Tag Archives: Boliden

Komatsu teams with Rio, BHP, Codelco and Boliden on zero-emission mining solutions

Working together to rapidly innovate in support of carbon reduction targets, Komatsu has teamed up with several of its customers to form the Komatsu Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Alliance.

The founding members of the alliance are Rio Tinto, BHP, Codelco and Boliden.

Through the alliance framework, Komatsu’s GHG partners will work directly with Komatsu to actively collaborate on product planning, development, testing and deployment of the next generation of zero-emission mining equipment and infrastructure, the OEM said. The alliance’s initial target is advancing Komatsu’s power-agnostic truck concept for a haulage vehicle that can run on a variety of power sources including diesel-electric, electric, trolley (wired), battery power and even hydrogen fuel cells.

“We are honoured that our customers, several of the largest mining companies in the world, have agreed to participate in the Komatsu GHG Alliance and work in partnership with us to develop sustainable solutions for mining,” Masayuki Moriyama, President of Komatsu’s Mining Business Division, said. “We look forward to close collaboration with these industry leaders to accelerate development and deployment of the next level of equipment designed to reduce greenhouse gases from mining operations and ultimately achieve the goal of zero-emission mining.”

The formation of the alliance brings together mining leaders willing to share time, resources and information to deliver zero-emissions equipment solutions, Komatsu said. The company intends to expand the alliance to additional mining companies to enhance industry-wide collaboration on solutions to decarbonisation.

In a separate release, Rio Tinto said it will conduct a pre-production trial of the new equipment at a site and has the option to purchase some of the first trucks from Komatsu once they are commercially viable.

Alf Barrios, Rio Tinto’s Chief Commercial Officer, said: “Rio Tinto and Komatsu have a shared history of partnership on innovation going back to when we built the world’s largest Komatsu autonomous haulage fleet in 2008.

“Our support of a trial, and the option to buy some of the first trucks from Komatsu, underscores our shared commitment to actively collaborate on product planning, development, testing and deployment of the next generation of zero-emission mining equipment and infrastructure as we look to decarbonise our business.”

As a company, Komatsu, meanwhile, says it is committed to minimising environmental impact through its business, targeting a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions from use of its products and production of its equipment by 2030 (compared with 2010 levels) and a challenge target of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

Komatsu has worked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for customers through product development for decades in many areas including electric diesel dump trucks, electric power shovels, regenerative energy storage capabilities and fuel saver programs, it said.

The company’s initial concept for a haulage vehicle that can run on a variety of power sources, part of the power-agnostic development, is set to make its official debut at MINExpo 2021 on September 13-15 in Las Vegas, USA.

Antofagasta becomes latest Charge on Innovation Challenge patron

Antofagasta, as part of its sustainability efforts, has joined the Charge On Innovation Challenge as a patron.

The initiative, which counts BHP, Rio Tinto and Vale as founding patrons, seeks to develop solutions to charge the batteries of electric mining trucks safely, quickly and sustainably. This is essential in order to replace the use of diesel in these trucks and the emissions it produces, the challenge organisers say.

The goal is to enable trucks of 220 t or more to stop using diesel and run on electric batteries, just like other electric vehicles. In order to achieve this, it is essential to develop a battery charging system that does not use polluting fuels and, at the same time, allows the extraction trucks to operate as they usually do.

Today there are already efforts underway to develop and use electric trucks, but those are for trucks of a smaller tonnage (100 t) which can regenerate their own energy, Charge on Innovation says. The collaborative work with the Charge On Innovation Challenge seeks to develop solutions for larger trucks.

Iván Arriagada, CEO of Antofagasta, said: “As a mining group focused on innovation, we are interested in collaborating and contributing to the development of the industry for the future. That is why we decided to participate in this challenge, which is key to being able to use electric trucks and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

As part of its Climate Change Strategy, from 2022, the electricity supplying Antofagasta companies will come from renewable sources. Antofagasta’s Zaldívar mine has been operating from clean energy sources since July 2020.

Thanks to these advances and other measures adopted by the company, Antofagasta was able to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 580,000 t since 2018. Its new goal is to decrease those emissions by an additional 30% between now and 2025.

The Charge On Innovation Challenge was launched by BHP, Vale and Rio Tinto in partnership with Austmine. It has since added Roy Hill, Teck, Boliden and Thiess as additional patrons.

Boliden testing Epiroc battery-electric loader at Kristineberg

As Boliden continues to pursue further development of the Kristineberg underground copper-zinc mine in Sweden, it is increasing its understanding of the use of battery-electric vehicles at its underground operations.

Last month, the company outlined a SEK1.25 billion ($150 million) investment at Kristineberg – most of which is conditional on a production expansion permit – towards further developing the mine towards the Rävliden mineralisation. The expansion is expected to contribute to an increase in milled volumes in the Boliden Area to 1.8 Mt/y.

While this is happening, the company, in partnership with Epiroc, has been testing a 14 t ST14 Battery LHD at the mine.

Testing of the machine commenced in the March quarter and is expected to last 12 months. It has involved the installation of a battery swap and charging station (with overhead crane), and the switching of two batteries on site as testing has ramped up.

Patrik Hansson, Senior Development Engineer of Mining Technology at Boliden Mines, told IM the testing has been limited to a specific part of the mine – the L-Area, 850-1,000 m level. He said the ST14 Battery is the first battery-powered LHD tested across the company.

“We have several KPIs that we are following and evaluating, and comparing to our normal diesel equipment,” Hansson said. Included among the KPI list is tramming distance, driving time, equipment utilisation, equipment availability, production (t/mth), energy consumption (kWh/t), operator acceptance, ambient temperature, air quality (CO, NOx, CO2, diesel particulate matter), humidity level and noise level.

Boliden has submitted an application for expanded production at the Kristineberg mine to the Swedish Land and Environment Court. At the same time, it has decided to make preparatory investments in, among other things, infrastructure and water treatment. Conditional on the application being approved, Boliden will complete the investment, which includes a new ramp and a new crushing station. Production is expected to start in 2023.

In addition to increased mine production, a completed expansion means the life of the Kristineberg mine will be extended and that capacity utilisation in the Boliden Area’s concentrator will be improved.

At Kristineberg, cut and fill mining and drift and fill mining methods are used to mine the mineralised material underground. Generally, levels wider than 10 m are mined with drift and fill mining. In levels with widths between 6-10 m, slashing is used to mine any remaining mineralised material on the walls of the mining room. In the uppermost slices, residual mining is also practiced to mine the sill pillars.

Boliden joins the ICMM as it looks to bolster sustainable metal production

The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) says Boliden, the Sweden-based producer of zinc, copper, nickel and more, has become its 28th company member.

In line with ICMM’s member admission process, Boliden underwent a rigorous independent assessment to ensure it adheres to ICMM’s Mining Principles. Based on the recommendation of the independent review panel, ICMM’s Council, represented by the CEOs of each company member, approved Boliden’s admission.

The Boliden Group is a leader in sustainable metal production. The company’s core competence is within the fields of exploration, mining, smelting and metals recycling with five mining units and five smelters across Sweden, Finland, Norway and Ireland. Boliden’s operations are dedicated to producing metals with a low carbon footprint, with a target of reducing its CO2 intensity by 40% by 2030 through decreasing its usage of fossil fuels and improving energy efficiencies.

Tom Butler, CEO of ICMM, said: “We are delighted to welcome Boliden to ICMM. We look forward to learning from their innovative and modern approach to sustainable metal production and their circular approach to resource management. They will bring new perspectives to ICMM, where partnership, innovation, knowledge sharing, and learning are integral to everything we do.”

Mikael Staffas, President and CEO of Boliden, said: “Our vision is to become the most climate friendly and respected metal provider in the world and the membership in ICMM is an important step in that direction. Our performance within sustainable metal production is strong already today, but we will continue to seek improvements and contribute to the aim of ICMM.”

By becoming a member, Boliden, the ICMM says, commits to ICMM’s Mining Principles which define good practice Environmental, Social and Governance requirements for the mining industry through a set of 38 performance expectations. They apply at asset level and include third-party assurance and validation. Applicable to all ICMM company members, they therefore apply to around 650 sites in 50 countries.

Tackling the big mine electrification questions

“There is consensus in the industry that once we start doing electrification, we will innovate much more in other areas of the mining space.”

If anyone in the mining sector thought electrification was not in their wheelhouse, Theo Yameogo’s words might make them think again.

Yameogo, Partner and National Mining & Metals Co-Leader at EY Canada, made such a statement during The Electric Mine Virtual Conference earlier this week. The event, organised by International Mining Events, brought leaders in the electrification space together to discuss the latest developments in the industry, of which there were many.

The stage was set for mine electrification reveals, and Henrik Ager, President of Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology (soon to be Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions), did not disappoint, acknowledging that the company is currently working on development of what would be its largest underground truck: a battery-powered 65 t vehicle.

This was all part of the company’s aim to have a “full range electrified offering by 2022”, he said.

Azizi Tucker, Co-Founder and CTO of XING Mobility, was next up, providing an overview of the Taiwan-based company’s offering in his presentation: ‘Electrification from prototype to mass production’.

With a remit to provide commercial, industrial and specialty vehicle makers with modular, high power and safe battery and powertrain technologies, XING is making an entrance into the mining space at just the right time.

Tucker talked attendees through the elements that make the company’s IMMERSIO™ battery solutions ideal for the mining sector: “With the modular size and shape of our batteries, we can really suit any vehicles. We find this very popular with the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) as they can utilise their existing chassis.”

The elimination of corrosion, ability to operate consistently in high-temperature environments, a variety of sealing techniques and the use of nickel-manganese-cobalt lithium-ion chemistry has allowed the company to provide the safe and enclosed battery solution miners are looking for.

He concluded by saying XING was in conversation with a variety of mining companies, mining OEMs and mine site operators about deploying solutions in the space.

Attendees were then treated to a demonstration of Tembo 4×4 e-LV’s Electric Cruiser via video during the session: ‘Green conversions: the Tembo 4×4 e-LV electric light utility vehicle platform’ (pictured below). They got up close and personal with the battery-electric utility vehicle as it travelled on- and off-road close to the company’s Netherlands HQ.

After a 15-minute demo showing off the Electric Cruiser’s attributes, Paul Smeters, Tembo 4×4 e-LV’s Marketing Manager, and Alexander Haccou, Tembo 4×4 e-LV’s Technical Director, joined the event to answer audience questions.

The inevitable query came up early during the live Q&A: have you tested this vehicle in an underground mine?

Haccou was prepared for this, explaining that Boliden’s Tara underground zinc-lead mine in Ireland was the first recipient of the company’s Electric Cruiser, and a unit had been operating there for a few years now observing many of the maintenance benefits battery-electric machines are becoming renowned for.

The Electric Cruiser has also been tested in Australia and Canada with the help of Tembo 4×4 e-LV partners in those regions, he added.

“We don’t use fast charging or battery swapping,” Haccou said in response to another question. “What we have seen in several mines is the daily amount of usage is less than the battery’s full capacity.”

After several questions related to an active thermal management system for batteries had come up in previous sessions, Nicolas Champagne’s entrance to the virtual event proved timely.

His presentation, ‘Battery thermal management system using a highly advanced dielectric fluid’, homed in on the use of a dielectric fluid with specific features to allow direct cooling of the battery electrochemical cells.

Champagne, Formulation Team Manager of the R&D department for TOTAL Lubricants, revealed results from use of the fluid in bench tests and simulations at the battery pack level, extrapolating what these results could mean for battery-powered vehicles in the mining sector.

He said the company is in discussions with at least one mining customer about deploying its fluid on a battery-powered vehicle.

After previous sessions had discussed the potential for fast charging and battery swapping, Champagne made clear that TOTAL Lubricants’ solution would prove beneficial in all battery-powered applications throughout the mining sector.

 

Following a lunch break, it was the turn of Epiroc’s Anders Hedqvist (Vice President of R&D, underground) and Franck Boudreault (Electrification Transformation Lead, underground) to deliver a scoop (pun intended).

The pair, during their presentation, ‘From one generation to the next – learnings from zero emission mining’, took it in turns to provide updates.

Boudreault revealed the company’s plan to create battery-electric conversion kits for not only Epiroc diesel-powered equipment out in the field but other OEMs’ machines, before Hedqvist disclosed the company’s in-development battery-electric 18 t LHD would be trialled at LKAB’s Sustainable Underground Mining (SUM) project in Sweden. Epiroc has already delivered a diesel-powered Scooptram ST18 to be trialled in autonomous mode at the SUM project.

It was Yameogo, a mining engineer with much experience operating in underground mines in Canada, that provided the event’s big picture talk in his presentation, ‘Will electrification spark the next wave of mining innovation?’

He talked up the need for industry collaboration between miners, OEMs and service providers in not only electrifying equipment and operations, but also other types of technology.

“That type of collaboration and co-creation framework will actually help mining companies also think about innovation and other items part of electrification and equipment, in general,” he said.

The focus narrowed slightly to open-pit electrification during Dr Bappa Banerjee’s talk, ‘An electric future for mine haulage’. Dr Banerjee, General Manager of Mining Equipment for Wabtec, emphasised from the off that there was no one-size fits all solution to going electric in this sector.

“It’s becoming clear to us…that perhaps it will be a combination of technologies that really help us get to a solution that is feasible,” he said.

This solution, he said, depended on the mine application and haulage scenario, underlining the need for technology flexibility.

In his presentation, Dr Banerjee pitted a diesel-powered haul truck with 2,500 horsepower (1,864 kW) as his baseline solution against a hybrid solution with a 2,500 hp diesel engine and 200 kWh battery as one alternative, and all-electric truck platforms equipped with trolley assist (with 800 kWh battery) and stationary charging (1,200 kWh battery).

The energy cost versus productivity outcome he showed proved his earlier point about different applications suiting different solutions, with varied results depending on if these trucks were deployed on downhill, uphill or flat hauls.

GE Transportation, since merged with Wabtec, has previously demonstrated a battery-diesel hybrid solution on a Komatsu 830E-1AC and Wabtec has plans to release trolley solutions for Komatsu 830E-5 and 930E-5 haul trucks in 2021, so this analysis includes hard industry data.

Dr Banerjee concluded on the decision-making aspect of going electric: “These are not just point in time decisions we have to make regarding the CAPEX and where we are in the lifecycle of the mine, but decisions across decades sometimes.

“Perhaps the best way to approach this would be to start with a technology that is more flexible up front or has more options.”

Brian Huff, Vice President of Technology for Artisan Vehicle Systems, a Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology business unit, used his presentation to reinforce that battery-powered solutions were the way forward in the underground environment.

‘Rethink the machine, not the mine’ was the title of his presentation and Huff stayed true to it from the off: “The basic message is that this is not as hard as you think it is. There is a real big change coming to the mining industry, but it may not be as difficult as you think to accomplish a conversion to battery-electric equipment.”

Similar to Hedqvist’s mention of the newfound freedom available to engineers when designing these next generation battery-electric machines, Huff explained that Artisan’s generation three BEV blueprint started with a battery-electric driveline and built from there.

“Major parts of the frame can be removed to facilitate swapping…[and you can have] double to triple the power density of the machine (compared with the diesel-powered equivalent) to improve performance,” he said.

He moved on to tackle the usual range anxiety question head on, displaying a video of a 13 km haul on a one-in-seven grade. Within this, he showed that the ability to swap batteries during the uphill haul meant there was no loss in haulage productivity when compared with the a similar payload diesel-powered machine.

The time losses related to battery swapping – around six minutes per swap with the Z50 – were more than offset by the increased haulage speed, according to Huff. “It is about 10% faster on the climb,” he said when comparing the BEV unit with a conventional diesel truck.

Productivity could be further boosted with the introduction of Artisan’s patented AutoConnect system. Fitted on the company and Sandvik’s newest 18 t payload LH518B LHD, this system allows the battery swap to be completed in well under five minutes, according to Huff. IM understands an AutoConnect retrofit option could allow the Z50 haul truck to match that swap time.

Add to this productivity benefit, decreases in operating cost and total cost of ownership, and it is hardly surprising Barrick recently signed off on a trial of four of these Z50s at its Turquoise Ridge joint venture gold mine in Nevada.

Safety, cost, maintenance, productivity and even battery life; you name it, The Electric Mine Virtual Conference discussed it.

The good news is a second dose of electrification talk is only four months away, with The Electric Mine 2021 conference taking place on March 15-16, 2021, in Stockholm, Sweden.

Boliden and Luleå University of Technology enter into a collaboration agreement

Boliden and Luleå University of Technology have entered into a long-term strategic collaboration agreement that could help deepen the work the two have been pursuing in the fields of mine automation and optimal resource utilisation within the smelting process.

The new agreement means collaboration will be enhanced “in terms of competence provision and competence development, as well as research and innovation towards leading positions within automation and resource utilisation”, Boliden said.

The miner has long collaborated with Luleå University of Technology, with a focus on developing technology and strengthening competence in both mining and smelting operations. The university has also been an important recruitment base for Boliden.

Mikael Staffas, President and CEO of Boliden (left, pictured with Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn, Luleå University of Technology’s Vice Chancellor), said: “Attracting and further developing skills and technologies is an important part of Boliden’s strategy and requires long-term work. We are already a leader in areas such as climate performance and I look forward to future efforts to further develop the business.”

Some examples of projects the two are working on include process automation and digital twins, human-machine interaction in automation, and sustainability management and social acceptance.

Pär Weihed, Professor and Pro Vice-Chancellor, Luleå University of Technology, said: “In connection with the climate transition, we are seeing there is substantial demand for metals and minerals. At the same time, Luleå University of Technology and Boliden have a long and successful history, and together we can create better conditions for a more sustainable supply of raw materials.”

Metso Outotec and Boliden renew service contract for Aitik copper mine

Metso Outotec and Boliden have signed an extension of their service contract for Boliden’s Aitik copper mine in Gällivare, northern Sweden.

The “3+2-year extension” of the Life-Cycle Services agreement covers the supply of mill lining, chute lining solutions, preventive maintenance of the grinding circuit and recycling of used wear parts, the mining OEM said. The first part of the contract has been booked in Metso Outotec’s orders received in the September quarter of 2020.

The contract is a performance-based cost-per-tonne agreement, in which Metso Outotec gets paid according to the output of the customer’s process. The goal is to ensure the availability of the grinding circuit and to maximise valuable production time, striving for a common goal that benefits both parties, the company said.

Metso Outotec and Boliden have cooperated since the 1960s. Throughout the decades, the collaboration has evolved to meet new emerging needs, while continuing to improve uptime and annual production, Metso Outotec said.

“Safety is Boliden’s top priority and enhancing it is also embedded in the scope of the new contract,” the OEM said. “Metso Outotec will provide solutions that simultaneously cut maintenance time and increase the wear life of parts even further.”

The new contract also focuses more on the management of worn wear parts, with Metso Outotec developing capabilities to recycle and dispose of them more sustainably. The AG mills in Aitik will continue to use Metso Outotec’s innovative Megaliner™ mill lining.

Megaliner helps to maximise the availability of large mills by using an innovative design that speeds up liner replacement. The larger-than-average liners mean fewer individual pieces are needed. Megaliner also has fewer attachment points compared with conventional liners, further improving installation and removal time, Metso Outotec says. It also improves worker safety during maintenance as the liners are bolted into position from outside the mill.

The pebble mills and two regrind mills at Aitik will be lined with rubber and Poly-Met mill linings, Metso Outotec said.

Aitik is one of the largest copper mines in Europe. In 2019, the mine produced close to 41,000 t of copper, employing nearly 800 people.

Swick Mining working on drilling and technology business demerger

Swick Mining Services says it is working towards a demerger of its drilling and mineral technology businesses following a strategic review.

The announcement came at the same time as the ASX-listed METS firm revealed Drilling Business revenue and EBITDA results of A$149.6 million ($111 million) and A$24.6 million, respectively, for its 2020 financial year. A 9% increase in underground metres drilled saw the company beat its 2019 financial revenue total of A$142.9 million, while the impacts of COVID-19 and ramp-up costs at the Pogo mine contract (Northern Star Resources) saw EBITDA drop from A$28.2 million in the previous financial year.

During this period, the company’s deep exploration division launched new DeepEX rigs, which Swick says are the world’s most powerful underground mobile rigs with capacities to drill exploration holes up to 3,000 m of NQ2 core. Two DeepEX hybrid rigs are currently deployed at client sites, it said.

And the company successfully completed on-site trials of its Orexplore technology, the major technology underpinning its mineral technology business.

These site-based trials were undertaken at Sandfire Resources’ DeGrussa copper-gold mine, in Australia, for a three-month pilot project and at Sweden-based mining and smelting company Boliden for a five-month paid pilot project.

“The first trial at the DeGrussa mine resulted in approximately 9,000 m of core scanned in total, generating 20 TB of 3D data – the largest and most continuous dataset of its kind in the world for a single mine site,” Swick said. “With the trial complete, Orexplore has engaged two world-class subject matter experts to assist Sandfire and other potential clients understand the benefits of a comprehensive Orexplore data set.”

Earlier this month, Swick said Orexplore had been awarded its first in-field commercial agreement with St Barbara Ltd at the Gwalia mine in Leonora, Western Australia.

Despite these wins over the last year-and-a-bit, the company said a strategic review had recommended the company carried out a demerger of the Drilling Business and the Mineral Technology Business.

This could be tied to the fact that, at a group level, Swick reported a net loss after tax of A$6 million in the 2020 financial year, which, it said, reflected the lower Drilling Business earnings and ongoing investment in the company’s Mineral Technology Business, Orexplore.

Swick Managing Director, Kent Swick, said: “Financial year 2020 has presented a unique and challenging set of circumstances with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The business has quickly adapted during this difficult period, ensuring we maintained continuity of operations and protected our people on site both internationally and locally.

“I am pleased with the ability of our Drilling Business to deliver robust earnings in this environment and secure new work with existing clients, including our two largest contracts for Northern Star and BHP, which provide a strong platform for the business as we enter the 2021 financial year.

“Meanwhile, our efforts in the Mineral Technology Business are starting to show value, with successful site-based, paid trials in the year for our Orexplore technology and the award of our first ever in-field commercial agreement earlier this month.

“We have a clear strategy for these two businesses and are now progressing with the outcome of our strategic review to demerge the Drilling Business and the Mineral Technology Business to allow them to pursue their respective strategies and ultimately deliver the greatest value to Swick shareholders.

“Meanwhile, Swick is in a strong financial position, with gearing excluding AASB16 lease liabilities reduced to A10.6 per cent in the year. Swick has A$12.7 million cash and A$18.5 million in undrawn facilities, providing the liquidity that has enabled us to win and deliver on new work, invest in new technologies including DeepEX and Orexplore, and continue providing value for shareholders in these uncertain times through dividends and share buybacks.”

Metso Outotec SMD mills to boost output at Boliden’s Harjavalta concentrator

Boliden Harjavalta has chosen Metso Outotec’s SMD grinding mills to improve the capacity of its slag concentrator, in Finland, the mining OEM says.

Boliden Harjavalta produces high-quality metals for European industrial customers, churning out 120,000 t of copper and 26,000 t of nickel in 2019.

The purpose of the slag concentrator is to recover copper from the slag produced in the copper smelter and to return it to the copper production cycle as high-quality slag concentrate, Metso Outotec said, with grinding being an essential part of the slag concentration process.

The raw materials of the Boliden Harjavalta smelter consist of concentrates and recycled metals, according to Boliden, with the company’s two mines in Finland – Kylylahti and Kevitsa – providing the smelter with concentrates. Concentrates are also purchased from external mines, Boliden says.

The order has been booked in Metso Minerals’ June quarter 2020 orders received.

Based on tests, Metso SMD (stirred media detritor, specialised for fine grinding applications) was chosen as the grinding technology, Metso Outotec said.

“Maintenance for the SMD is safe and cost-effective thanks to the simple mechanical structure of the mill and the smaller number of moving parts compared to traditional grinding mills,” the company explained.

Timo Sarvijärvi, Metso Outotec’s Head of Mining in the Nordics market area, said the company, at testing stage, noticed slag could be processed very efficiently using SMD technology.

“Now the slag concentrator can process larger amounts of material, without compromising the targets set for copper recovery,” Sarvijärvi said.

Visualising the future of particle measurements with 3DPM

The 3DPM vision system has had quite a journey. Since the first prototype was installed at LKAB’s Malmberget iron ore to help the miner optimise its pellet production, the system has helped ‘settle the argument’ between mine and mill at base metal mines in Europe and improve the quality of coke being fed to blast furnaces in Japan.

The future looks bright too, with the potential for the system to play a major role in the automation of mine process plants.

Users of 3DPM have seen the importance of having a high-quality vision system that can measure material from a few millimetres to as big as 300 mm in size at relatively high speeds on conveyor belts.

Matthew Thurley, Principal Scientist at Innovative Machine Vision and one of the inventors of the system, has seen the system evolve at the same time as the industry’s understanding of orebody characterisation has grown.

Sweden-based MBV Systems was involved from the beginning on the system, working in partnership with Thurley during his time at Lulea University. It was a three-way collaboration between the university, the SME, and mining companies that got the product to market.

3DPM stands for three-dimensional particle measurement. The system consists of high-performance hardware for 3D scanning of particles and state-of-the-art software for analysis of the size and distribution of particles on a conveyor belt.

“Each system is optimised regarding the hardware and software to best fit each individual installation site and customer preference,” MBV Systems said. “A few examples include OPC communication, heating options to allow functionality in freezing environments, bulk volume calculation, rock bolt detection, and alarm triggering on oversize material.”

Back in 2006, the system installed at Malmberget was very different.

Thurley said the physical hardware, mounted above a conveyor, was pieced together to function properly, but required integration of many individual parts which was hard to maintain.

Still, it provided the iron ore miner with a detailed particle size distribution down to mm-size classes of its high-grade iron ore pellets.

And, in the 14 years since first installation, the principle of the system has remained: to provide increased knowledge of particle size distribution to generate value in, for instance, crusher/mill control, blast furnace effectiveness, process optimisation, or process knowledge.

As more companies have become familiar with the system, the advanced features such as algorithms to detect fines and partially embedded particles have come to the fore. The hardware has been reinforced for rough environments with IP65 rating and the need for very low maintenance even when running 24/7.

This has meant the system has potential in projects focused on improved quality control, automation and process control; three topics the industry is looking at to improve its bottom line, increase its revenues and remove people from operations.

MBV Systems said: “Our customers, who are already highly automated, must continually make their operations more efficient and reduce costs in increasingly tougher international competition. MBV Systems’ machine vision systems constitute a decisive factor for higher productivity, improved efficiency and for complete quality control.”

LKAB started using the system more than 10 years ago. Over that timeframe, the system won many admirers.

Boliden is a big fan of 3DPM, with installations at its Garpenberg, Aitik and Tara operations.

Earlier this year, the miner decided to install another 3DPM system at Garpenberg, four years after the first system was delivered to the Aitik mine to help boost process knowledge and control strategies for crushers and grinding mills.

The way the Sweden-based miner has applied this technology makes for a great case study, according to Thurley.

At Tara, the system is being used for increased process knowledge – “settling the argument between mine and mill”, Thurley says – while, at Garpenberg, the vision system is being leveraged to detect boulders and rock bolts online in a safe way.

This shows 3DPM can be used for multiple purposes.

Such flexibility is down to the system’s ability to provide full size distribution measurements from 0-300 mm and the use of newer algorithms, with the accuracy dependent on the speed of the conveyor belt and the target size of the material under scrutiny.

One of the differentiating factors of 3DPM compared with other vision systems – many of which are now used within ore sorting projects – is the ability to provide a good 3D data profile of the surface of the rock mass. This helps distinguish between rocks and fines, for instance, even when the two are interwoven.

“With the system, we can classify fines and embedded rocks,” Thurley explained. “In other systems, fines may be mistaken for large ‘rocks’ and significantly skew the measured size distribution resulting in bad data and bad decision making.”

This is particularly important in operations that produce several products within one mine – for instance iron ore lump and fines – ensuring that the correct product ends up in the correct stockpile.

The vision system can be tailored to each application.

“At a pigment producer, for instance, we are looking for material that is 3 mm in size,” Thurley said. “In order to carry out that sort of classification, we use the latest technology to measure 3D points at 0.3 mm resolution.”

Typically, visualisation down to this size of material is not required in mining operations, where the company is really competing with batch ‘mine-to-mill’ ore characterisation studies carried out through sieving or some type of other manual process. Such classification can work well for that ‘sample’ but can be misrepresentative depending on the orebody’s heterogeneity.

“3DPM can, instead, provide an end-to-end analysis that can now start to be used as a decision-making tool,” Thurley said.

Analysis of the ore coming through just after blasting can help provide the reconciliation tool miners require to check how effective the blasting practice is, for instance, helping provide the “pre-crusher size distribution feedback much earlier in the value chain”, he said.

With the incorporation of new software and camera technology, the company is expecting more complex analysis to be carried out on bigger amounts of material, according to Thurley.

“These new technologies will allow us to analyse material on a conveyor belt going at 6 m/s where the previous generation was limited at around 2 m/s,” he said.

This could open opportunities at much bigger operations – some large copper or iron ore mines, for instance – as well as automated plants of the future.

It is not farfetched to see the system operating in the same blasting reconciliation position but providing crusher operators with the analysis required to optimise operations ahead of receiving the material.

Moving one step further, it could provide the same information to a system that operates autonomously.

“This could eventually lead to automatic control of the crusher,” Thurley said.