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Epiroc trusting its 6th Sense on mine automation, electrification, digitalisation developments

During an enlightening Capital Markets Day, in Stockholm, Sweden, Epiroc backed up its credentials as a leader in the mine automation, digitalisation and electrification spaces, outlining its progress to date and its medium- and long-term plans to capture more market share.

A few weeks after putting on the investor showcase – but before Helena Hedblom was announced as the incoming President and CEOIM spoke with President and CEO, Per Lindberg, and Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications, Mattias Olsson, to get some detail behind the presentation slides.

IM: Automation featured very widely in the capital markets day (CMD) presentations earlier this month: In general, how would you characterise the mining industry appetite for this new technology? Where is the average customer on your automation scale?

PL: First of all, the appetite is very large; most customers are looking at automation in one way or another.

It is hard to do a mathematical average when it comes to where the industry currently is, but the average miner is probably down on the left-hand side of that scale (pictured below) – somewhere in between tele-remote and single machine automation.

IM: Over the next five years, where do you see most potential growth for autonomous solutions in terms of underground or open-pit mining? What market dynamics are accelerating this uptake?

PL: Most likely it will happen in both surface and underground. The potential for productivity and safety improvements is probably greater in underground, though.

This trend is clearly driven by productivity, cost efficiency and safety. Those would be the key drivers for automation. It is about taking people out of the line of fire, as well as having close to 24/7 production.

IM: Following the 34% stake acquisition of ASI Mining last year, would you say the project Epiroc and ASI are working on at Ferrexpo’s Yeristovo mine is representative of how you envisage doing business together in the future?

PL: That is the reason that we initially acquired the 34% stake in ASI Mining; we wanted to go in that direction. In that respect, I think the Ferrexpo example is representative of how we will cooperate with ASI.

Of course, ASI can also offer a standalone solution without Epiroc being present on the automation side, so we are also promoting their offering too.

IM: How does Epiroc, as an OEM, balance its machine building and maintenance service offering? Does the ability to keep machines working longer through sophisticated monitoring systems and better manufacturing somewhat inhibit your ability to sell new machinery?

PL: To a certain extent, we are probably cannibalising our new machine sales with increased service intensity and improved servicing products. That is most likely the consequence. On the other hand, we also feel that it is only right to offer this type of aftercare and servicing.

Yet, you cannot continue to prolong the life of a piece of equipment forever. It needs to be replaced at some point.

Overall, the servicing offering works well for us and, we think, it is good for our customers in terms of increasing the life of their equipment.

IM: Factoring this in, what percentage of revenue is your aftermarket business likely to represent in the next 10 years (from 65% today)?

PL: It’s difficult to say if it is going to be higher, or not, but it is likely that the volume of service will increase. That is based on what we are talking about – the intensified servicing we are offering, the products we have developed and the fact that we are increasing the market share within our own fleet.

Whether it continues to be 65% of the overall business depends on activity in the rest of the group.

IM: Along these lines, how long does the company anticipate its new battery-electric loading fleets lasting compared with, say, the diesel-powered fleets you were selling 10 years ago?

PL: The wear and tear of the actual machine will be the same – that is not going to change because of the drivetrain.

But, having an electric drivetrain is different from diesel; we have to see what the long-term maintenance needs are compared with diesel. The life of the drivetrain also depends very much on the utilisation of the machine.

IM: Of the recent innovations the company has launched (or is about to launch) – 6th Sense, a semi-automated explosives delivery system (with Orica), Scooptram Automation Total, Powerbit, etc – which has the strongest business case in mining?

PL: I think 6th Sense is really a packaging of all of our different offerings within automation. In that regard, it is has the highest potential. Which components of 6th Sense have the highest potential? We’ll have to wait and see.

The semi-automated explosives delivery system with Orica is a very specific innovation, but we very much believe in automating this mining process because of the safety and productivity benefits it brings. But we are only just starting this development compared with 6th Sense, which has already launched.

Powerbit is, again, very specific, but…allows us to deliver a complete offering both in terms of machine and consumables that will enable higher productivity and automation. That should have a high potential in the market.

IM: What does the Epiroc mining roadmap look like for the next 10-30 years? I imagine wider adoption of hard-rock cutting, automation, electrification and digitalisation are in there, but what other technology evolutions are being planned for?

PL: We have to continue to work with all of those three – automation, electrification and digitalisation – as they will deliver significant benefits for the industry. That is where we need to focus over that 10-year timeframe.

These three also have the potential to further integrate the value chain in mining within the future digitalisation space. We need to both continue to work with these technologies and our customers to ensure we have greater market penetration in all these areas.

IM: And, hard-rock cutting? Is this as important as these three?

PL: For specific applications, mechanical cutting and the Mobile Miners have their relevance and work well. But we believe for the foreseeable future, the majority of hard-rock excavation will be carried out by drilling and blasting in the mining and tunnelling sectors.

IM: During the CMD there was mention of “cost per measure” contracts under the digitalisation heading. Could you go into some detail about how the company is offering these and if they are tied in with financing agreements for your equipment?

PL: In terms of cost per measure, one example would be cost per metre contracts in consumables and rock drilling tools.

MO: We also provide finance for equipment and it could be that the equipment is financed and we have a cost per metre contract in place. Those two are not connected or tied, though.

It could be that there is more of this ‘pay-for-performance’ type of contract in the future – where you charge per tonne of ore excavated, for example – but, if it does come, I don’t think it will happen quickly.

IM: Similarly Epiroc talked about “new business models” in 2020 for underground equipment at the CMD. What might these new business models be? What is the need for them?

PL: It could be revenue streams into software, to information management, to advanced service agreements, to Batteries as a Service for battery vehicles.

The reasons for establishing these models is the continuous development of software, new updates for machines, etc that require different models.

When it comes to Batteries as a Service, it is a different model again looking to transfer the energy cost of the battery from capex to opex in order to facilitate the timely decisions for customers and reduce the cost of operation for our customers.

These new models are all based on development of technologies.

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.”

Growth and innovation on the agenda, Epiroc’s incoming CEO says

The timing of the announcement of Helena Hedblom becoming Epiroc President and CEO might have caught investors off-guard, but the actual appointment is no big surprise.

The news came just 12 days after the company held its second annual Capital Markets Day where Hedblom and Per Lindberg, current President and CEO, gave investors an update on the progress the company has made on its strategy since starting operations under the new brand in November 2017.

Hedblom, who currently heads up the mining and infrastructure divisions for Epiroc and is due to take on the top role from March 2020, has been a major part of Epiroc’s Group Management team since it was formed. Her ties to Atlas Copco, meanwhile, date back to 2000, with her roles including Head of Research and Development and General Manager for rock drilling tools business Secoroc and, then, becoming President of Atlas Copco Rock Drilling Tools.

Epiroc has launched a number of new initiatives in the mine automation, digitalisation and electrification spaces since the end of 2017, and Hedblom has been instrumental in all of these, spelling out the business case to investors, making sure the engineering capacity is available and taking all of the technical questions that may come Epiroc’s way.

With mining making up 76% of order intake for Epiroc in the nine months to the end of September – and the company keen to build on its leading position in the sector – it is logical for someone with Hedblom’s experience to take the top job following the successful establishment of Epiroc under Lindberg.

On a conference call today following the announcement, Ronnie Leten, Chairman of Epiroc, said current company head, Per Lindberg, had achieved the goals set for him by the board and that Hedblom had been given a new mission: to achieve “higher levels” of growth for Epiroc.

That is a bold statement considering the company has achieved a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10% over the period from 2015 to 2018 through a number of organic and inorganic investments, and a 14% CAGR in the 12 months to end-September 2019. This is all while retaining a comparatively high average operating margin of 18.3% and 20.1%, respectively, over those same timeframes.

Hedblom, speaking to IM shortly after that call, explained the growth mission given to her by her incoming Chairman.

“It’s a combination of organic initiatives within the company, as well as inorganic initiatives,” she said. “But, of course, within that, the big technology shifts with automation, digitalisation and electrification give us an opportunity to help our customer gain safety, productivity and energy benefits. That is a big focus area for us.”

She is also looking to grow the company’s aftermarket business – which already accounts for 65% of revenue – explaining: “This is where we can make a difference with our customers and really be a productivity partner. It also gives us resilience across the cycle.”

Looking to the “initiatives”, specifically, she said there could be some organic product developments to close some “gaps we have in the portfolio”, but also strengthening “our presence… in some areas where we don’t have the market reach today”.

While these growth initiatives will most likely be in markets the company has already deemed to be core, she said all divisions within the company had a roadmap looking into opportunities that are “adjacent to core”.

One area of Epiroc investment Hedblom was keen to talk up was R&D, which in recent years has enabled the company to retain a leading position in the likes of autonomous surface drilling, battery-powered underground vehicles, and mine digitalisation and automation.

“We have a good level of investment in R&D,” she said, adding that, at the moment, it is heavily skewed towards automation, digitalisation and electrification.

“Bear in mind that 65% of our revenue is in the aftermarket and we are already investing 2-3% of revenue in R&D – that represents quite a big investment on the capital equipment side,” she said.

She concluded: “That (R&D investment) is needed. For me, innovation is key. That is how we stay ahead of technology leaders in all of these areas.

“I expect R&D investments to stay at this level, and this is extremely important to creating sustainable growth for the company over the long term.”

Suncor to move towards cloud-based computing with Microsoft Azure

Suncor has announced a multi-year strategic alliance with Microsoft Canada as a part of the company’s effort to further accelerate its digital transformation journey.

The oil sands miner has selected Microsoft as its “strategic cloud provider”, tapping into the full range of Microsoft’s cloud solutions to empower a connected and collaborative workforce, upgrade data centres, and increase analytics capabilities, it said.

Suncor will also collaborate with Microsoft on innovation projects, drawing on expertise and opportunities from both organisations.

Mark Little, Suncor President and CEO, said: “We’re excited to be partnering with Microsoft because they’re a global leader in the digital technology space, and they will bring value and insights into global innovation best practices.

“This is an example of how we are driving to improve our business in ways that were not possible before – to make our people safer, increase reliability and productivity, reduce costs and improve sustainability.”

In this multi-year strategic alliance, Suncor will take advantage of Microsoft’s full range of cloud solutions and will move towards cloud-based computing with Microsoft Azure as a preferred cloud platform. The move to Azure is expected to enable the rapid deployment of new technologies to improve safety and productivity through artificial intelligence, machine learning, enhanced automation, and industrial internet of things and visualisation, according to Suncor.

“Although we are an industry leader in many respects, we still have much to learn in the digital space, which is why we’re working with a number of organisations including Microsoft to challenge us,” Little said. “Similar to how we partner with and learn from innovators across our physical value chain, we’re choosing to partner with the experts in digital innovation.”

The company said: “Collaborating on innovation will include Microsoft resources embedded at the core of innovation teams, working together to explore a wide range of business capabilities. Additionally, value will come from accessing the Microsoft innovation ecosystem and real-world lessons from a curated community of global peers.”

Kevin Peesker, President of Microsoft Canada, said Suncor was embarking on a journey to transform the energy industry, and his company could help Suncor achieve its goals.

“They are creating new business value for their customers, empowering and upskilling their workforce, and innovating for a sustainable future,” he said. “The world’s leading companies run on our cloud, and we look forward to helping Suncor accelerate their digital transformation with Azure, Dynamics 365, Surface and Microsoft 365.”

Through this strategic alliance with Microsoft, Suncor expects to better improve the employee and customer experiences across its business, from front line workers in industrial settings, to gas station attendants at Petro-Canada gas and EV stations, to office workers across Suncor, it said. Digital technologies will be a means to draw superior insights from data and will open new ways to drive improved economic, social and environmental performance.

Suncor’s oil sands mining projects, located in the Athabasca region of Canada, are projected to produce a reliable, long-term energy supply while leveraging technology to minimise environmental and social impacts of resource development, it says. Located near Fort McMurray in northern Alberta, the assets include the Millennium and North Steepbank sites as well as the Suncor-operated Fort Hills mine. Suncor also has a 58.74% interest in the Syncrude joint venture and a 100% interest in the Voyageur South mining lease. Suncor holds a 36.75% interest in a joint venture partnership with Total to develop the Joslyn oil sands mining project.

Australia has much to gain from resource sector technology advances, report says

Harnessing new technologies in the mining, oil and gas industries will add A$74 billion ($50 billion) to the Australian economy by 2030 and create more than 80,000 new local jobs, according to a new report from METS Ignited and NERA.

Titled ‘Staying Ahead of the Game Report’, the report says data analytics, automation and robotics technologies continue to transform the resources sector and Australia needs to be at the forefront of technological progress or risk other countries taking the lead.

The report was designed to attempt to predict the nature and scale of how Australia’s resources industries, including both the producers and their supply chains, might change if they fully embraced the latest advances in operational technologies such as analytics, automation and robotics.

It further analysed what these changes mean for employment and workforce development (especially in the operations areas across regional Australia), and the wider economy.

To estimate the impact of these technological changes, the report analysed 30 types of technological innovation considered most relevant and carried out more than four dozen interviews with industry and technology experts to support the findings.

It also laid out a four-step roadmap that, it said, will lead Australia to success. The four steps were around strengthening collaboration, creating and supporting national cross-industry automation technology clusters, expanding the “entrepreneurial ecosystem” and boosting skills and research and development.

Australia’s Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, said Australia has one of the most competitive mining, oil and gas industries in the world which will continue to boost its economy as it transforms.

“A vibrant and competitive resources sector is vital to Australia’s economic future and the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies will be a key driver of industry transformation,” she said. “The use of analytics and robotics not only provides significant safety and environmental benefits, it is also rapidly increasing job opportunities.”

Andrews added: “This kind of technology opens up new, unexplored opportunities for the resources sector and what this report shows is the huge economic opportunity if new technology is embraced.”

The report was produced by METS Ignited and NERA, two industry growth centres established to drive innovation, productivity and competitiveness.

It comes shortly after a A$2 million Future Technology Project Fund was made available through NERA for projects that accelerate the commercialisation of science and technology, improve the uptake of innovative digital technologies, and encourage future investment, productivity and global trade, in the oil, gas and energy sector.

Ground support, electrification, automation, digitalisation all part of MacLean’s PERUMIN 34 showcase

The upcoming PERUMIN 34 mining convention in Arequipa (September 16-20) is providing Canada-based mining vehicle manufacturer MacLean Engineering a chance to share its latest field data and learnings from product development efforts in the areas of ground support, electrification, automation, and digitalisation.

This includes face bolting, full-fleet battery electrification, tele-remote and driver assist vehicle operation, real-time vehicle monitoring, and virtual reality training.

MacLean’s participating delegation includes a full contingent of sales and product management specialists both from the MacLean Peru branch, in Lima, as well as from head office in Canada.

The company first established a branch in Lima in 2012 to provide technical and sales support to the local mining industry. Since that time, the company has grown its in-country staffing contingent to over 50 employees, including over 40 mining vehicle technicians who provide site-level service and support to mines throughout the country.

Peru is also the first international mining jurisdiction where MacLean has sold and commissioned its latest ground support installation option – face bolting on the 975 Omnia scissor bolter – with two units currently working underground for bolting the face within the underground mining cycle. At least one of these is at the Nexa Resources’ owned Atacocha zinc-copper-lead-silver-gold operation in the Peruvian Andes (pictured).

MacLean President, Kevin MacLean, said the company’s Lima branch is at the heart of its commitment to underground mining, not only in Peru but also across South America.

Tony Caron, MacLean’s Vice President of Latin America, Quebec and Nunavut, said: “Our approach in Peru has stayed faithful to our approach to building a lasting business in other international markets, which is to establish local roots and take a long-term view, focusing on nurturing customer partnerships.

“From the Abitibi region of northwest Quebec to the nickel basin and gold mines of northern Ontario; from the Kivalliq region of Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic to Nevada, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Australia – in each of these unique mining geographies, geologies and cultures, the one constant is the importance of in-country service and support.”

MacLean’s Product Manager for Bolting, Stephen Denomme, said the MacLean bolter is the benchmark for ground support installation safety, productivity and versatility in Canadian hard-rock mines. “With our latest face bolting design, we are able to offer up to the mining industry in Latin America, a semi-mechanised bolting option where the operator is always working under protected ground, where you get best-in-class productivity for bolts and screen installed per shift, along with the versatility of multiple bolt-type installation and a deck configuration that allows for the storage of a full shift of consumables,” he said.

“This is the MacLean bolting approach and technology that we look forward to sharing with industry colleagues during the week of PERUMIN 34 in Arequipa.”

Anglo American takes to tablets at Australia UG coal mines

Anglo American says it has launched Australia’s first electronic tablet device certified for use in underground coal mines at its Moranbah North mine, in the Bowen Basin of Queensland.

The introduction of these tables represents a major step forward in the company’s aims to digitise its operations, according to Tyler Mitchelson, CEO of Anglo American’s Australian business.

He added that digitisation was a key part of the company’s FutureSmart Mining™ approach, which applies innovative thinking and technological advances to address mining’s major challenges.

While standard tablets have been used underground at many mines around the world for at least a few years, it is the presence of potential explosive gas mixtures in some underground operational environments – coal, in particular – that inhibits any device being taken below ground that does not meeting ‘intrinsically safe’ regulatory approval. This is due to the potential risk of ignition from energy sources within such devices (eg standard tablets and smart phones).

Mitchelson said: “Following the successful launch at Moranbah North mine, we are now moving towards rapid deployment across all our underground sites including our newly-approved Aquila mine, which will be developed as one of the most technologically advanced underground mines in the world.

“The tablets capture and share real time production, safety and environmental monitoring information with operators, ensuring critical information is readily available to key personnel and removing the need for paper records.”

They also provide direct access to the company’s Safety Health Management System and can be used as a portable video communication device (via Skype) to instantly access personnel working at the surface level, according to Mitchelson. “This will accelerate trouble-shooting and can also be used as a live video link in case of emergencies.”

He added: “Any delays or challenges can be reported and addressed on-the-spot to reduce lost production time, instead of relying on traditional communication methods such as phone calls, underground travel or hard copy reports being submitted and reviewed at the end of a 12-hour shift.”

The tablets are already enabling improved communication and information sharing underground, Mitchelson said. This should ultimately lead to safer, more productive mining, he added.

The introduction of underground tablets followed significant work towards automating longwall operations and digitising the company’s mines, according to Mitchelson, with Anglo American recently completing its first pilot longwall shear from an above-ground remote operating centre at the Grosvenor mine.

The device was developed in collaboration with product manufacturer, Bartec, and tested to achieve certification with the Queensland Government’s Safety in Mines Testing and Research Station, the company said.

Executive Head of Underground Operations in Australia, Glen Britton, said implementation of the tablets followed a successful pilot earlier this year at Moranbah North mine, which was already receiving positive feedback from operators.

“Each week at Moranbah North mine, around 400 statutory reports and 2,500 maintenance work orders are generated. The team there aims to be paperless within two years, and the introduction of these tablets will enable us to remove underground paperwork and transition to electronic storage of statutory and production reports,” Britton said.

“Over the last five years, we have invested considerable resources in the development of this technology, to ensure the product was fit-for-purpose. We sought out a manufacturing partner to help create a new technical solution for managing our data, undertook an extensive certification process and improved underground Wi-Fi capabilities at the mine.”

Deloitte to help digitalise MMK’s iron and steel operations

Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works (MMK) says it has partnered with Deloitte CIS to create a digitalisation strategy for the company.

The agreement, signed during the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, will see Deloitte CIS prepare a roadmap for the digitalisation of the company over the medium term.

MMK said it decided to update its digital portfolio as part of the company’s overall development strategy up to 2025.

The strategy will include the most effective projects to help MMK “achieve strategic goals faster and significantly improve the company’s business efficiency”, it said.

MMK and Deloitte have a long-standing relationship and, according to MMK, Deloitte has repeatedly shown its high level of expertise on a wide range of issues of strategic importance for MMK.

Andrey Eremin, Director for Economics at MMK, said: “I hope that our cooperation in the field of digital transformation will be just as effective and bring both sides beneficial results.”

According to the results of a preliminary study, Deloitte experts said there is significant potential for the use of advanced technologies at MMK, according to the Russia-based iron and steel maker. “This is because the company has an extensive digital history, as well as a production database which is updated in real time,” it said.

Alexander Oleynik, Director of Strategy and Operations at Deloitte CIS, said: “The MMK team’s long-standing commitment to implementing information systems to manage technical and production quality, as well as traceability, have made an excellent foundation for the business.

“In turn, Deloitte will bring cross-sectoral knowledge and innovation experience to the partnership, which will allow us to fully capitalise on MMK’s digital potential and form plans for its further development.”

Epiroc to connect machines, systems and people with ‘6th Sense’

Epiroc is presenting a new approach to the mining and infrastructure industries that combines digitalisation and automation to, it says, boost its customers’ performance.

The “6th Sense” solution addresses a growing need for the two industries to look to digital technologies to enhance productivity, sustainability and safety, according to the company. The approach is the Epiroc way to optimise customers’ processes by connecting machines, systems and people using automation, information management and system integration.

“With 6th Sense comes a great focus on system connectivity, using interoperability to unlock the full potential of automation for production gains at lower operating costs,” the company said.

Helena Hedblom, Epiroc Senior Executive Vice President Mining and Infrastructure, said: “6th Sense is a formula we have developed for getting the right solutions in place and achieving operational excellence in mining and infrastructure operations.

“The name 6th Sense implies that the solution brings something extra and that is just what it does, providing a significant advantage such as track and respond to real-time working conditions and equipment needs.”

One example of Epiroc’s focus on automated and productivity-enhancing solutions comes from the Hollinger mine in Timmins, Canada. Together with long-term partner Newmont Goldcorp, Epiroc has put the world’s first fully autonomous SmartROC D65 surface drill rig in production, it said. The operator can be positioned remotely and perform other tasks while the drill rig completes a full drill pattern autonomously. “Besides increased operator safety, this boosts productivity thanks to Global Navigation Satellite System accuracy, non-stop operations and less wear and tear on drilling tools, reducing production costs and improving reliability,” Epiroc said.

Another example is the new Teleremote e-tramming option for Epiroc’s range of Simba long-hole underground drill rigs. The automation package includes functionalities to monitor, plan and automate drilling operations from onboard the rig or from a remote location. “Not only is the tramming process faster and simpler, the e-tramming function also provides a safer work environment and reduces variability in performance,” Epiroc said.

Hedblom said: “The 6th Sense approach is based on our customers’ needs for implementing digitalisation, automation and new process integrations. We are continuously rolling out new innovative features, always with the customers’ needs in mind.”

Austmine 2019 to showcase global mining innovations

“Mining Innovation – The Next Horizon” is the tag line for the fast-approaching Austmine conference in Brisbane, Australia.

Taking place at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre from May 21-23, the program for Austmine 2019 has been developed specifically for those driven by innovation and working within mining companies, mining equipment, technology and services (METS) companies, as well as relevant academia and government, according to the event organisers. Over 800 attendees are expected at the bi-annual event.

“The Next Horizon for the industry will see fundamental shifts in mining technology which will alter the entire value chain, placing an emphasis on current planning decisions to ensure optimal future outcomes,” Austmine’s organisers said.

The three-day program contains over 40 presentations featuring more than 50 experts drawn from six continents, as well as hands-on workshops, panel discussions, and networking opportunities, held in conjunction with the sold-out exhibition, featuring over 90 of the industry’s foremost companies.

Austmine Chief Executive Officer, Christine Gibbs Stewart, said: “This is now the leading mining innovation conference in the world; there are a lot of conferences out there, but nobody is as sharply focussed on innovation as we are.

“We have brought together the premiere thought leaders around innovation, which is quite exciting for us; the fact that we have so many international speakers and attendees is a credit to our previous conferences.

“It demonstrates that overseas miners are interested in what is happening in Australia, and they see Australia leading the way with some of the new innovations and technologies that are entering the market.”

Current confirmed speakers include Rag Udd (Vice President, Global Transformation, BHP), Natascha Viljoen (Global Head of Processing Operations, Anglo American), Marco Orellana (CIO, Codelco), Rob Labbé (Director of Information Security, Teck Resources), Rafael Estrada (CIO & Manager of Information Systems, Telecommunications and Process Control, Antamina Mining), John Welborn (Managing Director & CEO, Resolute Mining), and Frans Knox (Head of Production, BMA Coal, BHP).

The conference themes range from new machinery technology and techniques, including automation and artificial intelligence, as well as the human element of mining, the use of analytics and big data, digital connectivity in mining, and finally sustainability for the industry, encompassing renewable resources and resource management.

The event features the Austmine Industry Leaders’ Dinner and Awards on May 22, which will also celebrate the association’s 30 years of advocacy for the Australian METS sector.