Tag Archives: Agnico Eagle

BluVein’s underground dynamic charging developments accelerating

BluVein, after officially receiving agreement and project approval from all project partners, has initiated the third phase of technology development and testing of its underground mine electrification solution, BluVein1, it says.

BluVein is a joint venture between Australia-based mining innovator Olitek and Sweden-based electric highways developer Evias. The company has devised a patented slotted (electric) rail system, which uses an enclosed electrified e-rail system mounted above or beside the mining vehicle together with the BluVein hammer that connects the electric vehicle to the rail.

The system, which is OEM agnostic, provides power for driving the vehicle, typically a mine truck, and charging the truck’s batteries while the truck is hauling load up the ramp and out of an underground mine.

The underground-focused development under BluVein is coined BluVein1, with the open-pit development looking to offer dynamic charging for ultra-class haul trucks called BluVein XL. This latter project was recently named among eight winning ideas selected to progress to the next stage of the Charge On Innovation Challenge.

The purpose of the third phase of the BluVein1 technology development is to:

  • Conduct a full-scale refined hammer (collector) and arm design and testing with a second prototype;
  • Execute early integration works with mining partners and OEMs;
  • Provide full-power dynamic energy transfer for a vehicle demonstration on a local test site; and
  • Confirm a local test site for development.

IM understands that the company is close to sealing an agreement for a local test site where it will carry out trials of the dynamic charging technology.

James Oliver, CEO, BluVein, said the third phase represents an essential final pre-pilot stage of BluVein1.

“It excites me that the BluVein solution is becoming an industry reality,” he said. “The faster BluVein1 is ready for deployment, the better for our partners and the mining industry globally.”

BluVein recently entered a Memorandum of Understanding with Epiroc, where the Sweden-based OEM will provide the first ever diesel-to-battery-converted Minetruck MT42 underground truck for pilot testing on the slotted electric rail system from BluVein.

“This MoU also ensures that we are designing and developing the system into a real-world BEV for full-scale live testing and demonstration on a pilot site in 2023,” BluVein says.

In addition to Epiroc, IM understands BluVein is working with Sandvik, MacLean, Volvo and Scania, among others, on preparing demonstration vehicles for the BluVein1 pilot site.

The BluVein1 consortium welcomed South32 into the project in May, joining Northern Star Resources, Newcrest Mining, Vale, Glencore, Agnico Eagle, AngloGold Ashanti and BHP, all of which have signed a consortium project agreement that aims to enable final system development and the construction of a technology demonstration pilot site in Australia.

The project is being conducted through the consortium model by Rethink Mining, powered by the Canada Mining Innovation Council (CMIC), which CMIC says is a unique collaboration structure that fast-tracks mining innovation technologies such as BluVein and CAHM (Conjugate Anvil Hammer Mill).

Carl Weatherell, Executive Director and CEO, CMIC/President Rethink Mining Ventures, said: “With the urgent need to decarbonise, CMIC’s approach to co-develop and co-deploy new platform technologies is the way to accelerate to net zero greenhouse gases. The BluVein consortium is a perfect example of how to accelerate co-development of new technology platforms.”

Oliver concluded: “The BluVein1 consortium is a great reminder that many hands make light work, and through this open collaboration with OEMs and mining companies, we’re moving faster together towards a cleaner, greener future for mining.”

Ventilation on demand solutions continue to find favour, Howden says

Ventilation solutions provider, Howden, says it is continuing to register strong demand for ventilation on demand (VoD) solutions from the mining sector, on continual cost control measures, improved safety requirements and the evolving need to chart emissions underground.

The company recently added Cooling on Demand (CoD) functionality to its Ventsim CONTROL software, which reflects this market demand.

Ventsim CONTROL uses intelligent software connected to Howden or third-party hardware devices to remotely monitor, control and automate airflow heating and cooling to deliver safer, more productive, and lower cost ventilation for mines, the company says. The Ventsim CONTROL solution also offers a 3D modelling capability within the software, which helps users to better predict and control air flows based on what is evidenced in the simulation.

In the case of CoD, this means users can monitor temperatures at deeper levels and push back cooled air more efficiently.

Upon release of the solution last year, Howden said the CoD update aligned with trends it was seeing in the industry towards deeper mines requiring cooled air to achieve higher standards of health and safety for workers.

“Currently, many mines put a cooling plant at surface level and cool air regardless of its destination or where it’s needed as there aren’t intelligent controls to pinpoint the localised need, which is often at deeper levels,” Howden said. “These new controls ensure the cool air goes where it is required, saving operating and energy costs.”

The company is currently in the process of lining up a trial of this new functionality with an existing Ventsim CONTROL customer.

Howden has also won several Ventsim CONTROL contracts across the globe, including in South America, Asia Pacific and Europe, of late.

Jose Pinedo, Ventsim Sales Manager, said most of these contracts reflected the mining sector’s ongoing focus on cost control, as well as those ‘net-zero’ commitments.

“All the different sites had a payback target in mind, but some of the sites also wanted to know what the implementation of the system would do for their CO2 emissions,” he told IM.

Within Ventsim CONTROL, there is an in-built energy reporting tool to show clients their ongoing energy consumption. Following customer requests and in-house development work, Howden has been able to adapt this to generate a rolling CO2 emission indicator that clients can monitor.

“The reduction in energy correlates directly to a reduction in tonnes of CO2 emissions,” Pinedo said of the reporting tool. “This means, in addition to what the system will provide in operational terms and operating costs, it can also outline to clients how it will assist them in meeting environmental goals.”

Leo Botha, Ventsim General Manager, said the ability for Ventsim CONTROL to reduce the energy consumption associated with ventilation and the direct correlation between these savings and CO2 emission reductions is allowing Howden to assist miners in hitting their environmental goals.

“Up front, when you are having the discussion and talking to mines about energy savings, you are also directly talking about CO2 emission reductions and how this can be used in ESG reporting,” he said.

This increased carbon emission visibility, plus expectations of stricter regulations in key mining jurisdictions, is likely to lead more clients towards the use of VoD solutions, according to Pinedo.

“For instance, with Australia adopting stricter diesel particulate emissions, the industry is facing two options in terms of keeping up with legislation: either you retrofit your fleet so you’re running more efficient and ‘cleaner’ diesel engines (US Tier 4 F/EU Stage V) or electric equipment, or you increase your ventilation flow to meet the new emission requirements,” he said.

Even if a mine chose Option A – retrofitting their fleet – the ventilation flow requirements may still need to increase, Pinedo explained.

“Without a VoD system, you must have a ventilation system set up based on the required air for x number of vehicles and personnel, regardless of if they are operating at all times,” he said.

A VoD system, however, allows mines to push air only to where it is needed based on the vehicles, personnel and infrastructure in place and operating at that given time.

With more mixed fleets of mobile mining equipment expected in the future made up of battery-electric, hybrids and diesel-powered equipment, the benefits of a VoD system able to tap into existing infrastructure for telematics and positioning will be highlighted further, enabling mines to ventilate based on the type of engine/battery the machine is powered by and if there is an operator in the cab.

“What we’re offering through Ventsim CONTROL is to use all these existing tools and optimise everything to comply with where legislation is heading and the evolution of ‘net zero’ mining,” Pinedo said.

Agnico Eagle’s Fosterville mine is looking to do exactly this in what Howden says is an Australian mining first.

The operation, having already installed Ventsim CONTROL Level 3 (scheduling and flow control), is progressing to an installation that will see the mine’s tracking system integrated to Ventsim CONTROL Level 4. This will provide real-time feedback on the vehicle locations in Ventsim CONTROL to adjust the ventilation automatically based on demand.

Ventsim CONTROL software also continues to gain appreciation from customers for its safety capabilities.

“One of the features we have in Ventsim CONTROL is related to fire simulation,” Pinedo said. “We also have this in our Ventsim DESIGN software with scenario-based simulations, but the facility on Ventsim CONTROL connects to all your communication infrastructure underground to take an instant snapshot of the status as a fire is happening.

“From a planning point of view, this allows operations to have a much quicker response time based on an accurate, real-time picture of what is going on underground. This provides another tool to allow them to take the right decisions when and if needed.”

Howden, Agnico Eagle Fosterville to complete Oz mining first with Ventsim CONTROL VoD installation

Howden says it has secured a contract for the upgrade of an existent licence of its Ventsim™ CONTROL ventilation system at the Agnico Eagle-owned Fosterville Gold Mine in Victoria, Australia.

The initial installation of Ventsim CONTROL Level 3 (scheduling and flow control) has already greatly improved the operability and flexibility of the ventilation system, as well as providing efficiency to pay for itself in just six months, Howden claims. Now, in a first for the Australian mining sector, the mine tracking system will be integrated to Ventsim CONTROL Level 4. This will provide real-time feedback on the vehicle locations in Ventsim CONTROL to adjust the ventilation automatically based on demand.

Camille Levy, President of the Asia Pacific Region at Howden, said: “This next stage contract for Fosterville mine is significant for Australian mining and the Howden Ventsim team as it represents the first Ventsim CONTROL Level 4 system that has been commissioned remotely as well as a first in APAC. The success of the operation and the level of power it saves serve as a test case for further installations of Ventsim CONTROL globally. The fact that the system paid for itself within six months is impressive.

“As the system allows the mine to optimise its ventilation based on fully remote vehicle and personnel monitoring, it directly contributes to Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction targets – something of which the Howden team is very proud.”

Level 4 – Ventilation on Demand (VoD) is the process of adjusting mine air flow in real time based on vehicle and personnel position. Ventsim CONTROL provides an ‘on demand’ solution for mine ventilation. Software connected to hardware devices remotely monitors, controls and automates airflow. The technology provides safer ventilation that is more productive and cost effective, according to the company. The Ventsim CONTROL solution also offers a 3D modelling capability within the software, which helps users to better predict and control air flows based on what is evidenced in the simulation.

Howden recently announced its target to be carbon net zero by 2035 through the purchase of renewable energy and carbon-free energy; efficiency gains from energy conservation measures; and by renewable energy projects at its manufacturing facilities. The largest impact the business will have on global sustainability will be through its partnership with customers to supply equipment that will make a major impact on their carbon emissions and sustainability, it says.

In 2020, Fosterville produced a record 640,467 oz of gold at an average grade of 33.9 g/t Au and average recoveries of 98.9%.

BluVein XL open-pit mining dynamic charging solution gains momentum

Much of the buzz around BluVein to this point has focused on its dynamic charging infrastructure for underground mining and quarries, but the company has also been gaining momentum around a surface mining project – as the most recent Charge On™ Innovation Challenge announcement indicates.

The company and its BluVein XL solution were today named among eight winning ideas selected to progress to the next stage of the competition, which is seeking to solve one of the biggest challenges in decarbonising mining operations: the electrification of haul trucks.

Within this context, BluVeinXL, the company’s new product line, will be capable of dynamically feeding power to heavy-duty mining fleets with up to 250-t payloads.

The technology leverages much of what was developed for BluVein1: a patented slotted (electric) rail system using an enclosed electrified e-rail system mounted above or beside the mining vehicle together with the BluVein hammer that connects the electric vehicle to the rail. This system provides power for driving the vehicle, typically a mine truck, and charging the truck’s batteries while the truck is hauling load up the ramp and out of an underground mine.

To this point, funding support for the BluVein1 project – being developed for vehicles up to 60-t payload and powered by Rethink Mining (Powered by CMIC) – is being provided by Vale, Glencore, Oz Minerals, Northern Star, South32, BHP, Agnico Eagle, AngloGold Ashanti and Newcrest Mining.

BluVeinXL, meanwhile, has seen the company engage with more than 10 “global mining company leaders” in progressing to a pilot demonstration of the technology. While the company plans to announce the names of these supporting mining companies shortly, it says they all see the need for an industry-standardised, OEM-agnostic, safe dynamic power feed infrastructure to suit mixed OEM open-pit fleets.

The key benefits of the dynamic power feeding solution BluVein is pushing are smaller on-board battery packs, faster vehicle haulage speeds up ramp, grid load balancing and maximum fleet availability.

“Our mining company supporters have provided feedback to us on the benefits they see with BluVeinXL over traditional overhead exposed wire catenary systems offered by other OEMs,” the company said. These are:

  • Near to the ground installation enabled by our patented Ingress Protected safe slotted rail technology;
  • Safer and faster installation;
  • Easy relocation as required to suit open-pit ramp movements over time;
  • Requires no heavy civil foundation requirements;
  • Alleviates the requirements on haul road conditions;
  • Offers purchasing flexibility on electric vehicles through the adoption of an industry-standard dynamic power feed infrastructure; and
  • Safer mine sites with no high voltage exposed overhead wires.

The company concluded: “Together with our mining company supporters, BluVein looks forward to working with all OEMs as we progress towards our planned pilot demonstration at a yet to be announced location.”

Epiroc, Orica secure Newcrest Cadia trial for commercial Avatel charging system

Newcrest Mining is set to trial Avatel, a fully mechanised development charging system developed by Epiroc and Orica, at the Cadia operation in New South Wales, Australia, later this year, according to Tony Sprague.

Sprague, Group Manager, Directional Studies and Innovation at Newcrest, said this will be the first commercial trial of the Orica and Epiroc co-developed system anywhere in the world.

Orica and Epiroc, back in 2019, announced joint work on a semi-automated explosives delivery system, enabling safer and more productive blasting operations in underground mines. The companies said the partnership would “bring together the deep expertise and experience of two global industry leaders” to address the growing demand from customers mining in increasingly more hazardous and challenging underground operations.

Avatel includes Orica’s HandiLoader™ emulsion process body, Epiroc’s M2C carrier and RCS 5 control system, working with Orica’s LOADPlus™ control system and WebGen™ 200 wireless initiation system and automated WebGen magazine. Epiroc has also incorporated an onboard dewatering and lifter debris clearing system, while Orica’s ShotPlus™ intelligent blast design software is also being leveraged. These components help eliminate the need for traditional tie-ins and other physical wired connections from the charging cycle.

Orica has stated previously: “This first-of-its-kind innovation enables a single operator to prepare and charge explosives from the safety of an enclosed cabin, several metres from the face and out of harm’s way. Combined with Orica’s LOADPlus smart control system and Subtek Control bulk emulsion, customers can enjoy complete and repeatable control over blast energy from design through to execution.”

Trials with a prototype machine have been taking place at Epiroc’s Kvantorp Underground Test Mine in Sweden under controlled underground conditions. IM understands there are also plans for a machine to head to Agnico Eagle’s Kittilä Mine in Finland to complete extended underground trials in the production environment.

Newcrest’s Cadia operation is set to be the first site to trial the complete commercial offering at Cadia, commencing in the second half of 2022, according to Sprague.

Olitek on a mechanisation mission to provide mine safety step change

IM’s Teams call with Olitek Mining Robotics’ (OMR) James Oliver and Newcrest’s Tony Sprague starts like many other meetings, with a safety share.

Centred on the experiences of a drill and blast expert, Barry Crowdey, owner of Blastcon Australia Pty Ltd, this ‘share’ goes some way to highlighting mining’s hidden safety problem.

“So often we hear about safety shares that are almost instantaneous: rock failures, rock bursts, collapses, vehicle incidents, energy releases, ground collapses, or somebody getting pinned against something,” Oliver, OMR’s Managing Director, told IM. “You have this instantaneous safety hazard you are always trying to protect against.

“The ones that don’t get reported – and are possibly creating a big stigma in the mining industry – is the ongoing wear and tear on the human body.”

Crowdey, a blasting consultant, offers direct experience here.

As a charge-up operator, he was recently side-lined for six months after major shoulder surgery. A whole host of repetitive tasks – such as push and pull activities during blasthole preparation and charge-up – conducted over the last two decades had proven too much for his body.

“A charge-up operator is a highly sought-after job,” Oliver said. “The perception is: you have to be tough to do it well. Barry never complained about this – which probably speaks to awareness around men’s mental health to a degree – and would often use his time off to recover from body soreness likely caused by these repetitive tasks.”

The injuries that don’t get reported – and are possibly creating a big stigma in the mining industry – are the ongoing wear and tear on the human body, James Oliver says

He added: “After stories like this, it is no wonder the mining industry has a stigma for wearing people out and, essentially, taking away more than it is providing – personally and from an environmental perspective.”

Sprague, Group Manager, Directional Studies and Innovation at Newcrest, has experienced some of the strains placed on the human body by carrying out similar manual tasks on mine sites, reflecting on a three-month stint on a blast crew in Kalgoorlie at the height of summer.

He, Newcrest and the wider mining industry are responding to these issues.

For the past three-or-so-years, Newcrest has been collaborating closely with OMR to develop a range of smart, safe and robust robotic systems enabling open-pit mechanised charge-up, blasthole measurement and geological blasthole sampling, as well as underground remote charge-up for tunnel development.

This suite of solutions is tackling a major industry problem that most mining OEMs focused on automating load and haul, or drilling operations, are not looking at.

OMR is addressing this market gap.

“Apart from a small number of mines and in specific applications, the mining industry is generally not ready for automation,” Oliver said. “Effective mechanisation of the hazardous mining tasks is what is needed first. This is where design thinking is crucial – process review, deletion, modification and optimisation to enable robotic mechanisation.”

Sprague added: “Most processes in mining have been designed for fingers and have taken hundreds of years to be optimised around them. We now need to mechanise these processes before we can start thinking about automating.”

The metric for momentum

The injuries that OMR and many others are looking to alleviate with mechanisation of these manual processes are not generally captured by lost time injuries or other similar safety metrics.

Most processes in mining have been designed for fingers and have taken hundreds of years to be optimised around them, Tony Sprague says

This has historically made it hard to invest in such technology – the numbers don’t typically show up in the WH&S reporting.

Yet, the risk of not confronting this issue is starting to have more sway over operational decision making at the same time as technology is reaching a suitably mature level.

“The image of Barry at home recovering from surgery to address career-induced injuries is not the image the mining industry wants to portray any longer,” Oliver said.

And with mining companies competing with other industries for skilled talent, they can no longer afford to put such stress on their people.

The idea, as OMR says, is to maintain process performance with well executed mechanised equipment. “Strain the machinery, not the people” is one of the company’s mottos.

And it will only take a few more frontrunners adopting such technology to affect real change across the industry, according to Oliver.

“Socially, people will speak,” he said. “If the mine down the road has someone in the comfort of an air-conditioned cabin carrying out remote charge-up operations, that news will soon spread. Operators will no longer tolerate being exposed to rock bursts, injuries and the like, and will leave positions where they are put in such a situation.”

It is such momentum that has, arguably, led to the industry backing innovators like OMR.

One of the company’s products, the Remote Charge-up Unit (RCU), is now the subject of a major collaborative project managed by the Canada Mining Innovation Council (CMIC).

Seeking to alleviate the issues associated with loading and priming explosives at the development face, the RCU’s core enabling technology is OMR’s innovative “Trigger Assembly” (pictured below), which enables lower cost conventional detonators to be mechanically installed safely and efficiently. This system is fitted to a modified Volvo wheeled excavator, with its hydraulic robotic boom, and is the key to moving people away from harm’s way in the underground mining setting.

The project is being delivered in a series of development phases through to Technology Readiness Level 7. This functioning prototype machine will enable personnel to move at least 4-5 m away from the underground development face and carry out efficient and effective face charge-up.

This project is moving into the procurement and build phase of the first prototype, according to Oliver.

Newcrest is also one of the major miners steering developments of the RCU, alongside Agnico Eagle, Glencore and Vale within the CMIC collaboration.

While Sprague says his company has injected early seed funding to get some of the OMR work moving, he thinks industry collaboration is key to bringing the products to market.

“What got me into wanting to do these sorts of projects is the belief that the mining industry can be so much better than it currently is,” Sprague said. “We can change this faster by finding smart, agile companies like Olitek and support them with groups of like-minded mining companies to accelerate projects. We are showing that when the industry works together, we can make solutions to our problems appear.

He added: “I’m a true believer that momentum breeds momentum. In these types of projects, I use my finite seed funds and stretch them as far as possible. I might not know how to get to the end of a project in terms of funding it, but if I can get it to a point where we have some TRL3 designs and lab testing to prove the concept, you can go out to the market and find ways to progress up through the technology readiness levels.

“It is about chipping away and progressing up through the TRLs as opposed to asking the industry to blindly invest in R&D.”

Moving up a level

And this is where most of OMR’s technology suite is at: TR5 to TRL6 level.

Oliver explained: “If we look at the RCU unit at the moment, we have a robotic excavator platform that was developed on a sister project. This modular approach we are taking has allowed us to go into new applications seamlessly because of the base technology building blocks we have created.”

Alongside the RCU, the company is working on an “Anako” suite of products, namely: Anako Sense, Anako Sample and Anako Prime.

Anako Sense is a borehole probe sensing machine allowing operators to remotely measure the depth, temperature and presence of water within blastholes. It has been designed to mechanise this quality monitoring process in the open pit, removing operators from danger and putting them in the safety of an air-conditioned cabin. The Mark 2 machine – which is now commercially available – provides faster than manual cycle times, while eliminating fatigue, repetitive strain injury and exposure risks, according to OMR. It also provides real-time data capture of borehole quality measurements.

Anako Sample provides a mechanised sampling process to collect blasthole data. It, again, removes personnel from harm’s way, while providing fast cycle times and repeatable sample quality. It also provides automated data recording. This technology is currently going through Factory Acceptance Testing, with plans to deploy to a customer site shortly.

Anako Prime – for mechanised open-pit charge-up – provides all the benefits of the other Anako products while being compatible with multiple types of explosives. It is leveraging the developments made in the underground environment with the RCU and has a Mark 1 machine completed. Progress is also being made on a Mark 2 version to achieve high productivity, fully mechanised priming and bulk emulsion placement, according to Oliver.

While more products could be added to the OMR portfolio in time, the company is focused on leveraging the proven Volvo wheeled and excavator platform that can scale up from 6 t to 60 t capacities and can move quickly around the mine.

Given the strong collaborative relationship OMR has fostered with Volvo over the years, there is also potential down the line for the Volvo network to support these machines across the globe, providing the machine uptime safety net that many remote mine operators would like if they were to take up the OMR technology option.

The inspiration

Crowdey’s role in this story does not end with the safety share. He is also now training operators on this new equipment, providing a real-life example of the reason to adopt such mechanisation as well as how easy that adoption process is.

Sprague said: “You might think you need to be an expert excavator operator to work these technologies, yet the smart controls, vision and positioning systems for hole location, for instance, means the machines do the hard work for you.”

Oliver added to this: “We say a trainable operator can be sat in that machine and, after a matter of days, be as efficient as a manual operator.”

There is an impending deadline for mine operators to confront these issues, with mechanisation of the most dangerous processes the first port of call, according to Oliver.

“The only way to stop this mining impact is about enabling machinery to do the work and going through a mechanisation process to ensure the Barrys of this world don’t have to conduct these manual processes,” he said. “A good example of that over the last decade is the installation of hose feeders on emulsion pumping units in blasthole charging. That represents a ‘step’ in the right direction, but what we need now is ‘step change’.

“Eventually there will be places in a mine that people simply cannot go, so we better start perfecting mechanisation now as automation will be needed one day. It might be 10 years from now, but, if we’re not mechanised by that point, we will simply not be able to mine these more challenging ore deposits.”

Evaluate ore sorting options at prefeasibility study stage, TOMRA’s Rutledge says

TOMRA Mining is making a case for its sensor-based ore sorting solutions to be evaluated earlier in the mining project evaluation phase, with Jordan Rutledge, Area Sales Manager, arguing that consideration of its use at the very beginning of flowsheet discussions can influence up- and down-stream equipment selection.

The company’s sensor-based ore sorting systems have spread across the mining sector, migrating from industrial minerals and diamond operations to base and precious metals.

Speaking at a sensor-based sorting seminar in Toronto, Canada, held late last month, Rutledge (pictured) said the use of the technology needed to be considered early in the mine development scope in order to leverage the most benefit for the operation.

“Sensor-based sorting should be considered in the flowsheet from the beginning and evaluated in prefeasibility studies to see if it is suitable for the project and will add value to the plant,” she said.

“In many cases, sorting works really well and, as we continue to go towards a green economy, the use of our resources is vitally important. In order to make the best use of them, sorting plays a critical role.”

Rutledge, an event organiser and presenter, joined 40 participants from across Canada at the seminar, which included representatives from miners such as Agnico Eagle, Capstone Mining and Cheetah Resources; from laboratories such as testing and certification company SGS and the Saskatchewan Research Council ; from engineering companies such as DRA Global, Primero, CIMA and Halyard; and students from the University of Toronto.

“The event highlighted the important role of sensor-based sorting technologies in green mining and their potential to unlock significant value in mining projects, as well as the possibilities of digitalisation for supporting customers and managing connected equipment,” TOMRA said.

MacLean ships 500th 900 Series scissor bolter to Agnico’s Goldex mine

The MacLean 900 Series scissor bolter design turned 30 years old in 2021 and the manufacturer has recently shipped out production unit #500 to a long-standing customer – Agnico Eagle’s Goldex mine in Val d’Or, Quebec.

The first commercialised 900 Series unit was introduced in the early 1990s in Ontario. Three decades later, the safety, versatility, productivity and quality of installation this mining vehicle provides has helped change the way ground support installation is conducted in hard-rock mines across Canada, MacLean says.

“This manufacturing milestone, representing the collective efforts of so many people at the company over the years, is something that I’m proud to celebrate and deeply grateful for,” MacLean President, Kevin MacLean, says. “It also underscores the importance of long-standing customer relationships, so it’s fitting that the 500th unit is going to Agnico Eagle in the Abitibi, where the MacLean mining story started and where the company’s future will be written in support of Agnico Eagle operations in Quebec, Nunavut and Mexico.”

Dominic Caron – Agnico Eagle’s Strategic Procurement Superintendent, added: “At Agnico Eagle, we are very pleased to be a part of Maclean’s success and celebrate with them this important milestone. We have had a long-lasting business relationship with Maclean and, throughout our operations, our people greatly appreciate the products and support they provide. We hope to continue building on this relationship in the future.”

While a ceremony will be held underground at the mine later this month, to mark the milestone, MacLean says it is also lining up releases about its next generation bolter, which will include leading-edge robotics and remote control.

Steve Denomme, Product Line Manager for Bolting, explained: “If you want to talk paradigm change, this is it. The next 30 years of influence could be even greater that than the first 30, so I’m honoured to be part of the MacLean team working in close engagement with our customer base to transform bolting ideas into working solutions for the mines of the 21st century. We’re using advanced vehicle technologies to their greatest benefit in the underground environment, always in the name of safety and productivity.”

VTT, Nokia, Sandvik on board with 5G-powered underground mining research project

VTT, Nokia and Sandvik, recognising the potential of faster network coverage for unlocking efficiencies in mining for improved productivity, safety, environmental sustainability and global competitiveness, are to collaborate in a 5G-powered research project on next generation underground mining technology.

These benefits will be realised through the introduction of next generation mining technology, including autonomous, connected machinery, digital automation and advanced analytics for real-time situational awareness and control, to enable safety, productivity and sustainability improvements in mining operations.

Next Generation Mining (NGMining ), is, the partners say, a new project, funded by Business Finland, bringing together industrial 5G private networks, edge computing and artificial intelligence (AI) technology-based solutions to enable digital transformation in mining.

The goal of the NGMining project is to build proof of concept experimental systems to evaluate integrated connectivity solutions to be tested in harsh underground mining environments. The objectives pertaining to the 5G network infrastructure cover spectrum usage in the underground mining environment, 5G modems integrated in relevant machinery and user equipment, and edge computing. Identified challenges include: understanding signal behaviour in underground environments, harsh environments for ­“HW”, and network design requirements to ensure underground connectivity with respect to bandwidth, frequency range, latency, reliability and scalability.

By engaging with key industry players in the mining segment, the intention is to drive joint experiments for mining digitalisation. The target is to develop a mine-compliant connectivity infrastructure, with integrated solutions that incorporate safety and tracking technologies and AI enablers, for safe and efficient operation of autonomous connected working machines in underground mines.

Project phases include use case definition for autonomous machinery in mining, solution evaluation via testing platforms with 4G/5G wireless capabilities, selection of most value-added results for development and commercialisation, and pilot implementations in operational customer mines.

Finland’s unique industry ecosystem enables creation and piloting of technologies, solutions and business models, and the partnership will continue to grow as it takes on new challenges and additional partners, both domestic and international, according to VTT.

VTT is coordinating the joint R&D project with Nokia and Sandvik as the leading industry experts.

Sauli Eloranta, Vice President, Safe and Connected Society, VTT, said that the organisation would support all project partners by coordinating the project.

In its research, VTT is applying and further strengthening the competences related to telecommunication technology, situational awareness, sensor technologies, edge computing and AI on new application areas in a mining context, Eloranta added.

Jarkko Pellikka, Director, Nokia Unlocking Industrial 5G program, said: “Collaboration across the ecosystem is essential for developing winning technology solutions that will meet productivity and sustainability targets and capture global market share in the growing mining business.”

Miika Kaski, Commercialisation and Networks Lead at Sandvik, said the OEM was conducting research on 5G connectivity use cases in the mining environment and the NGMining consortium would help facilitate this with its network partners.

The NGMining project is also collaborating with the Sustainable Industries X initiative, as the results on autonomous connected working machines can also be exploited in other industries.

The two- year NGMining project kicked off in May 2021, and also includes input from the University of Oulu as a research partner, as well as company partners Epec, SATEL, Huld, Terrasolid, Outsight, Etteplan, Noptel, Unikie, Iiwari, Millisecond and Wizense ja Indagon. The project advisory board includes representatives from Outokumpu and Agnico Eagle, Telia 5G Business, Kalmar and Ponsse.

Vale, Glencore, Newcrest and others join BluVein’s next gen trolley charging project

Seven 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 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™ 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).