Metso’s SmartTag – IM Technology Hall of Fame; Underground Production

Sandvik’s TH551/TH663 – modular product range for large trucks – was narrowly beaten in this category for the 2018 induction into the IM Technology Hall of Fame by METSO’s SmartTag. Michael Wortley, (Global Manager – PRO Products, Australia), Kai Riihioja (Senior Software Engineer, Australia), Jose Luis Bravo (Senior Instrument Engineer, Chile) and Rodrigo Sales (Senior Product Engineer, Brazil), all of Metso, make up the team behind this development. It has great potential in tracking ore in caving applications. However, it also has myriad applications underground and in surface mining (particularly in managing fragmentation) and plant operation.

SmartTag is a radio frequency identification (RFID) based technology designed to allow tracking of ore from its source through blasting, run-of-mine (ROM) pads, crushers, intermediate stockpiles and finally into the concentrator.

The solution adopted at Kittilä mine in Finland was to use Metso SmartTags and in-house expertise to develop a system that continuously and accurately links geotechnical and lab data from the mine to the performance of the plant. This application presented several unique opportunities and challenges. For example, this was the first installation of a SmartTag system for geometallurgical modelling in an underground mine. Challenges included the fact that the system installation is routinely subjected to temperatures below minus-20°C.

The system was installed and commissioned in early 2013 and has been operating continuously since. Kittilä saw the benefits of the system with an increased understanding of how different ores are processed in the concentrator. Other advantages include the ability to alert operators about the arrival of difficult ores and a better understanding of their ore handling systems.

The system has led to improvements in Kittilä’s reconciliation and metallurgical accounting and provides a method to predict head grades, in real time, without the need to wait for plant assay results. The system also allows the geology department to warn the plant about problematic ore types before they cause processing issues.