Tag Archives: Dargues

Emesent builds mining connections as Hovermap autonomy takes off

Having recently helped DJI’s M300 drone fly autonomously underground (through its Hovermap Autonomy Level 2 (AL2) solution) and signed an agreement with Deswik to provide surveyors and planners with more accurate data from inaccessible areas, Emesent has been on a roll of late. IM put some questions to CEO, Dr Stefan Hrabar, to find out more.

IM: First off, if no communications infrastructure is in place at an underground mine, how do Emesent’s drones stream a 3D map of the environment back to the operator’s tablet?

SH: Hovermap is smartly designed to operate beyond the communication range of the operator. The operator does not always need to see a live map since Hovermap is navigating by itself. The user can place a waypoint beyond the current limits of the map, and beyond line of sight and communication range. Hovermap self-navigates towards the waypoint, avoiding obstacles and building the map as it goes. Once it reaches the waypoint (or if the waypoint is impossible to reach), it automatically returns back to the operator. The map data is stored onboard Hovermap and when it returns back to within Wi-Fi range the new map data is uploaded to the tablet. The operator can then see the new areas that were mapped and place a new waypoint in or beyond that map, sending the drone back out again to explore further.

IM: What results have you so far received from using AL2 for Hovermap at mine sites? Were the results PYBAR got from trials at Dargues and Woodlawn in line with your expectations?

SH: Last year’s trials at Dargues and Woodlawn showcased some great outcomes for the PYBAR team, including the ability for Hovermap to capture valuable data using Autonomy Level 1 (AL1). The team saw great potential in the technology, leading to the purchase of two systems for their use. Earlier this year, AL2 flights were conducted at Dargues during the final pre-release testing phase. Even the first stope at Dargues that was mapped using AL2 highlighted the benefit of the system over traditional CMS (cavity monitoring systems). A large area of overbreak was identified in the Hovermap scan. The same stope had been mapped with a CMS, but this area was not visible from the CMS scan location so the overbreak was not identified.

A number of mines have been using AL2 to map their stopes and other areas beyond line-of-sight. With AL2, they can send Hovermap into places that previously would have been inaccessible, enabling them to obtain critical data in real time without risking the machine or personnel.

The AL2-based stope scans have been more detailed and complete (lack of shadowing) than ever before. A beyond line-of-sight flight down an ore pass was also conducted recently, with Hovermap guiding the drone down 120 m and returning safely to produce a very detailed scan.

The high level of autonomy provided by AL2 also allows remote operation of the drone. We recently completed a trans-continental demo, with a customer in South Africa operating a drone in Australia using our AL2 technology and standard remote collaboration tools. The remote operator in South Africa was able to use their laptop to experiment with the technology from the other side of the world, sending Hovermap exploring down a tunnel.

This is a taste of what’s to come, with drones underground being operated from the surface or from remote operation centres thousands of kilometers away. This will remove the need for skilled personnel on site, and reduce the time spent underground.

IM: What had been holding you back from achieving AL2 with drones/payloads? Is it the on-board computing power needed to that has been the issue?

SH: Flying underground where there is no GPS, the space is tight and there are hazards such as mesh, wires, dripping water and dust is very challenging. We overcame many of these with AL1, which makes it safe and easy for a pilot to operate the drone within line-of-sight (Hovermap provides collision avoidance, position hold and velocity control). AL1 has been deployed for 18 months with many customers around the world, clocking up thousands of hours of use. This helped to improve the robustness and reliability of the core flight capabilities.

Emesent CEO, Dr Stefan Hrabar

AL2 builds on this mission-proved base capability to provide additional features. AL2 allows the system to fly beyond line-of-sight and beyond commination range. This means it’s on its own with no help from the operator and needs to deal with any situation it comes across. There are many edge cases that need to be considered, addressed and thoroughly tested. A significant amount of effort was put into these areas to ensure Hovermap with AL2 is extremely robust in these challenging environments. For example, the drone downwash can kick up dust, blinding the LiDAR sensor. We’ve implemented a way to deal with this, to bring the drone home safely. Other considerations are returning in a safe and efficient way when the battery is running low, or what to do if waypoints cannot be reached.

IM: How do you anticipate your partnership with Deswik impacting the mine planning and survey process? Do you see this reducing the amount of time needed to carry out this work, as well as potentially cutting the costs associated with it? Have you already carried out work at mine sites that has proven these benefits?

SH: Our commitment is to help mining companies increase safety and production while reducing costs and downtime. We do this by providing surveyors and planners with more accurate data from inaccessible areas, allowing them to derive new insights. Our partnership with Deswik means we’re able to provide a more comprehensive end-to-end solution to the industry.

We see this as a very natural partnership that will improve the overall customer experience. Hovermap excels at capturing rich 3D data in all parts of the mine (whether drone based, hand-held, lowered down a shaft on a cable or vehicle mounted). Once the data is captured and converted to 3D, customers need to visualise and interrogate the data to derive insights. This is where Deswik and other mining software vendors come into play. They have powerful software tools for planning, survey, drill and blast, geotechnical mapping and a host of other applications. We’re partnering with these vendors to ensure seamless integration between Hovermap data and their tools. We’re working with them to build automated workflows to import, geo-reference, clean and trim the data, and convert it into formats that are suitable for various tasks.

Surveyors at Evolution Mining’s Mungari operation have been using this new process in Deswik. Previously they needed a third software tool to perform part of the workflow manually before importing to Dewik.CAD. The intermediate steps have been eliminated and others have been automated, reducing the time from more than 30 minutes per scan to five minutes per scan.

IM: Since really starting to catch on in the mining sector in the last five years, drones have gone from carrying out simple open-pit surveys and surveillance to drill and blasting reconciliation platforms to reconnaissance solutions carrying out some of the riskiest tasks in underground mining. In the next decade, how do you see them further evolving? What new tasks could drones carry out to improve safety, cut costs or increase productivity?

SH: Emesent’s vision is to drive forward the development of ‘Sentient Digital Twins’ of industrial sites to future-proof the world’s major industries, from mining to energy and construction. These industries will be able to move to more automated decision-making using high-quality, autonomously collected data across their sites and tapping into thousands of data points to make split-second decisions about potential dangers, opportunities and efficiencies using a centralised decision-making platform.

We see our Hovermap technology being a key enabler for this future. Drones and other autonomous systems will become an integral part of the mine of the future. Drones will be permanently stationed underground and operated remotely, ready for routine data collection flights or to be deployed as needed after an incident.

Hovermap is already addressing some of the biggest challenges in mining — including safety and operational downtime. It improves critical safety to mines, keeping workers away from hazardous environments while providing better data to inform safety related decisions such as the level of ground support needed. This then feeds into better efficiency by helping mines to more accurately calculate risks and opportunities, aid decision making and predict situations.

Hovermap can significantly reduce downtime after an incident. For example, it was used to assess the level of damage in LKAB’s Kiruna mine after a seismic event. More than 30 scans were captured covering 1.2 km of underground drives that were not safe to access due to fall of ground. In another case, one of our customers saved around A$20 million ($14.6 million) after an incident, as they could use Hovermap to quickly capture the data necessary to make a critical decision.

IM: In terms of R&D, what future payload developments are you investing in currently that may have applications in mining?

SH: We’ll keep adapting our Hovermap design to suit new LiDAR improvements as they are released. More importantly, we’ll improve the autonomy capabilities so that even more challenging areas can be mapped with ease. We’re also adding additional sensors such as cameras, as these provide additional insights not visible in the LiDAR data. Our colourisation solution is an add-on module for Hovermap, which uses GoPro video to add colour to the LiDAR scans. This allows the identification of geological and other features.

Dargues gold mine on the road to production: DRA Global

DRA Global says it is in the final stages of the implementation of the engineering procurement and construction (EPC) of the gold concentrate plant for Diversified Minerals’ Dargues gold project, in New South Wales, Australia.

The engineering company was awarded the EPC contract back in January 2019 after detailed design for the project commenced in March 2018. At this point, first ore was expected to be processed in early 2020.

As of March 2020, the plant construction and wet commissioning has been completed, DRA said. Hot commissioning is planned to take place soon and expected to be completed in early April. After this, the DRA team will hand over the 330,000 t/y plant to the client’s operations team, it said.

Dargues, owned by Diversified Minerals, an associated company of PYBAR Mining Services, was previously expected to have a 355,000 t/y capacity gold processing facility comprising crushing, milling, flotation and filtration circuits to produce a sulphide concentrate for export. This could see Dargues produce an average of 50,000 oz/y of gold in the first six years of production.

The mine, which will be operated by PYBAR, is also set to incorporate tele-remote loading. In December, Diversified Minerals took delivery of a second new Cat R1700 underground LHD following commissioning of the first loader during August.

The new machines are equipped with Caterpillar’s next generation Command for Underground technology, giving them automation capabilities that will allow them to be driven via tele-remote from the surface from early-2020. This will realise significant productivity, efficiency and safety gains, according to PYBAR.

Members of the Austmine Board were recently invited to a tour of the Dargues gold mine (pictured).

PYBAR takes Command of Dargues automation with new Cat R1700 LHDs

PYBAR has taken a step closer to advanced underground automation at the Dargues gold mine in New South Wales, Australia, with the arrival of a second new Cat® R1700 underground LHD at the Diversified Minerals-owned site.

The new loader visited the PYBAR head office in Orange, en-route to the mine site, where it was met by executives and senior management from PYBAR and WesTrac.

The first of two new R1700s purchased for Dargues from WesTrac was commissioned at the mine during August and the company, in November, announced that the underground loaders were undergoing staged testing that will see them move towards improved automation in early 2020.

Dargues is owned by Diversified Minerals, an associated company of PYBAR Mining Services. The mine is expected to have a 355,000 t/y capacity gold processing facility comprising crushing, milling, flotation and filtration circuits and produce a sulphide concentrate for export. This could see Dargues produce an average of 50,000 oz/y of gold in the first six years of production.

The new machines are equipped with Caterpillar’s next generation Command for underground technology, giving them automation capabilities that will allow them to be driven via tele-remote from the surface from early-2020. This will realise significant productivity, efficiency and safety gains, according to PYBAR.

Command is part of the Cat Minestar™ integrated suite of offerings designed specifically for mining, PYBAR said.

PYBAR Chief Technology Officer, Andrew Rouse, said: “With the second loader now on site we will complete the tele-remoting set up in time for stoping early next year.

“Our intention is to be able to tele-remote from the surface from the outset when both loaders go into full operation. It’s a milestone all three teams (Caterpillar, PYBAR and WesTrac) have been working towards and will deliver.”

The new loaders were purchased after trials at the Vivien gold mine in Western Australia during 2017, PYBAR said. These trials delivered impressive results, including quicker bucket loading, faster cycle times, greater payloads and less fuel burn, according to PYBAR.

PYBAR said: “These benefits were further highlighted when the Cat R1700 was tested against the R1700G at Vivien (owned by Ramelius Resources) in June 2018, prompting PYBAR to place the order for the new loaders.”

Rouse added: “We were extremely impressed with performance of the new loader during testing. With the knowledge gained from the activity at Vivien, we were able to carry out a rigorous analysis around the loader combinations required for the Dargues operation with the R1700 proving to be the most cost effective.”

Since the first new loader has been put into operation, PYBAR has been preparing for advanced automation through the use of the traction control and Autodig features on the new machines, it said. The feedback has been very positive with full buckets consistently being achieved, the company added.

“The Command technology enables remote operation from the surface or underground, providing productivity and efficiency gains, improved safety of personnel, more accurate tunnel navigation, and reduced machine damage,” PYBAR said.

Caterpillar’s Commercial Manager for Underground Technology, Randy Schoepke, said PYBAR has long seen the value of being on the “leading edge of technology” as a contractor and an owner miner.

“The new Cat R1700 loader will be a huge complement to their technology portfolio leveraging the most advanced features in the industry,” he said.

“The R1700 features of traction control, live payload, Autodig, and ride control will not only provide operator comfort and productivity but also be leveraged by Caterpillar’s latest generation of Command for Underground, Caterpillar’s remote and autonomous control system.”

Schoepke concluded: “When there is a requirement to remove the operator from the underground environment, the technology allows safety and utilisation to be taken to the next level. We look forward to our continued work with PYBAR on this project.”

WesTrac General Manager of Mining Sales, Jody Scott, said this development was the culmination of more than two years work with PYBAR to “identify and test the technology that will have the most impact and benefits for them and their clients”.

He added: “Extensive testing has enabled us to fully evaluate the challenges posed by the harsh underground environments in which the machines are required to operate. It has also allowed us to set up the machines to get the most out of their automation and tele-remote capabilities.”

PYBAR to trial autonomous loading at Dargues underground gold mine

PYBAR Mining Services says it is applying new technology to several automation projects it is currently working on, including Diversified Minerals’ Dargues underground gold asset and the Heron Resources-owned Woodlawn zinc-copper operation, both of which are in New South Wales, Australia.

Chief Technology Officer, Andrew Rouse, says the company’s approach has always been to get the basics right using traditional means and then adding technology to enhance its capabilities. “This guiding principle is being applied to several current automation projects,” he said.

New Cat R1700 underground loaders being deployed at the Dargues gold mine are undergoing staged testing that will result in them moving towards improved automation in early 2020, according to PYBAR.

Dargues is owned by Diversified Minerals, an associated company of PYBAR Mining Services. The mine is expected to have a 355,000 t/y capacity gold processing facility comprising crushing, milling, flotation and filtration circuits and produce a sulphide concentrate for export. Dargues is expected to produce an average of 50,000 oz/y of gold in the first six years of production.

Testing of the LHDs has featured the use of Cat’s next generation MXZ technology, which includes traction control and Autodig, where the machine digs the load instead of the operator, PYBAR said. “Both technologies have made an impact with full buckets consistently being achieved,” the company added.

The next step in the process will involve setting up tele-remote operation from the surface in time for stoping in early 2020, according to the contractor.

PYBAR was part of the team at Ramelius Resources’ Vivien gold mine in Western Australia where the first global underground trial of the Cat R1700 loader took place in October 2017. This followed a global launch of the machine at MINExpo 2016.

Another project has seen PYBAR collaborate with Emesent to test automated drones at the Dargues and Woodlawn operations.

LiDAR and SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping) technology is used to track the drones underground and keep them away from obstacles, according to PYBAR, with the trials having delivered some favourable outcomes; among them the swift processing of information gathered by the drones.

“The technology has great potential and PYBAR is investigating how best it can be applied to our business,” it said.

DRA to push Dargues gold project forward to production

DRA Global’s DRA Pacific Pty subsidiary has been awarded the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for the Dargues gold mine in New South Wales, Australia.

Dargues is owned by Diversified Minerals, an associated company of PYBAR Mining Services. As a leading underground mining services company within Australia, Pybar will be developing and operating the project’s underground mine and other infrastructure, according to DRA.

DRA’s project scope entails the engineering, procurement and construction of a 355,000 t/y capacity gold processing facility and mine backfill plant at Dargues. The processing plant will comprise crushing, milling, flotation and filtration circuits and produce a sulphide concentrate for export. The mine is expected to produce an average of 50,000 oz/y of gold in the first six years of production.

Greg McRostie the Executive Vice President for DRA in the Asia Pacific Region, said: “This EPC contract further enhances DRA’s global position as the partner of choice for the delivery of projects to clients in the gold industry. Over the past five years, DRA has successfully delivered 10 projects and completed in excess of 35 studies for our client’s gold projects across the globe.”

DRA Global has been involved with Dargues since 2011, supporting Diversified Minerals through various studies and optimisations culminating in the final project execution phase about to start.

“This relatively long partnership and strong relationship developed over the project definition phase is a true reflection of the client focused approach of DRA,” McRostie said.

Site work will commence in February 2019 and first ore is expected to be processed in early 2020.