Tag Archives: Automine

Sandvik to deliver advanced automation system at Codelco El Teniente’s Andesita project

Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions is further expanding its strong automation partnership with Codelco, receiving a major order for its AutoMine® load and haul solution for the Andesita project at El Teniente mine in Chile.

Following multiple automation solutions orders from Codelco in 2023, Sandvik will implement an advanced automation system and deliver a new automated Toro™ LH621i loader during 2024.

“El Teniente mine is on its way to becoming the underground operation with the highest level and most intensive use of automated equipment in the world,”  Rodrigo Andrades, El Teniente Mine Manager, said. “To sustain this process, we require suppliers with a high level of commitment and collaboration in this objective.”

David Hallett, Vice President, Automation at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, said: “We are thrilled to collaborate with Codelco yet again, this time delivering our leading AutoMine technology to enhance safety, efficiency and productivity in the new Andesita project. This contract reinforces our position as a trusted partner in mine automation and our commitment to meeting Codelco’s evolving needs.”

The contract includes training, workshops and essential components for comprehensive lifecycle support, as well as scalability terms for the purchase and delivery of additional Toro LH621i loaders and automation systems for additional tunnels through 2028.

“As a leading OEM in the transformation to safer and more sustainable mining operations, we value Codelco’s continued trust in Sandvik and look forward to continuing our commitment to grow our partnership,” Ricardo Pachon, Vice President, Sales South Cone and Andean at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, said.

OceanaGold on the benefits of data-driven transformation

With a Vancouver-based headquarters and operational mines in the Philippines, the US and New Zealand, access to – and sharing of – data for decision making is critical for the optimisation of OceanaGold’s various operations and processes. It is also proving equally important for the company’s pursuit of recruitment and upskilling.

OceanaGold’s vision is to be a company people trust, want to work and partner with, supply and invest in, to create value. This vision comes alongside a plan to grow its gold production from 460,000-480,000 oz, to 580,000-600,000 oz in 2025, all while lowering its all-in sustaining costs.

Data is playing an increasingly important role in achieving this vision, with the company having invested heavily in digital and networking technology in the last few years.

For example, the company has made investments in industrial Wi-Fi across its operations – at the Golden Point underground mine (part of the Macraes operaton in New Zealand), Didipio (Philippines) and Haile (USA) – to improve access to data and company systems.

Michelle Du Plessis, Chief People & Technology Officer, told IM: “This investment is improving operational efficiency by reducing the need for people to leave operational areas of the mine to access data and systems.

“This also enables more of our equipment to be operated more safely and remotely.”

And remote operation of equipment has been growing with the installation of these network backbones, with teleremote underground drilling, loading and hauling in place at Golden Point with Sandvik fleets, plus teleremote loading and hauling – with Sandvik AutoMine®-equipped LH517is and TH551is – occurring at Haile.

There are also plans to switch to teleremote operations from a surface cabin at the Didipio underground mine.

The company is completing the real-time data process loop, with tablet-based mine operation control software – Digital Terrain’s Simbio solution – being implemented at all of its underground operations to, Du Plessis says, more accurately and effectively control underground mine planning based on what is happening in the mine at that time.

At the Horseshoe underground mine at Haile, the newest underground mine within the group, the company is also using digital and data platforms for its mine planning and short interval control systems, with the API-enabled integration coming into the Snowflake cloud-based ecosystem.

Du Plessis says these platforms are fully integrated with shift plans uploaded onto tablets and updated digitally if plans change through the shift.

On surface at the Macraes open-pit operation in New Zealand, the company is also working on the effective digital transfer of data, having recently migrated away from an older version of the Cat® MineStar™ Fleet FMS to MineSense for Miners’ (MS4M) FMS. “The main benefits were more accurate management of the fleet in terms of efficiency and maintenance planning,” Du Plessis explained of this change.

On surface at the Macraes open-pit operation in New Zealand, OceanaGold is now using MineSense for Miners’ (MS4M) FMS

Data access and availability is having a positive impact on operational productivity at OceanaGold’s operations, as well as enabling the company to confront the skills shortage it and every mining company is facing at the moment.

Du Plessis said: “At OceanaGold, we are taking a systematic and multi-pronged approach to skills development across the talent lifecycle. This guides the way we prepare our workforce for the future opportunities by building the data and technology capabilities across the company.

“We also have a distributed operational footprint, which allows us to draw on, and foster, talent in multiple jurisdictions and we can take advantage of workforce mobility between the operations.”

Some of the company’s operations are in regions where mining is not the major employer, and there are plenty of people with skills but no mining-specific experience. With OceanaGold prioritising a residential workforce and local employment over fly-in, fly-out options, skills development is crucial for resourcing its operations.

“To help us develop these skills and provide people an opportunity to build a career and have sustainable employment in mining, we partner with experienced training providers and contract mining companies,” Du Plessis explained.

For example, in the Philippines, OceanaGold has partnered with Site WorkReady (Philippines) Pty Ltd to use the Site Skills Training Center in Clark Pampanga. This facility allows the company to train new employees to work in an underground mining environment, with a focus on safety. “We are also looking at the opportunity to extend this partnership to include additional skills, such as automotive and heavy diesel mechanics, to continue to upskill our local workforce,” Du Plessis said.

In South Carolina, where the company has recently commenced mining from the new Horseshoe underground mine, OceanaGold has engaged Redpath Mining Inc in a similar skills development role.

“In addition to their mining contract, Redpath provide training and resources to develop the underground mining skills of the local workforce, allowing us to transition to a full owner-operator model over time,” Du Plessis explained.

The company has also invested in an underground training simulator at the operation, offering potential recruits exposure to the underground environment and building the operating skills of new trainees.

Sandvik seals largest-ever single surface drills order from Country Boy Supply

Country Boy Supply, LLC, one of the newest dealers for Sandvik in the USA, has selected Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions to supply 34 surface drill rigs to replace its current contractor fleet in Georgia and Tennessee, the largest-ever single surface drills order for Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions.

Country Boy Supply (CBS) already had a large order focusing on the construction market in Georgia and Tennessee when Two Eight Drilling, its largest customer, approached CBS with a decision to switch to Sandvik equipment.

The record-setting order includes 16 Leopard™ DI650i drills, six Leopard DI550 drills, five Pantera™ DP1600i drills, three Ranger™ DX800 drills, three Ranger DX700 drills and one Pantera DP1500i drill.

“We were impressed with the productivity and uptime of the Sandvik surface equipment and made a strategic choice to flip our entire fleet,” CBS customer Brent Taylor, CEO of Two Eight Drilling, said. “We look forward to gaining all productivity improvements and testing the latest automation technology. CBS and Sandvik support was also un-paralleled.”

Deliveries are scheduled to start in the March quarter of 2024.

Jake Schmidtlein, General Manager of Country Boy Supply, LLC, said: “The key to getting this across the finish line was that both teams at CBS and Sandvik, along with the other members of the supply chain, worked together seamlessly. This is an excellent example of how business-led collaboration across the whole chain can create value for all parties.”

The surface drill rigs will be used for production drilling in various large quarries or open-pit mines, as well as construction work sites. Sandvik intelligent surface drill rigs bring the latest technology to surface mining applications, the OEM says. Designed to work in the toughest operating conditions, these rigs combine power with precision and are designed for efficiency and operator comfort.

“We are delighted to partner with Country Boy Supply and deliver the most productive and powerful surface drill rigs available to upgrade their fleet,” Ville Keinänen, Business Line Manager for Surface Drills, Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, said. “These new drill rigs will help increase profitability and productivity over their lifecycle. Our partnership will further strengthen Sandvik’s position in the surface drilling solutions market.

“Automation will be a key feature in the fleet upgrade as some of the drills will be equipped with AutoMine® readiness. We look forward to continuing to work hand-in-hand to add value to CBS’ business.”

Amelia: the underground drilling conversation starter

Some 16 months after launch, Sandvik’s AutoMine® Concept Underground Drill, also known as ‘Amelia’, is having the impact Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions was hoping for, influencing most forward-looking conversations it is having with new and existing underground drilling clients.

The AutoMine Concept Underground Drill, launched at the company’s Test Mine in Tampere, Finland, in September 2022, is a fully autonomous, twin-boom development drill rig capable of drilling without human interaction. The cabinless unit can plan and execute the entire drilling cycle from tramming to the face, setting up for drilling, drilling the pattern and returning home to charge for the next cycle – all on battery power.

Amelia – a name that was attached to the vehicle due to its industrious connotations – was designed to showcase next-generation intelligent automation and other new technologies and features that will be introduced for current and future Sandvik offerings.

Sandvik’s underground drilling team is now that much closer to having identified what these features are.

“Amelia was always designed as a conversation starter, and that has certainly proven true,” Patrick Murphy, President, Underground Drilling Division at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, told IM and a select group of trade journalists during a recent visit to the Test Mine. “Hundreds and hundreds of clients have seen this vehicle since launch, and we have had a lot of feedback; much of it proving very valuable.”

From speaking to Murphy and the AutoMine team, it is apparent many customers would have liked to acquire one of these concept machines upon launch in September, however its true value remains as a technology demonstrator for testing and development purposes.

Amelia uses a SLAM-based algorithm to improve tramming and localisation accuracy

The self-contained drill has no cable, being powered instead off an on-board battery. It uses and optimises power and electricity based on need, making that power supply last even longer. Automated tramming, mission management, drilling and bit changing are some of the elements Sandvik highlighted upon launch, and much of the initial customer discussion has centred around these features.

“Having a machine that is sitting here in the Test Mine, is tangible, functional and can be demonstrated, allows us to have these practical conversations with customers, more so than any model we could put up on a screen,” Murphy said.

One of the elements that has caught the attention of customers is an automated lifter tube installer that removes personnel from the face charging procedure.

“When speaking to many operators, the potential to automate lifter tube installation keeps coming up,” Murphy said. “These tubes – installed in the bottom rows of a drill pattern to ensure no cuttings or muck from the holes above fill the previously-drilled holes – typically require a ‘nipper’ or ‘offsider’ to come in beside the face of the drill for installation. The potential to remove this person from this hazardous environment has really captured the attention of customers.”

The automated process Amelia currently uses for lifter tube installations is unlikely to be commercialised, but a variant of it could feature on the underground development drills in the future.

Patrick Murphy, President, Underground Drilling Division at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions

Some other elements included on the concept vehicle likely to come into the commercial drilling line-up include an artificial intelligence-guided automatic drill bit changer to identify when bits are worn and then, changed automatically, a SLAM (simultaneous localisation and mapping)-based algorithm to improve tramming and localisation accuracy and, of course, battery-backed drilling.

Amelia is designed to drill a whole round off battery power, and Murphy says a commercialised, economic option would be of interest to customers.

“If we can offer that cost-effectively compared with a diesel-powered machine, then there would be a market pull,” he said. “The solution isn’t there yet, but the flexibility showcased with Amelia – in not having to supply cables or water hoses during operation – has been highlighted by many customers we have interacted with.”

Johannes Välivaara, Vice President R&D and Product lines in the Underground Drilling Division at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, says the commercialisation of RockPulse technology for continuous rock mass feedback to optimise drilling performance will be on the underground drilling roadmap, too.

“Rock Pulse has been built to measure the stress vibrations going in and out from the hole through drilling consumables,” he said. “This is a future upgrade for our drills as this real-time rock information will allow operations to make plans for ground support and get the geotechnical information off the unit in real time.”

RockPulse technology already featured on Amelia could be further integrated on commercial drill rigs with geoSURE, a rig-integrated, high precision, online rock mass analysis and visualisation system initially developed for tunnelling process optimisation. geoSURE is an important tool for the assessment of rock reinforcement or injection requirements, as well as serving as an assisting tool for charging and blasting control and geological mapping, according to the OEM.

“This (geoSURE) could be further enhanced when RockPulse is integrated into it,” Välivaara said. “It is currently only available for face drilling applications but will come into the longhole drilling space, too.”

Amelia, in this case, has not just lived up to her ‘industrious’ and ‘hardworking’ traits, she has also acted as a catalyst for change.

For example, since launch, automated options for longhole drilling have risen to the surface in customer discussions. And it is hard to see AutoMine for Underground Drills having been introduced as quickly as it has without this concept vehicle having launched.

This platform, which enables operators to remotely and simultaneously control and supervise multiple automated Sandvik underground longhole drills, can increase efficiency, safety and overall productivity in mining operations.

It has also put Sandvik in a club of its own; being the only OEM able to offer a unified traffic management system for drills, loaders and trucks. This means all three types of automated equipment can be operated and tram within the one AutoMine-controlled zone.

LKAB bolsters automated, electric Sandvik loading fleet at Kiruna iron ore mine

LKAB has ordered 12 Toro™ LH625iE cable-electric loaders and five Toro™ LH621i loaders, all equipped with Sandvik’s AutoMine® solution, for its Kiruna iron ore mine in northern Sweden.

The order will more than double Kiruna’s electric Toro LH625iE fleet to 20, all of which will now be automated, and its total Sandvik loader fleet to 28 by the end of 2025, the OEM said.

The orders were booked in the June and December quarters of 2023, with deliveries scheduled from January 2024 through the end of 2025. The investment follows a study by Sandvik’s Trans4Mine team and calculations by Polymathian that identified opportunities for Kiruna to increase production by as much as 15% through automation of its large electric loader fleet.

“Sandvik and LKAB have a shared goal to boost production at the Kiruna mine,” Magnus Backe, General Manager LKAB Kiruna, said. “This is a true partnership to increase tonnage and improve safety through automation.”

Developed in 2020 as a collaboration between LKAB and Sandvik to replace Kiruna’s ageing fleet of 17 Sandvik LH625E loaders, the 25-t-payload Toro LH625iE is a revamped version of the industry’s largest-capacity underground loader.

“This investment supports our strategy towards a more electrified, autonomous and safer mine,” Joel Kangas, Mine Manager at LKAB, said. “We need to excavate an enormous volume of rock from depths of up to 1,300 m, and we will mine even deeper in the future. These depths present a prohibitive ventilation challenge for conventional equipment of the size we need to meet production demands. We worked closely on a daily basis with the Sandvik experts on site to ensure a seamless implementation.

“Ever since we put the first Toro LH625iE straight into a production environment more than three years ago, these loaders have been the backbone in our production system, exceeding our expectations, and we look forward to incorporating these new automated units into our operation.”

Kiruna was among the industry’s earliest adopters of cable-electric loading, trialling its first Sandvik unit in 1985. The oldest of Kiruna’s Sandvik LH625E loaders was 13 years old and had more than 40,000 production hours when what began as a project to modernise the loader and a side project to enhance its cable reeling system ultimately evolved into a completely upgraded loader model with the latest technology and new components.

Sandvik collaborated closely with LKAB to customise the design of Toro LH625iE to meet Kiruna’s needs. These included better energy efficiency than the original model with the same payload capacity and a larger, more ergonomic operator’s cabin with a turning seat that swivels 180°.

Mats Eriksson, President of Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, said: “[The] Toro LH625iE has proven itself at the Kiruna mine, delivering an unrivalled production capacity of up to 500 metric tons per hour. Not only are these automated loaders extremely productive, they improve underground conditions and operator comfort with less heat, fewer vibrations and lower noise levels. Our partnership will create value for LKAB for years to come, and we look forward to continuing to support LKAB’s goals to mine more sustainably and productively.”

The Toro LH625iE is 14 m long and features a 4-m-wide, 9 cu.m bucket and an energy-efficient, IE4 classified electric motor to deliver a low cost per tonne. It connects to Kiruna’s mine network via a 350-m trailing cable that enables an operating range of up to 700 m.

SandvikLH621i

Sandvik loaders, development drills and bolter heading to Byrnecut at Kathleen Valley

Mining contractor Byrnecut has chosen Sandvik to supply automated loaders, underground drills and rock tools as it gears up to deliver underground mining services at the Kathleen Valley lithium project in Western Australia.

Sandvik will supply Byrnecut with seven 21-t-payload Toro™ LH621i loaders with AutoMine®, three Sandvik DD422i development drills with Dual Controls and a Sandvik DS422i cable bolter. The equipment order was primarily booked in the September quarter.

Sandvik will also supply Byrnecut with rock tools for the operation over four years.

The deal follows Liontown Resources awarding Byrnecut with the circa-A$1 billion ($656 million) contract for development and production at the mine in August 2023.

The Kathleen Valley lithium project in Western Australia’s northern Goldfields region is one of the most significant new long-life lithium projects anywhere in the world, owner Liontown Resources says, with a mineral resource estimate of 156 Mt at 1.4% Li2O and 130 ppm Ta2O5. The operations have been optimised for an initial 3 Mt/y, producing approximately 500,000 t/y of spodumene concentrate with a 4 Mt/y expansion planned in Year 6, to deliver approximately 700,000 t/y of spodumene concentrate.

Byrnecut is investing A$125 million in new equipment for the project, with mobilisation having already commenced and first production is targeted for mid-2024.

Wayne Scrivens, Vice President, Sales Area Australia and New Zealand, Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, said: “Byrnecut and Sandvik have a long history of collaboration on projects across the country and we’re delighted that Byrnecut is once again investing significantly in Sandvik equipment and rock tools for this major project. This deal highlights the growing understanding across the Australian mining sector that Sandvik’s advanced solutions help mines run safer, more efficiently and more sustainably.”

Sandvik’s Toro LH621i underground loaders (one pictured above) are engineered for rapid mine development and large-scale underground production, according to the OEM. Smart boom geometry optimises hydraulic power for fast bucket filling and the handling of large rocks.

Under AutoMine Multi-Lite an operator can remotely control and simultaneously supervise multiple Toro LH621i loaders from a comfortable environment, reducing exposure to dust, noise, vibrations and other mine hazards. This creates a safer work environment for both the operator and mine personnel, Sandvik says.

When used in combination with Sandvik’s Dual Controls package, Sandvik DD422i face drills can be used for a wide variety of underground applications, including boring, bolting and meshing. The package improves drill optimisation, versatility and performance and was designed to address needs identified by mining contractors.

Sandvik will also provide Byrnecut premium rock tools as well as a range of added services and digital solutions to support its drilling operations. The deal will also include carbide recycling, with Sandvik’s Carbide Recycling Program helping both the OEM and the wider industry to meet circularity goals and ensure raw materials are used efficiently and sustainably.

Sandvik’s Toro LH514E cable-electric loader receives AutoMine treatment

Sandvik is introducing the AutoMine®-ready Toro™ LH514iE loader, a revamped version of its 14-t cable-electric loader.

The loader builds on its predecessor, the Sandvik LH514E, with several new updates to enhance safety and productivity.

Sandvik has been delivering electric mining loaders for more than 35 years. Building on this legacy and integrating the latest electrification, digitalisation and automation technologies, the Toro LH514iE is Sandvik’s latest solution for electrifying and automating underground loading.

It becomes the latest automated cable-electric loader designed with AutoMine integrated capabilities, offering customers flexibility to upgrade from manual to autonomous operations at any time in the equipment’s lifespan, the company says. From AutoMine Tele-Remote entry-level smart tele-operation, which offers standard features and capabilities, to AutoMine Core’s highly advanced automation system providing the most robust set of features for mass mining applications, customers can choose the right automation for their mine’s needs, the OEM says.

Unlike battery-electric vehicles that require battery swapping or quick-charging, or diesel equipment that needs refuelling, as long as the Toro LH514iE’s cable is plugged into the mine electric grid, the loader is ready for work. The high-capacity cable reeling system has an operating range of up to 330 m, the company added.

Sandvik said: “[The] Toro LH514iE loader can help improve working conditions underground for operators and other mine personnel. In addition to not producing diesel emissions, the electric motor contributes to improved working conditions by emitting lower levels of noise, vibration and heat.”

De Beers taking major technology steppingstone at Venetia Underground

Making the transition from an open pit mine that has been operating successfully for 30 years to an underground operation that could become one of the most mechanised and automated in the world is not something that happens overnight.

De Beers Group embarked on the $2.3 billion underground expansion of its Venetia asset in Limpopo Province in 2012, in a move that represented the biggest single investment in South Africa’s diamond mining industry in decades.

Underground production began at the mine back in June this year, at a point when construction completion was estimated at 70%.

The introduction of autonomous mining systems performing multiple mining processes to deliver up to 6 Mt/y of kimberlite ore – for circa-4 Mct/y of diamonds – is now beginning, with a ramp-up process occurring over the next four years, according to Moses Madondo, Managing Director of De Beers Group Managed Operations.

“The technologies we are implementing – some of which are under development themselves – will be gradually phased in,” he told IM. “Where appropriate, we will take advantage of ‘proven’ technologies first to ease the change management process, before advancing to less mature technologies thereafter.

“The process should see us start operating areas of the mine in autonomous capacity by 2027.”

De Beers has engaged Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions for its automated production machines, with the OEM delivering a 34-strong fleet made up of LHDs, ADTs, twin-boom drill rigs, roof bolters, cable bolters and production long hole drills. A further 12 units will be delivered in the future. These iSeries machines include 17- and 21-t payload LH517i and LH621i LHDs, 51-t payload TH551i ADTs, DD422i face drills, DS412i roof bolters, DS422i cable bolters and DL422i production drills.

Employee in the cab of one of the fleet of Sandvik machines

The underground mine will use sublevel caving to extract material from its K01 and K02 orebodies. Initially the ore will be hauled to surface using a combination of underground and surface haul trucks. As the operation matures, the hauling systems will transition to an automated truck loop in combination with vertical shafts for steady-state production.

Sandvik is also providing its AutoMine® system for the remote operation of loaders and trucks and its OptiMine® system for machine health monitoring, task management and location tracking.

Automation will be applied through a phased approach, beginning with manual operation and close monitoring of performance through data analytics. Automation will then gradually be introduced with the necessary training and experience in the operation and support of these technologies.

Madondo explained: “Our current fleet is made up of manually operated machines, which are optimised with automated task management. This process still requires an on-board operator, although many functions are automated.

“The next step would be autonomous machines, operated and overseen from surface, with our training centres already set up to deliver that.”

A pilot project to prepare the production team for the use of remote loading at the drawpoints and autonomous tramming to the tip is in the process of being established, with trials set for later this year and into 2024.

With sublevel cave mining, there is a risk of mud rushes and water ingress at drawpoints and remote loading will allow material to be loaded without putting operators at risk.

This pilot project will have a single loader operating under AutoMine Lite in a dedicated area on 46 Level that is isolated from other areas of the mine, with the machine controlled locally from a mobile tele-remote station just outside the autonomous operating area (ie not from surface).

An integrated operations centre on surface has been constructed and is in the final stages of commissioning.

Moses Madondo, Managing Director of De Beers Group Managed Operations

This is but a fraction of the emerging technology the company plans to employ at the mine, as Madondo highlighted.

“Of course, we will be integrating more technologies into the mix – digital mobility, data analytics, a cave management system, collision prevention, personnel alert systems, equipment location and tracking, production management through digital platforms, centralised blasting systems and digital twins,” he said. “All of these projects have people working on them to deliver our project objectives.”

For Madondo, the business case for employing such high levels of mechanisation and automation has only strengthened in the 11 years since the first shovel was placed in the ground for the underground project.

“This is a challenge with deep underground mining projects – they take a long time to develop and, in that period, technology and economics change,” he said. “It is, however, clear that mechanised mining allows you to take on these advanced technologies as the years go by.

“The investments are not just for technology’s sake. The business case must be built on our ability to improve safety and keep our people away from harm; as well as to make us more efficient and beat inflation, ensuring the margins we promised investors are realised.”

On the former, the company has partnered with Booyco Electronics on rolling out the South Africa-based company’s Level 9 – as defined by the Mining Industry Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) organisation of South Africa – Booyco Electronics CWS850 collision prevention system at the mine.

“All of our Sandvik equipment is Level 9-enabled and we’re busy on this rollout,” Madondo said. “We’re already employing Level 7 (a system that warns pedestrians of their proximity to trackless mobile machinery) for this equipment. It’s now just a matter of getting to that new advanced level efficiently and safely.”

The company is also employing the Mobilaris Mining Intelligence platform for personnel location and situational awareness to help locate individuals in case of an emergency and notify them of incidents should they occur.

On the productivity side, the company is employing a cave management system to prevent overdrawing, Madondo says, linking the sub level caving mine plan with on-board LHD diagnostics and bucket weighing for efficiency and safety.

Process controller overseeing processing operations within the Venetia Mine

On top of OptiMine and AutoMine from Sandvik, the company is looking to integrate Howden’s Ventsim™ CONTROL system for monitoring, control and optimisation of underground mine ventilation in a ventilation on demand (VoD) application.

“We will gradually introduce VoD and Ventsim CONTROL as it allows us to 1) optimise the use of air and ventilation; and 2) retain the right condition and hygiene levels in the areas of the active mine,” Madondo said.

In an automated mining scenario, Ventsim CONTROL could potentially start ventilating an area of the mine in line with the expected arrival of the autonomous equipment, optimising the process and environment, and, as a result, reducing energy use.

Reaching the pinnacle

Also part of that discussion is decarbonisation – an area the company has already made significant progress on with its move underground.

“Transitioning from surface to underground has reset the energy balance,” Madondo said. “This has seen the site become far less reliant on energy from fossil fuel sources, with the big trucks and loaders from the pit replaced with smaller underground equipment and more electrical infrastructure.

“We predict by that, by 2030, 85% of all energy consumed will be electrical and only 6% will be diesel. That is a significant shift from the open-pit operation where nearly 85% of all energy consumed was from diesel.”

The company’s broader electrification work is currently in the review stage, but Madondo did provide some insight into the focus areas.

“We are looking at battery LHDs and trucks; we will consider trolley assist hauling loops and tethered electrical loading in some of the areas too,” he said. “It is all part of a progressive shift that will be integrated with the sourcing of renewable power for the mine.”

De Beers itself has set targets to become carbon neutral across its operations by 2030, Venetia Underground included.

The first electrification project the company is likely to embark on is a battery-electric retrofit of one of its light duty vehicles, Madondo said, explaining that this technology is relatively mature and comes with less infrastructure requirements due to the ability to charge the machines on surface.

“Our wider electrification plans are being influenced by the maturity of the technology; it may be more beneficial to wait until the adoption rate and learnings increase before we commit,” he added.

Even with the planned integration of such advanced technology at Venetia Underground, Madondo says De Beers still has some way to go to achieve the FutureSmart Mining innovation-led approach to sustainable mining that its parent company, Anglo American, advocates for.

“The pinnacle of De Beers mining expertise will probably be realised when we get to rollout our Diamond FutureSmart Mining, which ultimately is a mine design that we can use to develop future mines that make mining safer, more efficient, more sustainable and with a smaller environmental footprint,” he said.

“Of course, Venetia is certainly a steppingstone to that, but we will hopefully apply the learnings from Venetia for Jwaneng Underground (in Botswana) in the not-too-distant future. That could represent a different, more technologically advanced proposition where all processes are setup to benefit from the latest innovations.”

He concluded: “This will ensure we help create a healthy environment, that we catalyse thriving communities, and that we build trust as a corporate leader. We are shaping a future that creates shared value for all our stakeholders.”

Boliden Garpenberg receives Sandvik’s first automation-ready battery-electric Toro LH518iB LHD

Boliden’s Garpenberg zinc operation in Sweden has taken delivery of Sandvik’s first Toro™ LH518iB with AutoMine® as part of a 12-month collaborative trial of the new automation-ready 18-tonne battery-electric loader.

Considered one of the most modern mining operations, Garpenberg is the world’s most productive underground zinc mine and Sweden’s oldest mining area still in operation. The mine is now set to become the first in Europe to trial a Sandvik battery-electric loader, the OEM says.

The Toro LH518iB will support Boliden’s efforts to improve sustainability by reducing greenhouse gas emissions underground. The company’s climate targets include a 40% reduction of absolute CO2 emissions in Scope 1 and 2 and 30% reduction of Scope 3 emissions by 2030.

Jenny Gotthardsson, Garpenberg’s General Manager, said: “We are proud to be recipients of the very first Toro LH518iB with AutoMine. The unit has already undergone extensive factory testing in Finland and we look forward to really putting it through its paces now in our operation. We’re on a journey to reduce fossil fuel usage and CO2 emissions and increase productivity, and we are happy to work towards these goals with long-time partner Sandvik.”

The Toro LH518iB marries battery-electric and automation technologies. Building on the predecessor Sandvik LH518B, the Toro LH518iB features several design updates and significantly improved field serviceability. The latest version of Sandvik’s intelligent control system enables AutoMine readiness, and AutoMine compatibility will be available for Garpenberg’s Toro LH518iB in the March quarter of 2024.

The Toro LH518iB has dimensions equivalent to the 14-t size class, enabling it to fit in a 4.5-by-4.5-m tunnel. Its ground-up design, powerful electric motors and innovative electric driveline result in a compact size with higher payload capacity and increased visibility, Sandvik says.

Sandvik’s patented self-swapping battery system, including the AutoSwap and AutoConnect functions, minimises infrastructure needs and enables the loader to return to operation significantly sooner than ‘fast-charge’ mining BEVs, the company claims. The battery swap is performed by the loader itself, controlled by the operator in the cabin, without need for overhead cranes or forklifts.

Johanna Øygard, Territory Manager for North East Europe at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, said: “We’re excited to see the productivity and sustainability benefits Garpenberg will gain from Toro LH518iB with AutoMine as we monitor the loader’s performance and production metrics over the next 12 months.”

In Mexico, Torex Gold is set to receive 11 Toro LH518iB battery-electric loaders as part of a 35-unit-strong hybrid fleet for its Media Luna project.

Sandvik autonomous surface drilling tech heading to Boliden’s Kevitsa mine

Boliden has selected Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions to supply two Leopard™ DI650i down-the-hole (DTH) drill rigs and AutoMine® Surface Drilling systems, enabling fully autonomous surface drilling at its Kevitsa multi-metal mine in northern Finland, the OEM says.

The order also includes a five-year parts and services agreement and My Sandvik Onsite analytics for process optimisation. Delivery of the two Leopard DI650i drill rigs is scheduled during the September quarter.

“Boliden Kevitsa is committed to improving sustainability, productivity and safety by investing in the latest automated technologies,” Christian Bjorne, Vice President Sales Area Northern Europe at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, said. “We look forward to continuing our technology cooperation and supporting Kevitsa in its journey to becoming an even more safe and productive mine through our drilling solutions.”

The Kevitsa open-pit mine represents one of the largest mines in Finland when it comes to excavation volume. Temperatures at the mine can drop below -30°C during the winter, and, with operations running 24/7, Kevitsa requires robust, proven technology. Sandvik and Boliden conducted comprehensive field tests over several months to prove the automated Sandvik drilling technology and performance. Technical support exceeded the mine’s expectations during the field tests, according to Sandvik.

Kevitsa will run the two Leopard DI650i DTH rigs using the AutoMine system from a remote control station near the drilling area or from mine control room. Boliden and Sandvik have an ongoing rock tools agreement at Kevitsa, including DTH hammers, bits, pipes and rock tools services. Sandvik on-site technicians will ensure support is available 365 days a year, maximising the drill rigs’ utilisation, productivity and reliability, it says.

AutoMine Surface Drilling is an autonomous solution for a wide range of Sandvik i-series surface drill rigs, designed to improve safety, reduce costs and increase productivity. Sandvik says it enables an operator to control multiple rigs remotely from a comfortable line-of-sight location or a control room – improving working conditions and safety.

Leopard DI650i drill rigs are equipped with iDrill technology, a scalable automation platform that supports fully autonomous operation and is designed to accelerate the production process. iDrill onboard automatics cover all steps of the drilling cycle from automated boom positioning, drilling and pipe handling to finishing the hole, and ensures consistent high-quality drilled holes, according to the OEM. These capabilities can be upgraded with more advanced modules such as single-rig or fleet remote control systems with AutoMine Surface Drilling.