making the actual GNSS signal more accurate or precise.” Multiple constellations, such as Glonass, Galileo and Beidou (up until recently, consumer equipment like satnav, fitness trackers and phones used only GPS satellites) and higherpowered processing, have allowed for more satellites to be used to calculate position which does increase precision and accuracy and potentially reduces the time it takes to determine position. “GNSS is the technology used to determine the ‘true or absolute position,’ whether that is the surveyed marks or cues the autonomous system uses to initialise itself; or if GNSS is part of the systems’ sensor fusion algorithms.” On AI, Crose commented: “One of the challenges for AI in mining is the high diversity of mining environments worldwide and creating suitable training sets for them. We are also much more limited in compute power than on-road vehicles, as we try to avoid active ventilation due to dust and reliability issues. Nevertheless, AI is ideal to solve some hard problems which classic algorithms would struggle with; but the use is more local than in a Tesla, for example.” Worldwide 24/7 operation is hard to achieve, and the automotive industry has not yet reached the goal of full autonomy (SAE Level 4/5). However, the challenge in mining is different and by wisely choosing the scope of the autonomy operations can gain productivity and safety with the latest technologies and developments. He concludes on the overall improvement of automation-related sensing in mining: “It’s a combination of much better sensors, more compute power and increased knowhow and experience of how to process all that data in real time. Ultimately, it’s essential to design and manufacture it all with (functional) safety as the top priority; these systems do not just inform the operator, they make essential safety decisions. Hexagon’s vehicle intervention technology, for example, is mining’s first Level-9 collision avoidance system for mining. It helps save lives and protect equipment by automatically taking control of the propulsion system of the truck in defined situations if the operator fails to do so.”

Wenco on vehicle vision IM also caught up with Wenco International Mining Systems' Director of Systems Engineering & Architecture, Martin Politick who


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AUTONOMY SENSORS had this to say: “In the early days of autonomous mining fleets, vendors chose technologies such as LiDAR or radar because they had proven effective at detecting objects in other applications — even, at times, for the purpose of collision avoidance. The underlying problems these technologies were already solving were not significantly different from those encountered in mining. For use in mining, though, they did need to be ruggedised, fitted, or tuned to function effectively in harsh mining environments.” However, on working conditions he adds: “Due to industry-specific problems, technologies that worked in other applications did not perfectly transfer to mining. Cameras used in self-driving cars struggled at minesites due to

dust. Milliwave radar developed for cars is tuned to identify ordinary-sized vehicles; it detects the huge trucks used in mining as multiple vehicles. Previously, there was no LiDAR available that offered both long range and high-resolution data. As a result, AHS needed a strategy other than purely relying on sensors. In many cases, it relied on exchanging vehicle position information with one another. Obviously, this situation is changing as technology evolves.” Other challenges, such as not having road lines, require AHS providers to leverage sensors to detect windrows and berms. “For current autonomy systems, the loss of one sensor might result in a stoppage of autonomous operations. Self-cleaning housings and other environmental mitigations, as well as

supplementary maintenance, can help reduce the probability of lost operating hours. In particular, controlling for dust and achieving both long range and high-resolution data have proven major challenges in AHS. While automobiles need to deal with bad weather, dust rarely causes a significant problem, so camera-based systems are common. Since dust is a routine occurrence on mine sites, AHS have to rely on LiDAR and milliwave radar; however, there are few sensors that can achieve both long range and high-resolution data like cameras. In recent years, third-party companies such as Baraja have emerged, making it possible to use sensors that can deal with dust while also achieving both long range and high-resolution data.” Politick agreed that GNSS factors heavily in current autonomy solutions for mining, but said it also comes with a challenge: GNSS-powered systems typically stop working if the technology goes offline. Emerging AHSs claim to not rely on any single sensor, including GNSS, for positioning or vehicle safety. Decreased reliance on any one sensor helps improve potential uptime, decreases the impact or need for manual recovery encountered during an outage, and - for GNSS specifically - negates the need for the entire fleet, including light vehicles, to be monitored by high-precision GNSS.” The mining industry has learned key lessons from automotive and other industries around development of sensors to provide ‘vision’ to vehicle command and control - namely the need for a redundant stack of available technologies. “Likewise, we’ve learned to introduce antirutting logic that forces equipment to deviate from their path in order to preserve ground integrity. Mining poses unique challenges from other fields with instrumented vehicles. There are no lines on mine roads. Dust is prevalent. Rutting on roads is a potential issue, and varying degrees of traction are common. Even wellgroomed roads and benches change frequently. Plus, AHS sensors in mining need integration with key operational systems such as the crusher or fleet management system.” In the automotive industry, vendors have developed drive-assist systems based on cameras and milliwave radar. However, the advent of new, high-performance LiDAR has prompted many of them to steer themselves to autonomous driving based on LiDAR. Similarly, in the mining industry, it is necessary to observe technological progress and assess development trends to determine what technologies may become game changers. On next steps he comments: “More sensors and more data can better emulate a driver’s instincts and operate the equipment more seamlessly in tandem with manually operated

54 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021


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Baraja says its Spectrum-Scan™ LiDAR is built to provide the long-term reliability, resolution, range and automotive-grade features needed to reach Level 4 autonomous driving units in the field, which have proven a significant challenge for autonomous operations. Current AHS has succeeded in removing the driver from trucks; the next generation will replace the driver entirely.”

Hitachi invests in Baraja Looking at the latest generations of LiDAR sensors entering mining, Baraja recently raised A$40 million in a new funding round to

accelerate development of its breakthrough Spectrum-Scan™ LiDAR technology. Baraja’s LiDAR sensors are higher performance and more reliable than legacy LiDAR systems, and enable the safe rollout of autonomous vehicles sooner. The latest capital raising was led by Blackbird Ventures and includes new strategic investment from Hitachi Construction Machinery. Hitachi’s strategic investment comes after a two–year partnership to validate Baraja’s Spectrum-Scan™ sensors in real-world scenarios that prove the technology’s reliability in harsh environments. The investment will support an expanded rollout of the sensor in

mining, construction & industrial vehicle use cases, and help road test the products for future autonomous vehicles. Additional participants in the capital raising include returning investor Main Sequence Ventures, the venture arm founded by CSIRO, alongside new investors Regal Funds Management, Perennial Value Management, superannuation fund HESTA and InterValley Ventures, an Australian based venture capital fund anchored by the Mizuho Financial Group via its affiliate New Frontier Capital Management. The new capital will be used to expand Baraja’s team and accelerate the development of LiDAR technology for automotive–grade use in self–driving vehicles. Baraja has validated the technology in numerous settings through partnerships with Tier 1 suppliers, mining operators and researchers such as Australia’s national science agency CSIRO and Taiwan’s renowned Industrial Technology Research Institute’s (ITRI) intelligent mobility division. Baraja says its Spectrum-Scan™ LiDAR is “built to provide the long-term reliability, resolution, range and automotive-grade features needed to reach Level 4 autonomous driving. The pioneering technology completely rethinks environment scanning for autonomous vehicles, exploiting the wavelength properties of light to steer lasers through a prism in order to better detect objects at range. Spectrum-Scan™


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AUTONOMY SENSORS technology is more tolerant to factors that have hindered traditional LiDAR systems such as heat, shock and vibration. The result is a more precise, more affordable LiDAR system featuring long term reliability and exceptional resolution, deployable in more environments, from highways and city streets to mines and ports.” Spectrum-Scan™ LiDAR technology gives Baraja’s partners the ability to instantly adjust and adapt scanning resolution to the changing environment, similar to how humans can control their visual focus. This leads to better safety by improving obstacle detection for self-driving vehicles in a range of settings. “Legacy LiDAR systems have been hampered by poor performance with limits on range, resolution and reliability,” said Federico Collarte, CEO and CoFounder of Baraja. “Our Spectrum-Scan™ LiDAR has proven reliability in the field, which has been recognised by partners such as Hitachi – one of the world’s most innovative machine manufacturers. This latest capital and the partnership with Hitachi will also help us to advance our mission to help make self-driving vehicles an everyday reality.” Baraja’s Spectrum-Scan technology was invented by Federico Collarte and Co-Founder Cibby Pulikkaseril, telecommunications industry veterans who used their photonics and fibre optic expertise to create a LiDAR system that uses the same principles in an autonomous

vehicle setting. Returning investor Blackbird Ventures has doubled down on its previous investment, showcasing its continued support for Baraja’s superior technology capabilities and product roadmap. “Countless LiDAR makers have made promises and set deadlines they have failed to meet due to one fundamental issue: legacy LiDAR doesn’t work the way it needs to,” said Rick Baker, Blackbird Ventures Co-Founder and board director at Baraja. “Baraja founders Federico and Cibby have taken a truly different approach with Spectrum-Scan™ that addresses and solves the fundamental challenges others have faced out of the lab and provides a clear roadmap to automotive-grade LiDAR in the coming years.” Hideshi Fukumoto, Vice President, Executive Officer, and CTO, Hitachi Construction Machinery; President of Research & Development Group; and President of Client Solutions Group, said: “Spectrum-Scan™ LiDAR is a must–have technology providing better autonomous sensing solutions for mining customers who demand increasingly higher safety and production efficiency. We are delighted to be working with Baraja, a company with leading-edge technology in this field. More than just an investment relationship, we expect that this relationship will lead to technological improvements and accelerated

commercialisation for both parties in areas such as terrain measurement and obstacle detection. Through this investment, Hitachi Construction Machinery will accelerate the improvement of autonomous haulage systems (AHS) and the practical application of remote and autonomous operation of ultra-large hydraulic excavators, as well as expand its application to the civil engineering and construction fields. We will also strengthen our open innovation initiatives in the digital field, such as this one.”

SICK and Ibeo developing solid-state industrial 3D LiDAR A technology partnership between Hamburgbased automotive LiDAR specialist Ibeo Automotive Systems GmbH and SICK AG they say will result in “a 3D solid-state LiDAR sensor for industrial applications. The technology, developed by Ibeo to automotive standards, is based on a new photon laser measurement technology and is entirely free of moving parts. An additional, camera-like reference image adds a ‘fourth dimension’ to the measurement provided by the sensor.” “The market for autonomous and semiautonomous systems in an industrial context is predicted to grow at above-average rates. There is particular demand for durable, small, and cost-efficient sensor solutions. The new solidstate technology from Ibeo works entirely

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SICK LiDAR on Epiroc autonomous MT65 underground mining truck without moving parts and features a compact form factor, thereby offering decisive advantages for mobile applications.” Now, Ibeo and SICK have announced a technology partnership to develop a 3D LiDAR sensor, based on this innovative solid-state technology from the automotive sector, for industrial applications. In this partnership, Ibeo is providing its ibeoNEXT measurement core. SICK will develop the system design and the application software for a new industrial LiDAR sensor in order to solve industrial applications according to customer requirements. “Autonomous systems will bring increasing changes to the industrial sector in the coming years. Even outside industrial facilities there is much potential in mobile applications for the implementation of intelligent sensor solutions. The partnership with Ibeo will enable us to use a robust and highly-developed technology from the automotive segment for futureoriented industrial applications,” said Dr Robert Bauer, chairman of the executive board of SICK AG. “Together with SICK, we are making an automotive LiDAR sensor available on a large scale for industrial applications for the first time. In the industrial sector, this is one of the largest LiDAR cooperation agreements ever concluded. Customers will profit from ibeoNEXT’s closeto-production development based on automotive standards and the high quality standards that result from this, as well as the scale effects associated with it,” added Dr Ulrich Lages, CEO of Ibeo Automotive Systems GmbH. “We have had a long and close working relationship with SICK. Its extensive and in-depth application knowledge in the area of industrial applications and markets makes SICK an ideal partner to enable us to serve industrial markets.” The ibeoNEXT measurement core was developed for large-scale automotive production and is based on an entirely new photon laser measurement technology for measuring the spatial distance of objects in medium to long ranges. Even in adverse environmental conditions, such as precipitation, or in surroundings with high levels of shock or vibration, the ibeoNEXT measurement core reliably determines over 10,000 distance values from each 3D measurement. It also generates a black-and-white image similar to the picture of a camera, which enables an even more reliable ‘four-dimensional’ detection of the surroundings. “We decided to use Ibeo’s solid-state LiDAR technology because it is currently one of the most advanced 3D LiDAR measurement systems available in the world. It is an addition to our technology portfolio and enables us to offer, on top of our existing industrial applications, new, easy-to-integrate solutions in the field of autonomous and semiautonomous driving for use in the industrial sector,” said Dr Kay







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Sandvik's AutoMine® Concept vehicle, an autonomous loader for underground mines, is using Ouster digital LiDAR

Fürstenberg, Senior Vice President for Research and Development at SICK AG. Selected customers of SICK will have the opportunity to test this new 3D solid-state LiDAR sensor in 2021.

Ouster ups the game in digital LiDAR San Francisco-based LiDAR specialist Ouster told IM: “2D LiDAR and legacy sensor technology has been used in mining equipment for decades, helping to improve driver safety with features like collision avoidance. We are now seeing a shift towards more intelligent

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58 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

systems with advanced sensor hardware, including Ouster 3D digital LiDAR, that can support autonomous mining vehicles. However, not all LiDAR solutions are suitable for mining. Most are built specifically for forward-looking automotive applications while others have been on the market for 5 to 10 years with limited improvements in performance.” Ouster says its sensors share a single digital architecture and are built to a super set of performance requirements that can cover many of the edge cases a mining vehicle might encounter, such as extremely high or low temperatures, frequent shock and vibration, humidity, rain, and dust. Furthermore, Ouster is constantly improving sensor features and capabilities through over-the-air updates. “Ouster sensors' strong reliability is what enables us to offer the LiDAR industry's only two-year warranty and makes its sensors a great fit for mining applications.” The company is working with a number of mining customers operating equipment in unique environments. As an example, Sandvik is developing the AutoMine® Concept vehicle, an autonomous loader for underground mines, using Ouster digital LiDAR. Conditions underground include poor lighting, narrow paths, and hot temperatures which make autonomous operations challenging. Ouster is also working with Chinese surface mining fleet automation technology majors like TAGE and WAYTOUS whose systems are operating autonomous haul trucks in open-pit mines in Inner Mongolia where temperatures can reach far below freezing, plus where the environment is either extremely dusty or muddy, and roads are often unpaved and bumpy. “For these reasons, Ouster LiDAR sensors have a cold start function and are certified to operate in an environment of -40°C, similar to automotive requirements. Moreover, they pass strict shock and vibration tests before leaving the factory so that the end-user can have confidence the sensors will provide accurate LiDAR data. Furthermore, they are designed to IP68/69K ingress protection standards to ensure

they can perform reliably across unpredictable weather conditions and extended outdoor use through rain, snow, hail, dust, and fog.” Ouster adds that its 3D digital LiDAR with reflectivity data combined with simultaneous localisation and mapping, and perception algorithms, can offer advanced capabilities that 2D legacy sensor technology simply cannot support. Ouster agreed that sensor fusion is an important part of the technology stack. “LiDAR is often working in conjunction with GPS, camera, and radar technology which all feed real-time data to powerful computing platforms. Companies like Danfoss Power Solutions provide seamless digital LiDAR integration and sensor fusion with their autonomous controller and software platform. Certain customers develop their systems on top of autonomous vehicle platforms, and others build custom control systems. Each end-customer has its own approach to sensor fusion for their autonomous system.” Billions of dollars have been invested in bringing autonomous vehicles (AV) to market, which helped foster a mature ecosystem of engineers, researchers, perception algorithms, and sensor hardware that can be applied towards any piece of moving machinery. “Mining trucks are a great example of how AV technology is being applied in off-highway applications, and in many cases bringing this technology to market faster than automotive.” Ouster says the technology stack for autonomy is very similar, but the operational design domain for mining trucks is different. Although the environment for mining trucks can be more challenging given the rugged roads and inclimate weather conditions, they often operate in closed areas and at lower speeds with less noise from objects moving in and out of the vicinity, making it easier to test and deploy fleets. “The benefit to other industries is that Ouster digital LiDAR sensors are being built to and certified to support the extreme conditions in mining, and these learnings benefit our entire product portfolio and solutions in order to support edge-cases in on-highway automotive applications or other industrial use-cases.” Looking ahead, Ouster told IM: “The progress in autonomous mining is a direct result of decades of AV ecosystem maturity. This is also what enabled Ouster to invent digital LiDAR and develop sensors that were more performant, more rugged, more durable, more power efficient, and more affordable than most of the other LiDAR products on market. Similarly, this ecosystem maturity, together with highresolution point cloud data, is what has enabled command and control systems with computing power and perception software to become more efficient. Ouster expects to improve the

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AUTONOMY SENSORS performance of its digital LiDAR over time in line with Moore’s Law as costs continue to fall, ultimately enabling LiDAR ubiquity so that many more applications beyond autonomous mining equipment can be brought to market to improve safety, efficiency, and quality of life.”

Quanergy partners with Agia for mining markets in Latin America Quanergy Systems Inc, a leading provider of OPA-based solid state LiDAR sensors and smart 3D solutions for automotive and IoT, has announced a partnership with Agia Solutions, a technology system integrator serving Peru, Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. Headquartered in Peru, Agia Solutions was established in 2007 as a technology system integrator focusing on digital transformation for traditional sectors to optimise the production process, improving occupational health and safety, and increasing quality of work and urban life. “LiDAR is a powerful IoT solution that is rapidly expanding into new markets, providing immense value for a wide variety of applications across many different industries. For example, in the mining industry, LiDAR plays a broad range of versatile roles - from providing unmatched accuracy and reliability for perimeter protection and access control to precisely monitoring bulk materials, accurately surveying topography, enabling collision avoidance for mining vehicles, and much more,” said Frederico Argerich, General Manager of Agia Solutions. “We are thrilled to partner with Quanergy to add LiDAR to our existing technology portfolio and bring this advanced technology to our customers for the first time.” Quanergy is the first LiDAR solution provider to partner with Agia. In addition to providing smart 3D LiDAR, Quanergy also brings to the partnership a proven record and expertise in security, industrial automation, and mapping. Agia will now offer Quanergy’s high-performance LiDAR platform, along with its proprietary perception software, QORTEX™, to improve safety and security, increase productivity, and

60 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

optimise efficiency for their customers. Both companies are Milestone partners and Quanergy’s LiDAR solutions are Milestone approved, enabling easy integration across Agia’s technology portfolio. “As Quanergy expands into new markets, it is crucial for us to seek partners that are excited to harness new technologies and innovation to solve their customers’ challenges,” said Tony Rigoni, Director of Industrial Market Development & Alliances. “Quanergy’s partnership with Agia brings the power of LiDAR into new use cases in security and industrial markets, which optimise safety and efficiency.”

The unstoppable rise of radar Sam Wood, Business Development Manager at Navtech Radar told IM that in the mid-2000s when autonomous mining fleets were being developed, sensors for autonomy were fairly limited. Radars that were available at the time were generally simple 24 GHz radars from the automotive industry that measured only onedimensional distances. The performance of these early sensors limited the extent to which radar could be applied to autonomous mining fleets; they were mostly used for simple obstacle detection. “Now with the evolution of 77 GHz radar and advances made by industry leading companies like Navtech Radar, the full potential of radar for autonomy has been unlocked. New generations

Navtech Radar says new generations of radar are rich data sources providing far more quality detail about the world around them

of radar are rich data sources providing far more quality detail about the world around them.” Wood says that with this increase in available data, sophisticated solutions can be developed such as Terran360 by Navtech Radar that provides answers to fundamental questions for autonomous systems, such as ‘Where I am I?’ (localisation) and ‘How I am I moving?’ (odometry). “These valuable functionalities unlock the full potential of autonomous operations and elevate radar sensors to become indispensable for autonomous mining fleets.” Radar’s longer wavelength is unaffected by rain, fog, dust or dirt giving the sensor a very large operating window. “Radar’s reliable performance in adverse weather conditions is what makes it the ideal sensor for outdoor robotics such as autonomous mining fleets. Dust is a huge problem within both surface and underground mining, so it is essential that autonomous systems are designed to be robust and able to provide unrivalled availability such to avoid any downtime generated when waiting for dust to settle or cleaning camera and laser lens. Camera and lasers whilst excellent at certain tasks are not suited to perform in these challenging conditions." Wood argues that autonomous systems that

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AUTONOMY SENSORS Paul Moore spoke to Laura Wrisley, VP of Sales, Velodyne Lidar, about the technology evolution in mining Q In the early days of autonomous mining fleets, was it a case of using the best available LiDAR from other industries and making it work for mining? A Velodyne is the pioneer of 3D LiDAR, jump-starting the autonomous industry with the invention of real-time surround view LiDAR technology. One of our first large customers was Caterpillar, who chose our rotational products to equip off-road vehicles in the areas of mining, construction, quarry and aggregate, earth-moving and worksite planning. Our LiDAR technology allowed Caterpillar to create a high-resolution 3D virtual map of site surroundings, detecting obstacles and enabling safe navigation and route planning. This has helped to advanced safety and efficiency at mining sites. We’ve leveraged key learnings from this partnership which helped us to adapt, ruggedise and innovate our technology. Through the ever-growing adoption of Velodyne’s LiDAR, we have enabled the expansion of autonomous solutions and broadened our impact in not just the mining industry, but a wide variety of industries worldwide. Use of LiDAR has grown to include automotive, industrial sites, robotics, drones, mapping, smart cities and security. Q What unique challenges eg vibration, dust, weather etc. do mining bring to LiDAR whether surface or underground and how are the latest LiDAR sensors supplied to mining addressing these? are not robust to these conditions will lead to increased costly downtime and will fail to deliver the full potential benefits of automation. “Radar can be trusted to perform in all environmental

Velodyne says it is the pioneer of 3D LiDAR, jump-starting the autonomous industry with the invention of real-time surround view LiDAR technology A Unstable geological structures and loose ground within large, unsupported underground openings (stopes, raises, drifts, etc) are often the sources of ground falls that can endanger personnel, underground infrastructure, and equipment. The traditional method used by mining engineers to regularly inspect these areas can be time consuming, produce poor quality, incomplete scans, and place personnel in hazardous environments. Our broad range of products offer the ability to automate surveying and inspection by generating a 3D virtual map of the surrounding environment. Our LiDAR solutions are optimal for industrial applications requiring precise measurements, object-tracking, and the powering of autonomous movement. Our newest directional, solid state sensors such as the Velarray M1600, Velarray H800 and Velabit offer high-resolution, reliability, and a variety of ranges in compact form factors. Our sensors can be embedded in mobile machinery to enable safe navigation or

conditions and when covered in dust and dirt, ensuring fewer disruptions, increased efficiency and total safety confidence. Radars on mining vehicles need to be able to withstand extreme


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mounted on equipment to bound safety zones, among other applications. Using software to analyse the high-resolution point cloud data, mining engineers and geologists can safely and efficiently characterize geological structures, discontinuities, hangups and over break in large, unsupported openings. Q Is there now greater "sensor fusion" with autonomous mining control systems being able to react more quickly and independently to situations especially using AI? A A mining site is an extremely busy, fast-paced and interconnected environment. With specific building instructions and deadlines to meet, having a clear overview of the project is paramount. Since it is virtually impossible to keep track of the hundreds of thousands of variable elements on a mining site, progress tracking was typically accomplished with very sparse spot checks. These processes can lead to costly errors due to misses or delays in detection, which subsequently results in expensive rework. Integrating LiDAR into autonomous solutions, such as mobile robots, allows them to navigate around mining sites and capture valuable 3D data about the current state of projects. LiDAR is designed to perform in the high-stress environmental conditions found at worksites like wind, rain, snow and ambient lighting issues. AI and sensor fusion solutions using our products have advanced by leaps and bounds since 2012, and our LiDAR solutions are able to be integrated with technologies like camera and radar where redundancy is needed to make mining efforts robust, capable models we see today.” He agrees that sensor fusion is key to automated systems, combining the strengths of a number of systems. “A good example of this is

smarter, safer and more efficient. Q What lessons have been learned from other industries in the application of LiDAR in mining such as automotive, etc? A Velodyne has grown significantly since its invention of 3D LiDAR in 2005 and commencing our work with Caterpillar, vastly expanding our product portfolio. We believe that LiDAR should be the foundation of an autonomous system, as it is a ground-truthing sensing modality which provides precise measurements for free space and object detection. We have a team of top industry talent to design and produce our sensors, with global mass manufacturing capabilities. Velodyne is delivering LiDAR solutions for a variety of applications in a wide range of industries, based on customer feedback and over a decade of experience. We are seeing the consistent implementation of new automation and safety applications based on our pioneering technology, including in mapping, trucking, automotive, mining, smart city, security, industrial, drones and more. Velodyne continues to develop sensors that are more rugged, higher performing, and cost effective for our customers. Our recent line-up of solid state, embeddable products – our Velarrays and the Velabit – are based on Velodyne’s proprietary miniaturised architecture to enable costeffective, high-quality mass production. Due to our expansion into other markets, we have deep expertise in areas such as GPS-denied environments, aerial surveying, and safety and security segments. This has helped us design innovative products and architecture that will address customer needs now and in the future.

camera and radar, which when combined provide a very strong sensor suite for the mining industry. Radar delivers reliable, all weather sensing whilst cameras can detect RGB

information (colour) and have extremely high angular resolution.” Adoption of radar for mission critical applications is rising. Radars from companies

SEPTEMBER 2021 | International Mining 63

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AUTONOMY SENSORS Paul Moore spoke to Dr Christian Riedel, Head of Mining Automation at indurad on how radar is increasing its influence in autonomous fleet sensing Q How has radar use in mining changed from initial deployment in autonomous machines? A Legacy automation systems for mining applications rely, among other perception sensors, on automotive-spec radars for medium and long distance CAS in a limited field of view per sensor. The sensors are merely protected in a more ruggedised housing. However, the sensors themselves and signal processing are conventional. Today, the automation system’s perception is based on indurad’s unique 360° radar technology scanning with up to 50 revolutions per second. indurad’s radar technology is designed for the harsh mining environment and does not compromise on point cloud imaging unlike low-cost automotive radar sensors that rely on inaccurate digital beam forming, patch antennas and integrated MMIC chipsets. It scans the machine’s surroundings with high accuracy (sub-millimetre ranging accuracy) while being largely unaffected by environmental influences such as dust, rain, fog, or snow.

indurad has successfully demonstrated that trackless mobile machine automation in harsh mining environments including terrestrial mapping is feasible with radar-only perception

64 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

Radar is the only technology that maintains its high OEE in even the harshest mining environments. Q Can you give more detail on how radar uniquely handles mining conditions? A Mining and tunnelling applications are characterised by extreme environmental conditions such as dust, mud, water, rain, fog and snow. Furthermore, machinery and thus its sensor technology must endure a wide temperature range from -40° to +60°C at different sites. Additionally, mobile machines such as trucks and loaders components must withstand high acceleration in multiple axes. In some applications corrosive water poses another challenge to sensors. Radar is by far the most suitable technology for harsh environments due to its favorable wavelength compared to optical systems such as LiDAR or cameras. indurad’s high-precision scanning dynamic radars are specifically designed for high vibrations for a great variety of industrial applications. Q Can radar handle mining applications on its own? A indurad has successfully demonstrated that trackless mobile machine automation in harsh mining environments including terrestrial mapping are feasible with radar-only perception. This technology already incorporates advanced signal processing algorithms and AI approaches for more challenging object detection and mapping tasks. Throughout its portfolio indurad has showcased in a great variety of applications for underground and surface mining that radar fulfills all requirements for perceiving the environment. Object classification, object edge precision and lane tracking are typically done with optical system such as cameras. Due to the absence of street signs and street lanes in off-road applications these capabilities are not required. Concluding, a radar-only approach is feasible. However, in certain applications it can be still useful to implement a diverse redundant approach incorporating optical systems and fuse the data accordingly. Q Is progress a combination of radar sensors in mining becoming more accurate plus how their data is used by the command and control systems? A There is a clear tendency towards higher angular resolution and scanning rates that enable perceiving the environment in great detail at low latency for all relevant scenarios in industrial and mining applications and thus, enable fast and precise machine control.

AUTONOMOUS SENSORS.qxp_proof 26/08/2021 13:20 Page 11

AUTONOMY SENSORS like Navtech are now being used to protect airports and other high value sites around the world, along with becoming key technology enablers to making the world’s highways safer. “In all these applications it is critical that the system is available all the time and in any weather condition, a reliability not ensured by other sensors such as cameras and lasers. This need to rely on the data from sensors puts pressure on other industries to adopt radar for times when it is most needed.” Wood adds: “Radar’s ability to detect long range stable objects in all weather conditions makes it a valuable sensor for autonomous mining fleets. Navtech has found that rather than trying to treat the radar data like it has come from a laser which has been the traditional approach – a far more powerful method is to include as much of that radar information as possible in autonomy. To take full advantage of this complex data rich sensor, super-fast and low energy intelligent algorithms are utilised.” Early 24 GHz radars from the automotive industry do not provide enough valuable data for advanced automation task, limiting the benefits of automation. Modern 77 GHz Imaging Radars advance safety and productivity in mining automation. Autonomous systems must be available anytime and in all weather conditions. “Therefore, imaging radars such as the Navtech radar are key to the strategy of the next generation of autonomous mining fleets.” Recent development by companies like Navtech's Terran360 Wood says show the range of applications possible when using radar for automation. “Not only this, but that radar can ensure the safety of processes far beyond that of a person’s capability to do so. From a single Navtech radar the vehicle’s position can be provided to centimetre level accuracy. With unrivalled availability, the Navtech solution will work in all-weather and light conditions so a mine site can operate 24/7 safely and efficiently. For GPS-denied autonomous fleets such as underground loaders, this technology can replace laser and camera-based localisation systems that are prone to performance degradation caused by constant dust and debris exposure. Whilst for overground fleets this technology can provide an alternative to existing GPS systems where performance could be compromised such as when near walls or at the bottom of pits. By increasing the availability of these systems to perform everywhere, every time, mine operators can reap the benefits of increased productivity and safety whilst autonomous fleet manufacturers can gain the competitive edge.”

Sanmina to mass produce AEye’s LiDAR for industry One of the other high performance LiDAR majors, AEye, recently announced that Sanmina Corporation, a leading integrated manufacturing solutions company that manufactures some of the world’s most complex and innovative electronic, optical and mechanical products, will begin production of AEye’s 4Sight M LiDAR

AEye's 4Sight M will be marketed to autonomous mining applications

delighted to have them add the 4Sight M to that list. The manufacturing expertise and precision required to build a sensor with the capabilities of the 4Sight M yielded a very short list of possible manufacturing partners. Sanmina was at the top of that list, and we are extremely happy to be working with them to serve our nonautomotive markets. The 4Sight M is software definable and is now available for multiple market applications including mobility, trucking, ITS, rail, construction, and mining.” AEye says it has designed the 4Sight M with a focus on reliability, cost, quality and supply chain efficiency. The company’s current in-house pilot line is in the process of being transferred to production lines in Sanmina’s San Jose facility, which specialises in producing advanced PCBAs and complex systems, and will transition to Sanmina’s Pathum Thani, Thailand Global Services facility for volume mass production. The transfer includes proprietary optical alignment and calibration technology that enables best-in-class range accuracy. “AEye’s high-performance adaptive LiDAR is

sensor for industrial and mobility markets in September. The transfer from AEye’s pilot line in Dublin, California to Sanmina’s commercial production lines will take place over the next industry leading,” said Mike Landy, President few months, as the company prepares for and COO Integrated Manufacturing Solutions at volume production. Sanmina. “We’re proud to provide our deep AEye says its “uniquely intelligent” LiDAR design and process development expertise and (iDAR™) leverages deterministic AI to focus on state-of-the-art manufacturing capabilities to what matters most in a vehicle’s surroundings, accelerate series production of AEye’s next resulting in greater reliability, safety, and generation systems.” IM performance at longer range and One cap lamp lower cost. Its for everything strategic investment and a miner does go-to-market each day. partners include Continental AG, GM Ventures, INTRODUCING Subaru-SBI, Hella Ventures, LG Electronics, Pegasus Ventures (Aisin), and Airbus Ventures. “We are thrilled to work with 3 DISTINCT Sanmina as a manufacturing BEAM PATTERNS partner on the • Focused spot • Combo 4Sight M,” said • Wide-angle flood • Turbo Bright Rick Tewell, AEye COO. “Sanmina SEE IT AT manufactures some of the most complex electronic, optical Booth 1339 - North Hall and mechanical Canadian Pavilion products in the I world, and we are



Lighting Solutions

SEPTEMBER 2021 | International Mining 65

February 17-18, 2022 Radisson Blu Waterfront Stockholm, Sweden

The Electric Mine 2022 conference The world’s only global mine electrification event Against a backdrop of increasing ventilation costs, deeper mine developments and the need for miners to reduce their carbon footprint, mine electrification both above and below ground is accelerating. Electrifying operations with mobile, fully-electric and non-tethered equipment can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve the environment for mine workers, positively impact mine design and cut both operational and capital expenses. The Electric Mine 2022 will gather the leaders in the mine electrification space, with the program offering a platform for mining companies, OEMs, service providers and research institutes to exchange ideas on industry best practice. The event is set to feature speakers including:

Henrik Ager

Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions

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ArtisanVehicle Systems

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19/03/2021 10:43

AUTONOMOUS SENSORS.qxp_proof 25/08/2021 06:50 Page 12

AUTONOMY SENSORS Quanergy predicts market transformation with solid state LiDAR The LiDAR market is set to see a potential divergence in mining with the onset of OPA-based solid state technology versus existing MEMS and Flash technologies. Tony Rigoni, Quanergy Director of Industrial Markets told IM: “I think we are going to see more LiDAR adoption in mining. Of course, the challenge to date in its use in mobile mining equipment has been the conditions – vibration, shock and dust. And this remains the LiDAR Achilles heel in mining – it has a rotational mechanical turret, there are bearings, so there are eventually going to be failures and typically these LiDARs are having to be replaced as often as every few months. The holy grail in mining LiDAR is using solid state technology with no mechanical parts – ultrareliable plus eliminating wear, misalignment and recalibration needs – and that’s what all the mining equipment OEMs and the mines themselves want. When it reaches production at scale is will also significantly bring down LiDAR cost as it is based on a silicon chip.” Quanergy says it is the only provider that is in advanced development of a 100% CMOS silicon, solid state LiDAR based on optical phased array (OPA) technology. It is already the result of eight years and over $100 million of investment in silicon photonics technology with all key silicon components developed in-house leveraging Quanergy’s photonics and ASIC design team. Rigoni described LiDAR is the optical analogue of phased array radar – a technology that has achieved low cost, large scale commercial deployment in the automotive radar market. “We are the only LiDAR company that has commercialised OPA technology for people counting applications. The outdoor range performance is also very rapidly improving for the mobility market. Last year our LiDARs were reaching 15 m in full sunlight, in July we announced 100 m and by end-2021 we predict 200 m at 10% reflectivity, meaning we can see a very ‘dark’ object at 200 m. Thanks to this performance, our solid state technology will be able to provide the range and reliability for autonomous mobile mining equipment – and that will be a game changer.” Rigoni said it is not new to mining and that it already has safety related mechanical LiDAR running underground at several mining operations in South America but that these are still covered by NDAs. And it is now in discussions with these and other customers plus the big mining equipment OEMs about application of its OPA solid state tech. He agrees that sensor fusion is coming but that it needs to get more focused. “The challenge today is that there is still too much data from all the sensors whether GPS, radar, LiDAR, cameras – all being delivered at once. Our new products are edge computing based. We only want the point cloud data if the truck ‘sees’ something that needs to be interpreted – AI and pattern recognition – so that the data that is delivered only when its needed. Quanergy is also differentiated as one of very few LiDAR manufacturers to commercially produce an integrated software and hardware platform solution, enabling an entirely new level of smart awareness. LiDAR sensors use lasers that send pulses that reflect off objects to measure directly the distance and shape, creating a detailed 3D map of the physical world. However, in order to perceive what these objects are and where they are located additional technology is needed to interpret the 3D data from the sensor.” Quanergy says its QORTEX software has been developed to accomplish this feat with high accuracy and ensures “a flexible, modular and scalable approach to deploying LiDAR-enabled applications.” Tony Rigoni, Quanergy Director of Industrial Markets

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REDPATH COMPANY PROFILE.qxp_proof 25/08/2021 13:37 Page 2



Full service mining solutions and innovation since 1962 edpath Mining Inc. Mining Contractors and Engineers is a multinational, fullservice underground mining contractor. Established in 1962, the company provides expertise and services to a comprehensive list of international clients. Redpath has built a reputation for meeting deadlines and delivering practical, innovative solutions. Skilled personnel, committed to safety and quality, and superior technical and operational know-how, are key to Redpath’s success. The list of services includes shaft sinking, raiseboring, mine development, contract mining, raise mining, underground construction, engineering, technical and speciality services. Redpath also designs and manufactures the Redbore family of raise drills, including the world’s largest proven capacity raise drill, the Redbore 100. The company has a record of safe, low-cost, on-time project delivery, while providing a level of service that exceeds industry standards.


Global mining expertise driving innovation in challenging conditions Six decades of experience have positioned Redpath as a leader in the global mining sector. The company draws upon expertise from across the world and many disciplines, including inhouse engineering and technical services teams. Our rich source of global expertise and experience represents real value for our clients in an increasingly competitive market. Our ability to quickly mobilise our people, our equipment and our suppliers wherever our clients need us helps make Redpath a trusted industry partner. Redpath uses innovative, state-of-the-art solutions to conquer tough challenges in diverse environments. From sinking shafts in the Gobi desert of Mongolia to developing tunnels high in the mountains of Indonesia, from the frozen Arctic to the heat of sub-Saharan Africa, Redpath is ready to meet the challenge. Extensive practical knowledge in all areas of underground excavation and construction, and the experience to deliver on projects and meet milestones, enable Redpath to achieve its goal of being the ‘go to’ contractor of the global mining industry.

World-class shaft-sinking experience and customised solutions Recognised as a global leader in shaft sinking, Redpath has dedicated teams around the globe, who design and build shafts and mine infrastructure, as well as provide a full suite of shaft related services. These include audits, rehabilitation, and infrastructure improvements.

68 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

The Redpath Deilmann team from Germany has attracted a lot of attention on its highly successful Nezhinsky Potash Shafts project in Belarus, where it has set a new benchmark in mechanised shaft sinking on two potash freeze shafts Every shaft-sinking project presents challenges, and no two projects are alike. Mining companies and tunnelling contractors demand new ideas and customised solutions and that is what Redpath delivers. Noteworthy shaft-sinking projects include the Nezhinsky Mine in Belarus, involving two freeze shafts and approximately 9,000 m of horizontal excavations to be completed. Another notable project is Oyu Tolgoi, Mongolia, Shaft 2, a 10 m diameter x 1,400 m-deep concrete-lined shaft, which includes the excavation and construction of five shaft stations. Timely front-end engineering and design models, as well as selection and sourcing of hoisting facilities, allow us to fast-track any shaft project. This seamless project-planning phase has continually proven to yield high quality products that exceed our clients’ expectations. Whether the job calls for conventional drill and blast, mechanised sinking or fully automated shaft boring methods, our integrated engineering and shaft teams get it done.

raises and depths. Redpath meets the demands for conventional, box-holing (up reaming), down reaming and autonomous reaming. Groundbreaking milestones in 2021 include the longest raisebore hole in the Northern Hemisphere and all of the Americas at a length of 3,312 ft (1,010 m). The hole at Macassa Mine in Canada was accomplished in two stages with two machines drilling concurrently; a Redbore 70 underground and a Redbore 90EX on surface. The feat took place merely three months after Redpath broke another record at Niobec Mine in Québec, Canada. The raise at Niobec Mine was completed with the Redbore 90EX raise drill and became the largest ever completed in the Americas and the Northern Hemisphere, and the third biggest globally, at 875 m by 6.3 m diameter. The Redbore series of raisebore machines used for these milestones were designed and manufactured in-house by Redpath in North Bay, Canada.

Mine development applying modern underground fleet and innovative solutions A full complement of services is provided for the underground mine development of greenfield or brownfield properties. Decline and ramp development for exploration or access as well as installation of mine infrastructure are prime elements of Redpath’s total mine service. With thousands of kilometres excavated globally, we are recognised for our expertise in addressing all types of varying or difficult ground conditions, including sand, squeezing ground or water inflows. Our modern contractor fleet consists of more than 250 pieces of major underground mobile equipment. Modern equipment such as multiboom drill jumbos, roadheaders and tunnel

Record-breaking raisebore contracting/ manufacturing with extensive fleet The Redpath raiseboring manufacturing team has continually innovated to deliver the latest technology and customised designs for more than 40 years. This has resulted in the evergrowing Redbore family of raise drills, featuring the Redbore 30, 30X, 40, 50, 50X, 60UR, 65, 70, 80, 90, 90EX and 100 models. The latter is also known as ‘Queen Louise’, the world’s largest proven capacity raise drill. With unique power output and compact design, Redpath’s raise drills can handle a full range of diameters of

The company’s Australian operations recently landed the largest single raiseboring contract in the Redpath Group’s 59-year history. The contract scope involves three Redbore rigs; Redbore 100, Redbore 90EX and Redbore 90, contracted for eight holes, totalling 5.3 km. All three rigs are designed and manufactured in North Bay, Canada

REDPATH COMPANY PROFILE.qxp_proof 25/08/2021 13:37 Page 3

ADVERTISEMENT FEATURE Redpath’s mechanised raise mining innovations include a battery-operated climber, providing flexibility, speed and economy.

Underground construction, demolition and rehabilitation

What started off as a relatively standard contract raisebore operation in Indonesia, in 1982, eventually grew into the longest running project in Redpath’s history, still in existence today. Freeport Indonesia’s (PTFI) Grasberg Block Cave (GBC) operations are quickly developing a world-class production mine. The PTFI team, together with strong Redpath support, successfully attained the milestone of constructing and blasting the 300th drawbell in June of 2021 in a record time of only 2.5 years from the production start date. The same production crews also reached a record of 107,000 t/d in June boring machines (TBM) help advance projects safely and productively. A thorough knowledge of procurement, logistics and global regulations on international transports gives Redpath an advantage when mobilising equipment and supplies around the world.

Contract mining from concept to turnkey infrastructure Clients all over the world commission Redpath to perform production-mining services, from engineering and design to complete turnkey operations. Services include construction engineering, planning development, production drilling, blasting, ore haulage, crushing and conveyance to surface for processing. Redpath can assist with any scope of the project, from beginning to completion.

Mechanised raise mining offering flexibility, speed and economy Having amassed the industry’s largest mechanised raise mining equipment fleet, Redpath’s innovative approaches, patented designs and concepts have been providing safe drill and blast raise-mining services and solutions since 1975. Experienced management, quality supervision and a highly capable workforce ensure that all project demands are met, including ventilation, ore and/or waste passes, production slot raises and narrow vein mining.

Redpath provides a world of experience in fullrange mine construction and installation for all project sizes and complexities. Skilled in new infrastructure development, we are also recognised for dewatering, rehabilitating, upgrading and re-commissioning mines that are re-entering production. We build underground shop facilities and refuge stations, ore handling and conveyance systems consisting of chutes, grizzlies, conveyors, ore transfers, ore and waste bins, crushers and loading pockets. Mechanical and electrical installations include internal hoists, substations and ventilation systems. The excavation of large caverns primarily for housing complex crusher systems is also a Redpath specialty.

In-house engineering and technical services for enhanced project control and integration Working together from design through to installation and commissioning, Redpath’s globally-mobile and experienced technical experts provide innovative and reliable designs with the ability to offer a total mine package. The company’s integrated scheduling systems enable efficient decision making, project control and value management. Examples of services include 3D comprehensive rendering; site management; supervision; design, managing and construction of crushers, complete hoisting facilities, shaft services, material handling systems, conveyance systems, shaft conveyances and custom sinking set-ups.

Speciality services for civil construction/mechanical excavation Redpath applies its expertise and experience to the development of tunnels for civil infrastructure projects. Conventional drill and blast, and continuous mining methods using road headers or TBMs, may be used for underground civil infrastructure projects. Access tunnels, sewer tunnels and dewatering tunnels are a few types that have been completed for end uses such as hydro-electric, roadway, water transfer, public transit and mine exploration projects. Redpath is also a market leader in providing advanced mechanical excavation solutions to mine owners across Australia and the globe. With a focus on driving efficiency and achieving bottom-line objectives for our clients, we provide a complete scope of services.

Reinforcing a culture of Safety – First, Last and Always

employees and stakeholders are of the utmost importance. We passionately believe that all injuries are preventable and that the work we undertake can and will be completed safely, with no harm to people, the environment or the communities in which we work. Redpath provides leadership development training, utilises robust safety management systems, the latest technology and professional trainers to ensure that our employees have the necessary skills, tools and equipment to work in a safe and productive manner. We continually strive to achieve the highest standards in health and safety – zero harm. Through the development of a safety culture, built on a common understanding of safety principles and a commitment by all employees, we will meet our goal of ‘Safety First, Last and Always’.

ESG commitment based on timehonoured corporate values Redpath has a longstanding commitment to the incorporation of environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria into our organisation. It is based on Redpath’s ‘Philosophy’ and ‘Guidelines for Success’ penned by Redpath’s founder, Jim Redpath, in 1962. The commitment is a fundamental part of all our dealings with clients, business partners, subcontractors, suppliers, employees and the communities in which we live and do business. Foremost amongst the ‘Guiding Principles’ is this simple principle: “We are honest, fair and responsible.” This approach, coupled with the equally important declaration, “We work by our principles of safety first, last and always”, establishes the firm foundation, which Redpath continues to build our organisation on. It defines how we deal with our clients, employees, business partners and other stakeholders in the projects we undertake and in the countries in which we work.

Trusted global partner Redpath has expansive regulatory knowledge, regional expertise and experience in completing culturally and environmentally sensitive projects, ensuring the impact on the surrounding area and local wildlife is minimal. Approaching 60 years of service, and with over 6,000 employees and offices in Canada, the US, Indonesia, Mongolia, Germany, South Africa, Zambia and Australia, Redpath continues to attract clients and employees to its doors, all over the world. Redpath Mining Inc. Mining Contractors and Engineers 101 Worthington Street East, Suite 304 North Bay, ON Canada P1B 1G5 Tel: +1 705-474-2461

At Redpath, the health and safety of our

SEPTEMBER 2021 | International Mining 69

INTERVIEW - FIRST MODE 2.qxp_proof 25/08/2021 06:57 Page 1


Solving mining’s haul truck power problem First Mode technician Dae Oh working on the radiator for Anglo American’s hydrogen fuel cell power module in First Mode’s Seattle hardware development facility (photo credit Stuart Isett)

Ahead of the hotly anticipated and imminent first movement of Anglo American’s fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) mining truck in South Africa, Paul Moore spoke in-depth to Chris Voorhees, the President and Founder of the main technology partner on the project, Seattle, Washington-based First Mode Q Was this First Mode’s first foray into a mining technology related project and where did you start? A Actually it’s not our first involvement in mining but it does represent one of our first introductions in mobile platform utilisation in mining. We had been involved in other elements of mine operations such as mine efficiency & sustainability plus water management but this was the first to connect with the clean power and energy experience in our team. We started by studying the mining fleet diesel dependence problem, looking across the options, the state of the art and where things were headed, working with Anglo American to develop a strategy that made sense for their overall objectives of getting several of their minesites to net zero over the next decade. The key element of that problem was at the truck itself in the replacement of the diesel engine and getting both enough power and enough onboard energy storage to make a swap viable. There are other interesting parts of the problem such in relation to fleet management and fuelling that had to be worked through but we started with the vehicle. Q Did Anglo American approach First Mode or the other way round? A We are a fairly young business, we have only been around for less than four years. Our

70 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

engagement with Anglo American predates First Mode a little in terms of individuals but it was one of the first customers that we actively engaged in a business development sense in First Mode. We thought mining and metals was a place where we could make an impact and Anglo American had been doing some innovative work in other areas relevant to us so we saw a potential positive connection between the two companies. It began with some other projects but this truck issue was one of the studies that really took off and we have now been on this journey with them for over two years. Q Do you agree it is important to emphasise that the mining truck is an FCEV ie hydrogenbattery hybrid rather than an all hydrogen truck? A You are correct, I think some of the misrepresentation comes from the narrative in passenger vehicles of battery versus hydrogen. It is akin to the narrative in renewables of wind versus solar in the 2000s when the reality is taking it all on board to solve the clean power problem. The Anglo American mining truck is a hybrid vehicle that is using hydrogen as the primary power source but also using battery as part of its onboard energy storage strategy. The solution in a mobile mining application works as a result of the right balance between the two.

Q Did the scale of the base machine, the 291 t payload Komatsu 930E, create some unique challenges, such as the eight or more hour shifts it will be expected to work in normal mine operations? A You hit the nail on the head – from an FCEV perspective it is not the low hanging fruit! It has many problems to address. First off the vehicle we are working with was designed specifically with the internal combustion engine at its heart, so there are a lot of linked auxiliary systems that also depend on that. So if you replace the engine you have to manage what we call the scar – all the associated ramifications of that big change. But at its core you are trying to solve both a 2MW+ power and multiple MWh energy storage problem onboard a platform that is operating in a relatively dirty, dynamic and often very hot mining environment. We are also stuck with a fixed volume or space to work with, plus a fixed configuration. You want to make the necessary changes without too much of a ripple effect on the rest of the system. When you extrapolate the problem to a fleet level, you are trying to keep fleet management from being perturbed in a way that is disruptive to mine operations. The onboard energy storage needs to be sufficient to avoid having a level of downtime for refuelling or recharging that makes the whole exercise logistically and economically prohibitive. Q So when you started the initial design of the new power unit, did you look at a lot of different combinations of the relative amount of hydrogen-based energy over battery electric energy?

Chris Voorhees, President and Founder, First Mode

INTERVIEW - FIRST MODE 2.qxp_proof 26/08/2021 13:21 Page 2

INTERVIEW A The project is a balancing act in everything that you do. From the clean energy implementation standpoint, one minesite can differ from another. Diesel is a potent power source and is available everywhere, that’s why it is so hard for mining to give it up. Whatever you opt for as a diesel alternative you are constantly fighting a decrease in energy density – every electron matters, regardless of where it comes from. You have to think about your minesite and your truck on a higher level of detail that you probably ever had to before. So we look at the balance of hybridisation – is that balance appropriate for the application? It is entirely possible that a different balance will work better for a different mine. It’s not a one size fits all solution. Q Has it been a collaboration with Anglo American but also other key participants like Williams, Ballard, Nel, NPROXX and Komatsu? A We can’t really talk in any detail on this other than what has already been made public. What I can say is that First Mode has taken the role of system integrator and developer, working with Anglo American and others to get the solution designed, assembled, integrated and ultimately operating in South Africa at Mogalakwena platinum mine for the pilot and testing – plus beyond that as this evolves further. You mentioned Williams and Ballard who are key technology suppliers of the batteries and fuel cells respectively so we work closely with them. In terms of strategic relations with the mining truck OEM, that’s more a question for Anglo American. Q You mentioned fleet management strategies – what refuelling and recharging strategies have you looked at and what will a normal shift look like for this truck? A Again we can’t go into specific details here but I would say again that the approach will likely not be the same from one minesite to another. Each has different pressures and constraints. You are trying to find a clean power fleet balance that works for each site. Also, as we will mainly be doing this for existing mines not greenfield sites, there is the mixed fleet conundrum where you will have diesel units coexisting with FCEV units, plus potentially on top of that some of these becoming retrofitted with autonomy. These mines don’t turn over their 50 or 70 haul trucks all at once – units are retired periodically. So you are looking at this fundamental fuel change being implemented truck by truck over the course of a period of years. The miners want

First Mode’s Krunal Desai and Paul Sturmer doing preliminary electrical investigation on an Anglo American haul truck in South Africa, to support the company’s development of the world’s largest hydrogen powered mine truck

to get the best TCO out of their trucks and you are trying not to interrupt a 24-hour operation, so there is a lot of complexity in how these newly powered units will get introduced beyond the power change itself. So the refuelling/recharging strategy will evolve as the fleet evolves. And there’s the regional differences – the approach in South Africa will differ from that for the operations at 3,000-5,000 m altitude in the Andes in Chile and Peru. Q First motion is planned for later this year for the first FCEV truck in Mogalakwena but Anglo American’s plans are much wider. How far beyond the first truck will your role extend? A Since the start of the project we have been helping them on two fronts. First let’s get the first truck built and tested and show the industry and the world that this technology can work in mining in a real mine operation. But second we will learn as much as possible from the pilot machine testing later this year which will help us and Anglo American plan for the same technology deployment at scale. And we hope to remain a central partner with them as the program grows. Q Is your work with Anglo on the FCEV truck exclusive to them or are you also open to working on other related opportunities in mining? A I will just say there is a lot of interest in mining right now in the transition to a zero-emission platform, whether that be the FCEV route or something else. We regularly get queries about the project and its status and potential utilisation of a similar approach at other sites. The details of our business relationship with

Anglo American I can’t discuss but it’s important to note that Anglo American as a company is doing this not only for its own FutureSmart Mining™ strategy but ultimately for the benefit of the whole mining industry – the whole point of demonstrating this all the way through to the commissioning of a pilot is to try to get the mining industry to start making the transition as a whole. I think the recent Charge on Innovation Challenge development shows that things are now accelerating in decarbonising mines, not only for FCEV but also other strategies from all battery electric, to trolley assist with battery and others. The industry is only going to get there by working together – equipment OEMs, mining houses, engineering houses and new technology entrants such as ourselves. And the route different mines choose to take will depend on many things – the infrastructure situation at each mine; the power generation architecture for each mine, relationships with local communities in relation to power – there are many factors to consider. Q Taking Mogalakwena or any other major mine; beyond the primary haulage fleet you’ve got water trucks, graders, dozers, excavators, service vehicles, explosives charging trucks to name a few. Then you’ve got underground mines and those machines. Is the bigger picture in terms of fleets something you are also looking into? A I would say this is looked at as a secondary problem right now with the haul trucks representing by far the largest share of a mine’s mobile fleet emissions. But of course, it is something that also needs addressing. While each vehicle in turn will throw up unique challenges, overall they will all be working off of the same minewide infrastructure for clean power, and will be subject to the same issue with regard to energy storage and 24/7 operations. Underground is another world, and arguably its emissions approach has already evolved to a greater extent than surface mining, with widespread use trials and use of battery electric machinery. This is partly due to more stringent diesel emissions regulations for underground and also the machines being smaller in size. But there are also many operational complexities that are unique to the underground environment that are just as challenging to solve. IM

SEPTEMBER 2021 | International Mining 71

MINING AUTOMATION.qxp_proof 25/08/2021 12:16 Page 1

MINING AUTOMATION RCT's ControlMaster® automation technology includes Multi Machine Control (MMC) capability and most recently, Multi Fleet Select (MFS), which allows equipment operators to control multiple types of machines in the underground mine from a single operator station

Driving autonomy forward Paul Moore spoke to five companies all playing different roles in driving automation in the mining industry forward from robotics to complete mine solutions about the latest technologies, the driving factors and of course how autonomous mining will evolve tarting with a look at the big picture and applying the latest in autonomous solutions from pit to port, ABB has pioneered some of the world's most significant technological advances in mining control systems including automation of assets such as conveyors and mineral processing plants. ABB Global Product Line Manager Marcos Hillal told IM that mines are becoming increasingly interconnected, resulting in new opportunities for the automation and digitalisation of key process controls: “Perhaps more than any other large, capital-intensive industry, mining has the most to gain from increased automation in terms of productivity, safety, sustainability and ultimately, profitability.” As an example, mines are also energy and resource intensive. Reducing CO₂ emissions from mining operations in line with global climate policies and mitigating their impact on the environment and surrounding communities are other key drivers. “Autonomous systems that can modify their behaviour without manual intervention in response to unanticipated events can help address all of these challenges.” Inspired by the automotive industry, Hillal says ABB has identified a taxonomy of mining autonomy comprising five levels (there could still exist a sixth level that represents no automation in place, known as level 0). In the automation scale, level 1 would represent the minimum level where some functionalities were automated, but most of the tasks and decisions remain the responsibility of the operator to a full autonomous operation at level 5 where all decision making and actuation is done by the system.


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“The mining industry is poised to enter level 3, where sophisticated expert systems become more accessible, but is still some way off full autonomous operation in all situations where no user interaction is required. For this to occur, all the different operational areas of the mine will need to work together using innovative solutions such as the ABB Ability™ Operations Management System, which integrates mine operations and processing plants.” At the mine, Hillal says OMS connects workforce and equipment in real time to perform production scheduling, automated execution and react to disturbance in seconds. At the processing plant, OMS can provide analytical insights and bridge the complete value chain. Mine operators are looking to technologies like this to harness the power of a large volume of

data and translate it into actionable information when it is required. ABB Ability™ System 800xA works beyond a regular distributed control system (DCS) platform, that only takes care of process control. It is an integration OT layer that connects multiple automation tasks and information to consolidate data and provide to operations an integrated environment to control the plant in a safe and productive way, by promoting collaboration and avoiding islands of automation. “The ABB Ability™ Camera Connect is a good example of that, bringing to the plant operator this additional information as part of control levers, something that in the past was handled separately and not associated with the real operational control.” ABB embeds its video system in its 800xA DCS for more efficient process control, such as fine-tuning the flotation process. Using cameras, it is possible to monitor the entire extension of a conveyor belt, over several kilometres. If the motor transporting ore from the mine to processing trips due to an excess of materials, for example, the problem can be assessed without the need to send someone in a vehicle or on foot. “In this way, remote monitoring improves workplace safety by removing personnel from hazardous environments. Rather than sending personnel on site to attend a tripped equipment alarm, the control room operator can visualise the problem on-screen, reducing costly downtime, or ensure that no personnel are present when engineers are powering 13.8kV substations on or off.” Digital twins – virtual replicas of physical

Operators using ABB Ability™ Operations Management System, which integrates mine operations and processing plants

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Control mastery Paul Moore spoke to Ryan Noden, Business Development Manager – Mining at RCT about its place in the industry as one of the world’s leading suppliers of underground and increasingly surface autonomous mining technology centred on its ControlMaster® offering

transition to another piece of equipment and complete a cycle of work in another location. Today transitioning autonomy from one area to another to get the productivity benefits is much quicker and simpler than it was. I would say there has also been a new maturity from mines in understanding what is possible.

Q Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your business model in terms of how you manage your automation technology mining customers worldwide? A Given the current difficulty mobilising technicians to many of our customer sites around the world, we have put significant investment into what we call our operational technology team. This team is facilitating remote desktop support, for example coming into a client’s network and being able to diagnose system issues affecting the operation of their fleet. In addition, this team provides technical oversight to the engineering and maintenance team to enable them to conduct any necessary refinements and repairs. This approach has been widely adopted in the environments we are operating in presently. Our customers understand the situation and accept this kind of support model today, utilising their own technicians to carry out work with our guidance. That aside, RCT does have a significant global presence on the ground now through our branch network. We have operations in all of the major mining jurisdictions with full service centres, sales, parts and specialist engineers in those locations.

Q Is LTE coming underground in Australia and will that improve things further? A We are seeing some customers trial LTE technology underground and we have already integrated with LTE for some surface applications. Some are adopting it underground to leverage legacy infrastructure within the mine – being able to put the LTE over legacy infrastructure to help reduce cost and provide a mine-wide network in a more straightforward and costeffective way. However, LTE is not a fix all and does not suit all applications. Many are still opting for 802.11 wireless access points as the best option for them.

Q What type of automation approach are customers taking in today’s mining industry? Is it more a case today of using automation where it fits best in productivity terms rather than trying to automate everything from the outset? A What we are seeing particularly in the WA market is that our clients are looking to do more from fewer resources. This is being driven in part by skill shortages, allowing the mine to utilise their existing workforce better and do more with their fleet through technology. We have been able to facilitate this through the provision of our Multiple Machine Control solution. This gives one operator the ability to control up to three machines at one time. We have also seen more focus on the digitalisation of the mining environment, allowing a mine to control a piece of autonomous equipment and complete a cycle of work and then quickly

upgrade path as technology, features and functionality evolve. Our technology, unlike some other systems has been based on edge-based processing – so on board the machine, which means that the RCT system can operate over a lower bandwidth. If we are introducing ControlMaster® technology into a mine, which has existing communications infrastructure that is not the latest, we have the ability to configure our system to enable it to work effectively at a lower bandwidth and we have proven this many times. RCT has always designed its systems to be easy to use and fit for the application in which it is working and quickly and simply deployed for use without having to have a long phase in period with specialist’s onsite. RCT comprehensive training packages also allow clients to quickly “own” our solution and be able to manage it themselves but leverage our support if, and when required.

devices that are used to run simulations before and after actual devices are built and deployed – are being used to enable real time supervision, planning, automated reporting and simulation of stockyards, paving the way for fully autonomous operations. “Thanks to the industrial internet of things, digital twins have access to vast data sets on the real time status, working condition and location of machines and processes around the stockyard. Gathered by smart components and state-of-the-art software, this data is combined with virtual versions of the machines and their facilities and is used to make informed decisions that optimise performance. ABB Ability™ Stockyard Management System (SYMS) is a configurable system that can be used to provide a digital twin of a facility’s complete material handling chain. SYMS provides information regarding handled materials, verification of data, and industry-leading support to enable

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Q RCT has won a lot of autonomy retrofit contracts on both new and older machines over and above OEM options – what is your value proposition that has allowed you to win these tenders? A Primarily, our value proposition is based around our interoperable platform, as well as providing a scalable solution, allowing miners to leverage the technology of today but also providing a roadmap to the “over the horizon” in terms of what they may need going forward. We have done our best to design a platform that facilitates a continual

operators to streamline production.” ABB’s advanced digital service, ABB Ability™ Condition Monitoring for belts is designed to mitigate lost time in mines and processing plants by moving to an automated and continuous predictive maintenance schedule, moving away from time-based preventative measures. “It can offer a complete real time overview of speed, misalignment, damage, thickness and wear, slippage and temperature of conveyor belts. Operators using the service can more accurately anticipate maintenance, avoid unplanned downtime, improve belt reliability and lengthen conveyor belt lifetime.” For mining companies, it means the ability to more accurately conduct planned maintenance shutdowns, spending their OPEX when it is definitely needed rather than at regular intervals and avoiding costly failures than might normally happen between physical inspections. For personnel, they can also be removed from

potentially hazardous environments based on sensor data. The technology is based on sensors installed at strategic points within the conveyor belt equipment and data received is displayed on easy access and informative dashboards. Fault trend analysis, event alarms, data logs and reports can all be visualised. Data can be relied on as it comes from equipment able to withstand harsh mining environments. ABB can integrate this service with other digital and automation solutions depending on customer needs or issues. Hillal also talked about human-machine interfaces (HMIs). “Across process industries as a whole, 40 percent of preventable unscheduled downtime is still caused by human error. Humanmachine interfaces (HMIs) are meant to act as data hubs that offer a holistic view of the mine, yet operators often remain dependent on outdated and overly complex HMIs. ABB

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Q Is part of it a greater ability to handle mixed fleets and/or older machines? A Absolutely! We offer an interoperable platform that allows mixed fleets to be operated by a standardised technology platform. Also in terms of age of machine, clients do not need to buy the latest model of factory delivered loader to be able to have the benefits that our automation technology can offer. They can generally use their existing fleet. RCT carries out an audit to ensure the machine is able to have the guidance system fitted and works with the client to achieve the best outcome cost effectively for them. Q Automation underground to date seems to have been very dominated by loaders? Is this fair and is the market broadening to trucks and other machines? A Yes, clients have initially applied automation to loaders, as the loadhaul-dump cycle is a repeatable process that shows considerable productivity and efficiency gains from automation with a modest investment. What we are seeing now however, is clients turning their attention to underground drills, as there optimisation opportunity during the drilling cycle. The next logical step is automating the trucking application. There are challenges with this as normally there has only been single decline access where you have numerous other manned vehicles or services running as well. Clients are investigating how they can introduce an autonomous haulage circuit into their mine. An example is during blasting and re-entry when there are no personnel underground. Why not have the trucks run autonomously up and down the decline during that time and get those extra tonnes per shift? Then the trucks revert to conventional operation. More comprehensive options could Ability™ System 800xA Mineral Process Control Library comes with a new generation of graphic interface that features a unique alarm system for rapid fault tracing. It is the first HMI to display process information intuitively within its situational context for better collaboration and decision-making, operational efficiency, productivity and safety.” ABB says it has found through discussions and reviews with process industries customers that the new HMI, which is designed for simplicity of use with a clear, graphic interface, removes distraction for the operator, ensuring that key information – such as abnormal condition alerts – is immediately visible. Rather than showing every individual piece of equipment, the HMI focuses on whole processes – ie a complete milling circuit – while improved navigation ensures a high consistency of information. “The digital revolution is continuing in mining

include dedicated haulage circuits including consideration of a second decline. We saw this with loaders, once clients could see the technology works and the ROI was compelling, mine designs were changed to accommodate more effective use of the technology. Q Looking to the future – what about battery machines – is RCT readying its solutions to work with BEVs? Also are you actively looking to grow your surface autonomy presence? A We have faced many market challenges during our 49-year company history, and at heart, we are a technology and engineering company so we are confident we will be able to integrate our systems to those types of machines. Customers like to have an OEM agnostic automation option and we will look to collaborate with mines that work with us already on diesel machines if they opt to transition to battery-electric. RCT can bring unique benefits, for example, our Multi Fleet Select option enables machine operators can switch between different types of equipment, such as switching from a loader to a remote drill or remote rock breaker while the loader is auto-tramming on a single platform. On the surface, we have a long history of providing remote control solutions for dozers and other machines based on safety initiatives. More recently, we have been supporting EMERST Level 9 collision intervention projects with our machine control systems. We are also looking at other applications where surface automation is a good fit for our business including trucks, dozing and loading. We have had valuable experience already at some projects, notably with Polyus at the Olimpiada gold mine where we automated a fleet including five trucks, a shovel, dozer and drill rig. We are continuing to invest heavily in our surface automation and control capabilities and you can expect to see RCT providing a more complete and compelling autonomous offer in the future.

and other process industries. Growing levels of automation and intercommunication mean it is possible for large plant areas to be managed by fewer people. This adds complexity to daily plant operation and places increasing demands on today’s control room personnel. Visualisation is critical to the process, providing the main interface between humans and the production site. Real time information is much more accessible to operators through the new HMI. Visual control graphics make it easier for all users of the system to take the right decisions in any situation and allow operators, maintenance, and engineers to collaborate in new ways.” He concludes: “The ability of humans to be able to respond, with good decisions at the right time, is crucial for the optimisation of plant efficiency and reliability. Plants have never been so interconnected, resulting in new opportunities for the automation of process controls and, ultimately, more efficient, safer operations.”

The critical role of interoperability in mining automation Looking at robotic automation solutions in mining, Australia’s Universal Field Robots (UFR) has several new products released and says it is “up to its armpits in interoperability.” Managing Director, Jeff Sterling told IM: “UFR is running robotic machines on surface and underground, within different mining jurisdictions and differing corporate cultures, which presents varied and unique challenges. Machine agnostic UFR Autonomy is our core product and is already integrated into numerous brands, including Caterpillar, Bobcat and Kubota. Customer applications are created by configuring a machine and attachment combination to complete specific tasks and these include loaders, mobile radio coverage and specialised handling tasks.” He says interoperability is required and needs to exist at multiple levels. “At first level, our UFR Autonomy has integration with the machine to

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MINING AUTOMATION possibilities exist, including CAN J1939, TCP/UDP, profisafe and websockets. The complexity is daunting, but the magic happens with the clever application and configuration of software realising surprising new capabilities and outcomes.” UFR Loader is a current product to deliver teleremote and autonomous capabilities for ancillary tasks in an underground mine block cave automation area. UFR Autonomy is being UFR Loader is a current product to deliver integrated into both of a Bobcat S770 and teleremote and autonomous capabilities for Caterpillar 262 to provide options for mine ancillary tasks in an underground mine block cave automation area operators. The loaders must be interoperable with the mine systems such as traffic monitor health and capability such as battery management and can be controlled from a voltage, fuel level and sending alerts to the control station in a common surface control operator. A further level of integration involves room. various sensors that are required to deliver “Functional safety is a key requirement and robotic functions and a third level of integration UFR has been implementing safety critical is the robotic machine with the mine communications over propriety systems and we infrastructure for communications, security, GPS have also developed our own safety critical adjustment and data curation.” communications over a protocol. The UFR He says a next level challenge is interaction of development better suits mobile equipment and multiple vehicles, robots, people, and systems. interoperability and can be implemented more Collision Avoidance Systems (CAS) are pushed readily on mine sites. In more basic terms, this forward with a new ISO standard 21815 part 2 means when the control room operator presses and are applicable for an operator in the seat but it stop the loader will stop as designed and will is still early days as to how interoperability is meet functional safety requirements.” achieved with robotic machines. “Communications UFR RadioPOP is a new application are very much at the core of interoperability. This implemented on UFR E20C, a 2 t teleremote and is handled by different layers, protocols and autonomous tracked machine. Autonomous application software and a pandoras box of equipment, such as drills, require constant communications and failure of this link risks downtime. UFR RadioPOP is a radio point of presence which drives to a location on the mining bench to support up to around six drills. “At the required location, UFR RadioPOP establishes a high bandwidth microwave data link with the mine network and extends a 9 m mast to rebroadcast radio coverage to the drills. When a blast is to be completed, the machine is driven from the control room to a safe place away from the blast. In a future release, autonomy will be implemented to the driving. UFR RadioPOP also has a pan tilt zoom +61 7 3666 0006 camera on the mast, allowing remote control room operators to

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observe activity from a high vantage point and the implementation of safety surveillance.” In a more future facing horizon, Sterling says UFR’s development will advance persistent autonomy. UFR is collaborating with partner companies Earth Technologies’ digital twin for earth movement to create discreet commands to control robotics, and with GlassTerra to scan, monitor and map the new mine surfaces. “The intent is to compare the created work with the digital twin plan and use AI to update the planning settings. In this way, autonomous operations can be orchestrated reliably at a high level and achieve increased levels of reliability and independence of operation. We hope for this to become version 4.0 of fleet management. We will demonstrate future scenarios with the aim of controlling all machine activities on the mine and minimise the need for operators to be in the loop to achieve persistent autonomy.” Sterling says the newness and novelty of these challenges is absorbing much discussion with mine and robotics cross functional teams. “Seemingly simple things like symbols are potentially challenging, by needing to convey meaning to operators with different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. Introducing automation requires re-engineering processes and workflows and a high level of attention to human factors. UFR has developed a granular development process to evaluate the new ways of doing things and to map human interaction with the system and the GUI (Graphical User Interface). Success will be determined when operations begin, and only minimal changes are requested.” UFR is continuing to develop new functions to accelerate adoption and customer benefits, which has led to 4 product releases this year alone. “Enhanced capabilities and new customer requests can be developed on one site and then rolled out to sites around the world to quickly spin up new benefits. What we are now seeing with digital transformation in mining is tremendous, stranded value being unlocked that can be harvested by savvy and progressive organisations.”

Electrificiation of mines and autonomy There is active investment by the industry to further optimise operations for increased efficiency outcomes, while concurrently implementing a decarbonisation agenda. Many efficiency improvements in recent years have been realised with the increased adoption of an autonomous haulage system (AHS) mining method. And as RPMGlobal’s Simulation Product Manager Adam Price points out, the uptake of integrated autonomous trucks doesn’t look to be slowing down. During 2021, Komatsu expects to exceed 400 operating autonomous trucks

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MINING AUTOMATION globally, while adoption of fully autonomous drilling on site is also accelerating. Alongside the industry’s increased adoption of automation is a steadfast focus on decarbonisation, in line with the industry’s move to net zero emissions. Price told IM: “The role automation and technology can play in enabling electrification of mines is a key discussion point for the industry at present. The industry’s preference to displace diesel and look to the uptake of mining technologies that support a safer, more sustainable and productive operation will result in an even further increase in autonomous systems in the coming years. With automation and haulage efficiency key factors in the industry’s emission reduction aim, there will be increased uptake of hybrid vehicles over the next decade as a stepping-stone from dieselpowered to entirely battery electric trucks. In a hybrid landscape, there is a trade-off between the amount of battery storage capacity and the size of the engine to power the system, which is where RPMGlobal’s simulation technology can model the energy flow in and out of the battery system.” In the future state of autonomous and battery electric vehicles – whereby trucks are charged from overhead lines and regenerative breaking— haul trucks will have to navigate the logistics and interactions of the chargeable trolley line.

RPMGlobal has recently added battery electric vehicle support to its haulage simulation platforms

“In this situation, an autonomous system leveraging technology that models this out-ofthe-box interaction and the different charging philosophies will be able to assist directing traffic on site to ensure the truck maintains its state of charge to within the working range required. Miners will also increasingly need the ability to calculate the projected cost and emissions savings that are involved with a battery/diesel hybrid model for their autonomous fleet as a way to overcome the challenge of charging methods. RPMGlobal has recently added battery electric vehicle support

to its haulage simulation platforms to further assist companies in their decarbonisation mission.” The company also argues that it is also important for miners to realise that agility is key to extracting the desired efficiency benefits when operating in an autonomous environment. “One of the key imperatives to leveraging the productivity and safety benefits of an autonomous operation is ensuring the right instructions are given to the right equipment when it’s required. In an autonomous operation, the plan is critical to each task being completed so it needs to be continuously maintained and updated through the provision of real-time data.” RPMGlobal says it has led the charge in recent years on getting data from fleet management and high precision GPS systems to inform the mine plan, and communicate the updated plan back to the operation. “RPM’s scheduling and operational solutions allow mining companies to update the plan as required, and make changes based on factual and reliable data that is coming from one source of truth. In an autonomous environment, this results in complete end-to-end visibility of live planning and scheduling information to create a single source of truth for multiple departments. With innovative software solutions, autonomous-controlled mine sites are able to obtain the agility they need to extract



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MINING AUTOMATION productivity benefits while jointly working towards their decarbonisation vision.”

Speeding up transition to autonomous mining Alexey Yakovenko, CEO at Zyfra Robotics, outlined to IM its latest tech advancements and what factors may help the industry move towards autonomous mining. “Not so long ago almost all mining processes were managed directly in the open pit. Later, when mining fleet dispatching programs became available, the need for a dispatcher on site disappeared, and now – as a further step – autonomous and teleoperated dump trucks, drill rigs, bulldozers and other mining equipment are passing the ‘early adopters’ phase, enabling the industry to move people out of remote and/or dangerous zones and let them manage the respective processes from a safer place.” Yakovenko said some principal factors are contributing to the speeding up of this process. “First, the impact of autonomous vehicles on mine safety can change the game in the near future from being incremental to fundamental. While simply introducing autonomous trucks can lower the probabilities of operator error and subsequent accidents, arranging autonomous trucks in a pack with an unmanned shovel can create a zone where human presence is only occasional, potentially changing the safety requirements for the respective area.”

Alexey Yakovenko, CEO at Zyfra Robotics

For example, at an eastern European minesite, Zyfra has deployed a fully unmanned loading zone: two autonomous dump trucks work in connection with a tele-operated wheel loader. “Safety is an important question in the context of reducing expenditures on mine development. For the formation of a new pit, millions of tonnes of rock are moved out only to shape the pit to avoid landslides and rockfalls. No doubt, if only autonomous machines work in a mine, it will still be designed to protect the equipment against landslides and rockfall, but the risk level can be different and hence safety Get the SCOOP on the latest in requirements can be lower. This may lead to significantly smaller volumes of waste to build the mine and hence lower expenditures.” Next up is ® productivity of autonomous A.I. Collision solutions, which Avoidance has been a talking point as Camera initially Safety autonomous System machines were No wearable NIOSH 2020 slower than award-winning device or equipment VAI technology human operators. tags required “Now the See OmniPro at technology has reached a higher Booth 2803 - North Hall level of productivity in many processes. Our autonomous


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78 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

drill rig can show an availability increase of up to 13%, and it also features typically a 4% increase of drilling speed over conventional drills. Another example is an operation with multiple autonomous haul trucks showing approximately 7% increase of cruise speed at night – as LiDAR and radar sensing are independent of light conditions while human operators tend to drive slower at night.” Yakovenko says the increase of productivity can be utilised in different ways: the mine may choose to increase volume or keep the pace and reduce the number of equipment, lowering expenses and carbon footprint. Thirdly, the industry trend towards carbonneutrality in mining operations is driving leading OEMs to accelerate the development of carbon emission-free equipment. In combination with autonomous technology, they can make a significant contribution to decarbonisation. “However, as our experience shows, mining operators can achieve good results already by using autonomous solutions for existing machines on traditional fuel. As an example, at a coal mine in Khakassia our autonomous dump trucks typically save 13% fuel per mass hauled as compared to trucks with human operators”. Another factor already apparent is that autonomous technology can reduce strain on machinery and therefore extend equipment life. “While avoiding strain peaks, average productivity can even be increased: algorithms managing the acceleration of a truck or the process of a drill rig can optimise process efficiency while monitoring the streams of data with more scrutiny than is possible even for an experienced human operator. Less strain means lower repair costs and less downtime.” For instance, Zyfra’s ZR RoboDrill features a realtime safety protocol which monitors drilling pressure and engine load. Telemetry comparison shows that in multiple occasions the automated system reacts faster to strain peaks than trained drill operators, keeping the equipment within acceptable limits. Falling costs for hardware are also having a positive automation impact. “Zyfra Robotics develops autonomous solutions for mining processes such as drilling, excavation, loading, and haulage for use with most OEM equipment. When we speak about buying an autonomousready machine which costs millions of US dollars, a robotics kit for it can include expensive sensors and other hardware, and still pay off. However, many clients are interested in retrofitting their existing equipment, and there the cost of every component matters. LiDARs, radars, on-board computers, edge computing devices and equipment for wireless communication are becoming more affordable, and this means faster payback. For example,

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MINING AUTOMATION only a decade ago, a LiDAR system cost $50,000, while today you can buy a LiDAR unit for $5,000. In a few years, with technological advancements and higher production volumes, its cost may drop down to roughly $500.” At the same time, in recent years tremendous computing power has been brought to mining in the form of edge computing to the pit and onboard machines. “Efforts of chip producers, from traditional ones like Intel, through new leaders like NVIDIA and Alphabet, to more specialised players like Mythic and Xilinx, are bringing tremendous amounts of computing power to vehicles. For example, NVIDIA’s current edge computing power champion AGX, with 30 trillion operations per second (TOPS), will soon lose its performance title to the NVIDIA Orin with 254 TOPS, and upcoming Atlan will provide more than 1,000 TOPS. With the cost of the edge device staying roughly the same, it will allow more computational load on a device, thus simplifying solution architecture, improving functionality and decreasing cost.” Rapid software development in the field of decision-making algorithms, environment scanning and result interpretation also helps to create autonomous mining systems. “The last decade has seen tremendous work, scientific and technological, put into the field of selfdriving cars. Of course, these efforts have been

focused on vehicles operating on public roads, and most of the practical results cannot be transferred directly to the less structured, rough and hazardous environment of a mining pit. But advancing the autonomous sensing, path planning, situation analysis and internal diagnostics of the future driverless taxis have yielded also quite some results which can be used in developing software and systems for autonomous mining equipment, and this can lower development costs for the latter.” Another area with outstanding progress highlighted by Yakovenko is Artificial Intelligence (AI). “In ten years, AI grew from an opaque academic field of study to an almost ubiquitous wide-spread technology. It was not only due to the growth of the raw computing power – the theoretical advances and application practice resulted in the significant growth of computational efficiency of AI models and algorithms. OpenAI researchers found that the algorithmic efficiency of AI-based computer vision improved more than 40 times in seven years. These advancements allow us to implement more complex scenarios and to run a wide variety of AI methods on cost-effective hardware.” Availability and speed of support play a crucial role in effective deployment of any technology in mining and automation can help

here as well. “Although maintenance and repair of the hardware requires ‘old-fashioned work,’ intelligent diagnostics integrated in the autonomous and tele-operated solutions can pinpoint the place of malfunction, and often also its cause. This can go as far as our system placing detailed support requests automatically right after equipment malfunction or even before, leading to quicker response and, ultimately, higher uptime.” Today, almost all major mining equipment OEMs offer autonomous-ready machines, often together with controlling software, and some of them also retrofit their higher capacity range and newer models. “This encourages third-party autonomous solutions providers to cover a wider range of equipment models for retrofitting. We at Zyfra Robotics, pursuing the concept of vendor-agnostic autonomous solutions, have already demonstrated our technology at work with equipment of many different manufacturers. Also, we participate in a number of ISO workgroups and other industry-relevant organisations to keep our solutions in line with current industry approaches and requirements. Overall, this competition is good for the mining industry, as mining operators can try several solutions and select one that fits in with all other systems already implemented on their site.” IM

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Autonomy’s boots on the ground

Sedna autonomous implementation team on the ground at Roy Hill mine, Western Australia. From left to right, Kurt Crossman, Jordan Oxborrow and Jacques Dijzel pit mining teams have not worked so closely before – now they really have to.


Seldom are the specialist integrators that really get autonomous mining projects working on the ground talked about – but they play a crucial role. Paul Moore caught up with Darryl Mitchell, Sedna CEO Q Are you system integrators or installers and where do you fit into the market versus others? A We are all at once autonomous mining system integrators, troubleshooters, trainers and facilitators. A lot of Sedna’s work is with Epiroc, FLANDERS and ASI – which is dominated by autonomy retrofit to blasthole drills and mining trucks. Others in the market are also involved in retrofits but are dealing mainly with “new” autonomous machines working closely with equipment OEMs in a more productised approach. Examples include Autonomo and Mining Technicians Group Australia (MTGA) who between them have handled many of the big AHS and autonomous drilling projects in Australia, particularly since the early days. While we overlap with them to some extent, given that we are mainly retrofit focused, I would say among our strengths is coming up with innovative solutions to engineering, operational & technology problems. Q On the ground with autonomy retrofit, what are the main challenges you help mines face? A Number one is definitely networks. Autonomous systems have a big reliance on communications. Often it is the first time that that the comms team onsite have been tested due to the new demands being placed on the network – they are going from being largely a support function, ie maintaining systems, to becoming an integral part of the mining process. The other challenge we see relates to mine planning and surveying as there is a lot that must be put in place on that side of things for an autonomy project to be successful. AHS in particular is a lot less flexible in regard to mine planning versus conventional manned operations. All this is not meant in a negative sense – it is just part of the process that mines

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must go through on their autonomy journey, so change management plays a key role. I like to think of AHS as being like a process plant – and these mining companies already have people running processing plants facing very similar problems with similar procedures to mitigate risks. Q Can you describe the IT and comms challenges in more depth – is it related to use of legacy systems? A The fact is that the comms requirement for AHS is much more demanding than anything that has been done before in terms of its criticality. Fleet Management Systems, usually the main customer of in pit networks, are far more tolerant to comms failures and dead zones than AHS. In the event of a total comms failure a FMS continues to run and add value – with autonomy, comms reliability makes a difference to real time productivity. Autonomy can be achieved with WiFI, wireless mesh or LTE – what matters more is planning and maintenance of the network, and that the comms people have a seat at the top table in terms of mine planning and operations. Often IT and the in-

Darryl Mitchell, Sedna CEO

Q Given all this, what role does Sedna play in this mix? A All of these autonomy projects have an operational readiness phase where we try to get the key decision makers to understand the technology properly, ie this is the system you bought, and this is how it works. Then we work on how to get through the main hurdles to make it work well on site, plus understanding the safety and productivity risks and how to manage those risks. There is starting to be a lot of knowledge of how autonomous systems work in general – but this does not always relate to the specifics of how the particular system being implemented actually works. Incorrect assumptions can be made. We also need to identify for that particular mine what the unique mining challenges are and translate those into system requirements, so that our partners such as ASI can work through them and come up with solutions where needed. After the operational readiness phase there is usually some kind of limited production phase, which will be when the first trucks will be retrofitted. We will sometimes get involved with designing the integration of the drive by wire system, but this is more a part of ASI’s role than ours. Often this is the first time a particular model or variant of truck will have been retrofitted so there tends to be some backwards and forwards work to get the drive by wire element working well. We support our client ASI with a raft of data and testing to help get this done. Everything on top of this layer is relatively standard. Q Does it get easier after each project or is it always like starting over again? A It has been getting easier from a technology and project implementation point of view! Autonomy is also getting more common. The challenge is now to keep up with timelines and new projects. We remain a fairly small company but in terms of the experience and skills of our people on the ground we very much hold our own against anyone else. This is the real challenge now – there is only a handful of people with meaningful project experience in autonomy project implementation and as demand grows exponentially, this needs to change. Q Are you predicting a lot more interest in retrofit as a solution such as from Tier 2 miners, contractors and others? A There is a significant strategic advantage for a miner to remain autonomous from a single OEM,

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HIGH PROFILE so I think the retrofit market will continue to grow to allow miners to leverage existing fleets and to allow them to continue to leverage mixed fleets. The future also has to include a higher level of interoperability. I see in the future equipment rolling off assembly lines “autonomous ready” for drive by wire and able to operate in fleets with other OEM autonomous ready machines. Also that traffic management and FMS platforms going forward should be able to “slot in” different autonomous machines - not just one type. Q Do you remain involved with autonomy projects you have started or at some point are you able to walk away? Has the typical project changed? A We become less involved – moving from the project implementation to ongoing support with a smaller team. But generally we have maintained some level of continued involvement. A focus at Sedna is further developing our suite of training products to facilitate bringing engineers and technicians up to speed – for us this is strategic as it allows both for our continued growth and for customers to be as independent as they would like to be. Remember this retrofit market is relatively new – our two largest projects, Roy Hill iron ore mine in Australia and Ferrexpo Yeristovo iron ore mine in Ukraine are both in advanced implementation but are not yet full production fleets. The production trials phase of these

projects has gotten quicker thanks both to our partner’s technology evolution and experience combined with our experience and learnings – that’s also why we are still in this business. We don’t get as many queries now about a few trucks in a trial to see how it performs – today the customer is saying we are going to do this, here are the KPIs and it will culminate in the full fleet. Now we are seeing about 6-8 months of operational readiness phase followed by first machines moving fairly quickly to full fleet. But the approach depends on the conversation between ASI and the customer – ASI has several potential routes to get to that point. It could include a partial installation on all the haul trucks to allow for some period of mixed manned and autonomy operation. Whatever way you skin it, you can’t afford to stop production for six months to phase it in, it must be concurrent with normal operations. Q The market is really taking off and things are changing on the corporate side. Where does Sedna go from here? A Today we fill a big niche in a small market. We expect the market to grow and there to be some consolidation, such as ASI’s partnership with Epiroc, which will bring greater scale to the retrofit market. For Sedna, we see our role as facilitating

Sedna team with the first Ferrexpo haul truck fitted with ASI autonomous technology scalability, by empowering end users and installers through knowledge transfer and training. We don’t see the future of Sedna as involving hundreds of people, rather a core group of technical people who are able to partner closely with customers to ensure their success. As the market evolves, we are seeking out new technologies and approaches to unlock productivity. For example – we recently signed a channel partner agreement with Nokia – Sedna going forward will market, distribute and service Nokia’s DAC private wireless and digital enabler platform. IM

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SEPTEMBER 2021 | International Mining 81

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Future proofed networks

As demands on mining networks continue to increase due to greater use of digital technologies, high resolution cameras and automation, Paul Moore reviews some key surface and underground solutions and how they are meeting the challenge ew mining technologies continue to enter the market at an astounding pace. It’s no surprise considering the contribution mining makes to the world economy. Last year it was reported the industry added more than $111 billion to the US economy alone. Everyone working in the industry knows how competitive it can be, which explains why more and more technology-based solutions enter this space. And mining networks are no exception. While there has been and is significant uptake of LTE (which stands for Long Term Evolution), also known as 4G LTE, network technology in mining – it is important to recognise the continued importance of wireless mesh networks and WiFi in mining, for which there are good reasons. One of the most innovative and reliable systems used in mining is the self-optimising mesh network solution from Rajant Corporation, where IM spoke in some detail to Todd Rigby, Director of Sales. “There are applications for managing fleets, monitoring equipment health, tracking operator alertness, and measuring slope stability. There are also applications for mapping ore bodies, increasing drill accuracy, and loading efficiency. Video surveillance has been around for many years, while drones have come along more recently. Aerial surveys were once a novelty but now are commonplace. The idea of autonomous equipment has become a reality. Man/asset tracking has been common underground and is now starting to find its way into open pits.” Whether an operation is open pit or


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underground, operators face the same challenges. “You are keeping in constant contact with your equipment and personnel, even at the working face. And ensuring you have sufficient bandwidth for the ever-increasing list of technology applications running in your mine. All wireless communications are not equal. Rajant stands alone when it comes to self-optimising networks. All other wireless networks run on a static configuration. I recall a concept my high school science teacher taught called entropy. Entropy is the idea that the universe is in a constant state of change. This applies to the environment, and it also applies to your operation. Data loads vary, machines are moving, static electricity in the air constantly changes as does the weather. All of these things ultimately impact your network. Static network configurations are manifest in inconsistent throughput and or loss of coverage or connection.”

Designed from the ground up to be better Rajant’s Kinetic Mesh technology allows every radio in each node to have many redundant connections. This applies to fixed and mobile nodes. Using distributed intelligence instead of a master control node, each Rajant BreadCrumb® selects the best route to ensure maximum performance. “Rajant supports mobile-to-mobile communication, which dramatically improves coverage and performance. Additionally, nodes can change how they interact with one another

Rajant Corp says it stands alone when it comes to self-optimising wireless mesh networks

autonomously. Collectively, this allows the network to self-optimise continuously. It is a fact that LTE carriers employ one or two engineers to always monitor hundreds of towers in a city and make adjustments to the configuration. The last time I checked, engineers are expensive. In a Rajant network, each BreadCrumb radio node has the intelligence to modify routing and configuration many times per second, autonomously. Not a single person has to be involved reducing the overall cost. If you suspect having better performance is more expensive, you would be mistaken. There is no more costeffective network to operate than Rajant Kinetic Mesh®.” Rajant’s Rigby argues that it does not employ break-before-make, or make-before-break. “Instead, Rajant Kinetic Mesh is make-makemake-never-break. The act of adding new connections is entirely independent of breaking a weak connection. And since the BreadCrumb is always sending data across the highest performing connection, there is no decrease in data rate, even when a vehicle or machine is moving at a high rate of speed. Imagine your machine’s network connection performing the same, whether it is moving at full speed or stationery. It works as a virtual ethernet connection.” It is possible because Rajant uses a proprietary networking protocol named







Race to the Face. We get you through the last mile quicker. Plexus PowerNet™ Plexus PowerNet™ delivers a high speed, low latency digital communication network that provides PoE+ power to Wireless Access Points, cameras and any IP based device. The system eliminates the need for costly outside fiber optic contractors and can be installed and maintained by any internal tradesperson.

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MINING NETWORKS The digitalisation of mining is well underway Jaime Laguna, Head of Mining and Oil and Gas practice for Nokia tells IM that private wireless is accelerating in mining “Only a short while ago, any discussion of the digital transformation of mining would likely have begun with a recognition that mining has been slow to come to the digital party and has a lot of catching up to do. From Nokia’s vantage point, providing high-performance 4.9G/LTE private wireless networks to mines, the industry is definitely getting on the digital track. The adoption of digital still has a way to go in many mines, but it is well integrated into daily mining operations at the world’s biggest mines. As well, it is starting to be integrated within younger miners with relatively small operations but with the same requirements for cost optimisation and productivity. Digital innovations around automation and teleremote and autonomous operations have proven themselves to be more productive, safe and sustainable, and the industry now recognises that it is the future. “Nokia currently has digitalisation projects running with four out of the top five global mining operators as well as with early users of 5G technology. Our push over the last few years has been to introduce mining IT and OT teams to the potential of industrial-strength private wireless to make new use cases and applications possible. Today, more than 35 of our mining customers have trialled and/or deployed 4.9G/LTE private wireless networks to support their operations in 60 of their mines. Autonomous drilling and haulage is still the most common use case for our private wireless solution. Komatsu, which is a pioneer in mining automation, is now running more than half of its AHS production sites in Australia and the Americas on our private wireless networks. “As 5G standards reach completion, many countries are moving to release 5G wireless spectrum for industrial use. The Australian spectrum regulator was an early pioneer in releasing 4G/LTE spectrum for mining, which in part explains the country’s leadership around autonomous haulage. They are again showing leadership on 5G. In some countries, we are also seeing mobile operators leading the way, building 5G-ready networks for the mining industry, such as Vivo for Vale, in Brazil, Claro for Minera Gold Fields, in Chile, and Shaw for Teck, in Canada. Some of the use cases that are possible today with 4G will have an evolution/enhancement with 5G like real-time V2V and V2X communication where connectivity will be substantially improved. “The underground mining industry is also moving quickly to embrace digital. To advance digital underground mining solutions, we are working closely with Sandvik to develop innovative applications for the industry’s first 5G SA (standalone) network at its underground test facility in Tampere, Finland, as well as with Norcat and its ecosystem partners at their Underground Center in Sudbury, Canada. We have also successfully

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tested our solution at Nornickel’s Skalisty mining complex in Russia – Nornickel's first autonomous mine. “Along with supporting mission-critical communications such as push-to-talk and push-tovideo, the focus for underground is for now less on autonomous and more on tele-remote control, which requires video and fast response times. These requirements demand the low latencies and high bandwidths that will be the key to driving 5G adoption. 5G will also support massive numbers of sensors relaying critical data on structural integrity, water leaks, air quality, gas levels, dust, noise and vibration to provide near-real time visibility into mine safety. “As we look forward to the innovation work being carried out with our partners, there are multiple ways in which the digital transformation of mining is now looking beyond haulage and remote-control of vehicles. Digital twins are being used to map the locations of assets and personnel. Geo-location data can be used in conjunction with mapping software for safety applications, such as the geo-fencing of blast areas or unsafe zones, alerting and mustering personnel and even controlling vehicle movements. “Geo-tracking data can also be used to analyse end-to-end processes using machine learning and AI for process optimisation. These advanced analytics capabilities have enormous potential for increasing mine safety and productivity. They can process data on everything from the health of workers to the maintenance profile of assets, enabling more precise predictive capabilities and ensuring maximum performance and safety. They can analyse sensor data and video information from drones to monitor environmental conditions and track the condition of everything from stockpiles and tailings dams to the performance of ventilation systems and wastewater management. “The processing of the enormous amounts of sensor and device data will be done on the same edge cloud that supports the deployment of 5G. In this way, the data will be kept confidential to the mining operation and allow for split-second processing and decision-making for automated operations with the necessary local breakout. “Some of the most futuristic applications that 5G will enable are augmented reality (AR) applications for personnel. These applications will combine environmental sensor information, health monitoring, geotracking of machines and other information that can be presented to workers using heads-up displays. Aided by remote experts over AR, workers can be trained in equipment operation and maintenance and guided in everything from the performance of complex tasks to mine evacuation during emergency events. “Nokia is working closely with its innovation partners to bring these and many other applications to reality as well as offering different and flexible business models which include Network as a Service (NaaS) for options of OPEX vs CAPEX. With the adoption of robust and predictable wireless technologies for mine-wide critical connectivity, the digitalisation of mining is being unleashed. The case for digitalisation has been made with 4.9/LTE wireless. Now, with the release of 5G, we fully expect that next decade will see the digital transformation of the mining industry only accelerate.”

Rajant-Sept 21 PROOF.qxp_Layout 1 19/08/2021 15:07 Page 1

Pioneer of

Machine-to-Machine Communication Systems

Rajant Kinetic Mesh® is deployed in more than 230 of the largest open-pit and underground mines in over 67 countries today. Our network powers 24/7 productivity in these ever-changing environments. Self-optimizes as network elements move, adapting in real time to maintain mission-critical connectivity Works peer-to-peer to maintain hundreds of connections simultaneously for ‘never break’ mobility The only private network enabling machine-to-machine communications required for autonomy

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MINING NETWORKS InstaMesh. “It defines how BreadCrumbs interact with one another. Rajant supports WiFi connectivity between WiFi client devices you already own and a Rajant BreadCrumb, as well and allowing you to plug any ethernet device directly into a BreadCrumb’s Ethernet port. The BreadCrumb network is a TCP/IP network that acts like a giant virtual Layer 2 switch for those readers who are technically inclined. For everyone else, it means you can continue to use existing point-to-point microwave systems, plug in existing video cameras, and connect all existing on-board applications.” Rigby concludes: “Rajant supports quality of service (QoS). You don’t need a security network, a production network, and a processing network. You simply need a Rajant Kinetic Mesh. Rajant allows you to set application priority to run all or your applications on one single network. This dramatically simplifies your IT architecture when you can have a single network from pit-to-port. Rajant is the only wireless networking company that has received Suite B encryption certification by the National Security Administration (NSA). Granted, commercial products are not tested by the NSA. However, that does not stop Rajant customers from enabling Suite B or one of many other encryption options on its Rajant networks. Rajant’s intention is to keep all data safe.”

Nokia solutions for Salares Norte & Skalisty Nokia has announced it is partnering with Claro Chile to equip the new Gold Fields Salares Norte mine with a high-performance private wireless network. The solution will support the automation of mining operations in different applications, such as trucks, excavators, drills and in the future, drones. Being deployed is a private LTE/4.9G solution, including AirScale radio, small cells, packet core, IP routers and NetAct network management system. In total, the network will connect 150 sensors for operational processes, monitoring and accident prevention in addition to 72 connected vehicles and machines. Nokia and Claro will also provide professional services such as network design, testing and deployment. With this infrastructure, the network will enable critical voice, data, internet and video communications to improve employee safety, as

well as operational efficiency and productivity. “Mining operations require highly-reliable networks that can cover large outdoor sites or deep underground corridors. Industrial-grade private wireless solutions offer robust, secure and predictable wireless coverage for OT use cases’ critical connectivity. They also enable an evolution of new services in mining, with a trustworthy, high-capacity, low-latency and multi-services network that enables connectivity for several thousands of workers, machines, sensors and applications.” Francisco Guzmán, Director of Claro empresas, said: “Business optimisation is key for companies. This is why we work hard to develop solutions to strengthen their technological development and to promote automated processes, making them safer and more efficient. In this case, by deploying ultra-reliable, high-performance, low-latency networks, we’ll be able to deliver the best tools and connectivity to support the development of mining 4.0, which is focused on digitising its operations, and what better than doing this with a partner like Nokia, that has world-class expertise and knowledge.” Fernando Sosa, Head of Market Unit Southern Cone, Nokia, said: “Automation relies on the ability to sense, analyse and act. To do so, industries are connecting every sensor, machine and worker in the most flexible way — and for that they need business and mission-critical wireless networking solutions such as private LTE/4.9G. By working with Claro Chile to create

Nokia has announced it is partnering with Claro Chile to equip the new Gold Fields Salares Norte mine with a high-performance private wireless network such an automated ecosystem for Gold Fields, we are opening new opportunities for enterprises and other asset-intensive industries, such as energy and rail, throughout Chile.” The implementation builds on Nokia’s leadership in private wireless technology and its growing range of mining projects in Latin America and around the world. Nokia has over 260 enterprise customers and more than 60 mines are powered by Nokia’s private LTE/4.9G and 5G networks. Furthermore, Claro empresas, a subsidiary of America Móvil group, has a range of flexible and adaptable digital solutions developed for the needs of connectivity, mobility, security, cloud, IoT, and data centre, that have positioned it as one of the most relevant players in the industry. The partnership between Nokia and Claro “will boost opportunities for the Chilean market to digitalise, expanding the possibility of automation in mining, as well as other industries such as energy, railways, utilities and agriculture.” Nornickel, the world’s largest producer of palladium and high-grade nickel and a major producer of platinum and copper, along with Nokia has successfully completed testing of a private LTE/5G-ready wireless network deployed in one of the mines of the Skalisty nickel-copper-

86 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

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MINING NETWORKS PGM mining enterprise at a depth of 875 m. The partners in this project were the telecom operator Tele2, Qualcomm and the company SPBEK-Mining. Nornickel’s private wireless network was piloted simultaneously in 5G and LTE bands to support mission-critical and business-critical functions, such as reliable and secure voice and data communications, video surveillance, remote management of machinery through video channels, communications between production sites and the control centre, plus many others. The pilot network was deployed at the Skalisty mine at a depth of 875 m on the Nokia industrial-grade private wireless connected digital mine solution, including 4.9G/LTE and 5G core hardware and software, Flexi Zone Micro LTE and Nokia AirScale 5G base stations plus a special solution for mission-critical group communications. The test confirmed that Nokia’s private LTE/5G-ready technologies can reliably support wireless broadband communication in a real-life underground mining environment. The results proved the feasibility and efficiency of a dedicated 4.9G/5G network operating as a unified data transfer environment for existing Nornickel platforms, as well as new digital products with different traffic profiles. A 5G supporting Compal laptop based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx 5G computing

platform and Qualcomm Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System, as well as a Motorola edge+ smartphone based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 5G Mobile Platform were used for the tests. The company said: “Deployment of industrialgrade LTE and 5G private wireless networks opens new opportunities in the future for Nornickel in the areas of robotics, remote and autonomous operations, end-to-end transport automation, analytics and security to enable a revolutionary breakthrough in digital transformation for the mining industry.” Liana Ermishina, Director of the Information Technology Department of Nornickel: “Today the world is closely looking at the potential usage of 5G networks in the industrial segment, and our company is no exception. The level of industrial automation at the Nornickel mines is constantly increasing, innovative systems and technologies are being introduced, driving further requirements for wireless data transmission networks. We are considering the possibility to use LTE and later 5G technologies underground, because these networks are best suited, first of all, to improve safety measures in the production process, as well as to implement advanced digitalisation scenarios, such as autonomous mining and remote control of machinery.” Demetrio Russo, Vice President, Nokia Eastern

Europe: “We are happy to partner with Nornickel on this project, which provides critical infrastructure for the development of digital technologies at Nornickel’s enterprises. Nokia’s 5G solutions are becoming more in demand in the enterprise market, with the share of enterprise customers in Nokia 5G deals reaching 12%. Nokia has 260 private wireless enterprise customers worldwide, of which more than 40 engagements are 5G. Nokia has a comprehensive portfolio of solutions to support many private wireless network deployment scenarios across various industries. And we look forward to working with multiple Russian enterprises to help enable their digital transformation.” Alexey Telkov, Deputy General Director for Technical Infrastructure of Tele2: “Private networks for enterprises built on Private LTE model are one of the most promising products in the telecom market. The technical solutions that we are ready to use to deploy such networks are in the status of 5G-ready. We believe that they will be in demand by industrial customers in the nearest future. For Tele2, as an operator that is actively exploring the topic of Private LTE, it is important to continue testing, bringing us closer to the mass distribution of such solutions. The project implemented with our partners helps us to better understand our customers’ requirements.”

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MINING NETWORKS A Qualcomm spokesman said: “The use of 5G mmWave spectrum opens up a wide range of new opportunities in all stages of mining. Ultra-fast data rates to smartphones and computers powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets are critical to both improving workplace safety and increasing efficiency by instantly transferring information directly to corporate cloud storage.”

Russia continues leadership in mining LTE deployment As shown by the Skalisty example, working directly with major Russian telecomms companies, Russia’s leading mining operators are some of the progressive worldwide in implementing private LTE wireless network capabilities to facilitate greater automation and production efficiency. The latest to roll out private LTE is gold mining major Polyus. The company exclusively told IM that it is in the process of implementing private LTE at its Kuranakh open pit operation in northeastern Siberia. The company has signed a contract with Rostelecom, one of the largest telecomms operators in Russia for the project. In addition, a pilot private LTE zone will be installed at the Polyus Krasnoyarsk business unit which includes the Olimpiada and Blagodatnoye mines though the company did not specify the exact location for this. Finally, for locations away from mine sites, Polyus is now testing convergent technology on the basis of a GSM and satellite (Iridium) network. The private LTE systems use 4G LTE technology but with a 5G ready network core. Polyus told IM: “We believe that these communication technologies will provide a basis for various systems relating to our operations, such as driver safety systems (anti fatigue, in-cabin CCTV, collision prevention), fleet-management systems, and semi- or fully automated mining equipment. At our open pit operations, we believe that pLTE network technology will provide a backbone network for all our digital solutions. The final decision will be taken after the full implementation of pLTE at Polyus Kuranakh and post-project analysis.” Metalloinvest says it will launch a private LTE wireless data network at iron ore operation Lebedinsky GOK, one of the world’s largest open pit mines, in cooperation with MegaFon. “Guaranteed coverage, security, high speed and low latency data transmission will enable the automation of complex technological processes associated with iron ore mining and the production of iron ore raw materials,” said the steel and iron ore mining major. The project involves installing 13 new base stations and upgrading five existing ones, constructing new antenna towers and laying fibre-optic lines. MegaFon will provide the enterprise with seamless coverage using the 1,800 and 2,600 MHz bands. It will provide redundancy and wide network coverage in the areas with the highest concentration of the company’s employees and equipment. Following the implementation of the project, the company’s specialists will be able to monitor the performance of openpit mine machinery and equipment even in difficult terrain conditions. The pit is 4.7 km long and 3.7 km wide, plus reaches a depth of 450 m.

Polyus is in the process of implementing private LTE at its Kuranakh open pit operation in northeastern Siberia

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MINING NETWORKS By having its own stable network, Metallonivest says it will be able to improve workplace safety by automating complex and hazardous processes. It will also be able to introduce MegaFon Trunking digital radio communications with geolocation functionality, which will be able to locate each worker in real time and enable a quick response in emergency situations. Yulia Shutkina, Digital Transformation Director of Management Company Metalloinvest, said: “Our companies have had a long and fruitful cooperation in IT technologies. MegaFon’s services help create an integrated information environment at production facilities and

implement Metalloinvest’s innovative projects.” Natalia Taldykina, Director of Corporate Business Development at MegaFon, said: “Private LTE from MegaFon will allow the roll out of a digital circuit at Lebedinsky GOK and lay the groundwork for the introduction of promising vertically integrated solutions. This project will help the company to reduce costs by forgoing the use of other networks deployed at the enterprise.” To ensure a stable signal inside the processing plants, indoor coverage will also be organised at the enterprise, which will make it possible to implement services based on video analytics, the industrial Internet of things,

solutions for locating employees, maintenance and repair of equipment.

Hytera’s integrated LTE platform The Hytera 4G LTE Intelligent Communications Solution for Mining it says offers “an integrated platform capable of supporting a wide range of audio, video, data and M2M/IoT applications suitable for surface, strip, open-pit and underground mining...greater investment in automation, robotics, in-pit mobility solutions, data-centric analytics and the creation of a digitally enabled workforce is key. Digitallyenabled hardware tools are being deployed to perform or improve activities that have

Nutrien deploys LTE at Rocainville Nutrien, the world largest potash producer, now uses LTE technology at its Rocainville operation in Sascatchewan, Canada. The new LTE infrastructures deployed during the COVID-19 pandemic allow coverage both above and underground. Ambra Solutions was chosen as the supplier after testing of several potential LTE provider technologies. As part of this deployment, Nutrien has also performed several tests comparing WiFi and LTE. Ambra told IM that the results were “astonishing and shown that one LTE antenna can cover five times more distance in a straight underground tunnel that one WiFi antenna.” In addition to improving worker safety, LTE is also enabling new use cases such as tracking, remote operations and real time communications. There are also currently plans to deploy LTE at other Nutrien Canadian operations. Brent Poohkay, Executive Vice President, Chief Information Officer at Nutrien said in a March 2021 article titled Embracing LTE for safer, nextgeneration mining that the move is part of its Next Generation Potash Initiatives – “technology improvements like automation that aim to make our operations the safest, most reliable, most efficient and lowest cost from the mine to the mill. Today, for example, 100% of the mining fleet at our Rocanville site can run without the operator present during shift changes. We’re also using machine vision technology – which allows for automated monitoring of conveyor belts – as part of a broader predictive maintenance program.” On LTE specifically he commented: “The sheer scale of some mining operations is difficult for many people to fathom. Take Nutrien’s Rocanville operation, the world’s largest potash mine. It’s essentially the same area as Detroit, but a kilometre underground. Now, imagine trying to communicate halfway across Detroit using only WiFi. In massive underground operations like Rocanville and other mining sites, WiFi is simply not enough to power communications systems across vast areas –

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let alone innovative, connected technology that will transform these industries for the better. This is why we are champions for LTE technology, not just above ground, but below ground as well. Leaky feeder systems essentially two-way radios - and WiFi are currently the norm for mining sites. There are emerging technologies such as fluid mesh networks, but when it comes down to it, there’s no comparison to the potential LTE offers. In our pilots, LTE has shown higher bandwidth, speeds, and quality as well as lower latency (delays in data transfer) in our mine sites. While WiFi could theoretically meet our basic requirements for connectivity, the costs and hardware needs are considerably higher. One of LTE’s core benefits is that it provides wireless coverage over large areas with little equipment infrastructure. LTE also provides the foundation for the future of wireless communications – 5G. Though not currently available in our potash mine locations, we will be able to move from LTE to 5G with minimal cost or change to infrastructure.” He commented on technology application with LTE: "With enhanced coverage through LTE, we can access better quality video that makes monitoring for safety and security easier, plus allows us to take advantage of current or new safety apps, for things like check-ins, emergency warnings and alerts. With LTE as the backbone, the art of the possible truly opens up. LTE gives us the opportunity to have a single pane view of our people, equipment, work and safety hazards – at less cost. Imagine never having a person out of communication range and knowing in real-time when we have an equipment or system issue. That is the mine of the future, and the next generation of our potash operations. With more coverage for IoT sensors, apps, cameras and connected devices in the field, our team can also be more efficient and productive, ultimately improving our tonnage output and our cost per tonne. At the end of the day, that means getting fertiliser to farms – and food to tables – safely and more efficiently."

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Gold miner JSC AK Altynalmas has deployed a Hytera Hytalk (PoC) LTE platform and terminals in Kazakhstan

traditionally been carried out manually or with human-controlled machinery.” The company adds: “But too often automated processes, IT layers, communication systems and monitoring regimes operate in silos. To achieve the real benefits of digitalisation, the industry needs to become an integrated enterprise using connected platforms supported by next-generation analytics.” Shenzhen, China-based Hytera states on the background to digital mining: “The mining and metals industry faces a number of challenges including fluctuating demand for ores and metals, excess capacity, and increased competition from competing materials, leading to weaker prices. The most accessible highquality deposits are already being exploited, forcing the industry to develop lower-quality ores in more remote regions. Mining faces more stringent environmental and safety regulations

and the requirement to engage more with local communities. The industry also suffers from an ageing workforce, but is finding it hard to recruit younger people with modern technological skills. All of these factors are driving up costs. To meet these challenges, mining companies must reduce operating costs and boost efficiency, productivity and safety if they are to achieve profitability. Increased digitalisation of the industry is one way to do this.” Field teams can be empowered by using connected audio, video and data mobility solutions, along with virtual and augmented reality applications. By leveraging algorithms and artificial intelligence to process data from telemetry and SCADA systems, mining companies can exploit big data analytics. This information will improve real-time situational awareness and decision making, as well as providing valuable data to shape future projections and strategies. Hytera says its Intelligent Communications Solution for Mining can help the industry realise the benefits of digitisation. “It provides a highly

transportable end-to-end broadband solution including terminals, network, data center and command and dispatch center. It is capable of supporting sophisticated automation, data analytics, and all the voice, video, data and M2M/IoT applications used in the mining industry.” The fully 3GPP-compliant 4G/5G solution provides a complete wireless broadband network including radio access network (RAN), backhaul, LTE core, device and network management. Multiple services can be run simultaneously over the high throughput and resilient 4/5G network, including: Mission Critical Push-to-X (Voice/Data/Video); real-time video streaming; telemetry/SCADA; and M2M/IoT sensor monitoring. Low latency transmission rates (< 100 ms) enable precise control of remote automated operations. The various technologies can all be managed using one unified command and visualised dispatch centre and a remote control centre, which receive and distribute real-time information from and to the field operations. The network infrastructure also supports intelligent data analytics and artificial intelligence applications. Hytera says its solutions have been successfully applied in the mining industry where they have helped customers solve their communication problems. For example, gold miner JSC AK Altynalmas has deployed a Hytera Hytalk (PoC) LTE platform and terminals in Kazakhstan, while Wanbao Mining's Letpadaung copper mine in Myanmar is using an integrated Hytera DMR and LTE solution. "Hytera’s Intelligent Communications Solution for Mining provides instant voice, video and data communications to deliver team members the information they need to know to carry out their work. Hytera’s communications solution

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MINING NETWORKS supports a rich ecosystem of real-time intelligence, which enables teams to work more efficiently, productively and safely."

Huawei LTE comes to Toquepala The Toquepala copper mine, located in the department of Tacna, continues to improve its technological infrastructure with the deployment of a new Huawei LTE network that will bring 4G connectivity to the operation and will allow it to be at the forefront of the use of new and advanced technologies within the mining sector. Toquepala is part of Southern Copper Corporation, a subsidiary of Grupo Mexico. “This decision to work with Huawei allows us to advance digitalisation towards Mining 4.0, reinforcing the automation of our processes, making it possible to remotely carry out actions that are currently face-to-face in a broad spectrum, which translates into a more efficient management of operations. It is very important that the possibilities of new technologies are always on our radar and we are at the forefront,” said Jorge Hugo Meza, General Director of Operations of Southern Copper Corporation. Given how important the mining industry is for Peru, Huawei has created a specific team dedicated only to addressing issues related to information and communication technologies (ICT) and Operation and Control Technologies (OT), in the mining sector, becoming one of the strongest wireless technology providers in the country, not only as a hardware and software provider but also as a service partner for all implementations, operations and maintenance. 5G networks will be one of the most important key technologies in the new era of autonomous and remote mining and now

Toquepala is taking a big step towards that goal: promoting this network and being a benchmark in the region in how 5G benefits the industry. “It will allow a high-tech network that will be able to support many more processes within the network, and added to the new changes here in Peru, we will have a very high-speed network,” highlighted Bao Getang, Huawei Peru CEO.

MST Global - bringing Bluetooth underground The underground mine is a challenging and unique environment, and without the right network infrastructure in place, reliable connection to the surface is difficult. “Personal tech, like smart phones and home Wi-Fi, have led us to expect ease and freedom with connectivity because on the surface we are GPS enabled,” MST Global Chief Executive Haydn Roberts said in a recent blog post. “Underground, that is just not possible, and we need to overcome this problem by building the right network infrastructure for your needs. At MST Global, we’ve been enhancing underground connectivity for over 30 years. Our award-winning network infrastructure solution the AXON suite has recently undergone some upgrades to enhance functionality and connectivity for users.” The AXON suite is a modular, multifunctional platform designed to support existing and future wireless communication, tracking and automation technologies through highbandwidth fibre. “We’ll start at the end, with our newly rebranded AXON mesh and AXON mesh+, which is a highly acclaimed portable device that is a favourite among underground miners globally.

Toquepala copper mine in Peru, located in the department of Tacna, continues to improve its technological infrastructure with the deployment of a new Huawei LTE network that will bring 4G connectivity to the operation

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In a sense it is at the end of our network platform, providing the ‘last mile’ connectivity in the dynamic mining face areas.” AXON mesh is essentially a pick-up and go ‘briefcase’ sized piece of technology that is perfect for when cabling and wiring isn’t an option. “It’s designed for temporary projects when your team is wanting to explore a new area underground or a high-risk area of a mine, and deployed to maintain connection to the surface without the costly overheads or timely exercise of installing cabling.” In 2021, this piece of technology has undergone an upgrade, with the launch of AXON mesh+ with BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) connectivity. MST Global Senior Product Specialist Dirk Eisner, who has played a key role in this technology rollout, said the introduction of BLE was a game-changer for underground mines and the tunnelling industry. “The main reason for this is Bluetooth is a cost-effective solution,” Eisner said. “Particularly if you start tracking assets, it becomes expensive to track everything with WiFi tags. Using Bluetooth tags can be very effective and allow you to deploy these devices in areas that wouldn’t have previously been very difficult to do so. In face areas where you constantly have blasting scenarios, you can’t bring your devices or equipment forward into these production areas where it’s the beating heart of the mine, but these are the locations that you really want to track your equipment and your people.” He adds: “Prior to AXON mesh, you couldn’t easily get in there because you would have to run it in and pull it back out when you blast and it was just too hard, people wouldn’t do it. Having something you can grab and walk forward and drop one down, and drop another one down if you need to extend it further, makes it super flexible. It’s a really exciting addition.” The benefits of the AXON mesh include: it’s lightweight, small, portable; simple to deploy; fills connectivity and communication gaps between the mining face and fixed infrastructure; and enables real time data collection from hard-to-reach locations. Next up is MST’s AXON air; a versatile Wi-Fi access point designed with power and flexibility in mind. This year, BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) beaconing and receiving BLE broadcasts have also been added to the AXON air to create the AXON air+. “Like the AXON air, the AXON air+ can be daisy-chained via its PoE+ port and the combination of radio and antennas in one package, which makes installation simple and inexpensive. AXON air+ features antenna diversity and integrated support for geolocation.

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MST Global’s mesh-portable wireless access point is an industry leading intrinsically safe, mobile, self-meshing, network extender and access point. BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) beaconing and receiving BLE broadcasts have now been added to create the mesh Its advanced feature set enables reliable, highbandwidth, wireless data and voice coverage throughout the mine or tunnel.” The AXON air+ broadcasts as a BLE beacon and MST’s FARA workflow management solution uses this information to determine the location of the SMART device that FARA is running on and therefore its location in the mine or tunnel. The AXON air+ also receives BLE broadcasts

from tags and this information is used by MST’s geolocation software to locate these BLE tags and their associated personnel and/or equipment in the mine or tunnel. The AXON air+ can be mounted directly onto an AXON core unit or independently to a rock surface. The AXON air+ has two PoE+ ports that allows it to be daisy-chained eliminating the need for external switches or power supplies. This also enables Wi-Fi and BLE coverage to be extended into hard to get to places without the need for fibre – for example, workshops, declines and the last mile – reducing the overall cost of the solution. MST Global says both the AXON mesh and air models complement each other and can both be used in addition to the AXON core unit. Eisner said since the introduction of BLE functionality, the AXON products would also work even better with other technologies within the MST Global product family. “We have a product called FARA, which is a productivity enhancing product which we refer to as ‘reverse tracking’ relying on Bluetooth technology,” Eisner said. “By bringing Bluetooth as a comprehensive underlying technology into our AXON stack, it now becomes far more flexible and fluent, so you can use and exchange these devices whichever way you want without losing additional technology. Prior to it, you may have had specialised BLE readers. Now there is one

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device that does it all. Our AXON products are a bit like a Swiss army knife of wireless communication.” Its AXON network infrastructure also comes with the addition of uninterrupted power supply. “We normally supply power supply and uninterrupted power supplies (UPS) with our systems. The main reason for that is obviously, any IT solutions, particularly if they are safetybased, really need what we call five nines uptime,” Eisner said. “This is also a main feature of these solutions that distinguish us completely from other technology providers. Power is not easily available underground, there are no sockets or anything around, so it becomes difficult to get hold of power but carrying that through the same communication cable is a very convenient way of doing it.”

Maestro Digital Mine helps Fruta del Norte monitor paste operations Fibre presents a number of challenges to the underground mining industry. Terminating fibre underground is difficult, time consuming and requires expensive specialised training, which is frequently, the biggest contributing factor limiting the advance of connectivity. These types of delays inhibit the agility and pace needed to enable the digital mine and bring communications to the face.

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MINING NETWORKS Nerospec SK introduces neroPOYNT Underground wireless connectivity is the bedrock of a fully connected mine. Nerospec SK told IM: “Mine machines and their accompanying processes produce an endless array of valuable insights, and that value is only enhanced when it is shared instantly - and to the surface - without having to stop processes and productivity. Wireless underground communication is the fundamental enabler of modern safety, data analytics, and machine control. It has long been a challenge to deliver reliable Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) communications throughout a working mining tunnel. Previous attempts to solve this critical enabler of a connected mine, comprised of multiple devices all housed in separate enclosures and the use of off-the-shelf office type antennae, that resulted in less than desirable coverage.” Tunnel characteristics have a considerable impact on wireless signals strength and reach. “Considering the various engineering challenges, safety concerns and industry regulations in tunnelling projects – a robust fit for purpose wireless access point with special consideration in the selection of antenna is critical in becoming a fully connected mine.” Nerospec SK has introduced the neroPOYNT, a directional wireless access point and custom mine antenna specifically developed for mining tunnels. "Delivering revolutionary underground Wi-Fi connectivity, in even the harshest mining environments. Designed to enable underground communication, by supplying multi-band Wi-Fi, LoRa, and Bluetooth 5 access points."

The company says what began as a dream and developed into a global challenge, culminated in June 2020 with the installation of two neroPOYNTs in a South African chromite mine with a tunnel height of 1.6 m along the conveyor belt path and achieved exceptional results of up to 635 m within the mine tunnel. This unlocked the mines’ ability to pull machine insights from the neroHUB, a heavy machine controller and interface. It thereby allowed critical machine health and productivity insights to be shared with a remote control-room and enabling immediate operational decisions. The addition of six new neroPOYNTs, late in 2020, led to enhanced machine insights and operational control for more than 100 machines.

Maestro Digital Mine’s Plexus PowerNet™ delivers a high speed, low latency digital communication network that provides PoE+ power to Wireless Access Points (WAPs), cameras and any other IP based device. The system eliminates the need for costly outside

94 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

Later in 2020 when a salt mine in Germany wanted to achieve usable underground WiFi coverage, they faced the challenge of a high degree of iron in the salt horizons. Previous attempts to achieve effective wireless coverage supported by universities and other technology experts failed to achieve wireless coverage of more than just a few metres. In August 2020, Nerospec SK installed six neroPOYNTs and was able to achieve more than 800 m of tunnel range coverage. “This consistent and reliable wireless coverage allowed for instant communications within the machine network, including localisation coverage and mobile service coverage that included WhatsApp and underground conferencing services. The wide-ranging nature of the coverage offered a plethora of optimisation options. ranging from preventative maintenance to operator analytics and much more.” When Nerospec SK’s world leading range of tunnel and wireless mine infrastructure products are paired with the HUB range of loggers and controllers - "connected machine insights, machine health and productivity insights are shared, in real time, unlocking previously unseen levels of Short Interval Control advances." With the addition of a specialist machine mounted neroMODA antenna, the on-board HUB loggers and controller’s connectivity range is greatly increased, creating a wider area of opportunity for the instant sharing of insights, machine to machine communication and unlimited autonomous opportunity. The company concludes: "Mine wide wireless communication enabled by a high bandwidth device that is designed for harsh environments, offers a myriad of fit for purpose applications. With the addition of fit for purpose IoT beacons, such as the neroPIN and neroDUST, asset management is automated and enables pin-point tracking (localisation) of tunnelling assets. Applications such as voice communications using industrial VoIP phones or even wireless video via IP cameras are all applications that can operate on this all-in-one solution. Where optimisation is the goal of a connected mine, revolutionary underground communication is the enabler." Nerospec SK says its expertise is fully focussed on making tunnels and mines, machines and workers safer, efficient and more productive by crafting cutting edge communication, automation and digital tunnelling and mining solutions.

fibre optic contractors and can be installed and maintained by any internal tradesperson. It also addresses the challenges associated with extending fibre optic-based communication backbone solutions for ‘last mile’ data applications.

Lundin Gold’s new Fruta del Norte underground gold mine in Ecuador integrates Plexus PowerNet™. It developed a 105 m3/hour paste fill plant to help reduce surface mine tailings by reclaiming it for ground support underground. Paste fill generation and delivery

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Lundin Gold’s new Fruta del Norte underground gold mine in Ecuador integrates Plexus PowerNet™ to enable monitoring of its extensive paste backfill operations

is challenging and if not properly designed and monitored can result in plugged distribution lines causing production delays and significant operating expenses. To mitigate the plugging, it is critical to monitor the paste fill underground at each pour

location using a high definition camera and powerful light so that operators can view the delivery from the surface control room and confirm the paste mix in real-time. This type of monitoring requires both high data rates and power normally achieved by running both fibre optic cable and line power cable. Lundin Gold decided to use the Plexus PowerNet™ because it uses a single conventional copper coaxial cable which provides power and data. Plexus PowerNet™

delivers a high speed, low latency digital communication network that provides PoE+ power to IP Cameras, PoE+ lights, Wireless Access Points (WAPs) and any other IP based device. Brad Howe, Senior Mine Engineer, Lundin Gold stated: “It is easy to install and train the miners on- site to use the Plexus and does not require an electrician which reduces the cost and time to integrate into the mine. I can just have the miners advance the Plexus to the heading and terminate.” He adds: “Now we have a single coaxial cable going 500 m from the substation where we have installed the power supply, Plexus A node (starter node). Now that it is all set up, the miners can run the Plexus cable themselves. It is paramount that enabling technologies must be simple, robust and straightforward for the workers. The Plexus is super robust, unlike fiber which is fragile and time consuming to terminate, you don’t have to be super delicate with it. It is built for the underground environment.” There are two locations for where the mine needed to put the pour point cameras for monitoring paste backfill – at the first point of the stope and directly below at the barricade. The cameras remove the worker from the active area, keeping them safe and free to work on the rest of the system or in other areas that require

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MINING NETWORKS Ericsson – uplinking mining to 4G and beyond Ericsson recently launched its latest Private 5G solution which offers secure and simple 4G LTE and 5G Standalone connectivity to mining and other industries. IM Editorial Director Paul Moore spoke to Filip Mestanov – Industry and Ecosystem Manager, Mining and Jeff Travers, Dedicated Networks Sales Manager, about Ericsson’s breadth of experience in mining and why mining companies are switching to 4G/5G in greater numbers Q Why is LTE use in mining accelerating? FM: There are sometimes different drivers for LTE network adoption in surface open pit and underground mines but overall, of course LTE and 5G provide greater reliability of communications – often they have use cases where they have tried to implement technologies using other wireless networks which work fine on a small scale but when they have tried to scale up, such as with a larger number of autonomous machines, for example, there have been pitfalls so there is a realisation that these other networks do not meet their reliability or availability requirements – it may be the original network was not built to meet these new demands or that there are technical issues during handovers. Also LTE can cover a large area with only a relatively small number of nodes – even a factor of ten less nodes required to cover the same area which is a major TCO factor. LTE also provides a futureproofed platform on which you can build 5G going forward to be able to handle new technologies and scale for them as and when they are available through upgrades without having to swap out the network. Our solution can also handle use cases that other wireless technology cannot, particularly in relation to reliability of data. Finally unlike other wireless technologies developed by one party, often proprietary, which might only address one particular use case, whereas our technologies from the beginning come built with the notion that there will be a variety of use cases and allows for some of those to be prioritised over others – for example critical comms over voice calling. Q Is the rollout of autonomous fleets a big part of this? FM: Yes, it is becoming a more mature market with a lot of mines now using or trialling autonomous trucks. With autonomy, especially underground where elements of loading and dumping are still manual with the tramming autonomous, there are still high resolution cameras sending a lot of video footage back to the monitor or operator – here LTE has a much greater ability to handle this real time video than other wireless technologies. And arguably the ROI in implementing LTE whether on surface or underground is quick through the productivity benefits of the autonomy it is enabling where it is applied. Q LTE in mining tends to be a collaboration approach between the LTE technology provider, a local telecoms group, an integrator and the mine itself – how do these projects come together? FM: The telecom operators definitely play a big role to start with as they are normally the ones selling a solution direct to the mining companies and of course they are the ones with the spectrum assets in the country concerned. We usually sell our technology to the telecoms operator who then engage with the mining customer as they are the established entity in that country or region. They often have their own value add offering such as surveillance options. You also mention the systems integrator – they also play a crucial role – whether it is a new SI, a mining company SI or an SI already working with the mining operator. Examples with a lot of mining LTE project experience include Ambra Solutions based in Canada and Challenge Networks in Australia to name just two. There may be a use case specific partnership – if you are implementing a drone

96 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

Filip Mestanov, Ericsson Industry and Ecosystem Manager, Mining

Jeff Travers, Ericsson Dedicated Networks Sales Manager

inspection project underground, you will usually have a specialised company that builds the drone equipment and deploy infrared or other mapping technology on it. We may also partner with one of the mining equipment OEMs or contract miners. But the general answer is yes, there are usually several partners involved. The telecoms company normally leads the deals, and then you have the SIs plus the network technology provider such as ourselves. Ericsson has an all-inclusive approach to partnership, so we partner with all kinds of companies around the world. Q Often LTE seems to start with a trial network in one part of the mine – is this the norm? FM: Yes – it is common to have a commercial trial prior to a full blown deployment which is mainly the customer looking to justify the investment cost by testing the technology and making sure it will be able to meet the requirements whether that be autonomous mining trucks, remote control drills or something else. We still carry out a lot of proof of concepts and commercial trials. However, today things have moved on from 2016/2017 in that major mining companies like BHP and Rio Tinto are already using LTE widely so in a sense it is easier for smaller and midtier miners to trust the technology today and make the choice to go straight to a full mine system. And increasingly a mining company may have LTE deployed at a mine in one country where they have seen the value and then want to replicate that setup elsewhere without requiring a trial. Another point is that in many cases there is a particular area of a mine that they want to trial a new technology use case in – such as a section of the pit where they are testing autonomous trucks – so will opt to start with LTE deployment there, which effectively acts as a trial. Q If you were to try and summarise from a technical point of view why today’s mining industry needs LTE/5G, would you say low latency would be at the top of the list? JT: When you implement autonomy, you also need the ability to fall back on remote control which brings a latency requirement which did not exist before. This is the type of thing being tested in experimental subset areas that Filip mentions. The main drivers are latency but also uplink throughput. FM: Definitely uplink throughput is a major point. When you start scaling up the number of vehicles you are operating remotely, then you start needing a lot more cameras and the throughput that comes with live feed in particular. Then its low latency but also predictable and stable latency continued 0n page 98

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MINING NETWORKS the manpower. Monitoring the paste backfill process can now be done by the control room operator. “If there is a back up in the paste flow, that is a sign that something is wrong. It makes sense for the control room operator to receive this vital information with clear images from the computer, in real-time, to determine the status of the paste backfill pour and resolve the situation quickly and safely. Secondly, monitoring the barricade is very important to be able to see cracks or leakage, especially during the pour. It has become best practice to not have any person downstream of the barricade during the pour in case of a catastrophic failure.” Lundin currently has four portable monitoring stands including a PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) IP Camera, PoE+ light and Plexus C node. Paterson & Cooke (P&C) designed the paste fill plant and distribution system. Rob Brown, Director & Principal Engineer, after providing onsite commissioning and training services states: “The Maestro monitoring system enables the surface operator to see the quality of the paste at the stope in real-time and if the paste is flowing in steady state or surging so the plant performance can be verified. The difference between paste and flush water can also be detected visually. The software allows the operator to select from multiple cameras and can take either a video or pictures of the pour at any point in time.” As a result of the Plexus, instead of having a miner dedicated to watching the pour, that person can now be installing pipe or the barricade reducing manpower to focus on other tasks at hand. Howe states: “The Plexus helps us take people away from a risky area as well as having eyes on the pour during our three shift changes. Having Maestro equipment gives us the confidence that we will have a successful pour.”

Becker Mining further enhances underground comms offering Becker Mining Systems' latest product offering in underground communication solutions is smartcom LTE, a private underground LTE network for all mining clients. “With a growing demand for automation and integrated data solutions in underground mining, Becker Mining has taken leaps in recent years to develop a suite of LTE technology ready to accommodate client needs and challenge worldwide competitors. Similar to existing leaky feeder technology, smartcom LTE can provide high speed data at all levels of the minevia radiating cable and accompanying technology for ensured quality.” Becker Mining says smartcom LTE can be used for remote applications, mission-critical communications, real-time asset tracking/fleet management, personnel tagging & tracking, data insights for efficient mine operation management and most recently LTE blasting. Becker Mining is also currently working on upgrading its LTE product offering to reduce the cost of LTE systems for its clients and distributors. This information will be released as soon as it becomes available. The group is also now selling an underground gas monitoring solution package meant to

increase production while maintaining safety protocols. Situated at the face of underground tunnels, the solution is used to monitor gas emissions after blasts and have the data reported to the mine's SCADA package through the leaky feeder system, circumventing the need for additional infrastructure. This solution is intended to ramp up production while adhering to any mine's safety procedures in place. “After a blast, it typically takes clients anywhere from one to two hours to return underground and restart operations. With this system, we are hoping to decrease post-blast turnaround time by providing an in-depth analysis of the gases from the area, which will in turn boost production as workers will return quicker. The preliminary results from our tests have been encouraging and we are excited to present this to our clients," says Joshua Dandurand-Parent, Salesman at Becker Varis, the Canadian Division of Becker Mining Systems. The solution package includes a smartsense Single Sensor Gas Monitor (SSSG), the newest gas monitor in Becker Mining's smartsense gas monitors, an inline data module, used to carry the gas monitor's data over the leaky feeder system, and a surface data module, which communicates with the in-line data module.

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MINING NETWORKS continued from page 96 since if you are operating a machine remotely with lagging there can be issues of nausea – you want to be able to operate it in the same manner as if you were sitting in the machine. This is typically somewhere between 50 and 100 milliseconds. JT: We’ve been testing this extensively with Epiroc for underground activities. Generally, below 75 milliseconds the operational control is still perfectly smooth. But above 100 it becomes difficult for the operator. Q What about greenfield versus brownfield LTE deployment? Is it only worth doing in a new mine? Are existing mines are better to keep the network setup they have? FM: It depends on the situation – an existing network may be working but they may be facing some issues – it is not working as well as it could be. There might be interruptions which are affecting operators negatively. Our comms solutions provides a backbone for you to be able to run new technologies smoothly without interruptions, video freezing etc. JT: You can break use cases into three categories – one layer being what mines are already doing today – you might have sensors all over the mine and some light automation where vehicles are just sending out their position. These don’t have a heavy network impact. Then you have full automation with heavy uplink live cameras & low latency requirement for RC input during mucking for example. Then you also now have connected or digital workers – where they are tagged, workers interacting with technology, such as remote maintenance assistance tools required streamed video, and technology being aware of workers. The types of systems that first responders such as police forces and fire services currently use. These need a very robust comms network. FM: Another point is that if you compare 4G/5G in terms of downtime – it is much improved over other wireless network technologies. Mines all need the geographical redundancy that it provides in terms of reliability – it will never be the cause of stopped production for example. The decision in terms of a brownfield mine to invest in LTE will depend on the efficiency of the network and the extraction you already have. Also if a mine has gaps in network coverage today, this can still make the investment cost in LTE justifiable. And often it is on top of the existing network infrastructure to make new technology use cases possible – often things like voice calls will still use the current comms setup. JT: There is a discrete moment when remote control operation is just fundamentally unworkable , let’s say at above 100 milliseconds, and that will be the case with many of today’s networks. So if you are going to implement automation in a big way then you face a comms turning point and need to design for this. Q Can you give some examples of how Ericsson works with the major autonomous mining equipment OEMs? How actively do they get involved in furthering comms solutions with customers wanting to apply automation? FM: Of course, the OEMs are the major equipment suppliers working closely with these mines who need to have the confidence that whatever new technology and equipment is being introduced, that it will work effectively over our systems. JT: And it can be more than drilling or loading equipment. A good example is the essential role played by technology from the likes of ABB in ventilation (which is a key economic parameter for an underground mine of course), and these systems are also being supported by Ericsson LTE networks. Other partners include companies supplying positioning or digital modelling solutions for mines. For all mine equipment manufacturers we want to enable their technologies so that they know

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Ericsson recently launched its latest Private 5G solution which offers secure and simple 4G LTE and 5G Standalone connectivity to mining and other industries

the network is going to perform with their next generation solutions. Q Can you comment on any running mining projects that are using Ericsson LTE networks? FM: Boliden Aitik in Sweden is a great example as they were looking for high levels of efficiency plus have a lot of plans for mine automation. Already today it is one of the most efficiently run copper mines worldwide. Telia has provided that solution to them based on 4G technology from us which can be upgraded to 5G over time. And we are working with them on new things – their blasthole drilling as an example is already quite autonomous already but the explosives charging is not – and this is something they are working on. We have also had success with several major mining clients in Russia – Polymetal’s Nezhda open pit gold mine in Yakutia, Uralkali’s BKPRU-2 underground potash mine and EVRAZ’s Sheregeshskaya underground iron ore mine are three sites where Ericsson LTE technology has been deployed by leading Russian telecoms operator MTS. These are major mines looking above all to maximise operational performance. MTS has a very good existing commercial relationship with these miners so that helps. The mines also have a very good vision of what they what to achieve and what equipment they want to take autonomous, and in which part of the mine. Q What differentiates the Ericsson LTE solution versus others on the market? FM: First of all we are a 140 year old company which carries some weight by itself! Other groups have evolved LTE capabilities through acquisitions but we are still the same Ericsson. From a technology and commercial perspective, we have won more than half of the current 5G contracts around the world, not just in mining but across all major industries including many critical service providers. Our good relationships with numerous telecommunication service providers worldwide removes any issues with spectrum or regulation for customers. JT: The system and extreme network performance is due to many parts of our technology but to take an example our radio scheduler network capabilities have been built up over years in-house, to ensure maximum network performance under load, something WiFi struggles with. When you step up into full heavy equipment automation you need the throughput and latency that comes with that. And it will just become more so as you have more digitally enabled workers coexisting with autonomous equipment. While the numbers of miners working in the active minesite may continue to fall as they move to offsite control centres, those that remain will need all the digital tools at their disposal.

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MINING NETWORKS NLT's N-Connex continues growth Managing Director Europe at NLT Digital Solutions, Ian Turner, says the company has yet again seen significant and ongoing growth with its rugged, modular, IP67-rated mining and tunnelling networking solution N-Connex solution over the past year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our unique N-Connex platform , which provides a fibre Gigabit backbone, Ethernet and WiFi connectivity has ticked many boxes for its broad client base and combined with its software applications resolves many typical mine issues in a very cost effective manner.” N-Connex is specifically designed for harsh environments, like underground mines. The system is rapidly deployable due to a userfriendly, rail-based mounting system and modular approach. Combined with preterminated fibre and ethernet cables a mine level network can be quickly deployed and, just as importantly, easily maintained thereafter. “The IP67 rated modules do not require additional enclosure or mounting hardware, so the solution is very scalable and easily expanded. Another proven advantage is that installation and maintenance can be carried out non-IT specialists, for example by mine electricians.” Being WiFi and Ethernet standards compliant, any IoT devices can easily connect over the NConnex system and NLT is also seeing an expanded range of solutions from voice communications to remote WiFi blasting being successfully deployed. “Control and monitoring of equipment such as fans and pumps has also

NLT is set to release its latest N-Connex product - a new access point called the Lightning Bolt with 2.4/5 GHZ, Dual Stream MU-MIMO and Bluetooth on board grown in the past year with the ease of connecting PLCs to N-Connex. There is also a specific N-Connex digital or analogue I/O module to connect equipment that does not currently have a PLC or connectivity. “Additionally, tracking, data communications, video monitoring, gas and environmental monitoring, emergency management though the dedicated evacuation and alarm modules are all supported and implemented in many mines.” Turner says teleremote of underground vehicles has been a big driver in the WiFi market. “Over the past two years we have seen more and more mines move the vehicle operators to the surface and controlling their vehicles via remote. This not only reduces the amount of workers underground but also increases productivity with less downtime.” Over the last year NLT has had many new large installations around the world in mining with heightened interest in particular in Europe,

South America and Africa. NLT Europe’s newly opened offices in Germany deployed one of Europe’s deepest mines in the UK with over 35 km of network and WiFi infrastructure. This included more than 40 NConnex nodes and 140 Bolt access points, ensuring 100% WiFi and network coverage from pit bottom to the working faces. In Peru, a successful proof of concept trial was deployed with the help of NLT's Peruvian distributor Almax at Minsur's underground mines to supply mine-wide network and WiFi connectivity and to enable the deployment of Mobilaris productivity software. Turner adds: “Over the next month N-Connex will also have some new products added to its solution. One of these products is a new access point called the Lightning Bolt with 2.4/5 GHZ, Dual Stream MU-MIMO and Bluetooth on board. The Lightning Bolt is a compact dual band outdoor and underground wireless access point. It is equipped with two N-Type antenna connectors to fit an assortment of industry standard antenna options. Powered by gigabit PoE, a single Cat6 cable provides network connectivity and power, making installation easy and intuitive.” Additionally, the low power design ensures 802.11AC WiFi can be achieved at up to 300 m from the NLT Distribution Module. "The secret power of the Lightning Bolt is the built-in WiFi tracking function. When paired with NLT’s Digital Mine software and NLT WiFi tracking tags the Lightning Bolt becomes a powerful tracking device. It is capable of tracking personnel, vehicles or assets that are in the proximity of the Bolt.” IM

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Keeping it local

As border closures and COVID-19-related restrictions took hold over the last year, on-site suppliers of key services have risen to the fore. Dan Gleeson reports on initiatives and contract wins from some of the sector’s integral industry contractors s COVID-19 hit, the importance of critical service suppliers at remote mine sites became obvious. The fly-in fly-out restrictions and shutdown of supply chains made it harder than ever to get equipment, personnel and supplies into the operations that needed it. This flexed the muscles of remote service suppliers – testing established supply chains and logistics networks – but, in the face of these issues, they continued to deliver. At the same time as they continued to get key supplies in, they ensured the virus did not get out and spread. Many contractors were called on to instil a rigorous cleaning regime, social distancing procedures and adaptable dining options to ensure COVID-19 could not spread exponentially in remote camp sites or into local communities. Sundeep Singh, BHP’s Group Procurement Officer, paid tribute to these service suppliers during the IMARC Online event late last year. “Once it was clear COVID-19 would present a significant challenge to our operations, our first priority was to keep people safe,” he told attendees. “We were quick to enforce strict social distancing and hygiene protocols. “For the supply chain, we triggered the traditional responses such as seeking alternative sources of supply for things like hygiene products. We managed our inventory levels for critical spares for our mobile and fixed plant, we even stepped up data analytics for supply chain


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transparency – however, none of this alone gave us our resilience.” Singh said it was the support of BHP’s supply chain that ensured the company kept operating and generating employment, taxes, royalties and dividends in this time of crisis. “Over this past year, it is with your support that BHP’s global supply chain adapted quickly to respond to the crisis,” he said to the company's suppliers. “Partnering enabled us to react swiftly and confidently in these times. It has allowed our supply chain to rapidly repair with preferential treatment, re-route through joint collaboration and re-invent for new value.” He provided some examples, in the process referencing UK-headquartered Compass Group. Compass provides facilities management support for BHP’s operations across Australia, which was critical during COVID-19, according to Singh. This included everything from providing hygiene supplies, to the safe movement and accommodation of people. Within this contract, Compass was providing more than just the basics during COVID, as Singh explained. “Partnership led Compass through this time, and through this difficult year, to build a facility in Perth, known as…‘The Academy’. ‘The Academy’ includes a training kitchen, juice and barista training stations, simulation accommodation rooms.” The benefit of ‘The Academy’ was two-fold, according to Singh.

In July 2020, Sodexo was engaged to provide facility and food services at CRI's copper-nickel mining camp in Nunavik, Canada (credit: Canadian Royalties Inc) “Our BHP residents benefit from the higher standards and the skills of the Compass staff to manage this new COVID normal,” he said. “Compass benefits via improved customer satisfaction, but also the ability to train their people more broadly for roles outside of BHP. We now have continued safe flow of people and a better experience for our workforce on site.” Compass Group Australia Managing Director, Shelley Roberts, referenced the importance of such training in her own presentation at IMARC Online. She also highlighted how the company works with indigenous groups at mine sites to help clients achieve their ESG goals, as well as share some of mining’s benefits with local communities. Roberts, during the event, said the service supplier was building sustainability practices into its supply chain and, where possible, employing indigenous workers and subcontracting indigenous businesses. Compass provides workplace support for every aspect of daily community life in largescale accommodation centres – including meals, accommodation, beds, laundry – and has a diverse mining and resources industry workforce in Australia. Close to 10% of its contingent are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands employees, while it has

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REMOTE MINE SERVICES Colluli is located in the Danakil Depression region of Eritrea, around 230 km by road southeast of the Port of Massawa (credit: Danakali) close to 50 indigenous suppliers in its supply chain, Roberts said. In Australia, it has successfully integrated more indigenous representation into its camps in Port Hedland and Onslow, but Roberts was keen to emphasise that there was no ‘cookie cutter’ exercise to replicating this at every site in Australia. “A process of discovery is required in every community,” she said. “It is essential to get a strong sense of the local community first. By doing so, it is possible to identify the best opportunities to make an impact and achieve a positive outcome for the local community.” This sees the company carry out in-depth research into the community in which it might become a part of before offering up guarantees to the client and community at hand. The same due diligence is employed to ensure more of its procurement comes from local suppliers. “What we have learnt about making local procurement successful is we often need to support capability building in key corporate processes like food safety and other compliance requirements,” she said. “That effort is really worthwhile and creates life-changing community benefit.” Another service provide that has successfully incorporated indigenous groups into its local offering is France-headquartered Sodexo. Sodexo Canada recently partnered with its Inuit partner, Nuvu, to successfully mobilise a comprehensive integrated facility and food service to Canadian Royalties Inc’s (CRI) copper and nickel mine base camp in Nunavik, the most northern region of Quebec, Canada. The company has been providing food and facilities management services in Canada for over 40 years. It has a focus on enhancing safety, work process and well-being, exemplified by a recent decision to partner with Bureau Veritas on introducing a hygiene verification label for Sodexo procedures and services to support business reopening amid COVID-19. At a national level, Sodexo Canada counts more than 80 Indigenous suppliers to deliver local goods in the remote camps it is serving, from Nunavut to the North territories. Like Compass Group, the company ensures its partners meet its standards through on-the-job training and coaching to get the “right engagement in the process and ensure that the process is in place for the continuity of our business relationship”, Pierre-Henry Arsapin, District Manager Energy & Resources at Sodexo Canada, said. Arsapin added: “Food safety is, of course, our

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utmost priority and it is our responsibility to make sure that our partners are following the protocols we put in place to ensure a safe work environment.” In July 2020, Sodexo was engaged to provide facility and food services at CRI’s mining camp in addition to supplying the necessary PPE considering the evolving global COVID-19 pandemic. Due to weather as well as the mine’s location and operational needs, Sodexo’s mobilisation required the sourcing and delivery of the nine-month supply of food and provisions in a six-week timeframe while managing the transition of essential hospitality services to ensure the health and safety of all employees. Sodexo and Nuvu successfully established a team to secure a reliable supply chain. Together, they leveraged Sodexo’s international experience and Nuvu’s local expertise to apply innovative methods and cultivate meaningful relationships with the community to deliver results, Sodexo said. During the mobilisation, mine operations went uninterrupted, with Sodexo sourcing and distributing all supplies through its Canadian supply chain network. It involved the sourcing of provisions for three meals per day over 279 days and the delivery of 102 containers. In addition, Sodexo was managing accommodation, concierge and logistics for the home-to-home journey experience of more than 450 base camp employees and CRI collaborators. The company explained: “Our team coordinated efforts across our global company and with our local partners to deliver provisions safely and on schedule. Sodexo sourced cleaning and disinfectant products to ensure pandemic health and safety protocols could be followed at the base camp. At destination, the team was responsible for unloading the containers, transferring goods to trucks for transport to the base camp. The unloading required the team to use special insulated blankets to ensure provisions didn’t freeze.”

The company was able to exceed the project’s environmental targets through “responsible sourcing”. This included providing milk in recyclable containers. Erwin Joosten, Senior Vice President, Energy & Resources, said: “At Sodexo, sustainability is one of our key pillars. I’m proud of our supply team who collaborated with local partners to think outside of the box in order to ensure we were able to meet and exceed our environmental goals for this project.” Sodexo said its work with CRI went beyond supplying provisions, with the company transitioning some of its existing employees to the base camp and, through its partnership with Nuvu, welcoming new employees from the surrounding Inuit community. Joosten added: “Our relationships with Inuit communities are true partnerships that are mutually beneficial. Our work boosts the education, health and overall wellness of the communities we serve. At the same time, with the support of Nuvu, we have been able to leverage Inuit talent to help us deliver our services.” Sodexo also hired a special COVID-19 team, in charge of distributing cabarets, glasses and utensils, as well as cleaning high touch surfaces on an hourly basis. These measures were taken to ensure a safe working environment for everyone, it said. Sodexo Canada, having applied the ‘hygiene verification label’ and leveraged standard operating procedures for COVID-19 developed operating all over the globe, has ended up being viewed as a “strategic business partner” as opposed to a subcontractor, according to Arsapin. This has seen existing clients and prospects request specific “Pandemic Protocol” on top of the company’s core offering. Arsapin explained: “What we call a business continuity plan used to be an ‘annex’, but now it’s part of the core offer, and is a requirement to

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REMOTE MINE SERVICES be detailed and supported by specific documentation and protocols known and updated by the management on site.” The company’s use of mobile app services, contactless payment systems and safe selfservicing with “smart fridges”, among other initiatives, has helped its growing reputation, he said. “Within a year, we were able to bring the quality of living on the sites we take care of to the next level,” he said. “Having one global leader to carry all the core services not related to the mining business helps our clients to focus their energy where it should be and create the perfect synergy with their main provider: us.”

Building ESG into its offering UAE and UK-based RA International says its reputation as an ESG and sustainability provider is supporting commercial companies like miners in delivering their own sustainability objectives. This will be put to the test in Eritrea where the company has been named preferred contractor for the supply of accommodation, support services and other infrastructure buildings at the Colluli sulphate of potash project development as part of a contract worth more than $20 million. RA specialises in building, operating and maintaining facilities in remote and challenging conditions across Africa, providing services for various industries including mining. It recently concluded contract negotiations with Danakali Ltd, a 50:50 owner with the Eritrean National Mining Corporation of Colluli Mining Share Company, the entity holding Colluli, for the construction of camp accommodation for 1,200 personnel, administration and service facilities, as well as the provision of integrated facilities management services (such as catering, cleaning, laundry, pest and vector control, grounds keeping and waste management) at the project. The camp accommodation has been designed to accommodate 600 personnel during the production phase with the flexibility to accommodate 1,200 during construction, according to RA International. The plant administration and services facilities will incorporate administration offices, medical clinic, warehouses and workshops. The construction works are to be phased, with the first of three phases commencing upon receiving the necessary approvals and subsequent phases commencing as CMSC funding is available, RA International said. Construction activities are anticipated to be completed within a year, with the operating contract commencing immediately, postconstruction. On top of this contract, the company, in

March, said it was in advanced discussions to secure a significant contract in connection with a new mining project in North Africa.

Remote communications Specialised ICT and communications provider, Aqura Technologies, has ensured many remote mining sites have access to these all-importance services during the COVID-19-affected period. Western Australia’s iron ore sector has been a particularly fruitful area for the Veris Ltd subsidiary, with Aqura capturing business with BHP, Roy Hill and Fortescue Metals Group in the last year or so. The company’s ‘opex as a service’ model has been key to adding much of this new business to its portfolio.

In July 2020, Aqura signed a multi-year service contract with BHP’s Western Australia Iron Ore (WAIO) business unit that will see it provide managed support for all in-room communications and entertainment system services across the miner’s accommodation villages in the Pilbara. The company added to this remit in August 2021 with a contract that would see Aqura upgrade and extend the technology and communications infrastructure at a range of BHP WAIO accommodation sites surrounding the township of Newman, also in the Pilbara. The scope of work involved the design, procurement and construction of new point-to-point microwave, DOCSIS and fibre-optic infrastructure to enable upgrades of in-room Wi-Fi for a number of

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REMOTE MINE SERVICES Aqura Technologies CEO, Travis Young, says mine site accommodation network investments fundamentally support and enhance the positive wellbeing for fly-in fly-out staff who are away from home for extended periods and need reliable infrastructure to support connections to family and friends accommodation sites, Veris said. Later that month, it then secured a new agreement to provide Managed Services Support for BHP WAIO accommodation village entertainment networks across nine sites. This will see Aqura’s in-house team will provide managed support services for village entertainment network and Wi-Fi access across BHP WAIO village accommodation rooms and public areas as part of this agreement. This latest contract award leverages the internal investment undertaken by Aqura over recent periods to develop leading-edge Content Access Networks As a Service solutions, it said. “These provide capability to generate multi-year managed services frameworks with clients across a range of sectors while delivering best of breed user experiences replicating their at-home experience in a remote setting,” Aqura explained. Young said the engagement was a significant recognition of Aqura’s capability and skills in the delivery and efficient operation of large-scale networks and further solidifies the company’s strategic transition to a product and servicebased business. “This engagement continues a highly successful relationship supporting BHP’s Inroom Communications and Entertainment Solution (IRCES), which saw Aqura upgrade over 12,000 rooms to provide high-quality connectivity access for their workers when they are away from home,” he said. “We are proud to continue supporting BHP who have further shown their commitment to local businesses with this three-year engagement to ensure the IRCES network continues to deliver reliable and cost-effective access for many years to come.” In February 2021, meanwhile, the company was awarded A$1.1 million ($849,165) in works to undertake an upgrade of the in-situ accommodation network at Fortescue Metals Group’s Kangi 1,850 room village in the Pilbara. The scope of the Kangi village engagement was to design and deliver physical upgrades to the GPON network to ensure a high level of reliability of services to village guests, it said. The enhancement of the existing infrastructure, using Aqura’s specialist technical expertise, will establish an extremely robust platform for the delivery of entertainment services and wellbeing programs to the large workforce accommodated at the site, the company explained. Aqura was expected to have completed the scope of works by now.

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“The new contract adds to Aqura’s strong track record in delivering high-performance Content Access Network (CAN) solutions for clients such as BHP, Newmont, OZ Minerals and Abra Mining,” Veris said of the FMG contract. “Aqura’s expertise in the delivery of CAN solutions has delivered enhanced user experiences in over 16,000 accommodation rooms completed to date.” Aqura Technologies CEO, Travis Young, added: “We are very mindful of the benefits of this type of investment, which fundamentally supports and enhances the positive wellbeing for fly-in fly-out staff who are away from home for extended periods and need reliable infrastructure to support connections to family and friends.” Improving connectivity was also behind Roy Hill’s decision to contract Aqura for support in designing, installing and commissioning the first phase of a new high-performance private LTE network for its operations in the Pilbara. It followed similar projects for Rio Tinto and OZ Minerals. The scope of the Roy Hill engagement includes providing services for the first phase of a private 4G LTE network for large-scale mining operations, encompassing design, engineering, site installation and commissioning. Aqura’s first phase works were expected to be completed last month. Just last month, Aqura was awarded a grant from the Australian Government under the 5G Innovation Initiative to, it says, augment the organisation’s own development work to address the challenge of delivering underground 5G LTE. The grant is an important step to overcome the technical and commercial barriers associated with operating next-generation broadband wireless networks in sub-surface environments, according to Aqura.

The 5G Innovation Initiative grant will complement investment already made by Aqura to deliver technical architectures, commercial model development and installation of a live Private 5G LTE network in an operating mine. The project leverages a lot of learnings from a 2017 project where Aqura successfully delivered Private 4G LTE in an underground mine in the Kalgoorlie region of Western Australia, Aqura said. The focus of the program is to fast-track the enablement of applications and processes that are being adopted in surface operations so underground operators can realise the benefits of enhanced environmental, safety and productivity outcomes that advanced wireless communications can deliver, it added.

Alliance takes flight Despite the issues getting personnel into and out of remote mine sites during the pandemic, many mining companies have pledged to continue operating fly-in fly-out operations in Australia, among other locations. Alliance Aviation Services has been a beneficiary of this, recently securing several air charter service agreements across the country. Alliance specialises in offering transportation by air of its mining and energy customers’ employees and contractors to and from remote locations. The company, in April, announced a two-year extension of its air charter services agreement with BHP’s Western Australia Iron Ore division. This extension, Alliance said, was further evidence of its reputation of outstanding customer retention, solidifying a relationship that started with the first flight for BHP’s Western Australia Iron Ore division in 2009. The announcement came only six months after agreeing a three-year contract extension (with two 12-month extension options) with the

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REMOTE MINE SERVICES Gudai-Darri airport in Western Australia has been designed to handle more than 600 workers in a day at peak operating times, according to Rio Tinto (credit: Rio Tinto)

major miner for charter services into the Olympic Dam mine site operations, in South Australia, as well as scheduled services supporting the local community of Roxby Downs. The contract, building on 14 years of serving Olympic Dam and the Roxby Downs community, will see the introduction of Fokker 100 jet aircraft, a 100-passenger seat aircraft, into Olympic Dam Airport, coinciding with significant upgrades at the airport. The introduction of larger capacity aircraft will provide ongoing savings to both Alliance and BHP Olympic Dam, provide the miner with greater scalability for future growth plans and ensure greater comfort for all passengers, Alliance said. Alliance’s Chief Executive Officer, Lee Schofield, added: “Passengers will enjoy a smoother, quieter and, more importantly, quicker flight between Adelaide and Roxby Downs with a reduction of 20 minutes, or 25%.” In January, meanwhile, Alliance, executed a contract extension with Newmont to continue chartering flights for the miner to the Granites Mine Site in the Northern Territory of Australia from bases in Perth, Darwin and Brisbane. The three-year agreement servicing Newmont’s Tanami mine, one of the most remote in Australia, extended the contract with the miner until 2024. Schofield said of this award: “Air charter services to Newmont’s mine site have increased over the last nine years and it is the only site in Australia where we fly into from three different states/territories.” It was a Virgin Australia-branded plane that became the first to hit the runway of Western Australia’s newest airport in November last year. The new Gudai-Darri airport, owned by Rio Tinto and situated some 35 km northwest of the Yandicoogina mine, can accept a range of different aircraft including Boeing 737s, A320s, F100s and King Airs. The airport was built to handle more than 600 workers in a day at peak operating times, according to Rio. The airport is delivering significant benefits in

terms of minimising employee interaction with vehicles and driving, as well as helping to

manage employee fatigue thanks to a significant reduction in travel time from an alternate regional airport, Rio said upon the facility opening. As well as servicing Rio’s newest iron ore mine, it will also provide a safer landing option for the company’s long-standing partner, the Royal Flying Doctor Service. The full construction and design of the airport was completed by local partners Primero Group, NRW Holdings, Worley and GHD, together with NRW sub-contractors Colas, Fulton Hogan, TEC services, Brookdale Contractors, Bennco and Karlka Fencewright. IM

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SEPTEMBER 2021 | International Mining 105

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SHAFT SINKING Shaft sinking operations at 9600L elevation – Kidd Mine D Shaft now part of Glencore Kidd Operations in Timmins, Ontario

Integral infrastructure With the post-COVID-19 commodity price revival up and running, greenfield and brownfield developments are back on the agenda. Dan Gleeson looks at some of the shaft sinking projects and contractors set to unlock this new growth OVID-19 has affected every part of the mining process; from logistics to mineral processing, to drilling and blasting and exploration, to human resources and catering. The shaft sinking sector has not been spared – it is hard to abide by social distance requirements at the bottom of a mine shaft without it affecting productivity – yet, it has fared better than some mining developments, with the majority of shaft sinking projects continuing throughout the pandemic. Eric Kohtakangas, Executive VP of Growth & Acquisitions for Cementation Canada, explained why this might be: “Given that shafts often fulfil a vital ventilation function beyond access or material handling, it could be assumed that shafts would remain high in clients’ priority of


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their portfolio of planned works, especially for mine expansions and approved greenfield sites,” he said. This has certainly been the case at some highprofile projects such as the Turquoise Ridge Third Shaft in Nevada, USA, the Macassa #4 Shaft project in Ontario, Canada and the Nezhinsky potash project in Belarus (more later). Surprisingly, all three of these projects have remained within or ahead of schedule despite the pandemic headwinds. The third shaft at Turquoise Ridge, a mine owned 61.5% by Barrick and 38.5% by Newmont within the Nevada Gold Mines joint venture, was recently sunk to its final depth of 989 m below the collar in June. Barrick said in its June quarter results:

“Construction of the Third Shaft at Turquoise Ridge, which has a hoisting capacity of 5,500 t/d, continues to advance according to schedule and within budget. We continue to expect commissioning in late 2022.” Together with increased hoisting capacity, the development of the Third Shaft, steered by Thyssen Mining, is expected to provide additional ventilation for underground mining operations as well as shorter material haulage distances. The focus of the project is now shifting from sinking activities to equipping, with fabrication of the shaft and loading pocket steel underway, as well as other early procurement items necessary to complete the construction of the project. At Macassa, the #4 Shaft project remained over a month ahead of schedule at the end of the June quarter, and was on track for completion in late 2022 . This shaft, engineered by Cementation Canada but sunk in-house by Kirkland Lake Gold crews, could lead to production at the highgrade gold mine growing to over 400,000 oz/y at significantly improved unit costs, according to Kirkland Lake. In addition, working conditions will be improved at the mine, with total ventilation capacity expected to more than double. Future exploration activities could also be positively impacted . Both examples prove Kohtakangas’ point, while highlighting just how skilled these shaft sinking specialists are.

A double-edged sword Jochen Greinacher, Managing Director of Redpath Deilmann, is aware of such skill, referring to the team that sunk the shafts at the Nezhinsky mine, in Lyuban, Belarus, as “exceptional”. This team, aided by the second generation of Herrenknecht’s Shaft Boring Roadheader (SBR), broke a company record dating back to 1938, which, itself, was achieved at a time when safety was far from the main consideration on shaft sinking projects. The Nezhinsky team, in contrast, completed the whole sink and equipping of both shafts ahead of schedule with a Herrenknecht SBR while registering just one reportable accident (finger injury). The use of the SBR, which allowed simultaneous excavating and lining without exposure to the shaft bottom in many sections of the Nezhinsky sinking project, undoubtedly played a role, but the team controlling that machine had to battle weak rock, water ingress

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SHAFT SINKING The Redpath Deilmann Nezhinsky team completed the whole sinking and equipping of both shafts ahead of schedule with a Herrenknecht SBR while registering just one reportable accident (finger injury)

“We achieved records later, when the SBR was in rock salt, and there is nothing better than rock salt for such sinking work. “Yet, there is still room for improvement. If we were to undertake a project under similar conditions, we could probably exceed the performance we achieved in Belarus by about 20%.” Such a benchmark means the SBR is likely to crop up in future projects outside of Woodsmith in the UK (see Watching Woodsmith boxout). When it comes to rock cutting, the Nezhinsky team might soon

and geological problems below the initial freeze section – along with ongoing COVID-19 restrictions – to complete the project ahead of schedule. The fact it did so while breaking a company record is astonishing. Made up of a combination of German, Belarussians, Russians and other nationalities, the team is now putting the final touches to the 8-m diameter shafts (one 750 m depth and one 697 m depth) at Nezhinsky. Shaft #2, the service shaft, is now fully equipped, and will be used to transport muck from underground development work – expected to take upwards of a year – at the potash project. “We’re more or less finished with the ‘shaft sinking’ side of things in Belarus,” Greinacher said. “This means we have a really good team available ready to be deployed elsewhere. “Yet, this is a double-edged sword. We need good people to run a project, but we also need a project to employ those people.” In terms of a potential project involving an SBR, only one remains out there in the territories that Redpath Deilmann is focused on (Europe and Russian-speaking countries), according to Greinacher. The potential work in Poland to sink shafts for a coal project – mentioned in this same feature last year – has been hit by incoming EU regulations around thermal coal developments, while most other sinking projects up for tender are from metal mines where the SBR, which has a cutting mechanism suitable for soft-tomedium-hardness-rock, would not be considered. This isn’t to say the SBR’s days are numbered. Far from it. Greinacher, in reviewing the team’s and SBR’s performance in Belarus, said: “On average, we advanced a little more than 3 m/d under some very difficult conditions. I think the peak performance was 7.4 m/d, or 150 m/mth, the latter of which was averaging 5 m/d. By that point, we were in the bottom section of the shaft where conditions were optimal. “The team was perfectly aligned, and the machine performed very well – we made some modifications to it at the beginning, as is typically done on such projects – and the rock conditions were very good. MR Advert 2020_ApprovedIMA5.indd 1

2020/09/03 15:23:21

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SHAFT SINKING be able to realise with another mechanised technology that could sink shafts in much harder rock. The Shaft Boring Cutterhead (SBC) being developed by Herrenknecht with support from Redpath Deilmann is that technology, according to Greinacher. The SBC is expected to be able to cut rock with a uniaxial compressive strength (UCS) of up to 260 MPa rock down to 1,500 m depths with shaft diameters ranging from 8-9 m. Greinacher said the experience both companies have gained using the SBRs has been leveraged for the design and engineering of the SBC. Built with a cutterhead like a tunnel boring machine (TBM), it can deliver an advance rate of 6 m/d under the right conditions, according to Herrenknecht. It is also equipped with a pneumatic mucking system able to handle more abrasive rock like that of the latest generation SBR. COVID-19 has pushed some of the SBC testing timelines back, but work to optimise the shape of the cutterhead – one of the core components of the machine considering it could be faced with cutting rock that has a UCS of up to 260 MPa – is currently taking place at Herrenknecht’s facility in Schwanau, Germany. Both Herrenknecht and Greinacher are hopeful of the core cutter section being built and tested within the first half of 2022. During the latter stages of testing, interested parties are likely to be invited to Schwanau to witness this system in action. Speaking of interested parties, Greinacher said he has already had conversations with miners in Kazakhstan and Russia avidly watching developments with the SBC. While large-diameter raiseboring technology (explored in more detail later) is being factored into studies looking at mechanised sinking options in North America, the SBC technology is an easier sell in Russian-speaking countries, according to Greinacher. “On one project looking at sinking three shafts, we proposed sinking two shafts with the SBC and raiseboring or pilot and slashing the third one,” he said. “They rejected the idea for the third shaft and were more open to the use of the SBC as, for them, it is proven TBM technology that has simply been turned on its head. “At the same time, in the geologies we are looking at there are sometimes softer sections of rock to cut. If you are to raisebore big shafts of over 1,000 m successfully, you require stable hard rock over the entire length.” Consistent conditions are hard to come by in any sinking project and that is why Redpath Deilmann – and the wider Redpath group – is

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also pursuing a project to automate both the drill and blast part of conventional shaft sinking, as well as the mucking element. Greinacher provided details of this concept in last year’s shaft sinking feature and was ready to tell more when IM spoke to him last month. “The design is more or less complete and we’re on the procurement phase now,” he said. “We will have the prototype assembled shortly and then we will start the testing at our factory.” The idea is to have all functions carried out independent of the main galloway, removing personnel from the shaft bottom, while increasing sinking performance. Such an innovation is likely to leverage the Redpath Shaft Control System: a patented communication system to collect information from virtually any electronic device on the market in real time to maintain operations within anticipated parameters. The initial design includes a backhoe-type mucking system attached to the galloway that allows the mucker to advance towards the muck pile while the operator sits in the galloway. “If you have a 5 m muckpile on the bench, you can lower the excavator to capture more muck in the bucket,” Greinacher explained, adding that the patent for this system was in preparation, hence the reason he could not share more details. From here, the aim is to assemble the machine and test its functionality on a manual basis from the galloway in a process representing step one of the project. “It is set up to be semi-automated,” Greinacher said. “But the vision and the systems are designed that all functions can be carried out remotely, either from surface or from somewhere else. Eventually this work could be carried out autonomously.” This vision – representing step two or three of the project – will be facilitated by 3D cameras and sensors that have been tested and developed within the wider Redpath Group.

Advanced communications While Redpath Deilmann has been advancing this system in Dortmund, Germany, Redpath’s office in North Bay, Canada, has been collaborating and reviewing the work-up of design criteria and functional approaches for the unit, according to Kevin Melong, Vice Redpath Raiseboring completed a record-breaking hole at Kirkland Lake Gold’s Macassa Mine in Ontario, Canada, with a manufactured-in-Ontario Redbore 90. At a length of 1,010 m, the raise became the longest raisebore hole ever accomplished in the Northern Hemisphere and all the Americas

President – Shafts and Technical Services. For Melong, the concept represents “the next significant step-change in shaft sinking”. Being able to muck the shaft bottom independently of the main galloway with no workers present on the bottom comes with obvious safety benefits, but also offers the ability to safely perform concurrent shaft and lining work with automated bottom mucking to provide a potential productivity boost. More broadly, Melong and his Redpath colleagues have been exploring the knock-on benefits that come with applying the Redpath Shaft Control System, which is now embedded within all the group’s shaft sinking work. This uses a combination of hardwired and wireless technologies and protocols, such as programmable logic controllers and sensing equipment, to safeguard against unwanted equipment interactions and optimise routine tasks. The ability to record and trend this information promotes opportunities for continuous improvement and optimisation to both operational procedures and equipment use, Redpath said. “These systems allow us to reimagine the shaft sinking approach as data transfer leads to a myriad of control and automation possibilities,” Melong told IM. Wireless communication has also allowed the company to receive visual information from mounted cameras on both the crossheads travelling in the shaft, as well as the various decks of the galloway, to more closely monitor the interaction between hoist conveyance and the galloway. “The statuses of the crosshead rope button release and latch arm positions is also transmitted wirelessly to the safety control

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SHAFT SINKING circuit, providing a solution to the age-old problem of incomplete crosshead detachment and release problems,” Redpath said. Seeking to further secure the galloway, the company has recently introduced a galloway stage rope monitoring system that detects the slightest changes in loading, inclusive of rope stretch and position within the shaft, Melong said. This ensures the rope factor of safety is not compromised and potential damage to the stage and shaft furnishings is eliminated. The level of instrumentation and controls used to reduce risks when moving the galloway have also stepped up, with: n The use of variable frequency drives to control speed and position on winch motors; n Load cells to monitor rope tension; n Emergency stop buttons on every deck; n Inclination sensors to measure plumbness; n Accelerometers to measure vibration and detect impact; n Optical sensors to measure the distance to the shaft walls; n Strain gauges on structural members to measure stress and strain; and n Real-time video footage from dozens of HD cameras. Jeremy Berg, Manager, Engineering & Technical Services at Redpath Canada, said: “Recently, all of these innovations have been combined to create a safety system designed to

The start of reaming using a Strata 950 raisebore machine for the first leg of a 5.5m diameter, 470 m long shaft at the Northgate Production Shaft, now owned by Alamos Gold Inc in Matachewan, Ontario limit the impact energy seen by the galloway structure. This can provide a feasible justification for the reduction of safety factors in the structural design of galloways and work stages in special circumstances. “These same systems have also been used by Redpath to safely lower massive structures in the shaft without the need for direct personnel supervision, increasing safety and productivity in these nonroutine shaft activities.” In addition to wireless communications, the company’s patented Integrated Leaky Feeder Mesh system has been installed in two shaft projects in Ontario to improve data transmission. Berg said the company had learned some important lessons regarding installation techniques and environmental considerations to improve future designs. “We are currently speaking with another client about using this system in the permanent shaft configuration after we finish the sinking contract,” he added. One can add to this list of Redpath

innovations the development of: n The “shaft bells location identifier”, which communicates to the hoist operator where the shaft signals (or bells) have been rung from, allowing for interlocks which permit hoist movement only when bells are received

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SHAFT SINKING Watching Woodsmith The next challenge for Herrenknecht’s SBR technology is fast approaching at the Woodsmith project, a polyhalite development owned by Anglo American situated on the North Yorkshire coast of England. The use of SBRs was slated for this project by Sirius Minerals (the former owner) all the way back in 2018, with orders for two units able to sink production and service shafts with 6.75-m diameters to depths of 1,594 m and 1,565, respectively. The orders came to Herrenknecht less than a year after Redpath Deilmann secured two SBR machines for its work sinking the 8-m diameter shafts in Belarus. DMC Mining was initially attached to the sinking of these two shafts, plus two circa-390-m-deep smaller shafts associated with the materials transport system, but Anglo American cancelled this contract around a year ago. A spokesperson, at the time, said the new structure that came with DMC’s exit provided the company with simpler internal processes, allowing it to “better manage the important transition between the sinking phase and ramp-up to steady state operations”. During the company’s recent investor call, Anglo American Chief Executive, Mark Cutifani, confirmed the small intermediate shaft for tunnel ventilation and access, being developed by blind drilling, had reached its full depth of 383 m at the end of June and was being lined before connecting it to the material transport tunnel to run from Teesside to the mine in Whitby. Work on the service shaft with the SBR had begun, with the “first cut” occurring in late July, he added. Anglo is in the process of carrying out a review of the sinking project to support compliance with its internal standards. This includes engineering, cost and schedule, with the SBR shaft sinking schedule another element under scrutiny. An Anglo American spokesperson told IM last month: “We are now in readiness to commence shaft sinking operations during the course of August, and intend to assess the performance of the SBR over the coming months so we can better predict its forward progress to inform the overall schedule.” The spokesperson added: “Regarding the SBRs themselves, several improvements and upgrades have been made to it from the first and





form a station within visual range of the conveyance; A full shaft stop control button on every deck of movable work platforms for complex shaft remediation where multiple hoist and rehabilitation platforms may be operating in the same shaft; Laser scanners at the collar and sub-collar doors to ensure that collar doors are clear of obstructions and objects that could fall into the shaft prior to opening/closing; A “unique” under-slung hydraulic excavating shaft mucker to provide the flexibility to cut, chip, or drill and blast the frozen ground; and A battery-powered mechanised raise climber, as well as a remote camera inspection unit for similar climber systems, for face inspection prior to re-entry.

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Two Herrenknecht Shaft Boring Roadheaders will be used to sink production and service shafts with 6.75-m diameters to depths of 1,594 m and 1,565, respectively, at the Woodsmith potash project

second models used at Jansen in Canada and Nezhinsky in Berlarus.” This includes the addition of two retractable robotic probes to test and grout the ground ahead to facilitate safer excavation, plus the installation of an additional control cabin on surface to reduce downtime by allowing the machine to continue to be operated remotely during shift changeovers.

Melong said the Redpath group is tendering for several shafts – both sinking and rehabilitation – in Canada, while there are active tenders in Europe and on-going discussions for shaft work in North America as well as Central America. In the Americas markets, the mechanised sinking technology most frequently discussed is large-diameter raiseboring. Redpath has had serial success with this technology, and Melong says the option of raiseboring a shaft is more readily being considered in some markets, even if the tradeoffs associated with using this technique are not. “Boring shafts for ventilation, versus production or conveyance operation, are two different challenges,” Melong explained.

“The investigation into a raisebored shaft versus other approaches such as blind sink can be significant, with aspects such as boreability, stand time, hydrogeology, geo-mechanical and verticality constraints for its end use needing to be clearly understood.” Often, the volume of waste material the mine must handle among its normal requirements renders the approach unfeasible, inhibiting the mine from hitting its productivity goals as well as well as the mine development targets, according to Melong. He provided an example of the factors that need to be considered during such investigations. “We have recently competed a deep multi-leg raisebore production shaft in Zambia (Mindola Deeps) as well as a number of deep holes in that

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SHAFT SINKING region,” he said. “Verticality challenged the approach to the production shaft, as the useable envelop remaining in a bored shaft if the hole isn’t perfectly vertical will reduce the useable area of the hole in most cases if hoisting is to be conducted in it.” Options exist to directional steer or drill the hole oversized to account for this misalignment, but the trade-offs must be considered to understand the impact to cost and schedule, Melong added. “In most cases, a winding system and headworks must be installed to support the ground and install guidance systems, further bringing the option back closer to the cost and schedule of blind sinking,” he added. With the company having completed a second record-breaking raisebore in the Americas this year – a 1,010-m-long raisebore at Macassa no less – IM asked Melong: is large-diameter raiseboring technology close to hitting a ‘ceiling’? “We have completed some near world record holes recently, in terms of depth and diameter,” he said. “As the depth and size of holes are absolute functions of ground conditions, that is difficult to say, but limits on current raisebore machines seem to be near, or at their capacities. “In this equation, depth and diameter equate directly to higher risk to machine and hole success.”

“It can offer significant capital and schedule advantages under the appropriate conditions,” he said. “Certainly, the proven ability of longer, large-diameter raisebored shafts gives mine planners and engineers increased options to optimise brownfield operations, whether through increased ventilation or increased capacity of waste/production hoisting, or more efficient mine access as the mining centre of gravity moves away from established infrastructure.” This was the case at the Northgate shaft at AuRico Gold’s (now Alamos Gold’s) YoungDavidson gold mine in Ontario, according to Kohtakangas. On this project, the company separated the new raisebored shaft into legs – with a mid-shaft

loading pocket – to allow the client to smooth the spending profile and realise early production, he said. This shaft, commissioned last year, was designed to boost underground production at Young-Davidson from 6,000 t/d to 8,000 t/d as the existing mid-mine infrastructure was replaced with the new lower mine infrastructure. Kohtakangas sees potential for using largediameter raiseboring in combination with blind sinks in projects too. “This has always been the case when developing a new shaft-accessed mine – consideration of raises (more so bored raises now) to complete the ventilation circuit in parallel with a shaft (or decline) and to provide second egress,” he said. “Existing mines have

The benefits of groupthink For a large diameter raisebore to be successful, at a basic level, one must provide positive answers to the following four questions, according to Cementation Canada’s Kohtakangas: n Is the size and length of the opening within current capabilities? Broadly speaking, you can ask: is your raise (or sections of raise) no longer than 1,000 m long? n Is the ground suitable? ie, is the rock suitable for excavation by raisebore in terms of sidewall stability and stand-up time? Are water inflows not likely to be an issue? n Do you have access to the shaft bottom? Access is necessary to the lower horizon for installation of the reamer head as well as for the mucking of cuttings; and n Can you handle the waste generated underground? Do you have capacity to handle the additional muck volume that will be generated and the different muck size to development or production muck? With Cementation continuing to test the limits of this mechanised technology for shaft sinking – including an upcoming bore of about 8.5-m diameter – Kohtakangas is continuing to see this option considered in studies and trade-offs when the company’s engineering studies group is engaged early on in a project.

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SEPTEMBER 2021 | International Mining 111

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SHAFT SINKING the ability to accommodate a raisebore pilot and slash and blind sink method in combination.” The Onaping Depth project for Glencore in Sudbury is a good example of this where the shaft project, led by Cementation Canada, is currently transitioning from a raisebore pilot and slash in the top portion of the shaft, to a blind sink method for the lower half. Cementation Canada is continuing to work and exchange ideas such as this within the wider Murray & Roberts Group to improve industry best practice. Here, it has been able to leverage the learnings from Africa-based Murray & Roberts Cementation, in notching up five million fatalityfree shifts earlier this year as part of a concerted corporate journey towards Zero Harm.

Underpinning much of this success in safe working practices was the increased investment in training strategies at the Murray & Roberts Training Academy at Bentley Park near Carletonville, South Africa. This facility uses the latest technologies and methods – supported by realistic mock-ups of mining environments – to ensure workers are fully prepared for all working conditions, the company said. Mike Wells, Managing Director of Murray & Roberts Cementation, explained: “Our mining

Lucara Diamond Corp’s Karowe Underground Expansion project (UGP) in Botswana has recently moved ahead with mobilisation of shaft sinking teams commencing late in June, and pre-sinking activities scheduled in the September quarter. The Karowe UGP, which is expected to extend the operation’s mine life to 2040, is in a fullyfinanced position, with the latest schedule expected to see underground production hit full production by the end of 2026. The 2019 feasibility study for the project envisaged life of mine production of 7.8 Mct, a payback period of 2.8 years and an after-tax NPV (5% discount) of $718 million; all from $514 million in preproduction capital. COVID-19 delays have pushed the project off the original schedule – both in terms of timeline and cost – but the company is now making headway towards a 2026 start to underground production. Access to the underground mine will be via two vertical shafts, the production and ventilation shafts. The shafts will be concrete lined with the production shaft acting as the main air intake and the ventilation shaft as the exhaust. The planned depth of the production shaft is around 767 m, while the final planned depth of the ventilation shaft is 733 m. The 767-m-deep production shaft will be equipped with two 21 t skips for production hoisting and a service cage for man and material movement through the mine. This shaft will also serve as the main fresh air intake to the mine. The pre-sink construction contract and shaft sinking equipment procurement were awarded to UMS Botswana and UMS South Africa, respectively. METS International Ltd, a subsidiary of UMS, was awarded the shaft engineering contract. Lucara explained: “Detailed design and engineering work on the production and ventilation shafts is now 90% complete, and has resulted in the following changes to the 2019 feasibility study: i) production shaft diameter has increased from 8 m to 8.5 m, ii) ventilation shaft permanent headframe, hoists and internal conveyances have been removed, iii) parallel pre-sinking of both shafts, iv) ventilation fans and coolers to be located on surface, v) in-shaft grouting of water strikes changed from grout curtain installation from surface, vi) planned development of an additional sublevel to assist in drilling of drawbells, and vii) removal of 670L dewatering galleries.” UMS is mobilising crews to Karowe to initiate presink works. Pre-sinking of the two shafts will run in parallel and start with mobile cranes and then transition to Scott Derrick cranes with the final depth of pre-sink at around 40 m below surface.

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Construction of the Third Shaft at Turquoise Ridge will provide an increase in hoisting capacity to 5,500 t/d customers today regard the commitment to fatality-free operations as a given – not only for themselves but for their service providers. We are proud to be able to demonstrate our success as part of the broader progress in this field by the whole mining sector.” Over the years in which the five million fatality-free shifts have been achieved, Murray & Roberts Cementation has conducted a diverse range of projects across sub-Saharan Africa, including large shaft sinking contracts such as the Mufulira Deeps sinking project, in Zambia, which was triple raisebored down to 1,587 m depth. The learnings go both ways, with other group companies learning from Cementation Canada’s use of real-time data acquisition technology for short interval control of the sinking process. Meanwhile, a pre-sink gantry system developed in South Africa by Murray & Roberts Cementation is also gaining prominence across Australia, through RUC Cementation Mining, and elsewhere. “In general, each project is evaluated against group experience for what we consider the optimised approach for the particular scope, ground conditions and client success criteria,” Kohtakangas said. This process would have been carried out for the shaft work at Jansen, in Saskatchewan, Canada, where Cementation Canada has recently secured a contract with BHP to carry out the post-liner excavation, steel and equipping of the shafts for the first 4.35 Mt/y phase of the potash project. Kohtakangas concluded on the subject: “Shaft sinking has significantly changed over the last 20 years and is much safer today. As shaft sinkers, we continually look at new ways to improve all aspects of sinking, including safety and performance. “Each shaft sinking project is different and it requires optimising the best temporary sinking method and design with the permanent shaft design.” IM

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INTERVIEW SIEMENS.qxp_proof 24/08/2021 15:37 Page 1


Setting the standards in mining Siemens conveyor GCD in place at Cuajone copper mine, Peru cooling, leading to greater standardisation of our solution. Another relatively recent change that will allow us to grow this market further is that before we worked exclusively with thyssenkrupp and while our close relationship with them continues, we are now in a position to work with any major conveyor system OEM or contractor and in fact are already doing so.

Powering some of the world’s largest mining conveyors, grinding mills, hoists and trolley assist truck fleets, Siemens has an enviable reference list and depth of experience. Paul Moore spoke to Christian Dirscherl, VP for Mining, Excavation and Transport about its multiple market successes and continued potential going forward Q Starting with large conveyors with gearless drives, Siemens has a unique set of application examples – can you give a brief overview and thoughts on how you have been able to achieve this depth of experience? A Our list of gearless drive installations for large overland and underground conveyors continues to grow including a number of the world’s leading copper mines: Antapaccay, Las Bambas, Escondida OGP1, Quellaveco, Oyu Tolgoi, Cuajone plus a copper mine in Tibet, China. Quellaveco, Oyu Tolgoi and the project in Tibet are all still in the installation and commissioning phase. In terms of contract wins – the continuity

Christian Dirscherl, VP for Mining, Excavation and Transport, Siemens

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of our major orders – seven world class gearless driven conveyor projects in less than ten years – has been a factor. Plus we have continued to set records both for the power of the systems –

Cuajone and the mentioned copper mine in Tibet are both 2 x 6,000 kW and Oyu Tolgoi is 8 x 5,500 kW – and the climatic extremes – the minesite in Tibet at over 5,000 m altitude. Plus, it has involved many of the world’s top tier miners with very exacting performance and safety standards – Rio Tinto, Glencore, MMG, Southern Copper (Grupo Mexico) and BHP. Also I would mention the continuity in our team – many of the same experienced Siemens people have worked on several of the projects together. And having a series of projects has allowed us to make continuous improvements in areas like

Q Has the pandemic had any effects? A There have been some difficulties and delays as would be expected due to COVID-19 – there is a lot of specific expertise involved in these types of mining infrastructure projects so travel restrictions have had an impact – near the start of the pandemic, as an example, Mongolia had imposed a 25-day quarantine. Plus there are often restrictions on travelling between regions within the same country and on top of that many mines have restricted access to contractors and suppliers. Currently, for Oyu Tolgoi we are providing services remotely while at Quellaveco we have teams onsite. The pandemic has also slowed activity in terms of new feasibility/prefeasibility studies though with the current high price of copper there are several major projects now on the horizon.

Siemens has a unique set of gearless conveyor drive references unmatched in the industry

Q As an example can you highlight the scope of the Quellaveco project? A The new thyssenkrupp conveyor at Anglo American’s Quellaveco advanced development copper mine in Peru will transport 127,500 t/d of ROM copper ore to the stockpile adjacent to the copper concentrator. The conveyor will get from one valley to another through a 3.2 km long tunnel. Our input includes twin 5.5 MW gearless drives operating at a design tonnage of almost





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INTERVIEW SIEMENS.qxp_proof 25/08/2021 11:27 Page 2

INTERVIEW 11,000 t/h as well as the e-house with MV and LV power distribution plus a cooling system for the motors and e-house. The automation of the conveyor system will use our process control system Simatic PCS-7. Q Technically, why are gearless drives having such a big impact in the market for the world’s largest mining conveyors? Is the technology now being considered as a first option? A It has been well proven that for these large capacity and high torque drive conveyors, the gearless drive enables efficiency to be increased by 3%, but beyond this it cuts down the necessary maintenance work and associated costs, as wearing parts such as couplings, motor bearings and gearboxes are no longer required. Plus, it reduces energy consumption and CO2 emissions. And you are right – on our reference list with the exception of Oyu Tolgoi which was only really possible with gearless drives – all the others have involved trade off studies between conventional and gearless with gearless coming out on top. The references plus the seamless performance of these installations, with no serious issues to date at any of the installed projects – means mining companies with large projects having a major overland conveyor element are now looking to gearless first whereas before it was seen as a relatively new and untested solution. To quote one of our South American customers: “Whenever it is possible I would like to replace every geared system to gearless.” The only issue today is that gearless still involves a higher initial investment so in some cases it may not be suited to a short life mining project eg less than ten years. Q Is real time analysis going to play a major role in material conveying going forward? A It is increasingly something major miners are asking for, with the greater focus on areas like in the pit ore sorting and ore characterisation in the mine up to the stockpile stage before it gets to the plant. We signed an agreement back in 2018 with MineSense to combine their BeltSense on-conveyor analysis solution with the Siemens Simine MAQ single material and quality management system to enable customers to significantly increase efficiency via a single view of quality across the whole conveying process. A stockpile installation at a copper mine in British Columbia will represent the first time we will have worked together on a full project. Q Moving on to grinding mills – what would you highlight there as the key factors in Siemens gearless success plus are there any milestones you would single out? A We installed the first mill Simine GMD in 1980

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and are now approaching 100 installations for ore grinding mills. Even though the global COVID-19 pandemic led to delays or postponement of larger projects worldwide, we were still able to win several major contracts during 2020/2021 in Southeast Asia and Central America. And within that total number is included a number of industry firsts. I would highlight the world‘s first gearless drive for a SAG mill in 1988 at Chuquicamata and the first 40 ft mill GMD at Cadia in 1998 and the first GMDs at an altitude above 4,000 m at Antamina in 2011. In 2016 we also set a record at one project with six of the highest powered 40 ft GMDs ever built on AG mills at the CITIC Pacific magnetite iron ore project in Australia. Also notable is the rugged outdoor version of Simine GMD which has been successfully in operation since 1998. The outdoor version design takes into account tough environmental conditions as well as the absorption of solar radiation. In more recent years, the advancements in asset health analytics (AHA)/condition monitoring and further digitalisation of elements like our SINAMICS closed-loop drive control system and PCS7 process control system have taken these mill GMD installations to another level again. After successfully starting up nine Simine GMDs in 2020, we will commission a further eight Simine GMDs through 2021 for multiple expansion projects and a greenfield mine in Indonesia, Chile and Peru, all of which can avail of these latest digitalisation advancements. Today, these systems are integral to the grinding circuits of our customers to avoid any kind of unplanned shutdowns by incorporating AHA based on anomaly detection, mathematical models and AI algorithms. And as mentioned there is now a lot of market activity – Antofagasta alone is expanding Los Pelambres and building a new Centinela concentrator as an example. We are also seeing a lot of project activity in Russia on the back of the successful 2020 start-up of six Simine GMDs for a copper

Siemens has now installed almost 100 grinding mill gearless drives worldwide

mine in Chelyabinsk, which are currently the largest in operation in Russia. On technical aspects of why our GMDs have succeeded in the milling market – there are many reasons but two to highlight would be round-the-clock reliability and availability based on mature technology like our rugged ring motors and fuseless cycloconverters, and of course our process of continuous improvement like enhanced control for better overall operation including reducing reactive power draw during start-up, inching and creeping. Q Are there any downsides to GMDs in mill circuits? A Not in terms of performance. Again, higher initial CAPEX cost can be an issue for some projects, plus the installation time is longer. In both GMDs for conveyors and for mills, they tend to be best suited to larger and longer life mining projects, partly due to the ROI relating to less maintenance OPEX and fewer stoppages plus increasingly the fact they are much more energy efficient. It is helped by the fact that many mines are switching to all or at least a majority of renewable energy use. These are high speed, high torque applications without a complex gearbox attached. Ring-gear, pinions, motor bearings, couplings and gearboxes using several stages are needed for conventional drives at these projects, all with losses in efficiency due to mechanical resistance. Q Moving on to mobile equipment, how would you summarise your market presence there? A Siemens Commercial Vehicles through the Siemens Mining Mobility division provides electric drive solutions for numerous mining applications, ranging from 3.5 t underground utility vehicles to 450 t class haul trucks as well as shovels and draglines. It includes various

INTERVIEW SIEMENS.qxp_proof 25/08/2021 11:27 Page 3

INTERVIEW topologies ranging from traditional diesel/ electric, hybrids with onboard energy storage, up to complete battery electric. To take one example, we have dominated electrical solutions both on and off truck in the mining trolley assist market in which we have been active since 1981. Today, four Siemens Trolley systems are operating with trucks of several types between 180 t and 360 t load capacity including Barrick Lumwana, FQM’s Kansanshi & Sentinel in Zambia and Swakop Uranium’s Husab in Namibia. We also currently have three projects for new trolley systems running on three different continents ranging from 800 m to 4,000 m. Our offering is the Siemens Truck Trolley System Sicat® TT which is AC-based, converting DC power from overhead lines using IGBT inverters controlled by a SIBAS control unit. High flexibility and modularity are features of this logically-structured system – which ensures easy adaption of the system to any customer requirements. Individual aspects of a mine‘s operation and the existing infrastructure can be channelled into the system during the design phase. Siemens not only offers the individual components necessary for catenary installation and truck conversion, it also assumes the role of turnkey systems supplier responsible for project planning, installation, commissioning, maintenance, and the training of local personnel. Using an AC drive system, there is no speed limit for a truck entering or connecting to the trolley lines. Combining an AC drive system with a Siemens trolley feeding system maximises the operation flexibility and efficiency. I think it is also worth mentioning across a number of mining applications that Siemens equipment like converter and inverter cabinets are very strong and capable of withstanding extreme shock and vibration. Since the water-cooled designs require no external air input, Siemens cabinets are sealed against harsh mining environments. Q Trolley assist with battery and all battery electric are two options the big miners are looking at. Where is Siemens in terms of bring these solutions to market? A Back in April 2019, the Siemens Mining Mobility team already presented during your IM The Electric Mine conference in Toronto the electrical configuration plus the results of various simulations, investigations and physical tests for a full electric driven haul truck based on an onboard battery in combination with trolley assist. This combination of onboard batteries with trolley assist allows a continuous operation without any stops to charge batteries. During downhill and trolley assist operation the battery will be charged so that the truck has during the entire cycle electrical energy on board to move

Already a leader in trolley assist technology, Siemens has also developed a fully electric mining truck drive system which will be presented to the market soon

the vehicle. Besides that, the solution generates the following benefits: 16% productivity increase, 46% energy cost decrease/year, 32% lifetime cost decrease, lower maintenance costs and zero carbon gas emissions (no engine). In the meantime Siemens has also developed a fully electric mining truck drive system which will be presented to the market soon. Our advantage is that we have our own in-house components and systems like trolley assist, AC drives plus the know how to design batteries for high power application and integrate them on haul trucks. Q Finally on mining hoists – what trends are you seeing and what major projects from Siemens would highlight? A We are seeing two trends in the mine hoist market, one being a much greater fail-safe focus and the second being cybersecurity – so both safety related ultimately. The cybersecurity aspect relates to the greater impact of digitalisation in mining but related to that the protection of access to these systems. On projects we have been working closely with the hoist supplier OLKO, part of ThyssenSchachtbau. As part of this collaboration we have achieved the successful delivery of the complete electrical package for Anglo American’s Woodsmith polyhalite project in the UK and Slavkaliy’s potash project in Belarus. These projects included the electrification, drive system and automation with the latest

developed SIL-3 winder technology controller, or WTC, for the shaft hoisting systems. At Woodsmith, the polyhalite will be hoisted from approximately 1,450 m at a hoisting speed of 18 m per second (m/s). The delivery included a medium-voltage synchronous motor with an output of 9.3 MW and a torque of 1,550 kNm for each machine which are powered directly from a medium-voltage Sinamics SM150 (PWM) frequency converter. We have also partnered closely with SIEMAG TECBERG and FLSmidth for example on a number of hoist projects and on hoisting automation technology development. The fact that our solutions are derived from a standardised, SIMATIC-based control and safety system in the form of the winder technological controller makes all conceivable versions of drive and control systems technologically possible. The WTC can be used in new plants as well as to modernise existing facilities. The current WTC system is an integrated solution. The WTC allows for control of all types of hoists such as friction (Koepe) winders, single and double drum winders, high performance production winders and personnel transportation winders. It offers maximum safety and reliability. The WTC-hardware consists of a double channel system based on Siemens SIMATIC S7. That means all functions and modules are embedded in an automation system using worldwide proven standard components. And aside from new hoist projects, we also do a lot of modernisations and refurbishments. IM

Siemens recent projects include electrical and control systems for the hoists at the new Slavkaliy-owned Nezhinsky potash mine in Belarus

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INTERVIEW - FLS.qxp_proof 25/08/2021 11:45 Page 1


FLSmidth looks for sustainable gains Heavy-duty overland conveyors are just one of the solutions thyssenkrupp mining will bring to the FLSmidth business

Global mining OEM looks to arm itself to compete in brave new sustainable world he subtleties behind FLSmidth’s acquisition of thyssenkrupp’s mining business appear to have got lost within the financial community. The company’s Denmark-listed shares, since announcing the transaction in late July, lost 16% of their value to August 20. This downward move is hardly surprising when focusing on pure financials: FLSmidth is looking to acquire a company for an enterprise value of $325 million that is only expected to return to profitability two years after financial close. Yet, this narrow train of thought discounts the well-timed strategy behind the move. A combination of the two companies will undoubtedly create a leading global mining technology provider with operations from pit to plant. It will also see FLSmidth re-geared towards a mining sector on the up at a time when the cement business it serves is exhibiting flattish demand. While this won’t be lost on analysts, most of them will only be able to factor in short-term profitability projections into their financial models, meaning, as far as they’re concerned, FLSmidth will be weighed down by the transaction until 2024. Yet, for FLSmidth and mining, 2024 is practically ‘just around the corner’. In FLSmidth’s recently released June quarter results it registered an order backlog of DKK16.7 billion ($2.6 billion), the majority of which was associated with mining orders. Of the backlog amount attributable to the mining sector, 16% would not be realised until 2023 and beyond. This could mean many of the orders FLSmidth registered in the most recent June quarter will


118 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

only be realised (read: delivered) in 2024, the year thyssenkrupp’s mining business is expected to be back in the black. This is just one of the subtleties that may have got lost by shareholders fixated on the short term. The second is how the transaction sets the company up as a mining sustainability leader at a time when the industry is calling out for one. At the top end of the mining industry, the ability to decarbonise operations is becoming as – if not more – important as returning cash to shareholders. Every tonne of copper extracted and processed, and every ounce of gold mined and refined is likely to come with an associated carbon content/price in future years. The battery materials supply chain tied to the likes of lithium, cobalt and nickel will come under even more scrutiny. Blockchain-type traceability platforms will mean investors and any interested party can interrogate where the raw materials came from and how they were produced. These same miners will also be judged on how they use water, with freshwater use being rationalised in many regions where such resources are scarce. FLSmidth, should the acquisition complete next year, is arming itself to compete in this brave new sustainable world. The company started this journey all the way back in November 2019 when it announced its MissionZero program at its Capital Markets Day in Copenhagen. Central to MissionZero is FLSmidth’s focus on enabling its customers in cement and mining to move towards zero emissions operations in 2030.

The OEM planned to do this by leveraging the development of digital and innovative solutions tied to sustainable productivity, offering its customers in the mining sector the technological solutions to manage zero emissions mining processes by 2030 – with a specific focus on water management. For the latter, dry-stack tailings was the order of the day, with FLSmidth’s EcoTails® solution expected to reduce water costs, tailings dam risks and minimise environmental footprint. The development of the largest filter press plate ever built, the 5 m x 3 m AFP, was a signal of just how confident FLSmidth was on this emerging market trend becoming fully embedded across the globe. Digital products such as SAGwise™, SmartCyclone™, BulkExpert™ and Advanced Process Control would, in the meantime, allow miners to become that more efficient with every resource (water, energy, etc) they used, again, improving their sustainability credentials. Close to two years after making the MissionZero declaration, Thomas Schulz, CEO of FLSmidth, says the company has been seeing the program’s effects come through in its order book. “Actually, this has been translated in orders for a few years already,” he told IM. “When we look into sustainability, we define it as making productivity improvements. If you don’t adopt these sustainability solutions, you effectively have to pay more to keep operating at the same levels, or you have to stop operating – there is a productivity element to it, and quite a big one. “For us, as a lifecycle provider, it is important that we offer to our customers at any point in time and any point of our offering, the right solution to make more money. That can be with dry-stacked tailings, tailings management, IPCC (in-pit crushing and conveying) systems, electrification of the pit, reducing emissions or dust, etc.” Many of these solutions will enable companies to produce the same amount of product, or more, with the same input costs and energy draw, according to Schulz. Coping with further restrictions on the industry’s access to freshwater will require more than step-change initiatives, and that is why the company is working on how its equipment can use “different types of water” and technologies that use less freshwater to ensure operations can abide by incoming legislation. The company has been working on providing these zero-emission and resource-efficient

INTERVIEW - FLS.qxp_proof 25/08/2021 11:45 Page 2

INTERVIEW solutions since 2019 to enable its customers to become sustainable operators by 2030. “For many people, that sounds very long,” Schulz said. “In the mining industry, it’s not.” Factor in the two-to-three years to build a pilot plant to prove such technology, two-to-three years to get a full-scale plant approved and the associated construction time, and a decade has passed. Sustainability represents the ‘long game’ for mining OEMs, and technology is the key to achieving that sustainability, Schulz said. Which brings us back to the thyssenkrupp mining business acquisition.

One of the big pillars FLSmidth, in adding thyssenkrupp mining to its portfolio, is providing a whole host of decarbonised options for its mining customers to consider in their own sustainability drive. It is adding mine planning expertise to its portfolio, ensuring that the IPCC and continuous surface mining technologies it puts forward are optimised for the operation at hand. These technologies are further complemented by semicontinuous and mobile crushing options from thyssenkrupp mining, adapted to the pit profile at hand. Heavy-duty overland conveyors from thyssenkrupp mining complement other bulk handling solutions FLSmidth might be providing at stockyards or ports to reduce truck haulage and shift the transport dynamic to ‘green’ grid power. Then, when it comes to comminution, a crushing (including primary jaw crushers) and screening portfolio, plus smaller milling options and expertise in high pressure grinding rolls (HPGRs) through the globally renowned Polysius business, is bolted onto FLSmidth’s own crushing and grinding (including vertical roll milling technology) portfolio. This puts the combined offering up there with any global OEM around, while also providing the potential ‘dry grinding’ technologies the industry has been on the lookout for. All these solutions come with sustainability benefits that can be felt throughout the mining value chain. They also provide options and flexibility to an industry that cannot just suddenly retire a fleet of ultra-class haul trucks at a deep open-pit operation in favour of a fixed IPCC solution, or build a new process plant fitted with HPGRs to replace a typical SAG and ball mill grinding circuit.

“For us, as a lifecycle provider, it is important that we offer to our customers at any point in time and any point of our offering, the right solution to make more money,” Thomas Schulz says Schulz said as much to IM. “One of the big pillars of the whole acquisition lies in sustainability,” he said. “Normally, the process plants where we play big are all electrified, so if the energy resource coming into these plants is a green one, the process is already sustainable. “When we look into the pit, in-pit crushing and transporting of material is where we can focus a lot. “I’m not saying you can replace every truck, but some of the surface mines and the ones underground can be made significantly more continuous and sustainable from a transport perspective. “thyssenkrupp is leading in that. They are quite big in the pit; we are quite big in the processing plant. Both, together, are complementary. “If we can integrate the offering – and we will do – and make it more sustainable, that is a big step towards the 2030 MissionZero target.” This increased spread of solutions will also provide FLSmidth with more opportunities to refine the entire flowsheet, providing further sustainability benefits to its customers. “When we design solutions, or offer replacement equipment or a new process, we can now rely on expanded competences to look at what the best overall system for the entire flowsheet is,” Schulz said. “For instance, if we change the gyratory on a mine site and then look into the pit, we know how to size the equipment in the pit and the concentrator upstream.” This increasing flowsheet focus must be complemented by an aftermarket approach that ensures the process remains efficient and sustainable throughout a product’s, solution’s or mine’s lifetime. This was one of the obvious disparities between the two companies when the announcement was made in late July. It is also

one of the biggest opportunities that comes with the planned transaction, according to FLSmidth. Whereas capital business represented 37% of mining revenue in 2020 for FLSmidth, it was 66% of revenue for thyssenkrupp’s mining business. Services represented 63% and 34% of the two businesses’ 2020 revenue total, respectively. Schulz has seen such a contrast – and opportunity – before, referencing his arrival at FLSmidth in 2013. “When I came here to FLSmidth, it was actually quite similar,” he said. “I was at Sandvik for 16 years where the aftermarket was actually seen as the most important. They realised the importance of the customer relationship: the capital equipment sales team may meet the customer for a few hours per year, but the service technician has that interaction over weeks and months in terms of aftermarket.” He also recognises the cultural shift needed to capture many of the profitable aftermarket dollars that the company is forecasting with the planned acquisition. “The culture in project service companies is you are the hero if you come to the table with the next big project,” he said. “In product service companies, you are the hero if you come with the next big profit. “You need both – we need profit, and our customers need profit to invest, while you need the projects to spur these aftermarket opportunities. “We calculated what the aftermarket potential of the thyssenkrupp mining business is and understood it was not covered as they were all looking for the next big project, which we understand. “But this is not what we will accept in the future. We have to have a strong aftermarket and strong customer link.” Which all comes back to MissionZero. “If you focus on MissionZero, then you invest there where you can impact MissionZero. Wherever you have aftermarket, you impact MissionZero. Where you don’t have aftermarket, you don’t impact MissionZero.” At the same time, Schulz is not losing sight of the company’s end goal with all the business it coordinates in the mining sector. “Whatever we do with the customer, they have to be more efficient, more productive and make more money.” It just so happens that in doing this, the mining sector will become that much more sustainable. IM SEPTEMBER 2021 | International Mining 119

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HIGH PROFILE Mine haulage robots

BELAZ-7558E all electric batterypowered mining dump truck with payload capacity of 90 t


Mining truck innovation Paul Moore caught up with Belarussian mining truck major BELAZ, which outlines here its current and future roadmap for mining haul truck technology attery-powered dump trucks, diesel trolleys, mining shuttle robots, unmanned technologies, robotic control systems, artificial intelligence, "smart" quarries for mining - all these are not fantastical concepts of the future, but the realities of a new era of technology, which is rapidly advancing. Following world trends and working towards the future, BELAZ is intensively introducing innovative technologies into its products, thereby helping to define the direction for the future development of open-pit mining equipment. Each innovation developed and applied in the new equipment of the BELAZ enterprise is designed to improve reliability and safety, provide more comfortable conditions for the driver, and make the operation of the machines more costeffective. Electronics, "smart" technologies and other sensors and devices are being actively introduced into the structure of BELAZ equipment, which greatly facilitate more efficient operation and maintenance. Striving to improve quality and efficiency, reduce operating costs, and improve the reliability, safety and environmental friendliness of mining dump trucks are the main driving forces behind BELAZ's innovations. And today the enterprise is already ready to deliver many of these modern machines, which will be discussed in this review.


Expanding of AC range Firstly, OJSC “BELAZ” is first expanding production of its most in demand dump trucks with AC electric drive. The mining dump truck series BELAZ-7558 with payload capacity of 90 t has expanded with the production of the following three variants: the BELAZ-7558F, BELAZ7558C and BELAZ-7558D. The new 180 t dump

120 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021

truck, the BELAZ-75182, is equipped with a stateof-the-art AC electric drive system by Wabtec and has been manufactured delivered to customers. The product line of 240 t dump trucks has been reinforced with the manufacture of the new mining dump truck BELAZ-7531B which is equipped with a new efficient liquid cooling system for the AC electric drive control cabinet. Pre-commissioning of the world’s largest mining dump truck, the BELAZ-75711, with a payload capacity of 450 t is also underway. BELAZ is constantly trying to improve its own designs and solutions applied in traction electric drive control systems. One example is the development and application of a non-contactor control system for a traction electric drive in dump trucks with an AC-DC transmission, which, as a result, increased the reliability of the unit and, as a result, the efficiency of the dump truck as a whole. Currently, this design is undergoing a set of operational tests on mining dump trucks with payload capacity of 130 and 220 t.

Mining is being conducted in increasingly difficult and sometimes dangerous working conditions and in remote areas. Temperatures from -50°C to +50°C, depending on climatic zones, gas pollution, dust and sometimes increased background radiation are present challenges. In such conditions, the human factor unwittingly becomes the reason for a decrease in work efficiency. And here “smart” dump trucks from BELAZ can come to the rescue, as they can already work without a driver in the cab. A multitonne unmanned vehicle doesn’t required clean air, good visibility and lunch breaks. It performs all the necessary operations optimally and precisely. Work on the creation of the first robotic mining truck at BELAZ started back in 2009. Today, the first 130 t autonomous mining dump trucks of model BELAZ-7513R equipped with intelligent control systems have already proven themselves as high-performance trucks in the real operating conditions of Chernogorskiy open-pit coal mine in Khakassia, Russian Federation, where they transport overburden, moving along a dedicated road section of the open-pit with a length of 1,350 m. The next step for BELAZ in the direction of expanding the range of manufactured robotic equipment is the production of a batch of mining dump trucks of model BELAZ-7558R with a payload capacity of 90 t, as well as the wheel loader BELAZ-7528D with remote control. Robotic truck design features The new BELAZ robotic mining dump trucks have a number of fundamental features that distinguish them favourably from earlier models due to the introduction of intelligent control systems for a new generation robotic mining dump truck. The intelligent system significantly improves the operational performance of the truck: xn Provides optimal parameters of movement xn Increases the time of using equipment due to

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HIGH PROFILE the absence of shift changes and lunch breaks xn Allows you to work in conditions of limited visibility and gas pollution xn At the same time, the use of robots in the mining industry significantly reduces the influence of the human factor, especially in places potentially dangerous to life (for example, uranium mines). Today, for high-quality and smooth operation of robotic machines, the design of the main units of the dump truck has also been adapted: xn Developed a steering and braking system using hydraulic proportional valves, which are ideal for digital programmable systems. This made it possible, together with modern navigation systems, to achieve high positioning accuracy while driving, repeatability of the optimal route and fuel economy xn All the electronic systems of the machines involved in the mining process are united into one intelligent network, which makes it possible to generate detailed reports on the functioning of robotic equipment for assessing and adjusting work plans and transportation schedules, and service services receive up-todate information on the state of the components and systems of the robot, on the basis of which decisions are made on the planning of their maintenance xn In order to increase the speed and improve the quality of the transmitted video image and other information, the robot was tested with a new generation 5G GSM network. One of the most important aspects requiring special attention in the operation of robotic dump trucks is the issue of safety. For this, the trucks are equipped with video cameras, radar and LiDAR which allow the truck to objectively determine possible obstacles while driving and, using an intelligent algorithm, make a decision to bypass them or stop. All the main components of the vehicle have redundant control systems that come into operation when the main system fails. The unique anti-lock and traction control systems developed at BELAZ, as well as the improved algorithms for controlling the electromechanical transmission, improve the safety of the robotic truck’s movement when the road situation deteriorates in the event of rain, snowfall and other unfavourable weather conditions. In case of unforeseen situations, the remote control of the dump truck can be taken over by the operator located in the control room. In the future, BELAZ is ready to expand the number of models of dump trucks designed for autonomous operation. Intelligent equipment tested on mining dump trucks of the BELAZ-7513 and BELAZ-7558 series can be installed on all machines of extra heavy lifting capacity - 90, 180, 220, 240, 290 and 360 t. This will allow the mining companies and partners of BELAZ who

already know the performance of Belarussian mining equipment and use it in their operations, to reduce the cost of mining operations further due to increased productivity.

development, the BELAZ-75476 mining dump truck, having passed operational tests in the Arkhangelsk region in the diamond mining open pit of Alrosa’s Lomonosov GOK, was converted to

Gas powered dump trucks

use compressed natural gas. The machine is continuing its work with Alrosa. BELAZ also emphasises that all developments are carried out on the basis of marketing research and in close cooperation with potential consumers of the product.

Meeting the interests of mining companies and satisfying the growing demands of consumers, BELAZ is implementing several breakthrough projects in the segment of open-pit vehicles running on LNG. The interest in it from the mining companies has been growing fast. After all, the technology that uses liquefied natural gas as a motor fuel allows not only saving of money, but also improves the environmental situation in high diesel consuming mines. The work on the gasification of mining equipment is being carried out in two directions: gas-diesel and pure gas vehicles. In particular, BELAZ specialists are working on the development and production of a 90 t dump truck powered by an all gas-fuelled engine. Today, the company has also assembled a dump truck with a payload capacity of 136 t which is powered by a gas-diesel engine based on the Cummins KTA 50C diesel engine. Meanwhile, another BELAZ gas mining truck

Diesel trolley and electric vehicles Diesel trolley assist mining trucks are another promising direction for BELAZ in line with global trends in the use of alternative energy sources in mining equipment. The use of open-pit vehicles of this trolley type represents an effective solution for mining transport operations, since it can increase the speed of the dump truck on the upramp by 1.8-2 times, which in turn will make it possible to increase productivity and increase the volume of traffic. Along the way, fuel consumption will be reduced by up to 80%, emissions into the environment will be significantly reduced and the ecological situation in the mine and adjacent areas will be improved. The transition to diesel

SEPTEMBER 2021 | International Mining 121

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trolley cars will also allow the use of diesel engines of lower power rating.There are two different projects being developed by BELAZ specialists in this direction plus an all electric battery truck: xn Diesel-trolley truck: mining dump truck that uses an external source of electricity as power supply on a certain section of open-pit mine haul road, thereby increasing the speed of the vehicle and diesel fuel savings xn Electric trolley truck: mining dump truck that uses an external source of energy from trolley power lines and switches to on-board batteries at loading and dumping areas. xn All-electric truck: electric dump truck using traction accumulator battery pack as a power source Development of the first two types of trolley mining dump trucks is already in full swing. For equipment testing and adjustment a contact trolley line with a total length of more than half a kilometre was installed at the Zhodino factory testing grounds with a traction electric substation. The first diesel trolley truck BELAZ-7530E with payload capacity of 220 t was assembled, and a control system was developed. Also, in 2021, BELAZ specialists released a completely new type of all electric open-pit mining truck powered by BELAZ-7558E batteries with a carrying capacity of 90 t. This development opens a new direction in the production of "green" dump trucks completely free from harmful emissions. The use of electric dump trucks will allow mining enterprises to save money due to the difference in prices for fuel and electricity, service costs and fuel and lubricants. The battery-powered engine provides the best cost of transportation of minerals and a high level of ecology in the field. According to preliminary estimates, savings when using a battery-powered vehicle compared to a serial BELAZ dump truck for 10 years can range

122 International Mining | SEPTEMBER2021

from $1 million to 3 million US dollars (depending on the region of operation).

activity is performed by the smart mine system. In 2021, tests of the robotic industrial complex of BELAZ were conducted, including robotic mining dump trucks BELAZ-7558R with a carrying capacity of 90 t and a front loader with a remote control system BELAZ-7825D with a bucket volume of 12 cubic metres. This was done as part of an intelligent quarry system, implemented in a section of Granit’s Sitnitskoye quarry in Belarus. Today, for the operation of an intelligent mine system at Sitnitskoye, a modern relocatable control and dispatching centre has been erected, and a new comms network and electrical infrastructure have been installed, including 48 poles for which more than 4 km of cables were laid. The equipment that provides 5G network coverage of the mine site for controlling a robotic mining complex was mounted on 3 poles. BELAZ specialists carried out testing and debugging of the server and network equipment for collecting, accumulating and transmitting data. A video surveillance and access control system has also been deployed on the premises. IM

Intelligent mines The rapid development of electronics and IT related technologies has affected all areas of activity, including mining and mechanical engineering. Thanks to this, BELAZ continues work on the development of a unified monitoring system, analysis of predictive analytics and dispatching data, united into a unified intelligent mining transport management system. With the help of this system, the management of the mining enterprise, service services in real time receive complete information about the work of the mine. The technology is even more effective when managing a fleet of robotic equipment. In this case, the number of people involved in the work is reduced to a minimum, and the main mining

Diesel trolley mining truck BELAZ-7530E with payload capacity of 220 t

CLASSIFIED sep 21.qxp_Layout 1 26/08/2021 13:05 Page 1


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In 2019, Editorial Director Paul Moore went on a threeweek trip to China from Shenyang in the North to Liuzhou in the South to gain exclusive insight into how the country’s mining equipment & technology suppliers have established themselves at home and abroad. He visited six companies, interviewing management, touring facilities and getting up close and personal with machines and solutions. He also engaged with two other majors at industry events. Seven of the companies have already been featured in IM articles, with one to come! His visits included: XCMG JCHX Mining Management LiuGong Inner Mongolia North Hauler Taiyuan Heavy Industry CITIC HIC XEMC Sany Heavy Industry

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Brazil Joseph Young Minérios & Minerales Magazine Tel: +55-11-3895 8590 South America Editec S.A. Tel: +56 2 2757 4200 Japan Akiyoshi Ojima Japan Advertising Communications, Inc Tel: 81 (0)45 319 4742 Fax: 81(0) 45 319 4743 China Huang Shusheng(黄术升) +86-13501022196 Classified Advertising Emma Smith or Lynne Lane Tel: +44 (0)1442 870 829 or

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The on nly global in-pit crushing and conveying focused event of its i kind, IPCC 2022 is the six xth edition of a hugely successful conferencee series. The event continues to attract all thee major equipment OEMs deesigning these solutions, mininng companies that have puzzle work in harm mony. T event is set to featur The e e speakeers including:

Rico Neum mann TAKRAF A F

Arie-Johann He eiertz RWE W Technolog e y Inteernational

Chris Pearson e MMD GPHC

Paul Emerson Ter e ra Nova Technologi e ies

Jon Rutter CRC ORE

Nick Russsell Worle o y

Jair Amorim Ra angel Compania Minera Anntamina

Neville v Kell e y RCR Mining Technolo e ogies

Burhan Osmani-Mittreiter e thyssenkrupp

Branco Lalik FLSmidth









UK Patent Ap pplica p tion No. 1709467.3 3


IPCC_JULY21_v4bleed.indd 1

To T o reggister for the event,, please go to o www w..inpitcrushconvey om EARL LY Y BIRD individual rates are still available: av : US$1,,000 per person or GB £850 perr person,, with discounts aavvailabble ffo or company delegations #inpittcrushconvey

18/06/2021 15:00


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