Tag Archives: Australia

Byrnecut and Sandvik collaborate on new MAKO ground engaging tool

Sandvik, with the help of Australia-based mining contractor, Byrnecut, has developed a new and improved Ground Engaging Tool (GET) that, the OEM says, reduces downtime and cost-per-tonne mined.

Over a four-year period, Byrnecut has been instrumental in the development of this new system, MAKO™.

In underground mining, wear and tear is unavoidable, and nowhere is it sharper than for the buckets and the shrouds fitted to loaders.

In the most abrasive conditions, the shrouds can wear out in just a few hundred hours of work. Replacing them – especially when they are welded on – can take multiple shifts: valuable hours where the machine is out of action and productivity dented.

To speed up this process, in 2001, Sandvik introduced its Shark™ range of Blue Pointer™ ground engaging tools (GET) – becoming the first retensionable shroud system for the underground market. Blue Pointer can be summarised as shrouds using mechanical fixings that are significantly faster to replace, Sandvik says.

Even though Sandvik says the system was the market leader in underground mining, it still looked to improve upon the Blue Pointer.

With that in mind, in 2018, Sandvik set about developing a replacement, MAKO, collaborating with internationally renowned specialist mining contractor, Byrnecut.

MAKO continues the shark theme – with a Mako being a shortfin predator – and brings with it several advantages: an innovative patented locking mechanism, hammerless removal system, cast corners improvement (patented) and additional wear indicator, to mention a few.

By far the biggest improvement in terms of reducing downtime and cost-per-tonne mined can be found in the MAKO corner shrouds. Normally, corners – which have a much harder life – tend to wear out and need changing at the mid-life point, compared with the rest of the shrouds. In extreme conditions an additional two ‘half corners’ can be needed for every set of normal shrouds. But thanks to improved material and design, with MAKO there is no need for part-life replacement corners, according to Sandvik.

These improvements have been put to the test in the field, with Byrnecut instrumental in putting prototypes through their paces. The contractor trialled the concept at one of its most abrasive sites – the Capricorn copper mine near Mount Isa in Queensland, Australia.

“Sandvik came along with a team of engineers and said: ‘Right, are you willing to help us develop MAKO?”, Gary Boswell, Byrnecut’s Chief Maintenance Supervisor at the mine, said. “So, we got on board and had a good working relationship with Sandvik. Right from the start we were looking for the same outcome – to lower total-cost-of-ownership and achieve a 1:1 [corner:shroud] ratio, so that we only changed corners when we changed all the other shrouds.”

The Capricorn mine has five Sandvik loaders (LH621s) fitted with 10.7 cu.m buckets. Boswell expects to get 7,500 hours out of a bucket and, because of the aggressive nature of the rock, replaces the GET every 500-550 hours, on average. That is roughly 14 sets of MAKO per bucket life. So, making them last longer and easier to change in one go can make a significant difference to downtime and cost over that lifetime.

MAKO has not achieved its durability performance by simply adding more metal; it’s put metal where it matters. The overall MAKO system also has a very favourable weight/performance ratio, according to Sandvik.

The first MAKO GET was fitted at Byrnecut’s Capricorn site in January 2019. Despite the remote location, the buckets were monitored by Sandvik experts on a weekly basis. It soon became clear that the new range was especially durable – lasting, on average, 12% longer than the best of the rest, as well as avoiding the need for half-life corner shrouds, according to the OEM.

The first MAKO GET was fitted at Byrnecut’s Capricorn site in January 2019

“The first prototype we thought was okay, but there is still room for improvement,” Michael McCormick, the Shark Loadmaster who was hands-on with the development of MAKO, said. “The feedback we got from Gary [Boswell] and the team at Capricorn really helped us understand the issues they were having. When something cropped up, we could quickly develop a short-term ‘hotfix’, before developing a longer-term solution. For instance, we found an opportunity to improve the locking system and had to adapt the pin assembly to ensure the push-off feature was truly hammerless.

“As is natural, we had some performance issues with earlier prototypes, and it took us a couple of goes to get it right. But the ability to work in real time with Gary’s team was the key to enabling us to respond rapidly with quick fixes and validating their effectiveness.”

Boswell concluded: “Safety is paramount, and we did not want our guys hammering or using oxyacetylene to get the shrouds off. But Sandvik fixed that with the push-off feature that can handle worn-out GETs; even those with lifting lugs eroded through use. The issue of transporting heavy shrouds has also been resolved by a new lifting device, which is very effective.”

Sandvik added: “When, like Byrnecut at the Capricorn mine, you are using several hundred [GET] sets each year, the MAKO’s collective benefits add up to significant productivity, cost, time and safety enhancements. The cleve design of MAKO, perfected in the field, helps keep buckets meet their availability and productivity targets.”

BUMA Australia extends relationship with BHP Mitsubishi Alliance’s Goonyella mine

BUMA Australia has won its third contract in 2022, with the mining service provider extending its relationship with BHP Mitsubishi Alliance’s (BMA) Goonyella Riverside mine in Queensland’s Bowen Basin for up to another five years.

This award covers delivering mining services at the operation and extends the company’s existing delivery scope at the mine.

BUMA Australia is a subsidiary of Bukit Makmur Mandiri Utama (BUMA), which, itself, is a subsidiary of PT Delta Dunia Makmur Tbk. The company’s Australia presence was expanded in 2021 with the acquisition of Downer EDI Limited’s Open Cut Mining East business.

The contract extension from BMA is valued at A$400 million ($268 million) over a three-year term, with the option to extend for another two years. Production is expected to average 36 million bank cubic metres per year.

On February 22, 2022, BUMA Australia announced it had secured a new A$550 million contract extension at BMA’s Blackwater mine and, on May 10, it announced a new A$320 million, three-year contract with Bowen Coking Coal’s Broadmeadow East coking coal project, with the option to extend for a further year.

TOMRA XRT ore sorters providing Mt Carbine with tungsten upgrade, circular economy advantages

TOMRA X-Ray Transmission (XRT) sorters are providing a game-changing solution for the EQ Resources-owned Mt Carbine mine in Queensland, Australia, reducing costs and achieving high-purity tungsten ore for follow-on processing while contributing to a circular economy by producing green aggregates for sale, the ore sorting company says.

The Mt Carbine mine, northwest of Cairns, Queensland, was acquired by EQ Resources in 2019. The company entered a joint venture with Cronimet Group to set up tungsten extraction from the mine’s large waste dump and tailings. It is also planning to operate the open pit and underground mine, of which it has full ownership.

EQ Resources management has a long-standing relationship with TOMRA, having used its sorters with success on a variety of projects since 2011, TOMRA says. Based on this experience, the company turned to TOMRA once again for the Mt Carbine mine, with test work conducted at TOMRA’s Test Center in Wedel, Germany, confirming its XRT technology would provide the solution for the project.

“We were confident it would work, but we sent a small sample for testing to make sure,” Kevin MacNeill, CEO of Mt Carbine mine, EQ Resources, said. “The advantage of TOMRA’s sorters compared to others is in the image resolution: it is able to resolve the finer inclusions in the tungsten. This high resolution gives us better recovery and more control over the sorting process.”

Mt Carbine is currently mining the 12 Mt of low-grade historical stockpiles. The ore is crushed and screened at 6 mm and 40 mm. Two TOMRA XRT sorters are used to pre-concentrate the feed in the 6-40-mm-size range before processing in the wet plant. Approximately 10% of the sorters’ feed mass is ejected as product with a recovery of tungsten of well over 90%. This means only 10% of the mass is processed in the wet plant, dramatically cutting running costs, reducing the required size of the wet plant, as well as saving water and energy, TOMRA says.

“We let the technology do the work for us and take out all the rubbish and we’re left with just the pure tungsten to send to the processing plant – and we do that very cheaply using the sorters,” MacNeill says. “One of the best things about the TOMRA XRT is the cost savings to the operation. It costs approximately A$1.5/t ($1.02/t) to sort and then it costs A$14/t for wet processing: as we take out 90% of the sortable fraction mass, we only have to process 10% of the higher grade concentrate and natural -6 mm material while maintaining recovery, so our cost benefit is obvious.

“We couldn’t afford to run this waste dump if we had to crush everything to 6mm and process it through the wet plant, it would be too low grade and costly.”

EQ Resources is also taking advantage of the TOMRA XRT sorters to create an additional revenue stream from the waste material.

MacNeil explained: “Normally you would grind the waste down to 6 mm and put it through the jigs, but, by putting it through the TOMRA sorters, we are able to keep a whole range of aggregates on the coarser size fractions. The sorters remove any material containing acid-forming sulphides and the waste rock that comes out is incredibly clean. We are, therefore, able to use it in making all kinds of different quarry products – from road bases to concrete aggregates. It’s a perfect example of a circular economy.”

“Selling these green aggregates adds a significant portion to our business – about A$5 million a year – and that’s all because of the TOMRA sorters. In fact, we’ve probably paid for each machine from this revenue five times over.”

The TOMRA XRT sorters are delivering both environmental and business benefits to the Mt Carbine operation, to the satisfaction of MacNeill: “They’re dry, they create no water usage, they require very little power compared to what we use in the processing plant, so it’s a real advantage to us to have these, and we’re looking at purchasing a third one in the near future.

“From an environmental point of view, I think the TOMRA sorters will play a huge role in the future because of their capability of removing sulphides. If you remove sulphide before stockpiling waste rock, you will have the benefit of no acid creation and drainage – and it would reduce your footprint in your closure plans.”

LDO Group’s Rokion battery-electric light vehicle refocus starts to pay off

LDO Group is making serious headway in deploying Rokion’s ground-up-design electric light vehicles across Australia, with the New South Wales-based distributor hoping to have three machine trials in place before the end of the year.

LDO is focused on the underground mining and tunnelling industries, specialising in systems, processes, mine planning and training. It has been the exclusive distributor of Canada-made Rokion battery-powered vehicles in Australasia since 2018, having deployed vehicles across the soft- and hard-rock space.

The latest Rokion deployment LDO Group is celebrating is at Agnico Eagle Mines’ Fosterville gold operation in Victoria where a Rokion R400 was recently shown off alongside a Sandvik LH518B at a launch ceremony at the gold operation.

Alan Ross, General Manager of LDO Group, said the R400 vehicle – a platform able to accommodate three passengers in a utility vehicle setup or up to 12 in a passenger crew variant – has been deployed as part of a six-month trial at the operation.

“They (the Fosterville team) plan to use this in a people carrier configuration,” Ross told IM. “It will transport people to and from the operation.”

Considering the ramp-supported Fosterville operation goes below 800-m depth, this will present a good test for the R400’s re-generation capacity and uphill performance.

Rokion says the vehicle, which has 100 kWh of battery capacity, was engineered for the demands of underground mining and is its most adaptive platform design, capable of transporting a large crew in mine applications. Like all Rokion vehicles, it incorporates lithium iron phosphate battery chemistry, which, the company says, is the safest battery chemistry currently available.

The vehicle heading underground at Fosterville was previously deployed at a coal mining operation in Queensland, yet Ross says LDO Group is now re-focusing its efforts on the hard-rock mining space.

This has already seen the company partner with Newmont on an R400 deployment at its Tanami underground operation in the Northern Territory of Australia where it was initially used to transport team members up and down the mine.

Newmont said last year that early indicators had shown the vehicle had the capability to complete several trips to and from the bottom of the Tanami mine without requiring recharging.

Ross agreed with the Newmont assessment, explaining that the company was expected to re-deploy the same unit to the Tanami operation with an additional battery cooling module later this year.

“The ambient temperatures can reach 50°C in the Tanami desert, so we have equipped the vehicle with this new module to cope with such extremes,” he explained.

The company also has two R200 units – which include a four-passenger crew truck and a two-passenger utility truck – in Australia awaiting redeployment. One of these vehicles recently completed a successful stint at a tunnelling operation in the country.

LDO is also engaged with another mining company with an operation in New South Wales seeking to trial Rokion’s smallest battery-electric platform, the R100.

The R100 series includes a four-passenger crew truck and a two-passenger utility truck, with both models built on the same frame dimensions and available in ramp-ready configurations.

“We’re currently focused on these three key customers and supporting them in terms of the deployments and on-going operations,” Ross said.

In addition to regular site visits from LDO personnel to support maintenance and operations staff at the underground mines, LDO staff are able to remotely download data logs for these machines on a daily basis, assessing if there is potential for optimising the operation or if maintenance work may need to be conducted.

With many companies in the battery-electric light vehicle conversion space in Australia struggling to get hold of donor diesel vehicles, Ross says mining companies are increasingly appreciating Rokion’s ground-up approach.

“We have a fantastic OEM partner to rely on for these vehicles and we at LDO are able to support them in the best possible way,” he said. “We don’t have to rely on a different vendor to obtain the base machine; the design, engineering, manufacturing and testing are all performed under the Rokion roof, ensuring quality from concept to delivery.”

Ross said Rokion is continually working on design improvements and new machines based on industry feedback, with a newly-designed R200 vehicle set to bridge the gap between the existing R200 and the larger R400.

The latest in Rokion’s R200 Series is an 11-passenger crew truck built on a heavier frame and suspension construction than previous models, Kipp Sakundiak says

Kipp Sakundiak, CEO of Rokion, was happy to provide more details of this to IM: “The latest in our R200 Series is an 11-passenger crew truck built on a heavier frame and suspension construction than our previous models, all the while maintaining the simplicity and performance of dual drive motors.”

Sakundiak said the new model was robust and powerful, at the same time offering a comfortable ride for all crew members.

He added: “There is a lot of adaptability built into the new platform, including configurations for soft- and hard-rock applications. It’s one of our most versatile designs.”

Barminco extends relationship with Evolution Mining at Cowal gold mine

Perenti Group’s underground mining business Barminco is to further strengthen its relationship with Evolution Mining, having been awarded a new A$60 million ($42 million) contract to carry out diamond drill work at Cowal Gold Mine operations in New South Wales, Australia.

The four-year contract will see Barminco use state-of-the-art drill rig technology to improve safety, performance and productivity, it says.

It’s the second contract to be secured by Barminco at the Cowal operations in two months, after recently winning a A$520 million underground and development contract.

This latter contract will see Barminco carry out all underground development and production works at the underground mine where it is currently developing an exploration decline.

Last year, the Evolution board and regulators approved the development of the Cowal Underground Mine, which is set to provide a higher-grade ore source that will be blended with the current E42 open pit and stockpile ore. The development is part of the group’s goal of Cowal producing 350,000 oz/y of low-cost gold and extending the operation’s mine life.

Redpath awarded underground mining services agreement at MMG’s Dugald River mine

Redpath Australia says it has been awarded a new underground mining services contract at MMG Limited’s Dugald River mine in northwest Queensland.

Dugald River is one of the world’s top 10 zinc producers, located some 65 km northwest of Cloncurry. It produced 41,655 t of zinc concentrate and 4,740 t of lead concentrate in the June quarter.

The contract involves all underground development activities and will require up to 200 personnel in various management, operational and trades roles, with mobilisation commencing in the coming months, Redpath said.

Back in September 2020, Barminco agreed the terms of a variation and extension to its development and production contract at Dugald River, with the variation extending the term of the contract by 18 months to December 31, 2022.

RSK Group increases mining sector exposure with Projence acquisition

RSK Group Limited, a sustainable solutions company, says it has added New South Wales-based integrated project management firm, Projence, to its rapidly growing Australian business.

The third acquisition in the last eight months and fourth overall in Australia, Projence joins three Australian companies – civil engineering company, Western Project Services; environmental and occupational hygiene business, EDP Consultants; and advisory and project delivery services firm, SJA.

Joining the RSK Group, Projence will further grow the group’s project management and commercial services capabilities within the region and expand its global portfolio of environmental, engineering and technical solutions businesses, the company says.

“As we continue to build on the good work RSK has accomplished in the last three decades, strategic acquisitions such as Projence will bring enhanced value to the table for our stakeholders and businesses and further expand our offerings,” Alan Ryder, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of RSK Group, said. “With the comprehensive end-to-end solutions synergised and backed by the expertise of our group of over 150 businesses, I am confident that RSK will continue to secure our position as a global leader in the delivery of sustainable solutions, bringing clients the best value with minimum negative environmental and social impact.”

The acquisition of Projence strengthens the capabilities of the group in the rail and port sectors, enables greater exposure for RSK into the mining sector, and comes shortly after a move by EDP Consultants to expand into the Hunter region of New South Wales. The Hunter region and the wider northern New South Wales area are key parts of the RSK Group’s expansion strategy, it says.

Established in 2011, Projence has provided clients in Australia with practical and results-focused engineering and commercial greenfield and brownfield solutions across a range of industries, including mining, property, rail, power generation and port. It has worked on over 250 projects amounting to over A$1 billion ($709 million) in capital value, including the Coal Export Terminal 3 a

Gavin Heydon, Director of Projence, said: “This acquisition adds value to our business in the region and helps us lay out a clear path to long-term sustainable growth. With RSK’s support and guidance, we look forward to becoming an integral part of a larger global company and laying down a stronger foundation for services that we provide.”

Pictured is Mitchell Purvis (left) and Gavin Heydon (right), Projence Directors

RCT helps major miner move to Level 9 CAS at Bowen Basin coal mines

A global mining giant has implemented Level 9 machine intervention control technology on its mixed haul truck fleet in what RCT says is a large-scale mining fleet first for Australia.

RCT rolled out its highly interoperable Muirhead® technology across the mining company’s 128-strong equipment surface fleet, which includes multiple models of Cat, Komatsu and Liebherr trucks.

The Muirhead Machine Interface Controller (MIC) was selected because of RCT’s comprehensive and extensive engineering and quality management capability, RCT says.

This expertise has evolved over RCT’s 50-year history and enabled the company to deliver a MIC system that provides a cost effective, multi-generational solution which offers a level of standardisation across its diverse fleet.

The machine intervention technology interfaces directly with a truck’s systems (eg braking, hydraulic and electrical) and, when directed, can affect control of certain areas of the machine (eg engine throttle, transmission and hoist) if obstacles are detected in the truck’s path.

RCT’s MIC is designed to integrate with industry-leading collision avoidance solution (CAS) technologies, giving clients the flexibility to select a preferred vendor across their fleet or operations, RCT explained.

RCT’s Field Service Team commissioned the MIC across two of the mining company’s open-pit operations in Queensland’s Bowen Basin.

RCT Global Business Development Manager – Mining, Ryan Noden, said this is the first deployment of a Level 9 machine intervention technology (technologies that actually intervene in terms of automated machine control to prevent or mitigate an unsafe interaction) across a large-scale mining fleet in Australia.

“The global mining company selected RCT for this project due to our proven history of delivering standardised interoperable technology across any make and model of mobile equipment,” Noden said. “Our technology interfaced directly with a market-leading supplier of CAS and, as a result, the mining company is experiencing improved operations across their mixed fleet including Cat 793Ds, 785Ds, 777Ds; and Komatsu 830Es; and Liebherr T264s.

“This solution ensures the safety of site personnel in proximity to the haulage fleet and eliminates damage to the fleet.

“In addition to developing cutting-edge technology, we pride ourselves on delivering comprehensive service and technical support to our mining clients which empowers them to maximise mining operations at all times.”

Austin Powder completes record E*STAR blast at Queensland coal mine

Austin Powder says it has completed a record blast using its E*STAR Electronic Blasting System Remote 2.5.

The blast occurred at a large coal mine in Queensland, Australia, back on June 30, which is serviced by distributor Platinum Blasting Services.

A total of 3,630 electronic detonators were consumed in the blast – a global record volume of electronic detonators fired in a single blast for Austin Powder, it said.

Four E*STAR Remote 2.5 Blast Boxes were used to connect to and synchronously fire the 3,630 E*STAR electronic detonators inside 2,133 blast holes, loaded with a total of 437,385 kg of bulk explosives.

The Remote 2.5 system has the capability of synchronously firing up to eight Remote Blast Boxes, each with 1,600 detonators connected, enabling a total of 12,800 detonators to be fired in a single blast, according to the company.

Christine Grealy, Senior Technical Engineer, Platinum Blasting Services, said: “I greatly appreciate the efforts of the Platinum Blasting crew, especially Ben Faulkner as Shotfirer in Charge, Grant Merriman Shotfirer (2nd), and Walker Seccombe as Shift Site Supervisor. They all did a superb job ensuring such a large blast was successful.”

Campbell Robertson, Global Manager – Electronic Initiation Systems, said: “This record blast is a testament to the dedicated efforts of our research and development resources, field engineers, and technicians in bringing to our customer a system and solution that meets (and in some cases exceeds) our customer’s and end user’s needs.

“Congratulations to Christine Grealy and her team at Platinum Blasting Services, that were instrumental in making this blast record a reality – the quality of the best practices applied can clearly be seen in the ‘textbook example’ blast video. We look forward to collaborating with our distributors and customers in firing larger and larger blasts to fully utilise the system’s capacity.”

Newcrest grads underline automation possibilities with SmartHog development

The use of an all-terrain unmanned ground vehicle, incorporation of military spec hardware and sensors, a bank of lead/acid batteries, and the ingenuity of three mechatronics graduates have brought Newcrest Mining closer to its goal of automating the PC1 extraction level at its Cadia East gold-copper underground mine in New South Wales, Australia.

The company has progressively been rolling out automation-focused technologies at this mine steered by its Mining Innovation and Automation (MIA) Team.

Last year, this team, with the help of Epiroc, successfully implemented the first semi-autonomous integrated production level at the mine, with, at the time, an autonomous Scooptram ST18 capable of full 24/7 production across seven drives of a whole panel cave at the operation.

It is a slightly smaller machine that is helping the company progress from the automation of production and support equipment at the mine to autonomously completing a range of inspection tasks on the fully-autonomous PC1 extraction level.

The seeds for the SmartHog vehicle – a WartHog all-terrain unmanned ground vehicle with ‘smarts’ – were sewn back in early 2021, when Cadia’s first mechatronics graduate arrived to join the MIA team.

“A challenge was set to build an automated underground inspection robot utilising a WartHog chassis,” Aaron Brannigan, Cadia General Manager, told IM, explaining that the challenge provided a hands-on task for the graduate that would result in a solution that was beneficial in realising the team’s key focus of improving safety through technology and innovation.

The new graduate began to design this robot with the WartHog chassis as the base and, over time, was joined by two more mechatronics graduates – one with a dual computer science degree – where the conceptual work behind the robot really started to accelerate.

In early 2022, the three started to build the robot from a range of hardware, all based on military specifications to withstand the underground environment.

Brannigan explained: “To achieve this, the graduates made every cable themselves, crimped every connector, assembled all the components and sensors and wrote the software code for various aspects of the sensor outputs.”

Since the inspection robot was designed to replicate tasks typically performed by people on the level, it had to be fitted with a range of sensors including LiDAR, Radar, a PTZ camera, stereoscopic camera, LED spotlights and a weather station for wet bulb temperatures and measuring wind velocity for ventilation purposes, the company explained. Powered by a bank of lead/acid batteries, the SmartHog was commissioned on surface and, in June 2022, completed trials underground, including being ‘checked in’ to the autonomous system.

“With some further testing and improvements, the SmartHog will soon live permanently underground in the autonomous zone and will be able to complete a range of inspection tasks,” Brannigan said. “This moves us closer to our goal of automation at the extraction level and is a key focus of improving operational safety and sustainability through technology.”

IM put some questions to Brannigan to find out more.

IM: How are you leveraging technology from the automotive sector in the SmartHog? What kind of adaptations are required for this to work underground?

AB: The SmartHog utilises automotive industry radars as a way of localising its position underground. LiDAR is vulnerable to interference from dust and moisture in the air, whereas radar can ‘see’ through these, allowing the SmartHog to continue to navigate and know its position underground when these are present. We believe the use of radar in this context is industry-leading and our intent with this is twofold: first, it demonstrates the advantages and reduced downtime of radar over LiDAR and, second, it encourages original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to move from LiDAR to radar for their autonomous equipment so they can take advantage of the benefits it offers.

IM: What existing underground communications infrastructure is in place at PC1 to help facilitate the real-time transmission of data from the SmartHog?

AB: Our underground PC1 level has Wi-Fi throughout which forms the basis of the autonomous system, and this is connected to the surface via fibre optic cables.

IM: How are you using the new data you are collecting with the SmartHog at Cadia? What tasks is it allowing you to do that you couldn’t previously carry out (or conducted differently)?

AB: The primary purpose of the SmartHog is to undertake a range of tasks that a person has usually performed in the past, improving both safety and efficiency. One example is geotechnical inspections of draw points and extraction drives. In the past when it was necessary for a Geotechnical Technician to undertake an inspection, the autonomous level would need to be deactivated and the autonomous equipment removed to ensure there was no risk of vehicle on person interaction. This is a time-consuming process and means production is stopped for the duration, not to mention the potential risk to the person entering the level on foot.

With the various sensors fitted to the SmartHog, it can scan and photograph the draw point (using the conventional digital camera and stereoscopic camera) and send this information to the surface where a Geotechnical Engineer can review it, all while autonomous loading operations continue.

As the SmartHog is ‘checked in’ to the autonomous system and is ‘seen’ by the other equipment, it can operate independently but also become part of the autonomous traffic management system. Should the Geotechnical Engineer require further information about the draw point, the SmartHog can return and drive up to the limit of the draw point and capture further data from the range of sensors.

IM: Are there other projects outside of the PC1 where you could use the SmartHog?

AB: We anticipate in the future that each panel cave could have their own SmartHog, so that a range of tasks can be completed as previously outlined.

IM: Are there plans to make more SmartHogs? Could they be adapted to carry out other tasks?

AB: The way we have developed the first SmartHog may look very different to how any future SmartHogs may look. The value the graduates gained from solving a current problem using a hands-on approach is priceless and helps demonstrate the value of the graduate program. We believe the graduate program at Newcrest is industry-leading given the types of challenges our graduates can address and solve using the skills recently acquired at university on real-world challenges.

Given the SmartHog is battery powered, as battery technology improves, the next generation of SmartHogs will be able to carry lighter and higher capacity batteries allowing for larger payloads and longer run times. This could allow the inclusion of other sensors and different types of cameras, such as infrared and thermal, which are traditionally heavy items and would limit the range of the current battery performance. The options available are endless once battery technology improves to the point where runtimes are increased and recharge times are reduced. This is not far off given the speed at which battery technology and design is improving.