Tag Archives: automation

Caterpillar to help Newmont’s Boddington gold mine go autonomous

Newmont’s Boddington operation, in Australia, is to become the world’s first open-pit gold mine with an autonomous haul truck fleet after the miner’s Board of Directors unanimously approved investment in an Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) from Caterpillar.

The move, which will enhance safety and productivity and is expected to be fully operational in 2021, will also see the Boddington mine life extended, according to Newmont.

Tom Palmer, President and Chief Executive Officer, said: “Not only does Boddington continue to deliver strong performance, our investment in autonomous haul trucks will generate an internal rate of return greater than 35% with a more controlled and efficient haulage operation.

“We are also uniquely positioned in the gold sector to support effective implementation and operation of the fleet thanks to the technical capabilities and previous experience of leaders in our business. Simply put, Boddington will be a safer, more productive world-class gold mine in a top-tier jurisdiction.”

Total net investment in Boddington’s AHS will be $150 million, with efficiencies expected to extend the mine’s life by at least two years, Newmont said. The project will involve adding some new AHS-enabled Caterpillar 793Fs to the haulage fleet and retrofitting some existing 793Fs with AHS capabilities, a Newmont spokesperson confirmed. The company said it also saw additional upside potential from the replication of the AHS at other Newmont operations.

The company said: “Boddington’s autonomous Caterpillar haul trucks will feature rigorous safety controls that reduce employee exposure to potential vehicle interactions. No injuries have been recorded from AHS operations since their introduction into the mining industry.”

Newmont said it is also executing a “robust people strategy” at Boddington, providing opportunities for reskilling and redeployment of haul truck drivers to other roles supporting the AHS.

Boddington is Western Australia’s largest gold producer, delivering 709,000 oz of gold and 77 MIb (34,927 t) of copper in 2018. The mine directly employs around 2,000 people and is located 135 km southeast of Perth in Western Australia.

BHP studying autonomous haulage at Eastern Ridge, Daunia

Having previously said it was weighing up a project to automate around 500 haul trucks across its Western Australia Iron Ore and Queensland Coal sites, BHP has shed more light on its autonomous haulage plans.

The company made the ambitious admission in May 2019. It has since said it will introduce autonomous haulage at the BHP Mitsuibishi Alliance Goonyella Riverside mine, in Queensland, in a staged project that will see up to 86 Komatsu trucks converted to autonomous mode.

In its half-year results released today, BHP said of the 500 haul trucks it previously spoke of 150 are currently “under feasibility or execution” and 350 are included in its “medium-term plans”. Two projects in the former category include the Eastern Ridge mine site, in the Pilbara, which the company is currently using as its proving ground for innovation, and the 4.5 Mt/y Daunia coal mine, in Queensland, which BHP opened in 2013 and has a fleet of 16 226-t payload trucks (including Cat 793Fs).

In terms of capital expenditure, these projects were expected to cost less than $800 million, including $250 million for sites in feasibility and execution and up to $550 million included in the medium-term plans, it said.

Emeco to go underground with Pit N Portal acquisition

Emeco Holdings looks to have found an entry into the underground contract mining and equipment rental space after having signed an agreement to acquire Pit N Portal in a deal that comes with an enterprise value of A$72 million ($49 million).

The binding agreement would see Emeco acquire Pit N Portal Mining Services and Pit N Portal Equipment Hire, two entities that come with over 100 pieces of specialised underground mining equipment, over 500 pieces of infrastructure equipment and employs more than 300 people across strategic locations in Perth and Kalgoorlie and customer sites across Australia.

Emeco made this announcement on the same day it issued its 2020 financial half year results, which saw the company post revenue of A$246 million (up 10% year-on-year), operating EBITDA of A$119 million (up 16%) and operating EBIT of A$67 million (up 12%). The company has, in the last few years, acquired Force Equipment and Matilda Equipment as it looked to strengthen its equipment rental business in surface mining.

The consideration for the acquisition consists of A$62 million in cash and A$10 million in Emeco shares to the vendors, with the buy expected to be earnings per share accretive on a financial year 2019 pro-forma basis, post transaction.

Emeco Managing Director and CEO, Ian Testrow, said: “Pit N Portal allows Emeco to leverage its current core capabilities and expand into a new market. The underground mining sector is undoubtedly growing, and this represents an attractive adjacency for Emeco, providing Emeco with a solid platform for growth. Pit N Portal also provides us with significant commodity diversification by immediately more than doubling our gold exposure with strong opportunities for further growth in hard-rock projects.”

Established in 2002, Pit N Portal specialises in the provision of hard-rock underground mining equipment and services to the Australia underground mining sector. Core operations include equipment rental as well as mining services and maintenance solutions for underground mines. It operates the largest underground equipment rental fleet in Australia, according to Emeco.

Continued growth in Pit N Portal is expected post-completion driven by new project and scope expansion opportunities, with major projects’ earnings realised in the 2021 financial year.

“Pit N Portal’s key services add to the core of Emeco’s existing business, including equipment hire and maintenance solutions,” the company said. “Pit N Portal also adds a vast array of additional value-added services to its customers, providing a complete mining services offering.”

Steve Versteegen, Co-Founder and CEO of Pit N Portal, said: “I truly believe the combination of the two companies will help accelerate the growth of Pit N Portal and am excited by the opportunity to extend the application of what we do to the broader Emeco business.”

Emeco said the transaction provides a strong platform for Emeco to grow as a provider of underground mining services with a solid tender pipeline, particularly in Western Australia-based gold, nickel and base metals projects. There are also potential operational advantages through Pit N Portal’s strategically located workshops in Perth and Kalgoorlie, it added.

It would also significantly diversify Emeco’s commodity exposure, with gold more than doubling immediately to from 12% to 27% of Emeco’s revenue and becoming the number two exposure.

Pit N Portal is also focused on innovation and technology, with tele-remote and autonomous equipment and delivers a wide range of specialised services, the company said.

Barrick continues to adopt new technologies at Kibali gold mine

Barrick Gold says its 45%-owned Kibali gold mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is continuing its technological advances with the introduction of truck and drill training simulators and the integration of systems for personnel safety tracking and ventilation on demand.

The mine, which is owned 45% by AngloGold Ashanti and 10% by SOKIMO, surpassed its 2019 guidance of 750,000 oz in 2019, delivering 814,027 oz in another record year, Barrick said this week.

Barrick President and Chief Executive, Mark Bristow, told a media briefing that Kibali’s continuing stellar performance was a demonstration of how a modern, Tier One gold mine could be developed and operated successfully in what is one of the world’s most remote and infrastructurally under-endowed regions.

He also noted that, in line with Barrick’s policy of employing, training and advancing locals, the mine was managed by a majority Congolese team, supported by a corps of majority Congolese supervisors and personnel.

Kibali is already one of the world’s most highly automated underground gold mines, with the operation’s backbone being Sandvik’s Automine Multi Fleet system, supervised on surface by a single operator. In a world first, it allows a fleet of up to five LHDs to be operated autonomously, 750 m below the surface, within the same 6 m x 6 m production drive while using designated passing bays to maintain traffic flow, the company says. A similar system is used in the production levels to feed the ore passes, according to Barrick.

The company said it had now introduced truck and drill training simulators and integrated systems for personnel safety tracking and ventilation demand control, adding that the simulators will also be used to train operators from Barrick’s Tanzanian mines.

Bristow also said that the company was maintaining a strong focus on energy efficiency at the mine through the development of its grid stabiliser project, scheduled for commissioning in the June quarter of 2020.

He said: “This uses new battery technology to offset the need for running diesel generators as a spinning reserve and ensures we maximise the use of renewable hydro power. The installation of three new elution diesel heaters will also help improve efficiencies and control power costs. It’s worth noting that our clean energy strategy not only achieves cost and efficiency benefits but also once again reduces Kibali’s environmental footprint.”

Bristow said despite the pace of production and the size and complexity of the mine, Kibali was maintaining its solid safety and environmental records, certified by ISO 45001 and ISO 14001 accreditations.

WesTrac building Caterpillar autonomous training facility in Western Australia

Caterpillar dealer WesTrac has announced it will build a technology training facility in Collie, Western Australia, focused on providing courses in autonomous operations.

The centre will be the only Caterpillar Autonomous Training Facility in the world apart from Cat’s own testing and training ground in Arizona, USA. The facility will be developed on land owned by Bluewaters Farm Holdings in Collie’s Coolangatta Industrial Estate.

The project is supported by a grant through the Collie Futures Fund, awarded to WesTrac by the State Government’s Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation.

The announcement was made at a ground-turning event in Collie attended by Western Australia Premier, Mark McGowan; Minister for Regional Development, Alannah MacTiernan; Collie-Preston MLA, Mick Murray; and WesTrac CEO, Jarvas Croome.

Croome said the investment includes a new fully autonomous Cat 789D off-highway truck, construction of an autonomous operations zone and training room facilities. The construction is scheduled to commence this month at the greenfield site near Collie’s Bluewaters Power Station.

Local contractor Piacentini & Son will carry out the earthworks and installation of key infrastructure, with training scheduled to commence in May.

“The initial focus will be to provide training in fit-out and maintenance requirements for the conversion and operation of existing Caterpillar haulage vehicles,” Croome said.

“Over time, we anticipate expanding the range of courses on offer to ensure the facility caters for the recognised skills of the future that will be in demand as the resource sector evolves.

“It’s an opportunity to position Collie and Western Australia as a world leader in advanced technology and skills development in automation and autonomous operations.”

McGowan said: “People will come from all over the world to utilise this facility – the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere and the second worldwide for Caterpillar.”

While WesTrac had evaluated several potential locations, Collie was the ideal centre for the training facility, according to Croome.

“The town has a long mining history and an experienced workforce with the potential to help run and develop the training facility over time,” he said.

“There’s also a vibrant community and plenty of supporting business infrastructure, plus a unique range of natural attractions and easy access to the wider South West region, which adds appeal for Australian and international training participants.”

Croome said WesTrac and Caterpillar clients across the Asia Pacific region had shown significant interest in having access to such training and strong demand was expected when the facility commenced operations.

RCT embeds machine automation expertise in new Wi-Fi offering

RCT says it has released the first digital Wi-Fi communications network designed specifically for machine automation and control in underground mining operations.

RCT Connect is designed to be user friendly and portable and can be installed into a production area and commissioned with minimal time and expertise, according to the automation leader.

The company has already made significant headway with RCT Connect, with the network having been tested at a mine site in Western Australia and recently deployed in an underground mining operation outside of Australia.

RCT Connect has been built to withstand the harsh conditions, common in underground mining environments, and can operate in temperatures ranging from -20°C (-4°F) to 60°C (140°F), RCT said.

It uses a coaxial cable able to transfer power and information to access points for up to 1.5 km before additional power insertion is required along the length of a drive, according to RCT.

“This feature offers several major benefits over traditional Wi-Fi deployments such as reduced requirement for configuration, eliminating costly cables to run between access points and a simple installation with only two connections,” the company said.

Once operational, RCT Connect provides a simple connection to a ControlMaster® Area Access Control at strategic locations which then links into the mine-wide communications backbone to transfer information to a machine operator located in a ControlMaster Automation Centre on the mine’s surface, the company said.

The platform operates at 2.4 GHz and is capable of carrying out remote diagnostics, live machine tracking and delivering live health and production data from the machine, according to RCT.

RCT Product Manager Automation & Control, Brendon Cullen, said RCT Connect offers several distinct advantages over commercially available digital communication networks.

“RCT Connect is specifically designed to ensure uninterrupted communication between the machine and the operator regardless of location,” he said.

“The platform has very stable performance with low, consistent latency and so ensures reliable communications between command inputs from the surface station and subsequent machine activities.”

He added: “We have also optimised the platform to enable smart roaming and, therefore, seamless handover between wireless access points so that there is no dropout along the length of the drives.”

In other commercially available communications networks, node handover is configured differently so if the machine is looking for a node or hangs on too long then communication failures arise, Cullen explained.

RCT Connect can be sold as a standalone package or in conjunction with RCT’s ControlMaster automation products.

Oxbotica and Navtech working on radar-based automation solution for mines

Oxbotica and Navtech have announced the joint product development of a radar-based navigation and perception system, to be launched in 2020.

The product represents the latest advancement in radar-based technology from Navtech and the partnership marks an important milestone in Oxbotica’s plans to take its automation-focused software from development towards commercial deployment.

The multi-module localisation system (radar, vision and laser) allows customers to deploy autonomy in both on-road and off-road locations, whether in mines, ports or airports and whatever the weather conditions where standard GPS or LiDAR is not possible, the companies said.

They explained: “The Oxbotica and Navtech product will not be reliant on any external infrastructure and can operate on its own or be fused with other location services driven by GPS, LiDAR or laser vision as part of Oxbotica’s modular and integrated approach.”

Oxbotica has already successfully tested its proprietary algorithms in a variety of environments and conditions as part of its Localisation module development and wider full-stack autonomy solution. This will be twinned with Navtech’s expertise in bringing autonomy sensors to market around the world.

Oxbotica says its autonomous driving software has been deployed in many different environments including cities, mines, airports, quarries and ports as part of its Universal Autonomy commitment: enabling any vehicle in any industry to drive itself with total freedom from external infrastructure dependency.

Navtech is a leading innovator, award-winning designer and manufacturer of commercially deployed radar solutions with safety at its core, according to the company. It manufactures a range of sensors that provide the performance to deliver on the promise of all-weather sensing in real world applications. This sees its sensors used in mission-critical applications around the world including security surveillance, road safety systems and industrial autonomous vehicles.

Ozgur Tohumcu, Oxbotica CEO, said: “This collaboration with Navtech is a key milestone in bringing autonomy especially to off-road domains such as mines, ports, or airports where existing LiDAR or GPS may not function effectively due to weather or operating conditions such as dust, rain, or snow.

“Navtech is a fantastic partner with their unbeatable track record of producing autonomy sensors – powering off-road autonomy around the world for nearly two decades. Incoming demand from customers and our own market research prove that there will be wide applications of this product addressing both on-road and off-road deployments.”

Phil Avery, CEO of Navtech, said: “Navtech are delighted to be working with Oxbotica on this project. Despite the potential of radar very few companies have successfully developed the necessary algorithms to use it properly. Oxbotica are world leaders in this area and, together with our high-performance radars sensors, we believe the resulting system will deliver a step change in the performance available for all-weather all-environment localisation and perception. This is crucial for automation in more challenging environments such as mines and ports.”

RCT takes Control of chutes at Indonesia mine

RCT says it has finalised the last stage of a project to automate 24 underground mine chutes for a client in West Papua, Indonesia.

Recently, RCT implemented ControlMaster® Teleremote technology onto 14 chutes to be managed by operators from four ControlMaster Automation Centres in a surface control room.

The latest work follows on from stage one works completed earlier this year where Teleremote technology was commissioned on 10 chutes connected to three Automation Centres.

All seven Automation Centres are equipped with Multiple Machine Selection enabling an operator to control any single chute system from their respective station, according to the automation specialist.

“The operators will now be able to observe chute operations through strategically placed cameras and remotely open and close the throat of each chute to pass ore and other material between different production levels for trucking to the surface,” the company said.

The individual camera feeds can be manipulated and adjusted via intuitive mouse control options at each Automation Centre. Previously operators were situated at the throat of each chute and manually operated each chute via their own line of sight.

RCT Account Manager, Shane Smith, said: “Previously chute operators contended with heat, dust, exhaust fumes and potential wet muck situations, which represent a substantial safety risk.

“Now they can more effectively manage the chutes from the safety and comfort of a surface control room which is far more preferable for everyone involved.”

The convenient location of the control room will also significantly reduce shift changeover time, as personnel can easily access the central control room rather than travel to each individual chute chamber, according to Smith.

RCT will provide on site training for site operators, while locally based technicians will deliver ongoing technical servicing and support to the site, the company said.

Sandvik unlocks ‘automation’s full potential’ with AutoMine Access API

Sandvik has opened its AutoMine® platform to the rest of the industry with what it says is the mining sector’s first interoperability platform for autonomous underground loaders and trucks.

The AutoMine Access API delivers on the company’s promise made earlier this year at Goldcorp’s #DisruptMining event and is the next step in Sandvik’s continued journey to “set the industry standard for mine automation and digitalisation”, it said.

The application programming interface (API) gives mines the power to connect non-Sandvik equipment to AutoMine – moving underground mining digitalisation even further, it said.

This interoperability move comes just over a year since

Patrick Murphy, President Rock Drills & Technologies, Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology, said: “As a world leader in underground automation, we have a responsibility to make this game-changing technology easier to implement for the mining industry.

“While we think customers will achieve the highest performance with Sandvik equipment, we recognise the need to unlock automation’s full potential for all equipment regardless of manufacturer. Customers with mixed fleets will now have the full power of AutoMine behind them.”

The AutoMine Access API is a standard set of pre-defined interfaces for connecting third-party loaders and trucks to AutoMine. This means a mixed fleet of underground loaders and trucks can now be managed and controlled with one seamless system.

“An API is a set of functions and procedures that allows the creation of applications that access the features or data of an operating system, application, or other service,” Sandvik said, adding that the third-party equipment is required to meet the AutoMine safety standards.

The API is another step in Sandvik’s journey to drive a digital ecosystem that makes mining smarter, safer and more productiv, it said.

In 2018, Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology released its Interoperability Policy outlining how Sandvik systems can communicate within a digital ecosystem including data accessibility, fleet data compatibility, data rights and control, and data privacy.

The momentum continued in 2019 with the acquisition of Newtrax, a leader in wireless IoT connectivity for underground hard-rock mining, and the announcement that My Sandvik, Sandvik’s telemetry solution for machine health and productivity data, would also be available for non-Sandvik equipment.

“Sandvik has been leading the market in underground digitalisation for years, with thousands of pieces of equipment around the world connected to our digital technology,” Murphy said. “As more customers embark on their digital journeys, interoperability will be a requirement. We are proud to leverage our experience to drive digitalisation further in the mining industry.”

Emerson cuts through the noise with new Slurry Magnetic Flow Meter

Global technology and engineering company, Emerson, has launched a new slurry magnetic flow meter specifically designed for high noise and slurry applications in industries including mining.

The Emerson Rosemount™ MS Slurry Sensor with the Rosemount 8782 Slurry Transmitter features robust coils and advanced signal processing, with a responsive yet stable flow signal possible even in high noise applications, according to the company.

“With over 25 years of experience delivering products for these challenging applications, the new Slurry Magnetic Flow Meter helps improve product quality, reduce raw material cost, and minimise waste and re-work,” Emerson said.

The Slurry Magnetic Flow Meter, or Slurry Mag, provides a flow measurement solution for customers with fluids that contain large solids, mining ore, pulp or sand, or that experience high process noise or signal instability. It uses the latest advanced signal processing to adapt to changing process conditions in real time and eliminates noise from the flow signal without using excessive damping. The latter gives operators confidence in their measurement calculations, according to the company.

The Slurry Mag Meter includes more standard diagnostics such as grounding and wiring fault detection to help ensure the meter is installed correctly the first time. Optional advanced process diagnostics, meanwhile, help provide insight into performance through a high process noise detection diagnostic, as well as enable proactive maintenance in applications where coating may be a concern.

Finally, the 8782 contains Emerson’s patented Smart Meter Verification capabilities providing a simplified means of troubleshooting or verifying the meter, “taking a process that used to take hours and simplifying it down to minutes”, Emerson said.

Designed to work with the MS sensor, the 8782 transmitter is it is also compatible with existing 8707 installations, “making the performance, signal processing and advanced diagnostic capabilities available to anyone who is already using Emerson’s solutions for these challenging applications”, the company said.

Laura Chemler, Product Manager with Emerson’s Automation Solutions business, said: “Through the utilisation of advanced features, the Rosemount Slurry Magnetic Flow Meter can help our customers better achieve their operational goals.

“The advanced signal processing is able to adapt to changing flow rates without getting bogged down by traditional damping practices, providing more accurate flow rate feedback when it’s needed most, which in turn helps to ensure an efficient overall process that minimises waste and optimises utilisation of precious resources.”