Tag Archives: automation

MacLean ready to highlight growing African presence at Mining Indaba

A MacLean EV Series™ carrier fitted with a third-party emulsion charging plant is part of the company’s expanded presence at this year’s edition of the Mining Indaba in Cape Town, South Africa.

MacLean Africa will be showcasing this latest battery-electric mining vehicle (BEV) offering outside the CTICC in front of the Cullinan Hotel during the event, which runs from February 7-10.

The Sudbury-based company has had an established, in-country presence in South Africa since 2001. This was the company’s first ever international branch and, since that time, the local sales and support team has grown in line with the expansion of the MacLean fleet deployment across the continent. The company now supports MacLean mining vehicles at customer operations across South Africa, as well as in Namibia, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali.

MacLean Africa General Manager, John-Paul Theunissen, said: “Our message to the African mining community at Indaba is simple and I hope, resonant – MacLean is manufacturing and supporting mining equipment that is custom designed for underground mining on this continent, supported by an in-country team of skilled engineers, product managers, field service technicians, and repair and rebuild mechanics. We are here for the long haul; we have the critical mass of talent and parts and manufacturing capacity and we have your full fleet of production support mining vehicles, ready to get to work.”

MacLean President, Kevin MacLean, added: “I’m excited by what MacLean Africa has already done in terms of building out the MacLean fleet footprint across Africa and I’m even more excited by what the future holds for us in this crucial mining region. We can walk with customers as they explore options for the rollout of a battery-electric, automated, and data-rich mobile fleet that will drive the ‘no boots on the ground’ mining of the 21st century. We have it all – the present and the future of underground mining mobile equipment, technology, and services. We are above ground where your fleet is underground in Africa.”

This year is an important one for MacLean as it marks the company’s 50th year of operations. What started out as a niche, custom equipment solutions provider for the Canadian industry in the 1970s has evolved to what it now claims is now the world’s largest Canada-based manufacturer of underground mining vehicles, with a worldwide staffing contingent that surpasses 1,000 employees across four continents.

Newmont transitions to Sandvik AutoMine tele-remote ops at Cerro Negro

Newmont says its Cerro Negro underground operations in Argentina have transitioned to tele-remote mode with the implementation of the Sandvik AutoMine® platform.

The transition, completed last year, is part of Newmont’s Full Potential structured and continuous improvement program that began in 2014. This program has since delivered over $4 billion in value, while serving as Newmont’s key vehicle for reducing costs and boosting productivity across its operating sites and functions.

In the company’s recent September quarter results call, Newmont Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Rob Atkinson, confirmed that Cerro Negro had become the first mine in Argentina to implement the AutoMine system for tele-remote underground loading and hauling.

“The implementation of this technology has eliminated safety risks associated with operator exposure underground, has allowed for the recovery of more ore from each of the stopes, has reduced equipment damage, and, really importantly in the Argentinian context, increased underground working time,” he said.

“We’ve had tremendous success with tele-remote operations at our Australian and Canadian underground mines, and this is yet another example of the value added through the rapid replication of leading practices across our global operations.”

Cerro Negro has three high-grade underground operating mines – Eureka, Mariana Central and Mariana Norte – and two underground deposits being developed, Emilia and San Marcos, as well as five other deposits in late-stage evaluation for development to expand the existing operations in the Marianas Complex and establish operations in the Eastern District.

The extensive Cerro Negro complex has several other deposits and exploration targets, including an open-pit mine known as Vein Zone and one cyanide leach processing facility with Merrill Crowe recovery yielding gold recoveries of 90-97%.

Newmont hits 100 Mt automation milestone using Cat Command for hauling at Boddington

Western Australia’s largest gold mine, Boddington, has surpassed the 100 Mt milestone for material safely hauled using Cat® MineStar™ Command for hauling with the gold industry’s first autonomous haulage system (AHS) fleet, the OEM says.

Boddington, a deep open-pit surface mine owned by Newmont, delivered 696,000 oz of gold and 163,000 gold-equivalent ounces in 2021.

The mine’s fleet today includes 36 Cat 793F autonomous and four 793D staffed mining trucks to haul material, and the conversion to AHS was one of the fastest in the industry, spanning approximately seven months to roll out all 36 trucks equipped with Command, according to Caterpillar.

Newmont invested $150 million in its autonomous haulage project with goals to improve mine safety and productivity, while extending the life of the mine. The first 231-t Cat 793F was converted to autonomous operation in March 2021. A total of seven trucks from Newmont’s existing fleet were retrofitted with Command for hauling, while 29 trucks were new models.

In October 2021, the last of the 36 autonomous trucks went into operation at the mine, with the mine reaching the 100 Mt of material autonomously hauled benchmark by the end of October 2022.

Kosie Bolton, Technology Site Manager for Caterpillar, said: “The time period between rollout of the mine’s first autonomous 793F truck to full conversion of the mine’s autonomous fleet to achieving 100 Mt autonomously hauled was incredibly short. This is a true testament of the great teamwork between Boddington’s talented and dedicated workforce, Cat dealer WesTrac and Caterpillar. The supporting AHS projects will help to improve data understanding and drive operational excellence through data utilisation.”

Including the autonomous trucks, equipment equipped with MineStar Terrain, and site autonomous vehicles and trucks, the mine has 200 connected assets. An entirely new AHS intelligence office, where all the autonomous trucks and connected assets can be viewed and collected data analysed, was also completed and dedicated in October 2022. The new workspace brings together all AHS team members in a single space with tiered seating and screens at the front of the room, Caterpillar says.

James Earl, AHS Control Room Superintendent for the Newmont Boddington Mine, said: “Having everyone together in the new office allows us to post issues on the screens in front of all workers to quickly address them together. We are extremely proud to deliver the gold industry’s first autonomous haul truck fleet at Boddington. This will help extend the mine’s life, reduce safety risks and lower costs. The project’s record implementation is just another example of Newmont’s trademark ability to set and achieve ambitious goals.”

On top of this milestone, Caterpillar and Newmont agreed in November 2021 to collaborate on a number of mining technology initiatives that provide industry leading outcomes for safety, productivity, sustainability and cost.

Weir preparing to trial proprietary ore sorting tech by the end of 2022

In the Weir Group Capital Markets Event presentation last week, Chris Carpenter revealed that the company was collaborating within its divisions on trials of ore sorting technology in an effort to move less rock at mine sites and optimise processing within the plant.

Carpenter, Vice President of Technology at Weir ESCO, said the company was combining Motion Metrics’ particle size distribution (PSD) capability with ore characterisation technology to explore “in-pit sorting” opportunities for its clients.

“Looking further out, we believe ore characterisation and in-pit ore sorting has the potential to transform mining by moving less rock, using less energy and creating less waste,” he said during his presentation. “Ore characterisation technology, which is underpinned by sophisticated sensing systems, captures critical data on properties and composition of rock, including rock hardness and mineral and moisture content.

“When coupled with Motion Metrics fragmentation analysis technology, it has the potential to be a game changer, giving miners a full picture of the size and characteristics of rocks.”

Motion Metrics, a developer of artificial intelligence (AI) and 3D rugged machine vision technology, was acquired by Weir almost a year ago, with the business incorporated into the Weir ESCO division. Its smart, rugged cameras monitor and provide data on equipment performance, faults, payloads and rock fragmentation. This data is then analysed using embedded and cloud-based AI to provide real-time feedback to the mining operation.

These technologies were initially developed for ground engaging tool applications but have recently been extended into a suite of products and solutions that can be applied from drill and blast through to primary processing.

Carpenter said the added PSD capability from Motion Metrics was expanding the company’s value presence across the mine to the processing plant, where Weir Minerals operates.

“Results from early adoption of Motion Metrics PSD solutions have been extremely encouraging,” he said. “Feedback from customers is positive; data sharing and collaboration have increased.

“Given this early progress, we are really excited about the opportunity and expect fragmentation analysis to be a key growth driver for Motion Metrics in the years to come.”

On the in-pit sorting potential, Carpenter said Weir ESCO had laboratory-validated equipment and field trials of its proprietary solution that were due to start at customer sites before the end of the year tied to these developments.

“If successful, this technology opens the door to in-pit sorting, where miners complete the first stage of crushing in the pit and analyse the outputs to make real-time decisions about which rocks have sufficient mineral content to be moved,” he said. “This is a step change from the current process, where energy is expended in transporting and processing all of the rocks, regardless of mineral content, and with significant waste generated from zero- and low-grade material.”

He concluded: “Our vision is to move less rock, moving only the rocks with sufficient mineral content and using the data that is captured on size and hardness to optimise processing. The natural evolution thereafter will be towards real-time automation control of processing equipment, ensuring the right rocks are processed in the most efficient way, using less energy and creating less waste.”

RCT and Rham collaborate on ‘world-first’ automated battery-electric loader deployment

In what is believed to be a world-first, RCT, together with equipment manufacturer Rham Equipment, has deployed a fully autonomous battery-electric Rham loader into the African mining sector.

This technological feat saw RCT work with Rham to specifically engineer the automated loader to effortlessly work in height-restricted drives in a South African platinum mining operation.

RCT’s market-leading ControlMaster® automation technology was integrated with the Rham ultra-low profile (ULP) 25HD battery-electric loader with the package installed at Rham’s factory, prior to the loader’s deployment to the site.

This project showcases ControlMaster as a proven interoperable automation platform that can be integrated across any mobile equipment make, type or model, RCT said.

With the technology established on site, the loader operators are able to manage LHD operations from the safety of a ControlMaster Automation Centre on the mine’s surface.

In addition to this, RCT interfaced with the Rham dash display and replicated it on the Automation Centre, to provide the operator with important machine health information.

The project also includes the implementation of RCT Connect, a specialised underground communications network designed to enhance autonomous fleet operations.

Rham Managing Director, Kevin Reynders, said: “This joint venture project has run effortlessly creating safer machines for our miners.

“Rham Equipment, a Level 3 B-BBEE South African, (Pty) Limited Company, has been producing specialised mining equipment since 1980. The company has been providing the South African mining industry with quality products and top-of-the-range services for the past four decades.”

Reynders added: “The product range includes underground transporters, excavators, LHDs, dump trucks, roof bolters and conveyor drives, to name but a few. To date, Rham Equipment has supplied over 2,000 units to some of the most prominent South African platinum, gold- and coal mines who we count amongst our customer portfolios.”

RCT Business Development Manager for Africa, Mike Thomas, said the project represented an important milestone on many fronts.

“ControlMaster has an extensive history integrating with diesel powered equipment, but this project proves that the technology can interface seamlessly with battery-electric mobile machines.

“Battery-electric equipment fleets can significantly reduce a mining operation’s carbon footprint while eliminating the costs associated with diesel consumption, so we expect to see a greater uptake of the technology around the world. The technology will relocate the machine operators to a safe working area on the mine’s surface while enabling optimised autonomous machine operations.”

“A cornerstone of ControlMaster is its ability to integrate with any machine and this project proves that our technology can interface with Rham’s loader, which is an entirely new machine for us.”

RCT’s technical team will empower mine site personnel with comprehensive training and technical support to operate and maintain the equipment going forward, it said.

The company concluded: “The project demonstrates RCT’s automation technology can successfully integrate with battery-electric mining equipment and is an important step toward delivering an autonomous, carbon-friendly mining fleet of the future.”

Komatsu on gaining control in room and pillar mining through automation

Komatsu has made automation headway in several different underground mining areas, with the room & pillar (R&P) space being another key market where it is making inroads to improve safety and increase productivity by moving operators away from harm’s way.

IM caught up with Toby Cressman, a Senior Product Manager for R&P Automation and Data Solutions at Komatsu, to gauge how advanced the market is with its automation transition, as well as where the focus areas are for the company going forward.

IM: Compared with both the underground longwall sector and underground hard-rock haulage and loading sector, how advanced is your automation offering for the R&P sector? What elements are yet to be automated within the R&P mining setup?

TC: Compared with the longwall (LW) sector and hard-rock (HR) sector, R&P automation is not as advanced. These reasons are market-, application- and regulatory-driven.

When it comes to market demand, we saw a much earlier push from the longwall side as customers were dependent on these high productivity systems. We have spent considerable time and focus on automating longwall faces over the years as they are critical to the success of our customers. We now see that demand trending into entry development machines and our continuous miners (CMs) as they become the limiting factor for our customers.

Regarding the application, as the LW sector operates in a more controlled and consistent environment, the act of automating the process becomes easier because the number of variables is reduced. Since this is a system, things like utility management have been designed into the system before automation – not to mention the lack of requirement to bolt as the roof is allowed to subside as the system advances.

On the HR side, their application has haulage routes that are similar for long periods of time and operate in an environment where regulatory controls around the types of sensors used are not as rigid when it comes to the approval process (ie explosive environment).

Currently when it comes to R&P automation, we have automated the CM to cut repeated sump and shear cycles in a straight line. We have the technology to keep the heading of the CM straight. In applications using our Flexible Conveyor Train (FCT), the FCT has been automated to follow the CM in and out of these cut cycles until the sequence is stopped by an operator. The FCT can make steering corrections to adapt to the direction of the CM.

IM: Do you tend to offer all new equipment as ‘automation ready’, or are many of these advances being made with hardware and software upgrades to existing equipment?

TC: This really depends on the market, product type and level of automation. Today, most of our original equipment CMs leave the factory automation ready, all the way up to our highest commercially available automation package. Even for our higher levels of automation that are currently being tested, those kits could easily be retrofitted in the field. When machines come in for rebuild, upgrading is an easy option that some customers take advantage of.

For our haulage products, the automation option we offer is on our FCTs. We have an option for FCT follow-me mode where the FCT will follow the CM in and out of the cut, making miner steering corrections. Though the field upgrade is a simple task, these are only being shipped equipped as such when requested by the customer.

Komatsu has an option for FCT follow-me mode where the FCT will follow the CM in and out of the cut, making miner steering corrections

IM: Are the majority of your clients taking advantage of these automation advances, or does it differ between sectors (ie are coal clients more open to this than those in potash, for example)?

TC: A majority of our clients are taking advantage of our level-one continuous miner automation (CMA). This is our one touch shear option. In this mode, the roof and floor points are set, and the operator simply controls the sump depth. This has been popular in the market for years. Our level-two CMA is growing in popularity and now running successfully in more than five countries. At this level, the machine functions are controlled by a sequence table and the CM will complete multiple cycles until stopped by the operator.

We have seen the adoption of automation features more widely implemented in our industrial minerals markets, where the coal markets lag some. I would generally credit this difference to cutting conditions, application and haulage methods.

IM: Can you single out some major automation releases or upgrades in the last few years that represent ‘game changing’ innovations? Were these developed specifically from customer requests?

TC: Our level-two CMA is definitely making waves in the industry. We are rolling it out on more and more machines globally and it is proving to be valuable in various applications. Some of the best news – in terms of technology and automation features – is that it is highly affordable. This feature wasn’t directly requested by the customer (our customers are always asking to assist in moving operator’s further from harm’s way, increase productivity, extend component life, etc).

This feature is excelling at those things, based on the data we have analysed to date. We can do this in near real time with customers who have connected machines (machine to surface communication) taking advantage of our Smart Solution product offerings. Even with customers who don’t have connected machines, this can be accomplished manually through data dumps taken locally at the machine. This feature is also critical in enabling customers who want to operate their equipment from remote management centres. Automation and operator assist features will be key in teleremote mining.

IM: What part of the R&P mining process is next up for an automation advance? Where is this potential product/solution in terms of your R&D pipeline?

TC: We are currently working on field trials for bolter automation and in the initial phases of automating our batch haulage products. These are next for the room and pillar products.

IM: Anything else to add on trends within the room and pillar sector?

TC: When it comes to R&P automation, we are focusing on those repetitive tasks an operator is performing that could be completed by the control system. This allows an operator to focus on the task at hand and reduce fatigue. As we continue to assist the operator with these tasks, it also enables flexibility of where the operator is positioned, improving the overall operating environment for them.

Epiroc acquires OEM-agnostic mine automation leader RCT

Epiroc has agreed to acquire Remote Control Technologies, an Australia-based company that provides automation and remote control solutions for mining customers around the world.

With this acquisition, Epiroc says it will be the world-leading automation solutions provider not only for surface and underground rock drilling but also for underground loading and haulage.

Remote Control Technologies, known as RCT, is headquartered in Perth, Australia, with customers in more than 70 countries. The company provides automation and remote control solutions applicable for either a single machine or an entire mixed fleet of machines, regardless of manufacturer or type of equipment. RCT also provides data and information systems, fleet and machine management systems, and machine protection systems.

RCT has about 225 employees and had revenues in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, of approximately A$85 million ($54 million).

Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, said: “Automation is increasingly important for the mining industry to strengthen safety and productivity, and RCT’s advanced solutions complement Epiroc’s existing automation offering well. Together we will provide complete automation and remote control solutions to support our customers on their journey towards optimal operations.

“We are especially pleased that Bob Muirhead, RCT’s founder and a true pioneer within mining automation, will continue in an active management role. We look forward to welcoming the strong RCT team to Epiroc.”

FLANDERS reflects on 75 years of innovation in electric rotating machines

FLANDERS, a global provider of engineered solutions for the mining, mills, oil and gas, power generation, utilities, and energy markets, is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2022/23 with, it says, activities highlighting the company’s history and plans for the future.

Beginning in 1947 as a small motor repair workshop, the company has grown into a global leader, specialising in the distribution, service, repair, design and manufacturing of electric rotating machines, it says. It now boasts products and services like artificial intelligence-powered-condition-based monitoring, custom controls, systems integration, and automation for the industry’s largest and most demanding applications.

Frank Flanders started the company in May of 1947 in Evansville, Indiana, and, in 1962, Roy Patterson and Bud Havens purchased Flanders Electric Motor Service Inc. The Patterson family held sole ownership until recently, with family members, including grandfather, father, mother, and sons, holding key leadership roles throughout the decades.

Center Rock Capital Partners purchased the company in March 2021, with the acquisition forming part of a broader initiative to serve heavy industry and mining with electrical, mechanical, and hydraulic services – focused on a “whole of service” offering to our clients, helping them lower their operating costs.

FLANDERS now has with 15-plus locations worldwide, supporting over 10,000 customers and employing hundreds of people worldwide in a family-oriented environment.

John Oliver, CEO of FLANDERS, said: “I am very proud of what we’ve accomplished throughout the company’s 75-year history. It takes a great team of employees and partners to get us where we are today. From our legacy products to new engineered solutions, we’ve learned from and evolved with the needs of our global customers. As we look to the next 75 years, we are committed to developing innovative products and solutions to meet our customers’ unique challenges.”

Today, FLANDERS has multiple business streams, including autonomous solutions, control and power systems, distribution, motor manufacture, and repair and services. Each business stream capitalises on solid engineering expertise to help customers solve unique challenges, it says. The company is also investing in green power solutions to protect the environment and solutions that help reduce the cost of operation in heavy industry.

FLANDERS has its headquarters in Evansville, Indiana, and holds more than 1 million sq.ft (92,903 sq.m) of repair, office, and inventory space.

Oliver added: “Built into the FLANDERS ethos is our customer service mindset, we understand that our customers are focused on safety, quality, reliability and productivity, and at FLANDERS as we use that lens to engineer solutions and services that put the customer’s needs at the forefront and going a step further to think above and beyond what can be done to improve the customer experience.”

FLANDERS says it is dedicated to investing in its diverse employee base and innovative technologies, focusing on green power management solutions for another 75 years.

Epiroc to supply loaders, drills and bolters to Luannan’s Macheng iron ore mine

Epiroc says it has won a large order for underground mining equipment from Luannan Macheng Mining, with several dozen machines with automation features set to head to the new Macheng iron ore mine in Hebei Province, northern China.

Luannan Macheng Mining, part of Shougang Group, has ordered a fleet including Scooptram loaders, Simba production drilling rigs, Boomer face drilling rigs and Boltec rock reinforcement rigs. Some of the loaders are the electrically-powered Scooptram EST1030s (powered by cable), and all the machines have market-leading energy efficiency, Epiroc says.

Automation features for many of the machines include Epiroc’s Rig Control System, making them ready for automation and remote control, and ABC (Advanced Boom Control) Total, which enables drilling a sequence of holes (full round) automatically, the company explained.

Epiroc says it will also provide rock drills and other consumables as well as on-site services.

The equipment order was booked in the September quarter of 2022 and is valued at more than SEK300 million ($26 million).

“Epiroc and Shougang Group have a productive partnership going back many years,” Epiroc’s President and CEO, Helena Hedblom, said. “We look forward to supporting them with highly productive and sustainable solutions at their new Macheng mine.”

Fu Zhen Xue, Mine Manager at Luannan Macheng Mining of Shougang Group, said: “China, in recent years, started the quick move towards consolidation of steel companies and the high-quality development of the steel industry, focusing more on safety and the environment. The equipment will help Shougang Group lead China’s steel industry and the shift towards safety and productivity.”

OZ Minerals’ West Musgrave copper-nickel plan receives board approval

The OZ Minerals Board has greenlit the build of the West Musgrave copper-nickel project in Western Australia, paving the way for the development of a remote asset using dry grinding technology, autonomous haulage and a significant volume of renewable power.

West Musgrave is set to become OZ Minerals’ fourth operating asset when it starts producing concentrate in the second half of 2025, in the process becoming the company’s cleanest and greenest mine with plans to reach net zero Scope 1 emissions by 2038.

The feasibility study the board signed off on details a 13.5 Mt/y operation with average production of circa-28,000 t/y of nickel and circa-35,000 t/y of copper over a 24-year operating life. Coming with a A$1.7 billion ($1.1 billion) direct initial capital expenditure bill, West Musgrave could provide cash flow generation of circa-A$1.9 billion during the first five years of production based on OZ Minerals’ projections.

One of the interesting additions to the process flowsheet – which has been mentioned in previous economic studies – is the use of LOESCHE’s Vertical Roller Mill (VRM) technology.

Two VRMs will operate in parallel after the primary and secondary crushing circuit at West Musgrave, with OZ Minerals noting benefits in reducing power consumption by around 20%, supporting higher flotation recovery and the operational flexibility to be ramped up and down. The latter is particularly important given OZ Minerals plans to make West Musgrave one of the largest fully off-grid, hybrid renewable powered mines in the world with an initial circa-80% renewable penetration rate, powered off wind and solar energy with a battery energy storage system in tow.

Dr Thomas Loesche, Managing Shareholder and owner of LOESCHE, said: “As a mining engineer with a degree in mineral processing, it has always been a vision of mine to develop dry-comminution technologies that enable better sorting efficiencies, reduced power and consumables. We are very pleased to be involved in such an important project. OZ Minerals is breaking new ground and proving that sustainability does not stand in the way of project development, but rather makes such projects possible.”

The application of the VRM technology has been peer reviewed for the project by independent experts and has been de-risked through pilot test work campaigns, OZ Minerals added.

Further upstream of the VRMs, OZ Minerals has stated plans to operate the mining fleet remotely from day one at West Musgrave, with the acquisition of an autonomous haulage system-enabled fleet on a leasing basis in the feasibility study outline.

OZ Minerals did not include details of the size of truck involved in the latest study, but the prefeasibility study originally released in 2020 highlighted the use of up to 25 220-t payload haul trucks.

There is also potential for these haul trucks to be electric in the future, with OZ Minerals saying its pathway is aligned with the potential transition to an electric haulage fleet at the first engine change out.

While OZ Minerals says it has the capacity to fully fund West Musgrave with a new A$1.2 billion syndicated facility supported by key relationship banks awaiting final binding agreements, it said potential strategic partnership in the project via a minority interest was being explored.

The next steps for the project involves award of contracts with major partners – it has already signed up GR Engineering to build the process plant; increasing the capacity of its camp to around 250 beds by early 2023; mobilisation of equipment to commence earthworks; finalise the power purchasing agreement and Living Hub – the latter of which has 350 permanent ensuite rooms; and increasing its owner team resources in line with the plan, including operational-readiness personnel.