Tag Archives: ABB

ABB and EcoHoist to work on low carbon, low cost vertical material transport solution

ABB and EcoHoist have executed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate on the development of a vertical material transport solution for underground mines.

The solution combines EcoHoist’s technology with ABB’s technical capability and experience in vertical ore haulage in mining, they say.

The EcoHoist aims to improve on traditional vertical hoisting systems, by substantially reducing the size of the required mine shafts. This reduction in mine shaft size leads to a reduction in capital cost and construction time compared with skip hoist systems, the company says. The EcoHoist operates on electricity and provides the opportunity for mines using conventional diesel powered load and haul fleets to simultaneously cut production costs and decarbonise.

“As mines go deeper underground, and as external pressures to decarbonise mining operations increase, the EcoHoist is a compelling solution,” EcoHoist says.

The collaboration will see experts from both companies contributing to solutions for the future of underground ore haulage systems and provides opportunities for further commercial arrangements. This collaboration aims to expedite EcoHoist’s delivery of a subscale demonstration of the technology, by leveraging ABB’s expertise in engineering and hoist safety systems.

ABB has a strong reputation for delivering solutions for the mining industry, with more than 600 active production and service mine hoists within its global installed base, and EcoHoist hopes this collaboration will accelerate the adoption and deployment of the EcoHoist pilot.

Björn Jonsson – Global Business Line Manager for Hoisting at ABB, said: “The mining industry globally is poised for a sustainability step change and ABB is excited to work with EcoHoist in support of new technologies in this journey.”

Aaron Trueman – Australian Business Line Manager for Hoisting at ABB, added: “No matter the mine in Australia, the challenge is how to get ore out of the ground safely and efficiently with high availability in very remote locations. Hoists are a critical mine asset to achieve this, and novel approaches to ore haulage such as EcoHoist are what the industry needs to deliver minerals essential to modern technology.”

Matthew Forrest – Managing Director of EcoHoist, said: “I look forward to continuing to work with Björn, Aaron and other talented people at ABB. ABB’s proven track record delivering electrical drive, automation and safety systems to the resources industry provides strong synergies with EcoHoist.”

Michael Short – Business Development Engineer at EcoHoist, says the EcoHoist offers an opportunity for mining leaders interested in integrating a low-cost solution into their operation.

“We are now in early conversations with interested mining companies for collaboration projects to trial this innovative technology, aiming to increase production rates while reducing both operating costs and carbon footprint.”

BHP BMA’s Goonyella met coal mine receives ABB electrification upgrade

Sustainability, employee protection and operational insights are the drivers of a cutting-edge electrification upgrade at BHP BMA’s Goonyella Riverside Mine in Queensland, Australia, ABB says in a recent case study.

At the BHP-Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) conjoined metallurgical coal mines Goonyella and Riverside in Queensland’s Bowen Basin, Subra Nedunuri, Senior Project Manager, Goonyella Riverside Mines (GRM), is responsible for delivering capital electrical projects without compromising environment, safety, quality, or mining schedules.

When a 43-year-old section of Goonyella Riverside’s power infrastructure became unreliable, Nedunuri began designing an upgrade with ABB capabilities, which protect employees, equipment and the environment, and enable predictive maintenance of 16 pumps critical to the mine’s operation.

Nedunuri said: “A rehabilitation project to move earth from one side of the mine to the other may cost $20 million, but in contrast this $3 million electrical upgrade can save lives and hundreds of millions of dollars in downtime.”

To power the coal wash treatment plant, pumps are used to direct water for reuse or into tailing dams: without them the plant can’t operate. In the past, the now obsolete electrical system communicated only three states of condition for the pumps operation – “On”, “Off” or “Fault”. The system had no protection against arc flash incidents (explosive releases of energy when an electrical arc travels through ionised air to ground or another part of the electrical system), which endanger the lives of service technicians and nearby workers.

For the upgrade, BMA wanted not only the safest switchgear to protect its employees, but a human-machine interface (HMI) that would enable remote and on-site monitoring and control of the electrical system and pumps around the clock.

ABB’s system-integrated Ultra-Fast Earthing Switches (UFES) formed the basis of GRM’s upgrade with safety, and protection of the people within the vicinity of the equipment in mind.

“The switch is installed into the panel to prevent an arc flash, if it occurs it will be detected and switch off the power in less than four milliseconds,” Nedunuri said. “In addition to UFES-enabled switchboards, the mine wanted to take advantage of new and trending technology in the form of digital communications between the switchboard and the plant.”

ABB Ability™ Electrical Monitoring and Control for Distribution Networks, known as ZEE600, integrates diverse devices from a variety of suppliers, under the IEC 61850 standard of communication preferred by BMA, ABB explained. At GRM, this condition monitoring solution harnesses the real-time diagnostic data of substation equipment and electrical assets – primarily the pumps – to alert on-site teams to respond with preventive maintenance.

“Via the HMI, you can actually see the health of the pumps, motors and starters – everything. Our analysis and improvement team also continuously collect the data and analyse it for troubleshooting and future enhancements,” he said.

Nedunuri said it’s all connected back to plant supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA).

Installation and commissioning of the upgraded system took place during the mine’s biannual three-week-long scheduled maintenance shutdown in August/September 2022.

Prior to the shutdown period, Nedunuri constructed the system at ABB premises in Brisbane. Together with the ABB technicians, they matched cabling inlets and outlets with a template of the GRM system.

Henry Lin, Project Manager for Electrification Service at ABB in Brisbane, says ABB customers need to reduce the risk of costly downtime. “Our main objective in these projects is to ensure that our customer’s assets operate at peak performance levels and are available as required,” he said.

BMA has performed much research on the digitalisation of its mines and the ongoing upgrade of infrastructure involves a constant rollout of individual projects. When it comes to the safety and reliability of electrical infrastructure, Nedunuri said the company doesn’t compromise, regardless of the cost.

“All upgrades must not only comply with Australian Standards, but also require ongoing modifications to meet the higher bar set by BHP BMA to make sure it runs efficiently and effectively into the future,” he said.

“I feel proud that I eliminated a huge risk to the business through the pump electrification project. We are protecting people using the new system with arc flash mitigation and at the same time, the monitoring and control enabled by ABB ZEE600, not only improves pump efficiency, but also adds a lot of functionality – it’s easy to operate and easy to maintain.”

BMA and ABB are collaborating on a pipeline of further potential upgrades to existing on-site installations, with each project planned to deliver greater safety, reliability and sustainable growth, ABB says.

TAKRAF and ABB renew gearless conveyor drive technology partnership

TAKRAF and ABB have renewed their ongoing strategic partnership regarding the deployment of gearless conveyor drive (GCD) technology on TAKRAF bulk material handling solutions to enable a more sustainable and resource-efficient future, the companies say.

The partnership, which dates back to 2011, acts as a commitment to both groups’ efforts in achieving a more sustainable and resource efficient future, regarding the deployment of GCD technology.

Gearless drives eliminate the need for a gearbox, hereby significantly reducing the number of wear parts, which results in increased efficiency and reliability, as well as reduced maintenance requirements. Further advantages include a considerable reduction in the drive system’s footprint and emissions. In fact, for a large copper mine in Chile, studies showed that CO2 emissions were reduced by 66% as compared with diesel truck engines for the same copper production volume, TAKRAF states.

In 2019, TAKRAF delivered equipment for the principal ore transport system for Chuquicamata, one of the world’s largest copper ore mines, moving ore extracted underground to an above-ground processing plant using GCD technology (11 x 5 MW gearless synchronous motors). This system, boasting a total installed drive power of 58 MW, transports crushed copper ore from underground storage bins to the surface along a 7 km underground tunnel that overcomes 1 km of vertical elevation. Once on the surface, the ore then travels along an overland conveyor that transports it the final 6 km to the distribution silo.

Thomas Jabs, TAKRAF Group CEO (third from the right, shaking hands with Frank Kschamer (ABB Head of Sales Mining Germany)), said: “We are proud of our ongoing partnership and association with our drive technology partner, ABB. This is a relationship that dates back more than 12 years and has resulted in some incredible technology achievements, not to mention delivery of the world’s most powerful belt conveying system at Chuquicamata using GCD technology. GCDs bring numerous benefits, which are important to us as a company and the complete solution offering we present to our clients. With decreasing ore grades, ever-deeper mines and a general tendency to move from an open-pit operation to underground, powerful, efficient and small footprint conveyor drives will only become more important in an industry in which safety and sustainability are also increasingly important.

“We look forward to this new chapter and, together with ABB, look forward to future GCD installations.”

ABB joins Euromines’ sustainable mining drive

ABB says it has joined the European Association of Mining Industries (Euromines), the recognised representative of the European metals and minerals mining industry.

Euromines’ main objectives are to promote responsible industry practices and engage with EU institutions on mining-related policy matters. Euromines also promotes the benefit and value of both the products and the industry to society, which are critical to boosting European competitiveness.

It serves as a cooperative network of members focused on sharing responsible raw material mining practices. It also evaluates the impact of European and international policies and legislation on the industry and defines industry policy positions and actions. It represents large and small companies and subsidiaries in Europe and in other parts of the world.

Euromines has recently launched the Sustainable Mining Initiative in which members share insights on circular economy, nature restoration, decarbonisation and community.

ABB business leaders will contribute to the association’s efforts to improve responsible mining in Europe and provide examples of how innovative technologies for the processing of raw materials have been developed by ABB or in collaboration with customers, ABB says.

Joachim Braun, Division President, ABB Process Industries, will attend the Euromines Policy Committee. Max Luedtke (pictured), Global Business Line Manager for Mining at ABB, joins the Euromines Sustainability Group while Sylvain Froin, Global Head of Communications and Marketing for Mining at ABB, joins the Euromines Communication Committee.

“Raw materials are essential for industry and critical to Europe’s climate goals and strategic autonomy,” Braun said. “We are pleased to join Euromines and are looking forward to contributing with best practice examples of technologies that drive increasingly sustainable mining activity in Europe and around the world. ABB automation, electrification and digital technologies enable a more sustainable and research-efficient future; we are already helping and collaborating with customers to decarbonise and reduce energy consumption across the mining industry and across all processes from pit to port.”

Euromines provides services to its members with regard to EU policy and serves as a network for cooperation and for the exchange of information throughout the sector within Europe. The association also fosters contacts with the mining community throughout the world. Euromines represents an interface between the European extractive industry and the European authorities and international or intergovernmental bodies and advocates the extractive industry.

ABB adds new monitoring and optimisation smarts to mine hoist offering

ABB is launching a new digital suite of applications for hoist monitoring and optimisation, now rebranded to ABB Ability™ Smart Hoisting.

This new suite, ABB says, potentially offers further integration to other cloud solutions and extended offerings that significantly increase the operational performance and reliability of mine hoists.

The new digital suite is an important milestone in the company’s ambition to transform predictive maintenance for mine hoists. With new features such as ABB Drive System Monitoring and new key performance indicators (KPIs), ABB is opening the door to an entirely new level of mine hoist optimisation services for customers.

The traditional predictive maintenance approach relies on manual data collection and analysis over a short period of time. Intermittent issues can stay hidden or only be identified later, giving subject matter experts (SMEs) little time to program interventions exactly when needed. Additionally, manual collection and data analysis consume a significant amount of time for SMEs, preventing them from focusing on strategic performance management tasks.

ABB Ability Smart Hoisting is designed to significantly improve the uptime, availability, reliability, performance and productivity of hoists. By incorporating advanced monitoring features, the system provides actionable information on critical KPIs, ensuring better decision making and optimisation of hoisting operations. The automatic collection, monitoring and analysis of data will enable mining companies to increase production performance, identify potential functional safety hazards and optimise maintenance scheduling, ABB says.

The combination of innovative features and improved cyber security makes this solution a unique and valuable tool in the underground mining industry, the company claims.

Its predictive maintenance capabilities help increase standards and drive innovation, leading to more sustainable and profitable mining operations.

“The new and enhanced Smart Hoisting solution offers a step change in the operational performance of mine hoists,” Charles Bennett, Global Service Manager, Hoisting at ABB, said. “From improved uptime, reduced environmental footprint and increased monitoring services, this new solution brings enormous benefits to the industry at an important time.

“Through the integration of predictive maintenance and advanced monitoring, the evolved ABB Ability Smart Hoisting solution marks a pivotal milestone in redefining the performance benchmarks for mine hoists. This transformative solution addresses industry challenges comprehensively, fostering heightened uptime, sustainability and operational resilience.”

ABB says it has been a leader in developing world-class hoisting solutions for over 130 years. Powered by electricity with the possibility to run off renewable energy sources, hoists are very much a future forward solution for enabling the sustainable transformation.

To date, ABB has delivered over 1,000 hoisting solutions globally. As a supplier of complete mine hoist systems, customers can benefit from low life cycle cost, high reliability and system availability, short project execution time, and a single source of supply for complete systems, including service and spare parts.

ABB solution underwrites solar power plant installation at Kinross Tasiast

A bespoke end-to-end switchgear and circuit breaker solution from ABB Electrification is powering up a new solar plant at Kinross Gold’s Tasiast operation in Mauritania, which is looking to significantly reduce emissions via the use of renewable energy.

The Tasiast project has recently increased capacity to 24,000 t/d of gold while reducing costs.

To help meet the company’s sustainability targets, an integrated PV solar plant has been finalised – with power generation capacity of 34 MW and a battery system of 18 MW – to provide around 20% of the site’s power.

The Tasiast solar project is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 530,000 t over the life of the mine, which could save approximately 180 million litres of fuel over the same period, according to the company. The new scheme is also contributing to the Government of Mauritania’s GHG reduction targets in the country.

Long standing ABB partner, Voltalia, based in Portugal, was tasked with the systems integration and value chain of the new project. Despite already being covered for protection relays, IED and energy metres, the main MV switchgear required integration in the Low Voltage Compartment (LVC) and interoperability with other devices from different manufacturers, so all components operated in conjunction, complementing each others functions and meeting all customer demands.

Subsequently, ABB specified 15 SF6-free and UniGear ZS2 air insulated switchgear panels. These offer additional benefits such as a smaller footprint, easy maintenance and assembly, plus withdrawable voltage transformer, according to ABB. The solution also included 13 of ABB’s VD4 vacuum circuit breakers – there are more than two million in active operation globally – which minimise maintenance and costly downtime, increase safety and provide primary and secondary protection guarantees.

Jeremy Martin, Project Manager at Voltalia SA, said: “Working with ABB on the Tasiast solar project was again a good experience. ABB’s technical expertise played a key role in achieving our objectives for this project. Working alongside a committed partner like ABB reinforces our belief that collaboration can bring about real change.”

Crucially, ABB technology comes with compact dimensions free of SF6 insulating gas in the switchgear or the circuit breaker – without compromising performance, safety or reliability – which was a key differentiator for both Voltalia and Kinross, ABB says.

With the relays taking up significant space and having to be fitted within the confines of the LVC door, without interfering with the wiring and other components, the ZS2’s footprint flexibility proved ideal, according to ABB. For extra protection, ABB also integrated two relays in one panel and the Relion RED615, with its superior line differential protection and control for incomer units, complemented the functionality required and fitted in the tight LVC door front access, it added.

Nuno Nunes, Sales Engineer at ABB Portugal, said: “The mining industry is committed to reducing its emissions and integrating more renewable energy sources, so it was great to be involved in this innovative project, which uses our space-saving and SF6-free switchgear and circuit breakers to help provide continuous power supply for the new solar plant to operates at peak levels.”

Nida Deveci, Sales Manager and UGUR ACAR Project Manager for ABB Turkey, explained: “The factory acceptance test with our partner Voltalia was successful at the first attempt and proved that the collaboration and understanding was clear and good from the offset. They were very pleased with the speed of our responses and appreciated the technical revisions and adjustments we brought to the table to complete the process satisfactorily for all concerned parties.”

Mark Norwell on the Perenti mining services differentiator

Perenti continues to make inroads across the mining value chain, reflected of late with the recent acquisition of DDH1, record 2023 financial year results and deployment of some of its initial artificial intelligence-backed solutions from the idoba technology business.

Against this busy backdrop and a keynote address at IMARC in Sydney, IM caught up with Mark Norwell, Managing Director & CEO of Perenti, to talk technology in the mining services space.

IM: The contract mining and mining services business is a very competitive space (especially in Australia). How are you readily leveraging technology for your mining clients as a competitive advantage?

MN: The industry has always been competitive, and that global competition continues to evolve.

I would say Barminco has been at the top of the game for three decades. Having that technical competence, the process, the scale and the people drives competitive advantage in its own right. As we have seen some shift in technology and new technology initiatives, the adoption has added to productivity and, therefore, our competitive advantage has grown again.

In terms of how we are adopting technology, there are a couple of areas to mention.

To come back to Barminco, one aspect has been through deploying point solutions for productivity improvement. This has been ongoing and part of our DNA.

More broadly, when we launched the idoba technology division a few years ago, we took the view that as we see greater shifts and acceleration of technology opportunities in mining, we needed the internal capability to drive that change from the inside out; not from the outside in.

We have the deep domain expertise in mining that, when combined with our technology business, further improves our existing contracting services, as well as creates new potential lines of business.

The differentiator for idoba is the ability to develop products and trial them within our own captive ‘sandpit’. A lot of technology companies don’t have this option. They develop solutions and go to mining companies with a great idea that lacks the evidence of trial data needed for many mining companies to implement the solutions. As a result, the trials never get off the ground. We don’t have that problem given we have operations – and supporting clients with matching values – to allow us to trial products in the field. This has been witnessed of late where we are rolling out some products to test across our underground mines in Australia (idoba recently announced that its Mine Performance Navigator AI-powered decision-support and analysis tool had been rolled out to a dozen underground Barminco-operated mine sites).

IM: In terms of automation, digitalisation/digitisation and electrification, where are you looking to take the lead for your mining clients?

MN: They are all interconnected to some extent. Digitisation, for example, really drives the value from deploying automation and electrification. That digital platform is imperative for mines of the future and is where idoba comes into play.

We want to be at the forefront with digitisation and the digital platform; likewise with electrification.

With our Barminco business, we are one of the world leaders in hard-rock underground mining, and electrification just makes sense for underground hard-rock mines – there are so many benefits. What’s also important is the collaboration associated with that. We heard this week from Perenti, ABB and IGO on the IMARC panel discussion that no-one has all of the capabilities to effectively electrify a mine, so choosing partners is crucial to execution.

Under an agreement between mine owner AngloGold Ashanti, Barminco and Sandvik, the Sunrise Dam gold operation in Western Australia began trialing the prototype 65 t Sandvik TH665B on September 14

When it comes to automation, it is an area we are working through. We have established teleremote and remote operating centres in the recent past – operating multiple machines at remote mine sites from Perth, for example – but, at this stage, we are not accelerating these developments at the same pace as electrification and digitisation due to timing really being of the essence for these two.

Saying that, our work with Sandvik and Newtrax on Level 9 collision intervention is related to this, being a building block of automation more broadly as well as a major game changer from the safety perspective. Once we nail that with a digital platform, we will continue to advance automation more broadly. We are closing in on that with Level 9 collision intervention trials expected to take place in the near term.

When we look at idoba and the work we are doing on DiiMOS (Distributed, Intelligent, Integrated Mining Operating System), we are agnostic to the equipment, the mine planning software and the broader mining processes at play. If we are not agnostic, we could end up locking our clients into one route that potentially ends up destroying value. We are also building out a capability where some clients can pick and choose, or take the full suite, from idoba.

The focus is on providing solutions bespoke to the mine’s needs.

IM: How are you balancing your close relationships with the technology vendors and your own internal technology developments through idoba? Who are the most obvious first customers for the idoba platform?

MN: There is always going to be some overlap and crossover, but we come at this with an operator mindset, where technology can augment this. The OEMs come at it from an equipment mindset with associated technologies to bolt on. The combination and partnership of these two approaches makes sense as you have the equipment, technology and operations covered.

There will be areas where we still have some competition but, ultimately, it is limited.

The full value is going to be generated through how we partner and collaborate with all the companies within the value chain. We have a long history of collaborating with Sandvik, for instance, as well as recent history with ABB, and everyone brings something different to the table. Without that combination of capabilities, we are not going to see the industry shift at the rate it needs to.

Our starting point for idoba will be servicing our current customers as we develop new products and support them on their journey. We will see some clients want more of our solutions than others. As we service our current clients with these, we can take what we have learnt to service new clients. The new clients might be mine operators themselves, where we provide digital solutions as a software-as-a-service. This opens up new potential markets to us, which goes to the broader strategy we set in 2019. This recognises the deep domain expertise we have in mining – which has served us extremely well and is not something everyone has. The plan back then was to leverage this and build out the services beyond that current offering; technology being one of those.

As we develop this new technology, we have learnt that we have the ability to offer lower capital intensity solutions that can serve us well throughout the mining cycles.

IM: Looking at decarbonisation and, more specifically, the agreement you have in place with ABB to ‘reduce the risk and uncertainty of electrifying both green and brownfield operations’; could you talk me through what risk mitigation processes you will be using as part of this? How do you tackle the uncertainty associated with making investments in infrastructure, people and technology against a very ‘fluid’ technology backdrop?

MN: There are a couple of areas that need to be front and centre through that journey. The digital integration platform is one of those – the complexity of what we’re solving for these days is far greater than what we were used to. Whether you are putting in a point solution, or a whole mine to electrify, having a digital platform is critical to making the right decisions at the right time.

As the technology evolves, this digital platform is even more integral to reinforcing decision making. If you go straight to the hardware without the digital backbone and the distributed network of energy needed to electrify, you are setup to fail in the long term.

idoba recently announced that its Mine Performance Navigator AI-powered decision-support and analysis tool had been rolled out to a dozen underground Barminco-operated mine sites

The other aspect that needs consideration from a risk mitigation perspective is having the leadership and culture in place to see these projects through. Leaders have to be ready to unlearn and relearn throughout this process.

Not only that you need to try to engineer out risk wherever possible through critical trials, a strong operational methodology and an assessment of the causal factors of what can go wrong and where those points are within the design. This could be through a traditional engineering methodology or technology adoption.

IM: You set up the Denver office a few years ago now. Outside of Hemlo and Red Chris, what does the pipeline of opportunities look like in North America? Does this client base require a different type of offering to what you traditionally have in Australia?

MN: We’re currently about A$100 million ($64 million) of revenue between those two agreements. We are looking for that to grow to A$400-500 million over the next three to four years. We see the pipeline in Canada and the US as significant. We have also installed the former head of AUMS in this business, looking to replicate the success we had in Africa over eight years in North America.

It’s fair to say the contractor model for Barminco is well understood in Australia and Africa; more so than in North America. In North America, they have a contract model that tends to be based on a charge-by-the-hour type of agreements, whereas we are looking to bring a technical approach to all our contracting.

At the same time as looking to grow this business, we are conscious of growing too quickly. Bringing in a new mining methodology takes a lot of change management. We don’t want to go too quick and have a misstep.

IM: What about ongoing M&A? Are there still gaps in the portfolio you are looking to fill?

MN: In terms of our strategy, we have said we will continue to build our portfolio to leverage our core competency in mining and adjacent areas to add value. We ultimately want a complete portfolio of businesses that have adjacencies to our core businesses.

We are still open to further M&A as long as it leverages our core capabilities and makes sense to our investors.

ABB, IGO and Perenti on collaborating for full mine electrification

An industry panel discussion on the potential of electrifying IGO’s Cosmos underground nickel project at IMARC 2023 today highlighted the opportunities, risks and complexities associated with ‘greening’ a brownfield mining project at the moment.

Back in June, Perenti and ABB, in collaboration, were awarded an inaugural contract by IGO to undertake a study for the full underground electrification of the project, in Western Australia.

This study was to see experts from Perenti and ABB work side by side with IGO to provide a pathway for the optimum design of mine electrification at Cosmos. All aspects of electrification were to be considered in the study, including:

  • Mine design optimisation for electric operations;
  • Production and operating philosophy;
  • Fleet selection;
  • Power distribution and electrical infrastructure design;
  • Electrification system and battery management;
  • ESG and safety impact analysis; and
  • Cost modelling of both capital and operating expenditure.

At IMARC today, on the ‘Going All-Electric: Collaborating to Fully Electrify IGO’s Underground Cosmos Nickel Project’ panel discussion, chaired by Emma Jones, Innovation Management Lead, Southern Hemisphere, GHD, all three companies had representatives on stage to flesh out some of these bullet points, with the result being a fascinating discussion on implementing what is still a revolutionary concept.

The Cosmos study is split into three distinct parts with the companies currently half way through the process.

Both Chris Carr, Head of Technical Services at IGO, and Darren Kwok, Head of Mining Electrification and Technology, Perenti, admitted that the task at hand was highly complex.

Carr said the process would be much easier in a greenfield mine, with the potential ventilation and refrigeration cost reductions that would come with introducing electric machines likely to “pay” for the new equipment required.

At the same time, he acknowledged that the networks and communication would need to be improved to effectively run an all-electric mine to allow operators to know what vehicles had what state of charge and deploying these machines in the optimal way.

“This could potentially see whole sites use Wi-Fi or 5G for better data transmission,” he said. “At the same time, we would know where every vehicle is and where every vehicle is going, providing the opportunity for ‘true’ collision avoidance.”

Kwok said there was likely to be a “flow-down effect” when electrifying equipment, which would have an impact on how mines plan, schedule and operate. “We need a holistic view of a mine,” he said, explaining that “just in time” mining would not work in an all-electric operation where energy management is a key concern.

Kwok added: “We also have to link the fleet together with the rest of the operations – that is the secret sauce here.”

Mehrzad Ashnagaran, Global Product Line Manager – Electrification and Composite Plant, ABB, said any mining company looking to fully electrify their mines needed to recognise that they were working with “immature technology” that cannot meet all of their requirements.

“The design of an all-electric mine is different to the vision we originally had,” he said. “This is why we need to break the process down into manageable projects for a phased approach that can allow customers to start decarbonising now.”

This is where the company’s eMine™ approach comes in, providing a roadmap of solutions on the way to longer-term electrification goals.

“In reality, the solution we are offering today may not be the same one we offer companies in five to 10 years’ time,” he added.

There was also an engaging exchange on the risk management associated with embarking on this exercise.

Ashnagaran said, for ABB, the Cosmos study and other all-electric projects the company is working on would see its vendor agnostic and interoperable approach tested and scrutinised.

“The whole eMine philosophy, however, is that no-one can go on such a journey alone; we need to collaborate with partners,” he said.

Kwok said the study allowed the service provider to learn and understand the terms of how electrified mining can practically work.

“We, at Perenti, already understand what ‘good’ looks like [from an operating perspective]…and we also understand what change looks like at a mine site,” he said, adding that the company already has electric machine data to pull into such studies.

Carr said building ‘the electric mine’ is both a risk and an opportunity, with the mining company prepared to financially back most of the expense associated with this as it had, potentially, the most to gain from a successful outcome.

He also added a bit of wider IGO context to reinforce the point.

“At IGO, we invest A$70 million ($44.5 million) a year on exploration, putting drills into the ground,” he said. “Not all of those holes are deemed a success, but they allow us to keep building our knowledge,”

The same is true for this all-electric Cosmos study.

“Regardless of the outcome, we will learn a lot,” he said. “We are driven to be the ‘first to be first’ here; first to be second simply does not work for us.”

ABB ELDS designs world-first solution for major platinum miner

When a consulting engineering company approached ABB about a specific problem that its platinum mining client was experiencing at its smelter facility in the North West Province of South Africa it was an opportunity for the technology provider to showcase its innovation and adaptability in responding to specific customer requirements.

“There was nuisance tripping of the furnace due to an assumed earth fault caused by an unbalanced inrush current on the transformer,” Jan van Zyl, Engineering Manager at ABB, said.

The solution devised was based on using the on-point switch capability of the Switchsync® PWC600. This relay is designed for single-pole operated circuit breakers, controlling each pole to close and/or open at the optimal point on the wave where inrush currents and flux generation is the lowest for the switched load.

It features unprecedented flexibility for switching various loads with diverse configurations and comprehensive monitoring functionality to track circuit breaker behaviour and handling multiple loads connected to the same breaker. For power transformers, PWC600 can estimate the residual fluxes in the core to minimise energisation transients under all switching scenarios. It compensates for variations in environmental factors and drifts in circuit breaker properties.

The solution ultimately resulted in a significant reduction of downtime and production losses for the platinum miner. “The main focus of the client was to increase the efficiency of the furnace by removing all of this nuisance downtime, thereby boosting its profitability by a considerable margin,” van Zyl says.

Fanie Delport, Sales Specialist at ABB, says that this specific solution has now been applied to three different furnace applications for the client. The first (12 kV or 17.5 kV) has already been commissioned, while a second slag cleaning application is being finalised. The third 33 kV solution is just pending the final installation of panels.

“We have provided three different solutions for three different areas of the plant,” Delport explains.

The facility was decommissioned in line with the platinum miner’s furnace rebuild program. While the furnace was being upgraded, it was decided to refurbish the substation as well. In parallel with this program, two substations at Polokwane were also refurbished.

“Obviously, the furnace rebuild had a tight timeframe, and we had to carry out a lot of work during that limited period. We had one service team on-site that were running all three of these installations simultaneously,” Delport says.

Commenting on the technology applied for this solution, Delport says the PWC600 was designed originally for capacitive back switching. Prior to it being upgraded to switch single phase transformers or power transformers, ABB was already using it for this application.

A third-party engineering house was appointed to carry out the initial investigation on the relay and the intended application, whereafter it was integrated success with ABB’s VD4 breakers. Two different solutions were applied, namely a VD4 P standard uniform breaker and a VD4 AF furnace-specific breaker used on the 33 kV application.

“Just to get to where we are now was quite a challenge,” van Zyl says. “This is the first time that this combination of products has been used for this particular solution.” Various global ABB Product Managers were also involved. “We shared our design and information so ABB globally could understand what we were doing and how we were applying it.”

Apart from resolving the issue of nuisance tripping, another major benefit is increased life expectancy of the equipment.

Delport says: “This is a solution that 100% suits the customer’s specific requirements. It is a real testament to the flexibility of ABB in being able to assist our customers. There was a lot of upfront investigation and alignment with the customer, ABB and the EPC contractor that worked on the project.”

“The plant personnel are getting used to the solution and are extremely happy with its performance to date. They are relying quite heavily on the functionality it is providing.”

The solution is now even being rolled out generally at another industrial company in Zimbabwe looking for the same level of technical capability. “A lot of furnace operations are now being built around what we have achieved here,” says Delport.

Van Zyl concludes: “We not only have to keep up with technology but also with our customers’ requirements, who are keen to see what kinds of solutions we can out on the table for them. While a consulting engineer, various subcontractors and the global ABB engineering team were all involved, at the end of the say it was ABB ELDS in South Africa that pulled all this together successfully.”

ABB on extending mine production and asset life with ventilation on demand

Ventilation on demand not only reduces energy usage and costs in underground mines, it can help extend production and the lifespan of existing infrastructure as part of a suite of electrification and automation solutions, say Marcos Hillal, Global Product Line Manager, Automation, ABB, and Jan Nyqvist, Global Product Manager, Automation Underground Mining, ABB.

By now, many readers will be familiar with ventilation on demand (VOD); what it is, what it does and the multiple benefits it offers mining companies in terms of efficiency, costs, safety and compliance.

Ventilation systems are the largest consumers of power in underground mines, accounting for 50% of energy use. VOD systems linked to the geolocation of people and vehicles intelligently adjust air flow to maximise air quality and minimise consumption. Supplying air into the mine (and expelling exhaust gases) only where and when it is needed can reduce overall energy usage by up to half. It also reduce cooling or heating needs of the circulated air.

Operators of subterranean mines must also comply with increasingly stringent safety regulations related to air quality, ensuring personnel are not exposed to excessive levels of CO, CO2, dust, humidity, toxic blasting and strata gases, and, chiefly, NO, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions from diesel vehicles.

VOD not only supplies fresh air to underground mines, as well as removing spent or contaminated air, it automatically regulates air temperature to keep workers comfortable and safe, not to mention removing the need for them to enter potentially hazardous environments to manually operate fans.

Being smart about ventilation

So far, so good. However, what is not so well understood is how VOD can used to expand production and extend the life of ventilation infrastructure. With energy prices high and declining ore grades forcing operators into more remote, inhospitable locations in search of elusive reserves, technology solutions that can prolong the life of existing mine assets can offer an invaluable competitive edge.

So, how can VOD be applied to expand mine production? The answer is by delivering air even more smartly and efficiently based on actual operational parameters. ABB’s open platform, System 800xA, for example, utilises real-time data transmitted from sensors around the mine on key parameters such as the use of trucks, location of personnel, and gas, flow and temperature information.

ABB’s VOD solution, ABB Ability™ Ventilation Optimizer (VO), uses this data to operate the fans according to actual demands calculated from production schedules, as well as equipment status and location, reducing the amount of air that fans supply to certain sections of the mine by as much as 20-40%.

These savings can then be used to supply air to other sectors where they are needed more, whether that be new, hitherto unexplored places or existing areas where the operator wishes to maintain or increase production. What is more, VOD can do this by using existing infrastructure – ventilation shafts, for instance – which equates to significant savings on capex and manpower for customers.

Take automation to the next level

ABB Ability VO is designed to be integrated into each operation depending on that project’s specific characteristics and existing level of automation – how advanced the existing positioning system or communications backbone is, say – and comprises three separate levels.

Level one is the standard package whereby we connect ABB Ability VO to the ventilation equipment so that the customer can supervise and control the fans and air regulators remotely. They have the option to add further automation, meaning that the system can automatically adjust air flow based on the mine’s time and production schedule and, also, in the event of a fire or blasting in the mine.

In level two, positioning tools such as tracking on demand are integrated in the mine systems to pinpoint the exact location of vehicles, machines and people based on the production schedule, so the ventilation system throughout the mine can be automatically adjusted based on air flow levels.

Finally, level three is full automation or ‘closed loop’ ventilation. An algorithm computes the optimal operational set points on all the fans and regulators depending on demand and sensors continuously feedback data, allowing the system to optimise air flows and air quality, and minimise energy usage.

By introducing three implementation stages, VO system also gives customers time to adapt their processes and people so that the system can be fully integrated for maximum results.

A suite of scalable solutions

VO should not be viewed as an isolated solution, however; instead, it forms part of a portfolio of scalable, interconnected digital and automation technologies that together give operators complete control of a multitude of functions, from dewatering the mine to material tracking.

Future innovations include online monitoring to ensure the ventilation system is working in the most optimal way. In terms of scalability, since VO is based on our market leader 800xA platform, other advanced solutions can be integrated, such as ABB’s asset management and power monitoring systems, so mines can benefit from the company’s full range of ABB’s dedicated solutions for underground mine operations, all under one single integrated platform.

In this way, VOD forms part of a package of digital, automation and electrification technologies that, when deployed together, can transform underground mines into safer, more efficient environments.