Tag Archives: ControlMaster

RCT ControlMaster solution boosts safety at Whyalla Port

RCT says it has finalised an automation project with port, logistics and infrastructure specialist Qube Bulk at the Whyalla Port in South Australia.

In 2019 RCT installed and commissioned its ControlMaster® Line of Sight automation solution as well as a single camera teleremote solution onto a Liebherr R920 excavator working at the port.

RCT says Qube Bulk approached it to develop a safer and more productive way to remove bulk cargoes – such as coal, dolomite and limestone – from bulk vessels to support the Whyalla steelworks operation.

“Now machine operators stand at a safe distance and use the automation technology to carry out the full range of functions that would normally be available to them when sitting in the cab of the machine,” the company said.

RCT Account Manager, Phill Dean, said: “Our ControlMaster solution interfaced seamlessly with the excavator’s systems and offers operators the exact same functionality available to them under the original equipment manufacturers’ guidelines,” he said.

“Now operators have a much safer and productive way of carrying out their work and ensuring operations at the Whyalla Port run smoothly.”

RCT embeds machine automation expertise in new Wi-Fi offering

RCT says it has released the first digital Wi-Fi communications network designed specifically for machine automation and control in underground mining operations.

RCT Connect is designed to be user friendly and portable and can be installed into a production area and commissioned with minimal time and expertise, according to the automation leader.

The company has already made significant headway with RCT Connect, with the network having been tested at a mine site in Western Australia and recently deployed in an underground mining operation outside of Australia.

RCT Connect has been built to withstand the harsh conditions, common in underground mining environments, and can operate in temperatures ranging from -20°C (-4°F) to 60°C (140°F), RCT said.

It uses a coaxial cable able to transfer power and information to access points for up to 1.5 km before additional power insertion is required along the length of a drive, according to RCT.

“This feature offers several major benefits over traditional Wi-Fi deployments such as reduced requirement for configuration, eliminating costly cables to run between access points and a simple installation with only two connections,” the company said.

Once operational, RCT Connect provides a simple connection to a ControlMaster® Area Access Control at strategic locations which then links into the mine-wide communications backbone to transfer information to a machine operator located in a ControlMaster Automation Centre on the mine’s surface, the company said.

The platform operates at 2.4 GHz and is capable of carrying out remote diagnostics, live machine tracking and delivering live health and production data from the machine, according to RCT.

RCT Product Manager Automation & Control, Brendon Cullen, said RCT Connect offers several distinct advantages over commercially available digital communication networks.

“RCT Connect is specifically designed to ensure uninterrupted communication between the machine and the operator regardless of location,” he said.

“The platform has very stable performance with low, consistent latency and so ensures reliable communications between command inputs from the surface station and subsequent machine activities.”

He added: “We have also optimised the platform to enable smart roaming and, therefore, seamless handover between wireless access points so that there is no dropout along the length of the drives.”

In other commercially available communications networks, node handover is configured differently so if the machine is looking for a node or hangs on too long then communication failures arise, Cullen explained.

RCT Connect can be sold as a standalone package or in conjunction with RCT’s ControlMaster automation products.

RCT improves safety at South Africa diamond operation

RCT says it has installed its ControlMaster® Line-of-Sight solution on equipment at an open-pit diamond mine in South Africa.

In 2019, RCT installed and commissioned the solution on a CAT 994 wheel loader, which has been utilised to clear pit benches of debris falling from the crest of the bench above at the mine, owned by a major mining company, RCT said.

RCT’s locally-based Field Service Technician carried out commissioning works and empowered site equipment operators with the training necessary to efficiently manage the wheel loader, it said.

RCT’s Johannesburg-based Business Development Manager for Africa, Mike Thomas, said: “South Africa’s Department of Mining Regulations prohibited any mining personnel to be in close proximity with the bench’s toe.

“The Line-of-Sight technology meant equipment operators could stand at a safe distance in accordance with regulations and carry out their work as if they were sitting in the machine’s cab.”

He concluded: “Our ControlMaster automation technology integrated seamlessly into the wheel loader’s operating system and carries out the same range of functions as specified by the original equipment manufacturer.”

RCT takes Control of chutes at Indonesia mine

RCT says it has finalised the last stage of a project to automate 24 underground mine chutes for a client in West Papua, Indonesia.

Recently, RCT implemented ControlMaster® Teleremote technology onto 14 chutes to be managed by operators from four ControlMaster Automation Centres in a surface control room.

The latest work follows on from stage one works completed earlier this year where Teleremote technology was commissioned on 10 chutes connected to three Automation Centres.

All seven Automation Centres are equipped with Multiple Machine Selection enabling an operator to control any single chute system from their respective station, according to the automation specialist.

“The operators will now be able to observe chute operations through strategically placed cameras and remotely open and close the throat of each chute to pass ore and other material between different production levels for trucking to the surface,” the company said.

The individual camera feeds can be manipulated and adjusted via intuitive mouse control options at each Automation Centre. Previously operators were situated at the throat of each chute and manually operated each chute via their own line of sight.

RCT Account Manager, Shane Smith, said: “Previously chute operators contended with heat, dust, exhaust fumes and potential wet muck situations, which represent a substantial safety risk.

“Now they can more effectively manage the chutes from the safety and comfort of a surface control room which is far more preferable for everyone involved.”

The convenient location of the control room will also significantly reduce shift changeover time, as personnel can easily access the central control room rather than travel to each individual chute chamber, according to Smith.

RCT will provide on site training for site operators, while locally based technicians will deliver ongoing technical servicing and support to the site, the company said.

Costerfield gold-antimony mine firing on all cylinders thanks to RCT solution

Removing personnel from underground loading operations at Mandalay Resources’ Costerfield gold-antimony mine in Victoria, Australia, through RCT’s ControlMaster® Teleremote and Guidance Automation, has led to time and cost savings, as well as maintenance and safety benefits, according to a recent case study from the automation specialist.

Costerfield produces ore via a single portal underground mine with narrow vein mining carried out to extract vertical veins of ore. The mine produces up to 80,000 gold-antimony-equivalent ounces per year in a concentrate comprising around 54% antimony and 60 g/t gold.

The nature of narrow vein mining dictates that ore drives are quite thin to reduce the amount of waste material that is captured, with Costerfield’s drilling and blasting program designed to maximise ore recovery by throwing the ore towards the draw point. Historically, however, the site could only recover 75% of the ore, according to RCT, due to the remaining ore sitting in the stope void out of reach of the underground LHD as manually operated loaders could not exceed the stope brow.

Looking to increase productivity, Mandalay investigated implementing a loader that could be managed remotely to extract additional ore and to safeguard equipment operators from hazardous situations at the mine face. This led to it, in 2015, engaging RCT to implement its ControlMaster Teleremote and Guidance Automation product on a Sandvik LH203 LHD.

The automated loader enabled Mandalay Resources to retrieve significant amounts of ore that were previously unreachable, RCT said.

In recent years RCT has increased the autonomous fleet at Costerfield by commissioning ControlMaster Teleremote and Guidance Automation on a second Sandvik LH203 as well as a Sandvik LH151D.

The machines are managed from Fibre Optic Control Stations at secure locations in the underground mine protected by Laser Guard Containment Units as well as stations on the mine’s surface.

Jayson Guzzo, Major Projects and Innovation Manager – Costerfield, Mandalay Resources, said removing operators from the machine is the “best outcome” as it eliminates their exposure from one of the highest risk jobs, which is working at a stope brow.

“The small loaders we use are very rigid which has the potential for repetitive strain injuries,” he said. “They also have open cabs and, in this environment, dust, machine exhaust and debris can be an added safety concern.”

In mid-2019, Mandalay made the decision to implement a digital mine communications network to accommodate future technological growth.

Guzzo said: “Given that we are a narrow vein operation we may have to access ore a significant distance from the mine access point so we are looking at going to a digital platform so we can run a fibre backbone and autonomously operate machines over a vast distance.

“In a traditional mine, you might spend a whole week bogging a single stope before moving, but at Costerfield we might bog three or four headings in one shift, so the number of sites that we have to have set up at any one time are multiple, hence a digital system will significantly speed up the process of commissioning new drives.”

Mandalay has reported that ControlMaster Guidance Automation enabled them to carry out bogging and firing operations simultaneously, saving them substantial time which was previously spent clearing personnel to a safe distance, RCT said.

Guzzo said the solution has enabled the company to reduce shift changeover time by two thirds – which is a significant cost saving – and the site has also experienced less unplanned machine downtime.

“At Costerfield, the drives are roughly 2 m wide so Guidance Automation keeps the machines off the walls and stops them bouncing around the tunnels, so the damage to the machines is a lot less and results in significantly reduced unplanned maintenance time,” he said.

Guzzo concluded: “Relocating operators from the cab of our loaders to safer environments on the mine’s surface is essential and being able to continue bogging during firing as well as significantly reducing shift changeover time is critical to improving site productivity.

“Plant automation is definitely the way of the future in the mining industry and RCT are the leaders in that area, which is why they are our preferred supplier with this equipment.”

RCT brings teleremote options to Hindustan Zinc’s Rampura Agucha mine

Autonomous solutions specialist RCT has entered into its first automation project in India, commissioning its technology on machinery at Hindustan Zinc’s Rampura Agucha zinc-lead mine in Rajasthan province.

The agreement with Hindustan Zinc Limited and its mining services provider Barminco will see ControlMaster® Guidance Automation installed on two Cat R2900 underground LHDs at the mine. These loaders will now undertake teleremote mining in open stopes developed by Barminco.

Barminco, in February, was awarded a three-and-a-half-year underground mining services contract at Rampura Agucha. The mine, meanwhile, is currently undergoing an expansion to boost production to 5 Mt/y of ore.

RCT will install two underground ControlMaster Automation Centres, as well as four ControlMaster Area Access Cabinets into mine stopes, as part of this package. These will collectively enable machine operators to safely manage the machines away from the mine face, according to RCT.

The Automation Centres will also be equipped with Multiple Machine Selection and Multiple Machine Control options, enabling a single operator to manage both machines at one time, according to RCT.

The project represents the first time RCT has deployed its proprietary digital communications network RCT Connect into a mine site anywhere in the world, the company said, adding that RCT will carry out training programs to empower local operators and maintenance personnel then machine servicing works on an ongoing basis.

RCT and GBF reflect on decade-long automation partnership

RCT and underground mining specialist, GBF, have marked 10 years of working together to implement autonomous technology into underground mining operations.

Since 2009, when GBF & RCT conducted underground trials of the ControlMaster® Guidance Automation system at Gold Fields Caves Rock mining operations, RCT has delivered 19 autonomous systems including Sandvik LH203s, CAT 2900Gs, R1700s, R1700Gs and R1300Gs at multiple GBF-run mine sites throughout Western Australia’s Goldfields, according to RCT.

The work collectively amounts to roughly 15,000 hours of machines operating on Guidance Automation within GBF-run operations.

“ControlMaster Guidance Automation has seen numerous software iterations over its product life starting with dynamic operator engagement, surface control to independent autonomous tramming and, more recently, multi machine control via RCT’s latest automation offering,” RCT said.

GBF Maintenance Superintendent Alan Moyle, who played a key role in the initial trials and has seen the Guidance Automation system evolve over the last 10 years, said RCT’s technology has significantly improved safe machine operations by removing personnel from the mine face as well as better operator fatigue control.

“Greater control features have reduced the amount of machine damage due to operator errors with consistent machine cycles enabling us to improve productivity and it provides us data when tendering for new contracts,” he said

“RCT have also provided multiple opportunities for GBF apprentices to gain experience with their latest modern technology which they have subsequently applied to their work.”

RCT Product Manager Automation & Control, Brendon Cullen, said GBF’s early adoption of RCT’s technology meant its operations have benefitted consistently as the product has evolved.

“GBF has been influential in driving features and improvements to the system over time and develop new features such as G-Dash which empower operator’s decision making by presenting a dashboard of the machinery in relation to its surrounding in real time,” he said

“GBF’s operators have also consistently provided feedback over time, resulting in improvements such as faster tramming times, better cornering speeds, more efficient braking and the evolution of the fully automated tramming cycle.

“As the mines are becoming deeper the drive to operate the machinery from the surface is becoming a key requirement to maximise production times. RCT continues to work in partnership with GBF to allow them to reach their goals as cost efficiently as possible using the technology available onsite at the time.”

RCT brings automation to MATSA underground operations in Spain

RCT says it has finalised a major automation project at MATSA’s Aguas Teñidas and Magdalena mines in the Huelva province of Spain.

The project involved installing ControlMaster® Guidance Automation on four CAT R2900G underground LHDs and one Automation Centre Surface Control Station at MATSA’s Aguas Teñidas copper-lead-zinc mine.

MATSA is a jointly-owned company by Mubadala Investment Co and Trafigura. It owns and operates three mines in the Huelva, including Aguas Teñidas, Magdalena and Sotiel, on top of a 4.4 Mt/y copper and polymetallic processing plant.

RCT’s automation centre at Aguas Teñidas is fitted out with RCT’s Multiple Machine Control feature enabling a single operator to remotely control multiple machines at the same time via the mine’s digital communications network.

RCT also commissioned two Sandvik LH621 underground LHDs with ControlMaster Guidance Automation at the nearby Magdalena copper mine. These Sandvik LHDs can operate on a digital network via RCT’s Area Access Cabinets which act as an extension of the automation centre and interfaces between the work areas and the machines.

This instalment builds on a previous project to mount ControlMaster Teleremote and Guidance Automation solutions on three of the site’s CAT R2900G LHDs, which operated on an analogue network via two surface control stations, according to RCT.

Guidance Automation allows machines to tram between two predetermined points on a mine site with the push of a button by operators who also receive real-time information including machine speed, rpm, direction, pitch and roll, RCT said.

“The automation centre consists of an ergonomically designed operators chair facing up from screens, which feed real-time information from sensors and machine-mounted cameras to the operator,” the company added. Teleremote, meanwhile, enables the operator to remotely manage the machine from a control station in real time.

A MATSA spokesperson said: “This system not only allows us to operate in hazardous conditions safely from the surface, but also increases productivity by permitting us to operate during shift change and smoke clearing. We also have the capability to simultaneously operate more than one piece of equipment with the same teleremote operator.”

RCT Account Manager, Shane Smith, said the Guidance Automation products would provide solid benefits for MATSA. “ControlMaster Guidance Automation has a proven track record of improving operator safety in a traditionally hazardous working environment by removing them from the mine face,” he said.

“The faster tramming speeds will also help to boost site productivity on site and limit unplanned machine downtime due to repairs from machinery accidents while the new automation centre will reduce operator fatigue due to improved comfort and ease-of-access on the mine’s surface.”

RCT’s Kalgoorlie branch makes quick work of automating Sandvik LH621i LHD

RCT says it has successfully installed its autonomous technology on the recently released Sandvik LH621i underground loader for one of its clients in Western Australia’s Goldfields.

Earlier this month, RCT’s Kalgoorlie branch received the loader and commissioned the ControlMaster® Guidance automation technology package only weeks after the machine was first released to the Western Australia market.

The ‘i’ series represents Sandvik’s latest iteration of its underground loader range and, according to Sandvik, is the LHD of choice for rapid mine development and large-scale underground production. It is a matching pair with the previously introduced 63-t payload Sandvik TH663i truck.

ControlMaster Guidance Automation means machines can automatically tram between production level locations at higher speeds while also providing real time, graphical machine information to operators situated in remote automation centres, RCT said.

RCT Kalgoorlie Branch Manager, Rick Radcliffe, said the company could install and commission the Sandvik LH621i loader and deliver it to site within a relatively short lead time.

“Now that we have documented the new LH621i, all future ‘i’ series loaders can be commissioned in exactly the same amount of time as traditional Sandvik 621 loaders,” he said.

“This work follows on from a previous project where we commissioned two Sandvik LH517i loaders in the Kalgoorlie workshop for clients in the region.”

Alkane to kick off Tomingley UG gold operation with RCT autonomous solution

RCT says it has entered into a project with Alkane Resources to commission autonomous technology at its Tomingley gold operations in New South Wales, Australia.

The work involves installing and commissioning ControlMaster® Guidance Automation on two Caterpillar R2900G LHDs to operate at the company’s underground gold operation at Tomingley, just south of Dubbo.

RCT will also supply a Tele Cabin including operator chair, LCD monitors and laser guard containment control with the option to operate from the mine’s surface via the ControlMaster® Fibre Optic Control Station.

“Guidance Automation removes operators from machine cabs, which improves safety while the technology enables faster tramming speeds and eliminates machine damage from operator errors, thereby significantly reducing unplanned maintenance works,” RCT said.

The technology will be installed by mid-2019 with operator training to be held simultaneously.

Back in September, the Alkane board approved the development of underground mining operations at Tomingley. This would see 93,000 oz of gold recovered over a 40- month development, with development commencing in early 2019 and first ore expected in mid-2019.