Tag Archives: automation

Sandvik to automate new LHD fleet at Codelco’s El Teniente copper mine

Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions says it will deliver its AutoMine® Fleet system to automate a new fleet of Sandvik LHDs running at Codelco’s Pacifico Superior and Pilar Norte GTI operations, part of the El Teniente underground mine in Chile.

This partnership, Sandvik says, supports Codelco’s vision to create one of the most sophisticated mines in the world.

AutoMine Fleet is a highly advanced automation system for a fleet of Sandvik underground loaders and trucks sharing the same automated production area. It provides automatic mission control and automatic traffic management for the equipment fleet, while system operators remotely supervise the process.

The system will enable Codelco to operate its new fleet of Sandvik LH517i 17 t and Sandvik LH621i 21 t loaders autonomously at the El Teniente mine, one of the world’s largest underground copper mines. The project implementation started in December and is expected to be completed by mid-2021.

Codelco’s objective is to dramatically increase the productivity, safety and efficiency of its operations with AutoMine, and this project is a continuation of Codelco’s 10-year strategic program to prolong the life of its existing mines, Sandvik says.

The two companies started their automation journey together at El Teniente with the first-ever AutoMine Loading system installation in 2004. The AutoMine system is already in operation at Diablo Regimiento and Panel 2, the other two blocks of the El Teniente mine.

Juan Mariscal, Senior Business Manager, Codelco, said: “Being able to use mining automation technology that is well proven, as well as working with a supplier that understands our needs and is capable of adapting to our operating philosophy, are key drivers for Codelco’s operations. That is why we have chosen our long-term partner Sandvik to go on this journey with us. Above all, Sandvik’s enhanced local presence and expertise will ensure successful implementation of these projects and strong support.”

Codelco is the number one copper producer in the world and is owned by the state of Chile. It controls about 19% of the world’s copper reserves and is also the second-biggest producer of molybdenum worldwide.

Riku Pulli, President, Rock Drills and Technologies Division, Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, said: “We are proud to continue supporting Codelco on its automation and digitalisation journey at El Teniente mine, making its operations smarter, safer, more productive and sustainable through digitalisation.”

Fortescue expands automation focus to light vehicles at Chichester Hub

Fortescue Metals Group says the future of mining mobility is being advanced at its mines, with the successful operational deployment of autonomous light vehicles (ALVs) at the company’s iron ore mining operations in the Chichester Hub of Western Australia.

Developed by Fortescue’s Technology and Autonomy team as a solution to improve the efficiency of the Christmas Creek mobile maintenance team, ALVs remove the need for fitters to make around 12,000 28-km round trips annually to collect equipment and parts, the company estimates.

With the assistance of Ford Australia, four Ford Rangers have been retrofitted with an on-board vehicle automation system to support the driverless equipment transfer service, which will improve efficiency and safety by enabling team members to spend more time on maintaining assets.

The system features an integrated LiDAR/Radar perception system that facilitates obstacle detection and dynamic obstacle avoidance, a comprehensive independent safety management, and fail safe braking system and extensive built-in system monitoring and fault response capability.

The successful deployment of ALVs at Christmas Creek will provide the opportunity to implement a similar system at other operational sites to improve safety, productivity and efficiency, Fortescue says.

Fortescue Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Gaines, said: “Since the outset, Fortescue has been at the forefront of innovation in the mining industry, underpinned by our value of generating ideas. It is this focus on technology and innovation that has driven our industry-leading operational performance and cost position.

“The autonomous light vehicle project is a significant advancement of our in-house automation capability, building on our leading autonomous haulage system program which has already delivered significant productivity and efficiency improvements for the business.

“With the flexibility to introduce similar systems into other mobile assets, this project is fundamental to our future mobile equipment automation projects.”

Ford Australia President and Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Birkic, said: “We’re very proud that our award-winning Ford Rangers have been used as part of the Fortescue Metals Group autonomous light vehicle project.

“Ford, globally, is at the forefront of research into autonomous vehicles, and working with companies like Fortescue is critical to gaining an insight into specific user applications.”

Autonomous loading and hauling pays off at Agnico’s LaRonde, Kittila gold mines

Increased uptake of autonomous loading and hauling technology at the LaRonde (pictured) and Kittila gold mines has helped Agnico Eagle Mines post a record quarter of production for the last three months of 2020.

Payable gold production in the fourth quarter of 2020 was 501,445 oz at all-in sustaining costs of $985/oz, the company reported. This compared with 494,678 oz at an AISC of $1,039/oz in the prior-year period.

Homing in on LaRonde Complex (including the LaRonde mine and the LZ5 Mine), in Quebec, Canada, Agnico put the good performance at LaRonde – production of 105,729 oz during the quarter, down from 112,704 oz in the prior-year period when gold grades were 7.3% higher – down partially to the automation strategy that, the company said, had helped improve productivity and allow continuation of mucking activities during non-entry protocols related to seismicity.

In 2020, 13% of tonnes mucked from stopes at the LaRonde mine were carried out in automation mode and, in December 2020, a record 39% of the production mucking at the LaRonde mine was carried out from surface, which included 100% of the production mucking from the West mine area.

At LZ5, in 2020, 14% of tonnes mucked and hauled to surface were accomplished in automated mode with operators based on surface. This surpassed the 15% target the company had set. For 2021, it is expected 17% of the tonnage will be mucked and hauled remotely to surface and the production rate is expected to be sustained at around 3,000 t/d. “The LZ5 automation team will continue optimising the automated mining techniques,” Agnico said.

Agnico said the target for 2021 is to muck over 17% of the total tonnage for the LaRonde Complex from surface. The company said it is also carrying out work to perform production drilling using automation.

In a January presentation, Agnico stated that 10 LHDs and four trucks had been equipped with Sandvik’s AutoMine® system. Back in 2018, Sandvik announced that the LaRonde mine would become the first operation to use AutoMine with LTE communication network underground on a production scale.

To continue tailings deposition through the LaRonde Complex life of mine, Agnico is also constructing dry-stack tailings facilities, which are expected to be operational by the end of 2022. Dry stacking will help limit the footprint of the new tailings facility and improve the closure of the main tailings ponds, Agnico said.

Moving to Finland at the Kittila gold mine, the use of automation also paid off.

The company said Kittila continued delivering strong performance in the December quarter of 2020, with production above forecast by around 6,000 t. This also coincided with the commissioning of the expanded mill at Kittila, which is now ramping up towards the design capacity of 2 Mt/y.

The mine delivered a record full-year ore production of around 1.85 Mt in 2020, according to the company.

“This performance (in Q4) is driven by an improved fleet management and an increased usage of automation,” Agnico said.

Kittila has been testing autonomous hauling trucks and tele-remote equipment and is targeting to achieve 50% of production drilling and 15% of hauling remotely in 2021, it said.

On top of this, Agnico said the mill had consistently increased availability and the company was evaluating the implementation of advanced process control in 2021.

Yancoal’s Moult to talk up METS supplier relationships at Austmine 2021

The Austmine 2021: Harnessing Intelligence Mining Innovation Conference & Exhibition is set to open the stage to a host of high-calibre guest speakers, including Yancoal’s recently appointed CEO, David Moult.

Moult, who took on the role of CEO at Yancoal in March 2020 as COVID-19 entered Australia’s shores, has successfully navigated Yancoal through a tumultuous year, the event organisers said.

“Disruption is not new to the coal industry, though it was during the pandemic that the company’s innovation, resilience and ability to rapidly adapt came to the forefront,” they said.

Moult said the coal industry has been through many cycles for different reasons, which is what makes the industry competitive, entrepreneurial, responsive and resilient.

“Of course, no one could have anticipated the extent and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic this year, and the ramifications are far-reaching and ongoing,” Moult said. “At Yancoal, the way to survive the level of volatility the pandemic created was to be at the right end of the cost curve. Our portfolio of low-cost assets and a good workforce also gave our company the strength to survive, and it will continue to do so in the future.”

Despite a year of turmoil which has seen some companies fold, Yancoal is well positioned for ongoing growth, the event organisers said.

Moult said: “We will continue obtaining acquisitions – though with a focus on value not volume accretion. We will also expand and extend our existing projects – such as the Moolarben and Mount Thorley Warkworth mines where we’ve already identified additional production capacity.”

Yancoal’s values of Innovation, People, Safety, Integrity and Excellence, has been a standout in the heart of its people and business as the year has unfolded, Moult says.

“Whether it was working from home or installing thermal imaging to monitor worker health at mine sites, everyone worked together to implement work practices and measures to mitigate COVID related risks.

“It was through the ideas of our people that Yancoal was able to drive innovation, satisfy customers and create value for shareholders. It was a direct result of their work that we experienced minimal disruption to our operations and succeeded to meet our operational targets.

“With everyone’s efforts, by September we had achieved a reduction in our unit cost to A$60 ($46) a tonne and still made our financial targets. That’s an impressive result at a time when inflation was stagnant and some parts of the industry were at a standstill.”

Yancoal employs 4,000 workers across its 11 sites in regional areas across Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales.

“These regions are home to our employees, our suppliers and service providers, as well as their families and friends,” Moult said. “It is critical that these communities thrive and are provided every possible opportunity to reach their full potential.

“Our mandate of safety, security and wellbeing is not only about our people on site – it extends to their families and the communities in which they belong.”

Yancoal has invested A$1.6 million into 177 local initiatives in 2019 to support the local communities in which it operates, the event organisers said. It has continuously explored new ways of undertaking routine processes to improve efficiency and safety on the modern mine site.

“At our Moolarben Underground Mine, in New South Wales, we elevated levels of automation for longwall mining as well as established new continuous miner, coal clearance, pumping and conveyor systems. At Cameby Downs Mine in Queensland, we trialled the automation of dozer-push operations.”

Moult also attributes Yancoal’s success in 2020 to its relationships with mining, equipment, technology and services (METS) suppliers, and he has some advice for new suppliers entering the marketplace.

“Premium METS suppliers are collaborative, flexible and innovative,” Moult explains. “During the pandemic, our suppliers exhibited a ‘no surprises’ mindset. This approach allowed us to work together closely to address supply challenges as they arose.

“For new METS suppliers it’s a valuable learning to consider when talking to decision makers. Suppliers need to clearly set out their value proposition and how they offer efficiency and cost perspectives that practically align to how a company does business, whether that’s in procurement or in another area.”

Last year alone, Yancoal assets produced 52.1 Mt of saleable coal for international markets.

Moult said: “Coal is a vital part of a robust energy mix and essential for developing economies. While the percentage share of coal in the mix may lessen as new energy sources reach a maturity in the marketplace, the demand and volume of coal will remain strong across the globe.”

Moult will be speaking at the Austmine 2021: Harnessing Intelligence Mining Innovation Conference and Exhibition, which will take place from May 25-27, 2021, at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre, in Western Australia.

Held every two years, the Austmine Conference features more than 50 mining innovation and technology experts across a two-day conference program and interactive pre-conference workshops. The event includes a series of educational and networking opportunities, including a trade exhibition featuring live demonstrations, the collaborative Ideas Exchange, Meet the Miners and the Austmine Industry Leaders’ Dinner and Awards.

For more information visit: www.austmineconference.com.au

International Mining is a media sponsor of Austmine 2021

Epiroc continues to build equipment order book in Q4

Epiroc continued to register strong demand for its equipment in the December quarter, with the mining OEM’s order intake increasing both in the underground and surface mining segments, the company reported today.

Headline numbers from the December quarter included a 1% year-on-year increase in orders received to SEK9.3 billion ($1.1 billion), a 5% drop in revenues to SEK9.8 billion, a 10% increase in operating profit to SEK2.2 billion and a higher operating margin of 22.6%, compared with 19.6% a year earlier.

In terms of its equipment, Epiroc said orders received increased 26% organically to SEK2.97 billion in the last quarter of 2020.

Speaking to IM shortly after the results were released, Helena Hedblom, Epiroc CEO, explained: “The equipment orders…were across our portfolio, and the good thing is there were not that many large orders in the quarter; it was many small- and medium-sized orders.”

This would imply the strength in equipment demand – which came from both the underground mining and open-pit mining segment – is broad across the industry, coming not just from the major miners.

This pattern was also seen in the September quarter of 2020 when the company recorded a 25% year-on-year organic increase in equipment orders in the period, with the majority of orders coming from small- to medium-sized contracts of, say, one or two pieces of equipment, Hedblom said at the time of the results release.

Looking at the wider equipment and service segment of the business – which provides rock drilling equipment, equipment for mechanical rock excavation, rock reinforcement, loading and haulage, ventilation systems, drilling equipment for exploration, water, oil and gas, as well as related spare parts and service for the mining and infrastructure industries – Epiroc said the share of orders from equipment in this segment was 43% in the December quarter. Service, meanwhile, represented 57% of the orders.

Epiroc said it expected demand, both for equipment and aftermarket, to remain stable in the near term, while cautioning: “Uncertainty, however, still remains regarding the COVID-19 development and any further related restrictions.”

In the results release, Hedblom said automation, digitalisation and electrification solutions were in high demand over the quarter, with the company connecting more and more machines over this time frame.

“We continue to win orders and we are proud of our market-leading solutions that are globally deployed and proven,” she said. “They enable increased productivity, safety and sustainability for our customers.”

When questioned about the planned acquisition of MineRP, announced late in the quarter, Hedblom said the combination of the MineRP platform with its own digital solutions would allow Epiroc to “become a better productivity partner” in a mine’s digital journey.

IM also got Hedblom’s thoughts on if there was a regional difference in the speed of uptake of ‘new technology’ in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. She said: “I see this technology shift coming in a different light with the pandemic. Sustainability is coming in; digital tools are becoming more and more natural as we need them.

“There is maybe an acceptance that the technology is here to stay, is available and customers want to jump on this journey now. I see it across all regions, which is a bit different to how the mining industry has adopted new technologies in the past.

“We have good traction everywhere now when it comes to new technologies.”

And, on the subject of ‘new technology’ uptake, IM asked Hedblom if she saw any parallels between the evolution of automated equipment adoption in the mining sector – which started with solely new autonomous equipment purchases to improve operations and moved towards a combination of retrofits and new equipment as the technology gained traction – and how companies may look to leverage mine electrification underground.

She answered: “I think it is too early to say yet. If I look into the coming 5-10 years, conversion of existing fleet will be one way to speed up the electrification journey. That is also why we are investing and developing these types of products to allow us to offer retrofits as part of the mid-life rebuild process, for example.”

The company confirmed back in November that its battery-electric retrofit solution for diesel-powered machines is expected to launch in the March quarter of 2021.

Kumba’s Kolomela, Sishen iron ore mines to deploy Rosond nex-gen exploration drill rigs

Rosond of Midrand, South Africa, is combining automation, software, data analytics and machine learning to create a next-generation drill rig that will help transition the company from contractor to technology provider.

The company dispatched the final batch of 28 state-of-the-art drill rigs to Anglo American’s majority owned Kumba Iron Ore operations in the Northern Cape in December, to be rolled out at Kumba’s Kolomela and Sishen iron ore mines. This forms part of a R2 billion ($134 million), five-year tender clinched by Rosond to supply Anglo American with the latest drilling technology as it modernises its geoscience operations.

“We really believe that this is going to be a future game changer,” Ricardo Ribeiro, Managing Director of Rosond, said.

In the face of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, Rosond said it was able to compress a year’s work into six months. It collaborated with a leading Italian manufacturer to develop the advanced drill rigs, which will be deployed for core, percussion and reverse circulation drilling.

“I am happy to report that the last two drill rigs were dispatched in December 2020,” Ribeiro added. “We are excited to see the entire fleet operational early this year. These are some of the most highly-advanced exploration drill rigs in the world.”

The drill rigs feature increased safety with the automation of most of the arduous and dangerous manual labour involved, Rosond says, taking away the need to handle the drill rods, and load and unload heavy equipment from the drill rigs.

The rig operators are housed in a climate-controlled, air-conditioned control room for an improved work environment that, in turn, assists with fatigue management and also boosts productivity and accuracy, Rosond says.

The opportunity to build such rigs also arose with several women being deployed as part of a team at Kumba. Recruiting and training this team formed part of Rosond’s tender with Anglo American, Ribeiro explained.

Rosond took the strategic step in 2012 to begin developing new technology for the drilling and exploration sectors, with the drill rigs leveraging the latest developments in software, telemetry and automation.

“We brought in a lot of technology from the construction and oil and gas industries to develop specific functionalities such as dust suppression and automation, as well as software and telemetry systems,” Ribeiro said.

The 28-strong fleet at Kumba will be deployed in an 80 km radius to optimise exploration drilling by providing critical geological data about the sites under investigation, Rosond says.

Having successfully developed the hardware of the new drill rigs themselves, the future plan is to launch a software division to focus on the application of data analytics and artificial intelligence in optimising the drilling process, as well as promoting machine learning.

“We are optimistic that in the future our drill rigs will be able to identify all the necessary parameters in order to be able to guide the operators seamlessly,” Ribeiro said. “The end goal in our development process is to have a full autonomous drill rig.”

Robotics on its way to the exploration industry, QR’s Scott says

Mining has entered a robotics boom as developers take substantial strides in artificial intelligence (AI), use of drones, and data capture and analysis technology that will deliver safety improvements and better managed mines, Queensland Robotics Executive Chairman, Andrew Scott, says.

Speaking at the IMDEX Xploration Technology Symposium, he said that with the development of autonomous haulage and drilling technology, the mining industry had moved through a “trough of disillusionment” around robotics and was rapidly accelerating towards the “plateau of productivity”.

The two-day online conference brought together experts in mining innovation and exploration industries to discuss the latest in new technologies, tools and advanced analytics.

Scott said acceptance of new technologies had been aided by restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the development of some digital transformation projects planned for the next three to five years being executed in three months.

“COVID is a significant accelerator and robotics is no exception,” he said.

Capital was available to fund new and emerging projects and was another clear indicator of a robotics boom, which Scott said would undoubtedly mean more jobs not less.

“There’s a lot of work that’s underway right now to really bring to the forefront a lot of automation and robotics to deal with enhanced data capture and execution of exploration programs and also within the mining environment,” he said in an interview ahead of the symposium.

“In the mining environment, we’ve seen the proliferation of automation in the form of autonomous haulage and autonomous driving, but now we’re seeing all the other ancillary services that are requiring automation and robotic solutions to take people out of danger but also to enable a highly efficient and productive system.

“We’re starting to see some of those capabilities move across into exploration, including the ability to deploy smart sensors in the field robotically, the collection of samples, and the analytical processing of those samples.”

He told the symposium the increase in robotics was aided by a reduction in sensor and computational costs, and, with more tools and technology available, there was increased adoption and acceptance.

“Robots are helping with the dirty, dull and dangerous, and distance challenges,” he said. “Applying robotics can definitely remove people from harm’s way. It can also augment what they are able to achieve by being able to explore in environments where until now we’ve been limited.”

This included in Australia, with areas subject to extreme heat, the high altitudes of the Andes, and subsea exploration.

“Robotics is surfing the wave of AI,” he said. “There’s a huge amount of development and growth in this area. We’ve gone past the AI winter, as they call it, and the acceleration of tools, and the ease of use of those tools is becoming a critical enabler.

“My prediction is that we’re going to see more and more solutions where they’re highly engineered highly capable, robust, highly configurable and easy to use.”

LKAB selects IFS enterprise asset management solution as part of digital transformation plan

LKAB has asked IFS to deliver an enterprise asset management (EAM) solution capable of helping the company set a new world standard for data-driven mining, the enterprise applications company says.

To achieve carbon dioxide-free sponge iron production by 2045, LKAB recently launched one of the largest industrial investment plans in Swedish history.

To reach its productivity and environmental goals, the company has embarked on a holistic digital transformation journey to ensure business process transparency, consolidation and harmonisation of processes and data, as well as access to high-quality insights to drive improved decision making, IFS says.

“Launching a comprehensive evaluation process, LKAB scanned the market for a best-in-class EAM solution that could support its mission-critical mining operations while offering an open architecture for easy integrations,” the company explained. “Another key consideration was to equip its workforce with intuitive, easy-to-use mobile technology to ensure a positive user experience.”

Based on its capabilities in key areas such as maintenance and logistics, as well as its RESTful APIs based on the OData standard and browser-based user interface, the IFS cloud-based solution was selected by LKAB, IFS explains.

“The journey LKAB has embarked on will transform the global iron and steel industry and set new standards for how mines are digitised and managed,” Markus Petäjäniemi, Senior Vice President, Market and Technology, said. “To lead the industry toward more responsible, resource-efficient mining practices, we need the very best technology to make sure our people and assets are working efficiently and safely. IFS is an open solution that will connect to our technological backbone and support our current and future needs.”

Elni Kullmer, IFS Managing Director, Nordics, added: “This is a landmark agreement for IFS and we are honoured to have been chosen by LKAB to help usher in a new era of efficient mining. We have been supporting EAM processes in asset-intensive industries since the 1980s and we are thrilled to be able to bring our experience to bear on this exciting project.”

The IFS solution will be used by some 4,000 LKAB employees working in Sweden, England and Norway, according to the EAM vendor.

Autonomous drilling transition sets IAMGOLD’s Essakane up for longer mine life

The roots of IAMGOLD’s automation ambitions at the Côté gold project in Ontario, Canada, can be traced back to remote and auto drilling developments at its 90%-owned Essakane mine in Burkina Faso, which, according to a recent presentation from Zhi Jun Zhu, has resulted in significant operational benefits.

IAMGOLD launched the first automated drill rig in West Africa with assistance from Epiroc back in February at Essakane. This followed a series of automation steps carried out on the company’s fleet of Epiroc PV235 blasthole drills, beginning with the ‘Operator Assist’ phase back in 2016.

Added to the seven PV235 blasthole drills on site are five Sandvik D45KSs. These drills are working in medium-to-hard material of 100-250 Mpa rock where they drill 229 mm and 152 mm diameter holes on 10 m benches. They come with a single pass limit of up to 12.2 m in down-the-hole drilling mode.

The business case for adopting automation at the site, which began operating in 2010 and was expanded in 2013 to reach a mining capacity of 55 Mt/y, was centred around a capex versus opex dynamic – should the company purchase a new rig to increase drilling performance by 15%, or try to increase the use of automation on its existing seven PV235s to hit this goal?

Alongside this, the company wanted to provide its best drillers with the ability to operate multiple rigs simultaneously, enhance operational safety, support continued sustainability, and improve performance and productivity.

Zhu, who worked at Essakane as Technical Services Coordinator for five years prior to his current role as Autonomous Systems Engineer at Côté, explained during the recent GMG-led Autonomous Drills Virtual Forum: “During the start-up of the mine, the required fragmentation size was difficult to achieve because the ore was coming from the soft area where it was highly weathered and fractured. As the mine depth increased, the material got harder. As a result, the blasting fragmentation became harder to achieve. At the same time as the percentage of hard material increased, productivity of the crusher became a concern and bottleneck.”

With the last life of mine study in 2018 showing a required increase in the total material mined to keep up an average gold production rate of 400,000 oz/y – and the requirement to strip hard material from phase four, five, six and seven to reach a new ore zone from 2026 – the company needed to embed a suitable level of blasthole drill automation in advance of another expansion in the mine life.

Prior to 2016, Essakane required two people to operate a PV235 – one to guide the machine to the desired location and another to operate it.

This was neither safe or efficient, Zhu said, adding that hole deviation and sub-optimal fragmentation were also common with this setup.

Breaking down the project key performance indicators after the initial ramp up of remote and autonomous operation, Zhu said the company was looking for:

  • An improved drilling penetration rate of 15%:
    • 23 m/operating hour (propel + setup + drill); and
    • 28 m/drilling hour.
  • Improved drilling productivity from 63% to 75%:
    • Eliminate stoppage delays associated with lunch and shift change;
    • Lean drilling, less propel/tram and setup/positioning time.
  • Increased drilling capacity from 81,714 to 108,800 drilling meters/rig/year.

Having progressed from the ‘Rig Operator Assist’ mode in 2016, which used Epiroc’s Rig Control System, Surface Manager, Auto Level, first generation AutoDrill module, and Hole Navigation; the company has progressed to the ‘Rig Remote Operation’ phase where (Multi) Remote and AutoDrill generation two functions are employed.

This second-generation system represents a “big advance”, Zhu said.

“The system is very smart and could continuously optimise the engagement to deliver the desired result,” he said. “The only manual input required is the ‘aggressiveness’ setting, which balances the bit life with the penetration rate.”

This led to the launch of its first fully automated drill rig on February 8.

While the project is on course to hit all the above-mentioned KPIs, there have been other benefits including an operating hours improvement of 645 hours/year/rig; a 14,835 m/year/rig drilling metres gain; a $356,040/rig incremental annual production benefit; and a net cost saving of $202,794/rig compared with the equivalent rental equipment drilling cost.

All of these add to fewer people being in dangerous areas on the mine site – with all operators in remote operating centres – more consistent operation from a fuels/lubricants and drilling consumables perspective and, of course, less maintenance.

Reflecting on the implementation, Zhu noted several key required inputs for a successful automation implementation program.

“It is a critical requirement to have a reliable network connection between the on-board device and the remote operations office,” he said.

On top of this, the sensors on the machines need to be kept in top shape, meaning maintenance teams should evaluate their health on a regular basis and always keep spare parts available.

And, while fewer people will be needed to oversee drilling in autonomous mode, the skills level of the required personnel will be that much greater.

Some of the next steps at Essakane include improving the bandwidth and latency time for real-time control of multi-automated drills, developing a preventive maintenance system checklist, and carrying out a business case study on upgrading four PV235s to either Teleremote/AutoDrill 2 operation.

Zhu will no doubt bring these learnings and opportunities to the Côté gold development in Canada, which is expected to operate six blasthole drills in fully autonomous mode when ramped up, alongside more than 20 fully automated haul trucks. These will help the mine reach an average production rate of 367,000 oz/y of gold.

Oxbotica’s Open Autonomy plans receive investment boost

Oxbotica has announced the completion of a $47 million Series B investment to help accelerate commercial deployment of its autonomy software platform in mines around the world.

The news is an endorsement of Oxbotica’s go-to-market strategy, deploying its autonomy software in industrial use cases in advance of rolling out in urban passenger transportation applications in the future, it said.

Oxbotica is developing an Open Autonomy software platform for the mining industry, providing operators, integrators and manufacturers the autonomy functionality and flexibility they need − be that full stack, or on a component-by-component basis, it said. Back in June, it signed an MoU with Wenco International Mining Systems Ltd to further develop this solution for mining.

The company’s product is a software platform providing “Universal Autonomy”, it said, in a vast array of vehicle types both on and off road.

“The ability to move all vehicles, irrespective of size or type, with the same autonomy system means a mine can be orchestrated in a way not currently available,” the company said.

On the same day of this announcement, Halma announced it has agreed a strategic partnership with Oxbotica.

Navtech, a Halma company specialising in radar technology, has an existing relationship with Oxbotica focused on developing a radar-based navigation and perception system.

This new strategic partnership will deepen the relationship and provide additional technologies and capabilities to accelerate its autonomous vehicle solutions, according to Halma.

Andrew Williams, Halma’s Group Chief Executive, said: “Oxbotica’s vision – working to make roads safer, environments cleaner and industries more efficient – is aligned with our purpose to grow a safer, cleaner and healthier future for everyone, every day. Our partnership will enable Oxbotica to accelerate the roll-out of its autonomy software globally and will bring exciting new capabilities for Navtech to develop its radar technology solutions and accelerate its growth.”

Oxbotica was founded in 2014 by Oxford University professors, Paul Newman and Ingmar Posner. Since then, the company has grown from a UK robotics start-up to one of the world’s leading autonomy companies, Oxbotica says.