Kibali gold mine, the youngest mine in the Barrick stable, was designed for automated mining, and the successful system it has installed underground and is still refining the company says has made it a global leader in this field. This will now be used as the model for the digitalisation of automated mining across the group.
The backbone of Kibali’s underground operation is Sandvik’s Automine Multi Fleetsystem, supervised on surface by a single operator. In a world first, it allows a fleet of up to five LHDs to be operated autonomously, 750 m below the surface, within the same 6 m x 6 m production drive while utilising designated passing bays to maintain traffic flow. A similar system is used in the production levels to feed the ore passes.
Another ambitious and world leading project being pioneered at the Nevada mines is surface haulage automation at the South Arturo gold operation. Interestingly, Barrick says initially none of the OEMs wanted to engage in the project, “due to the mammoth task of retrofitting an autonomous system to a 20-year-old fleet of ultra-class trucks and the technological limitations that come with that age of machine.” Barrick found another partner in ASI Mining that specialises in autonomous solutions both inside and outside the mining industry and has now successfully completed a proof of concept (POC) utilising five haulage units “that have delivered over 5.5 Mt faster than any other similar POC in the industry.”
With the ongoing development of these and various other autonomous operating systems in Barrick, the vision is to integrate these pockets of success and progress in a state-of-the-art system where highly trained operators with a uniform skill set manage all the operations from surface or remote sites. Glenn Heard, Barrick’s Group Executive for Mining adds, “Barrick is also rolling out a single information system across its operations, including Nevada Gold Mines.”
President and Chief Executive Mark Bristow said access to real-time data integrated across the organization is an essential requirement for pro-active decision-making and management agility. “Real time data is key for the effective management of every function from parts procurement to predictive equipment maintenance,” says Bristow.