This month’s Spotlight Feature Article sees IM take one of its most detailed dives into collision avoidance yet, with Paul Moore reviewing the situation post-Level 9 mandating in South Africa, as well as looking at the latest from a range of technology suppliers looking to improve safety and productivity at mining operations.
An industry panel discussion on the potential of electrifying IGO’s Cosmos underground nickel project at IMARC 2023 today highlighted the opportunities, risks and complexities associated with ‘greening’ a brownfield mining project at the moment.
This study was to see experts from Perenti and ABB work side by side with IGO to provide a pathway for the optimum design of mine electrification at Cosmos. All aspects of electrification were to be considered in the study, including:
- Mine design optimisation for electric operations;
- Production and operating philosophy;
- Fleet selection;
- Power distribution and electrical infrastructure design;
- Electrification system and battery management;
- ESG and safety impact analysis; and
- Cost modelling of both capital and operating expenditure.
At IMARC today, on the ‘Going All-Electric: Collaborating to Fully Electrify IGO’s Underground Cosmos Nickel Project’ panel discussion, chaired by Emma Jones, Innovation Management Lead, Southern Hemisphere, GHD, all three companies had representatives on stage to flesh out some of these bullet points, with the result being a fascinating discussion on implementing what is still a revolutionary concept.
The Cosmos study is split into three distinct parts with the companies currently half way through the process.
Both Chris Carr, Head of Technical Services at IGO, and Darren Kwok, Head of Mining Electrification and Technology, Perenti, admitted that the task at hand was highly complex.
Carr said the process would be much easier in a greenfield mine, with the potential ventilation and refrigeration cost reductions that would come with introducing electric machines likely to “pay” for the new equipment required.
At the same time, he acknowledged that the networks and communication would need to be improved to effectively run an all-electric mine to allow operators to know what vehicles had what state of charge and deploying these machines in the optimal way.
“This could potentially see whole sites use Wi-Fi or 5G for better data transmission,” he said. “At the same time, we would know where every vehicle is and where every vehicle is going, providing the opportunity for ‘true’ collision avoidance.”
Kwok said there was likely to be a “flow-down effect” when electrifying equipment, which would have an impact on how mines plan, schedule and operate. “We need a holistic view of a mine,” he said, explaining that “just in time” mining would not work in an all-electric operation where energy management is a key concern.
Kwok added: “We also have to link the fleet together with the rest of the operations – that is the secret sauce here.”
Mehrzad Ashnagaran, Global Product Line Manager – Electrification and Composite Plant, ABB, said any mining company looking to fully electrify their mines needed to recognise that they were working with “immature technology” that cannot meet all of their requirements.
“The design of an all-electric mine is different to the vision we originally had,” he said. “This is why we need to break the process down into manageable projects for a phased approach that can allow customers to start decarbonising now.”
This is where the company’s eMine™ approach comes in, providing a roadmap of solutions on the way to longer-term electrification goals.
“In reality, the solution we are offering today may not be the same one we offer companies in five to 10 years’ time,” he added.
There was also an engaging exchange on the risk management associated with embarking on this exercise.
Ashnagaran said, for ABB, the Cosmos study and other all-electric projects the company is working on would see its vendor agnostic and interoperable approach tested and scrutinised.
“The whole eMine philosophy, however, is that no-one can go on such a journey alone; we need to collaborate with partners,” he said.
Kwok said the study allowed the service provider to learn and understand the terms of how electrified mining can practically work.
“We, at Perenti, already understand what ‘good’ looks like [from an operating perspective]…and we also understand what change looks like at a mine site,” he said, adding that the company already has electric machine data to pull into such studies.
Carr said building ‘the electric mine’ is both a risk and an opportunity, with the mining company prepared to financially back most of the expense associated with this as it had, potentially, the most to gain from a successful outcome.
He also added a bit of wider IGO context to reinforce the point.
“At IGO, we invest A$70 million ($44.5 million) a year on exploration, putting drills into the ground,” he said. “Not all of those holes are deemed a success, but they allow us to keep building our knowledge,”
The same is true for this all-electric Cosmos study.
“Regardless of the outcome, we will learn a lot,” he said. “We are driven to be the ‘first to be first’ here; first to be second simply does not work for us.”
Wabtec’s Digital Mine division says it has received a series of orders for 3,500 of its new Generation 3 Collision Avoidance System (Gen 3 CAS) from three major global mining companies.
The capabilities of the new system will drive performance and safety improvements at the customers’ mining operations, the company says.
When Wabtec launched this system in June, it said its innovation focus was on shifting from traditional proximity detection to true collision avoidance.
Nalin Jain, President, Digital Intelligence for Wabtec, explained: “These orders demonstrate the Gen 3 CAS’s value and rapid market adoption since we launched the system in June. The Gen 3 CAS is the only solution aligned with the industry’s best practices that also meet the functionality requirements of our customers.”
Installing Gen 3 CAS across a customer’s mining operations will improve safety, bolstering their zero-harm objectives, according to the company. By minimising the risk of vehicle interactions, the Gen 3 CAS will contribute to reduced downtime, increased productivity and optimised resource utilisation.
Wabtec says its customers can confidently rely on this innovative solution to drive performance and achieve their operational objectives.
Wabtec Digital Mine’s Gen 3 CAS offers a range of class-leading advanced capabilities not seen on any other solution, according to the company. These include predictive beam curving, context-based definitive voice-based alerts, real-time self-test, superior accuracy via Ultra High Precision Global Navigation Satellite Systems and the most advanced rules and intelligence engine in the industry. The system’s brand-new user interface, validated by Professor Robin Burgess-Limerick, a human factors expert, has been designed so that vehicle operators receive appropriate feedback from the Gen 3 CAS, Wabtec says. It replaces “beeps-and-buzzer” technology with sophisticated, discreet, directional and audible warnings, enabling operators to work without distraction and respond instantaneously to audible alerts.
Jain added: “We are improving safety and operational efficiency, so we have entered into agreements with several global mining companies who recognise the potential of Wabtec Digital Mine’s Gen 3 CAS to transform their mining operations. These customers are installing the Gen 3 CAS to enhance their mining fleet’s safety standards and performance.”
Henro van Wyk, Vice President and General Manager of Wabtec Digital Mine, said: “We are thrilled that multiple global mining companies have selected Gen 3 CAS for their operations. These deals represent a significant achievement for Wabtec’s Digital Mine team positioning the business as the global leader in mining technology by redefining the meaning of true collision avoidance. Mining operations using the Gen 3 CAS will achieve new levels of safety, efficiency and productivity across their mining operations.”
Hexagon’s Mining division has, today, introduced HxGN Underground Mining, an integrated sensor-software portfolio built for the unique challenges of underground environments, at its HxGN LIVE Global 2023 event in Las Vegas.
Featuring what it says are robust systems for collision avoidance, drill optimisation and production planning, the new portfolio helps mines to achieve the best results while protecting drivers, pedestrians and equipment in the most demanding environments.
For Hexagon’s Mining division, meanwhile, it enables the company to further diversify its revenue stream, which is currently skewed towards the open-pit mining sector.
Hexagon says today’s announcement responds to industry demand as more mines push deeper beneath the surface for deposits and face ever more complex conditions. The aim is to provide mines transitioning from open-pit to underground operations – or those mining orebodies from surface and underground simultaneously – with a holistic solution for the life of mine.
HxGN Underground Mining, the company says, effectively creates a seamless technology transition from open pit to underground mining. Its safety suite, for example, leverages collision avoidance and operator alertness systems proven in more than 40,000 vehicles worldwide in open-pit environments.
Similar integration is at work in the portfolio’s operations suite, which helps mine operators and supervisors to manage underground fleet equipment and to optimise production in real time via a dynamic activity scheduler and fleet management system (HxGN MineOperate UG Pro fleet management system). Engineers, via the HxGN MinePlan Underground Engineering product, can avoid flawed mining processes and minimise downtime by using 3D visualisation, and CAD tools to create mine designs and activity-based schedules, the company says.
The portfolio’s optimisation software for production and development enables mines to achieve consistent blasting outcomes with high-precision drilling and optimal set-up processes. The company added to this portfolio recently with the incorporation of Minnovare. The Australia-based company has established four solutions – The Azimuth Aligner, Development Optimiser™, Production Optimiser™ and Minnovare Core – to improve the speed, cost and accuracy of underground drilling.
Beyond benefitting business, better drilling practices are good for the planet, reducing CO2 emissions and supporting sustainability goals, Mateus Quintela, Hexagon’s Head of Product, Underground Mining, said.
“We know mines are looking for ways to mine smarter, safer and in more environmentally and socially conscious ways,” Quintela says.
“HxGN Underground Mining will help our customers answer this search by increasing the efficiency of machines and miners throughout the operation. Well-choreographed scheduling will minimise the downtime of working areas, like headings and stopes, and there’s a real opportunity to reduce diesel emissions through better truck-to-loader planning.
“Perhaps most importantly, our new portfolio offers ways to ensure operators and supervisors are capturing and using safety data, so whether above ground or below it, everyone gets home safely.”
Hexagon’s Mining division, on the day HxGN LIVE Global 2023 kicks off in Las Vegas, has introduced a new autonomous portfolio to its planning, operations and safety technology portfolios, signalling its intent to continue to solve the mining industry’s biggest challenges.
HxGN Autonomous Mining is a portfolio that protects people and equipment while addressing the challenges of operational productivity and decarbonisation, Hexagon’s Mining division says.
“By helping to autonomously manage vehicle traffic, improve fleet situation awareness and introduce drill automation, the new portfolio empowers mines to future-proof operations with the foundational building blocks of full operational autonomy,” it explained.
These building blocks include tools providing autonomous world perception, path planning in both manned driver-assist and autonomous operation, and machine intervention up through control on mining vehicles and drills primarily in open-pit environments and haulage operations.
HxGN Autonomous Mining unites Hexagon’s Power of One hardware with its core computing platform, connecting a unique ecosystem of sensors and software, according to the company. “The portfolio can help mines to succeed today while preparing for tomorrow,” Andrew Crose, Vice President, Autonomous Mining, Hexagon’s Mining division, said.
The Power of One platform is a holistic, life-of-mine smart solution connecting sensors, software, in-field apps and cloudware. The aim is to connect the mine to the boardroom via a single on-board ecosystem comprising a smart computer, antenna and display.
Nick Hare, President of Hexagon’s Mining division, told IM on the side lines of the Las Vegas event, hosted at Caesar’s Forum, that the company has rapidly moved from concept to reality with the Power of One platform.
He explained: “At MINExpo 2021, we announced the Power of One concept. Last year at HxGN LIVE Global, we told everyone it was now available and ready to implement. This year, we’re able to talk about real deployments that will start from the next quarter.
“We’ve moved from concept to deployment in just under two years, defying the supply chain issues that have affected everyone in this industry.”
The building blocks that are part of HxGN Autonomous Mining include the World Perception suite of detection solutions; mining’s first Level-9 collision avoidance technology, Hexagon’s collision intervention system, HxGN MineProtect Vehicle Intervention System; HxGN MineOperate Reverse Assist for optimised shovel and truck spotting; HxGN Autonomous Mining VIS Analytics to analyse and compare information such as locations, equipment and more; the intuitive drill automation platform, HxGN Autonomous Mining Drill Assist; HxGN Autonomous Mining Platooning Solutions to maximise the safety of ore haulage, boost cost-efficiency and reduce carbon emissions; and HxGN Autonomous Mining Mission Manager Solution to empower pit controllers and dispatchers to optimise the movement of autonomous and non-autonomous vehicles, and mine production activities through one interface.
The company’s “unparalleled” technology stack – as Crose refers to it – can currently automate around 80% of the processes involved in open-pit haulage, according to Hare.
In an on-the-road scenario, the company can already automate the majority of functions, as it is proving out with Mineral Resources Ltd on its autonomous road train project. In pit haulage, it is also working on an autonomous haulage system (AHS) solution to compete with the likes of Caterpillar and Komatsu’s own AHS platforms. Parts of this are likely to be seen operating later this year. In terms of autonomous drilling, the company is getting even closer to the fully-autonomous benchmark through work it is carrying out with Phoenix Drill Control.
While not all Power of One users will leverage the entire technology stack from the off, Hare said he is expecting many companies to quickly add building blocks to their deployments as they familiarise themselves with the platform.
“We have significantly improved upon the industry standard when it comes to the Power of One and this new automation platform,” he said. “For example, when integrating fleet management – under our HxGN MineOperate solution – and collision avoidance (the HxGN MineProtect Collision Avoidance System within the World Perception Suite), we can reduce the number of interfaces operators have to interact with. Depending on the scenario, we can highlight an optimised route to the crusher for a truck or make them aware of an impending collision on just one screen. This significantly improves the user experience, reduces the likelihood of incidents and improves productivity.”
Another significant enhancement the company has achieved with its Power of One platform is consolidating the numerous antenna fitted to open-pit trucks into a single antenna able to receive and, depending on the network and software settings, process the same amount of information.
“From a perception perspective, we have also moved up the tiers with our sensor solutions, going from a 2D radar-based system as was used for our initial collision avoidance systems to a 4D radar-based platform able to distinguish between people, berms, trucks, light vehicles, etc,” Hare said.
Add to this upgraded software to process all the valuable data coming off the sensor and the company believes it now has as close to an off-the-shelf commercial solution as can currently be obtained.
The platform is expected to bring immediate productivity benefits for customers – Crose mentions better blast outcomes with drilling automation to improved equipment performance and production via autonomously managed vehicle movement – but the reduction in hardware is also expected to lead to significant cost savings for clients.
“We are confident that this portfolio, under the auspices of the Power of One platform, will provide return on investment for clients,” Hare said. “While it is being integrated into a standardised offering that aids deployment cost and time, the starting point for every project is how to solve the problems the mining client is experiencing. We will take time to understand what issues they are having on site and ensure the system rules and algorithms are built in such a way as to prioritise solving these. At the same time, we will highlight as many opportunities to optimise their operations as we can.
“This is how we ensure that value is generated immediately from day one.”
Epiroc has agreed to acquire Mernok Elektronik (Pty) Ltd, a South Africa-based company that provides advanced collision avoidance systems for mining companies.
With this acquisition, Epiroc will strengthen its position as a world-leading provider of automation and safety solutions for mining operations, it says.
Mernok Elektronik is headquartered in Pretoria, South Africa. The company designs and produces proximity detection technologies and collision avoidance systems of the highest level (EMESRT Level 9) applicable for either a single machine or an entire mixed fleet of machines regardless of manufacturer or type of equipment, it says. Mernok Elektronik’s customers are primarily in Africa, with its systems designed to significantly reduce the risk of vehicle accidents, strengthening operator safety as well as productivity.
The company’s focus was initially vested in three main areas, namely mining applications, military applications and high-end industrial applications. In 2016, it decided to re-focus the company to service only the mining sector. Back in 2019, it teamed up with Booyco Electronics and Selectronic to bring new generation technology to the proximity detection system space.
Mernok Elektronik has about 45 employees and revenues in the fiscal year ending February 28, 2022, of approximately R80 million ($4.7 million).
“Collision avoidance is critical for the mining industry to strengthen safety and productivity, and Mernok’s advanced solutions complement Epiroc’s existing equipment and automation offering well,” Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, said. “Together we will provide complete collision avoidance solutions to the highest industry standards to support our customers on their journey towards the safest and most optimal operations. We look forward to welcoming the dynamic Mernok team to Epiroc.”
The acquisition is expected to be completed in the March quarter of 2023.
Torsa has unveiled its next generation Collision Avoidance System for shovels, haul trucks, auxiliary and light vehicles, building on the first version of its system that was deployed at Antamina in Peru.
The Spain-based company says its latest CAS optimises loading operation, allowing the two trucks to be loaded simultaneously.
Gabino de Diego, the new director of Business Development for Torsa, explained: “For our first generation, our design team evaluated all the detection technologies available in the market. With the focus on reliability and operators’ safety, LiDAR became the technology of choice. Actually, Torsa were the first one in the market with a LiDAR-based CAS.
“Now, in our fourth generation, a new 3D LiDAR is able to scan more than 900,000 points per second, for an extremely accurate map of the vehicle’s surroundings. In addition to LiDAR, Torsa CAS system is equipped with cutting-edge detection technologies to provide maximum accuracy: ToF, UWB and high precision GPS.
“The combination of all those technologies allows our system to detect vehicles and other equipment with centimetric precision.”
Torsa has developed a user interface as part of this latest update, taking on feedback from users to streamline the information required for both the people running the vehicles and equipment and for the ones in the control rooms, “reducing the information noise and providing a minimal invasive system”.
“For example, in our fourth generation CAS system, we have incorporated a predictive algorithm to avoid false positives because we know that this is key for someone who is driving many ours every single day,” de Diego said.
He added that the company’s CAS system has clocked up millions of hours of operation to date in various mines, with plans to bring the technology to mines in US, Canada, Africa and Australia from this year onwards.
Like all TORSA solutions, the collision avoidance system for shovels, trucks and light vehicles is integrated into the TORSA Cloud environment, ensuring the correct interaction, operation and technical information management for all clients, the company says. The cloud-based platform provides real-time data and information that can be used to target specific issues in the mine, running campaings to optimise the operation.
“Thanks to the business intelligence modules included in the platform users are able, for example, to play back incidents and vehicle interactions for detailed analysis, or rank the operators based on multiple parameters to study and optimise behavioural KPIs,” de Diego said.
TORSA collaborates actively with the International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM) where the company is involved in the Innovation for Cleaner Safer Vehicles (ICSV) program, which brings together 27 of the world’s leading mining companies and technologies suppliers to collaborate in a non-competitive space in order to accelerate the development of a new generation of mining vehicles.
“Our system is designed to perform at Control Levels 7, 8 and 9 according to the safety requirements based on the ICSV program by ICMM following the EMESRT (The Earth Moving Equipment Safety Round Table), where TORSA also participates defining the new ISO 21815 standard,” de Diego concluded.
Intrepid Group Ltd and indurad have announced a new strategic partnership to provide robust anti-collision, volumetric inventory and positioning solutions for the mining and material handling industry.
The partnership will have a focus on the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, the pair said.
Indurad calls itself the global leader in radar-based automation and productivity solutions for mine sites, train loadouts, stockyard equipment and shiploading facilities. Its patented 2D and 3D radar systems are installed at mining operations and ports worldwide to increase ore throughput and minimise downtime and collisions.
Intrepid Group says it helps its customers improve their operations through accurate and efficient measurement of their processes, partnering with manufacturers to develop solutions that achieve these goals.
“Partnerships with regional leaders like Intrepid Group allow us to enhance our market coverage,” Adriaan Goosen, Director of Engineering at indurad, said.
Campbell Adams, Chief Executive Officer at Intrepid Group, added: “We are delighted by the partnership. indurad’s solutions affords us even greater flexibility to meet the diverse needs of our customers. The synergies of this partnership will greatly benefit both our current and future customers.”
A BHP-developed system is harnessing data from a range of existing safety systems to improve safety in light vehicles (LV) and surface mobile equipment (SME) at its Western Australia Iron Ore (WAIO) mine sites, the miner says.
The Magnet Safety Dashboard (MSD) uses existing operator and equipment monitoring systems to quickly identify potential behaviours or job factors that might increase the likelihood of safety events occurring (‘at risk’ scenarios).
BHP explains: “Operations have historically used different hardware and software systems in isolation. MSD was developed to address integration potential between existing systems providing population-sized data sets on driver/operator behaviour.”
Events and hazards associated with LVs and SME can occur frequently at BHP, so the ability to quickly understand and influence human and job factors, which could contribute to safe outcomes, supports leaders to manage risk more holistically.
MSD harnesses a range of data from collision avoidance, distraction and alertness monitoring and fleet management systems, including location, speed, acceleration, braking and cornering. All selected information is monitored and assessed from a central location, which allows immediate access for relevant employees and medium-to long-term trend analysis, the company claims.
Over 800,000 metrics from more than 20,000 devices, using 300 instances of 60-plus data points, are collected.
Leaders are alerted if hardware, software and network controls are not operating as expected, while team members are alerted if acute intervention is required (where it is possible to achieve).
The system has also created efficient ways to record and display recommended response actions where chronic patterns are present, according to the company.
This accurate and timely notification of driver behaviour events, trends and hot spots requiring improvement has increased awareness and, in the Yandi iron ore mine site, resulted in reductions to the frequency of fatigue, distraction, error and non-compliance events, BHP says.
The Magnet Safety Dashboard program at Yandi Mine Site’s has contributed to a 58% reduction in overall reported vehicle events (December 2020 to April 2021) and a 70% reduction in reported speeding events (October 2020 to April 2021).
Following the program’s positive results and learning at the Yandi mine site, an MSD pilot will be implemented across all WAIO mine sites, BHP says.
Sibanye-Stillwater is to invest $17 million in OptiMine® Collision Avoidance System (CAS) technology to reduce accidents, injuries and fatalities at its Stillwater PGM underground mining operations in Montana, USA, Newtrax says.
Newtrax and Sibanye-Stillwater have been working together since 2017 on various digitalisation projects to improve safety and productivity at Stillwater.
OptiMine increases safety and optimises underground mining operations, which align with Sibanye-Stillwater’s CARES values of commitment to safety, accountability, respect and sustainability, Newtrax says. These values support safe operations, allow growth, underpin business strategy and promote competitiveness and success.
This year marks the beginning of a new chapter with the mine-wide implementation of the new OptiMine Collision Avoidance System that links intelligent cap lamps to a warning system inside the cab of underground mobile equipment.
The system provides the vehicle operator with a virtual view of any pedestrians in the immediate area of the machine, along with an escalating warning system for both as the distance between them narrows.
This escalation transitions from a warning to vehicle intervention, where the vehicle automatically reduces speed and comes to a controlled stop should the system recognise the presence of any pedestrian wearing an intelligent cap lamp in the high-risk zone.
The same technology is also designed to improve the safety of vehicle-to-vehicle as well as vehicle-to-locomotive interactions and will be used as the digitalisation platform for real-time operations management, Newtrax, which is owned by Sandvik, said.
Jacques van Rensburg, Vice President and Group Head of Engineering, Sibanye-Stillwater, said: “Newtrax provides us with a safe, proactive and integrable solution to our operational needs. The OptiMine system integrates all the telemetry, tracking and proximity detection technology we need to run our operations safely, transparently and efficiently. And they are humble enough to leverage the global experience we’ve had with other collision avoidance systems globally, to make their system even better.”
Jean-Phillip Bouchard, Vice President – Americas, Newtrax, said: “Sibanye-Stillwater is a key customer for Newtrax. We are pleased to expand their current system and take on the challenge of developing and delivering OEM-agnostic intervention controllers to enable slow-to-stop control of all their equipment.”
Last year, Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, together with Newtrax, introduced what it said was the next generation of the OptiMine solution, which combines the Newtrax digitalisation offering with the existing Sandvik suite of digital process optimisation tools as one integrated OptiMine product.