Tag Archives: fleet management

Epiroc and Combitech continue to break new ground in mine automation

After three years of collaboration, Epiroc and Combitech’s traffic management solution for autonomous loaders at underground mines is coming to fruition.

In 2017, Epiroc and Combitech started to work on this technological leap. Together, they have combined technology from Epiroc and SAAB’s civilian product portfolio with knowledge of the way traffic management is to be systematised and developed.

At the end of the same year, a prototype, or ‘proof of concept’, was delivered and evaluated in Epiroc’s test mine outside Örebro, Sweden.

Eighteen months later, in spring 2019, the solution was installed and used at an Australia gold mine.

This solution is called Epiroc Scooptram Automation Total and is included in Epiroc’s 6th Sense offering.

“This solution, in which autonomous machines can perform complete assignments and interact with each other in a shared area, is much sought after within the mining industry,” Robert Raschperger, Consultant for Epiroc and Combitech’s Product Development Manager, said. “It is a matter of being able to create an even flow of material, avoid locking between machines in production and move employees away from an unsafe environment.”

The solution’s driver is a proprietary module known as the Traffic Management System (TMS). It allows machines to share roads, service locations and loading and dumping sites without collisions or locking events.

The module is generic inasmuch as it is applicable to other autonomous solutions, whereby machines, drones and trucks are able to independently perform pre-defined tasks, eg travelling from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’, and depositing a load.

Epiroc’s strategy is an “open automation system” that means other machine manufacturers can be integrated into the solution, such as integrating a remotely operated MacLean water cannon into the Epiroc automation fleet at Newcrest Mining’s Cadia East operation in New South Wales, Australia.

As well as the TMS module, there is the Fleet Management System (FMS) to automate assignment and resource management so that the mine operator can focus on the work to be performed, eg transporting 1,600 t from point ‘a’ and dumping it at point ‘b’. The system decides which machines to be used, when they should operate and which routes they should take.

The FMS module is based on the SAFE (Situational Awareness For Enhanced security) platform, which has been developed within the SAAB group.

The TMS and FMS modules are integrated into the mine’s overall production management, so work orders are received, implemented and reported in order of priority, while, at the same time, the system attends to other machinery and parts of the production flow, eg ore crushers and ore transportation systems.

Mattias Pettersson, Global Portfolio Manager Loaders, Epiroc’s Underground division, said: “Interoperability and openness have been key words in the development of Epiroc’s automation system and, thanks to this, the collaboration with a partner like Combitech has also worked extremely well.

“Besides the technical advancements made and the new functions, which we have succeeded to develop in record time, I’m almost more impressed with our collaboration and partnership. The future of digitalisation and automation development depends on our success in integrating different systems – where collaboration between people and organisations is just as vital as the technical aspects.”

Raschperger added: “A key to our success is that our team has different skillsets. Some of us are good at traffic-management logic, ie sending data and coordinating traffic patterns. Others are good at acquainting themselves with end-user problems, work culture and human-to-machine interaction. We also have sound expertise in development of systems so they meet the stringent demands around availability in a mine, typically 24/7, plus how modern software development should be set up and managed.

“It’s enjoyable seeing how knowledge can be used in new ways, and what results are attainable through collaboration.”

Epiroc’s Scooptram Automation Total allows machine operators to carry out remote work safely in a control room above ground level, where they can share the overall situation in real time and carry out tasks that still call for a human being’s experience and precision. The operators have good insight into what is happening within the production environment and can take over machines as and when necessary to carry out non-automated tasks.

The latest addition to the solution is the option of “easy control” of the security system that protects employees from harm if they accidentally enter the autonomous production area, Epiroc says.

“Putting it simply, various sections and passageways are permitted to be closed or opened for autonomous operation, allowing the mining operator to send in manned machines without stopping autonomous production any more than is necessary,” the company explained. “The function also supports smooth check-in and check-out of autonomous or remote-controlled machinery.”

Raschperger concluded: “With this solution we are breaking new ground, as we are bringing manual and autonomous operations closer to each other. A fully-autonomous mine is still a long way off, but the latest addition to the solution allows mining companies to actually proceed towards autonomous operation and increases the degree of utilisation of the investment in infrastructure, machinery and employees.”

This is an edited version of an Epiroc story that first appeared here: https://www.epiroc.com/en-uk/newsroom/2020/the-route-to-an-autonomous-mine

MICROMINE’s Pitram solution takes control at Greece mine

MICROMINE says it is making a strong foray into Europe’s mining sector with its Pitram fleet management and mine control solution now operating in Greece.

Already used at more than 50 mining operations across six continents, the installation at the Greece mine is Pitram’s third deployment in the Aegean region, following installations at two production projects in Turkey.

“Greece has a wealth of mineral and ore deposits including gold, silver, lead, zinc, copper, nickel and bauxite – and a history of mining that dates back to ancient times,” Pitram Product Strategy Manager, Chris Higgins, said. “Turkey also has abundant source of industrial raw materials, rare earth minerals and precious metals including gold, copper, zinc, chrome, nickel, iron, lead, mercury, tin and magnesium.

“As a result, international operators and miners are developing projects across the Aegean and Pitram is providing the data insights needed to ensure the operations are well controlled.”

More than 10 mining operations in Europe are currently using Pitram to record, manage and process mine data in real time, according to the company. The scalable solution has now been deployed at the three underground gold, copper and zinc mines in Turkey and Greece.

The Greece project is well advanced with Pitram playing a crucial role in a major refurbishment and expansion of existing operations, the company says.

“Comprising 11 modules – including materials management, OLAP analysis, shift planner and fleet management – Pitram is a sophisticated mine control and management reporting application enabling the miners to capture data, make quicker, evidence-based decisions and allocate resources more effectively,” MICROMINE says.

As production ramped up at the Greece underground mine, the operators chose Pitram, according to MICROMINE, because they needed a solution that would enable them to:

  • Improve development and production mining cycles;
  • Accurately track materials from source to processing;
  • Provide OLAP reporting and analysis;
  • Enhance reactions to, and minimise the impact of, unplanned events; and
  • Increase equipment availability and utilisation.

The implementation of Pitram voice and materials management modules ensured these objectives were met by adapting the solution to meet the specific needs of the site, the company said.

Higgins added: “At MICROMINE we committed to working with our mining clients to deliver the tailored software solutions they need to meet local requirements.

“This includes providing our solutions in the languages needed – that’s why Pitram has been translated into Turkish and Greek. So, with the functionality to switch between English and the local language, all staff on-site can use the application.”

Modular Mining strengthens Glencore ties with new UWJV coal project contract win

Modular Mining says Glencore has selected its DISPATCH® Fleet Management and ProVision® Machine Guidance systems to support the United Wambo Joint Venture (UWJV) project in New South Wales, Australia.

The DISPATCH Fleet Management System (FMS) manages the haulage cycles of the 39 trucks and six loading units that comprise the mixed-manufacturer fleet at the Wambo open-pit coal operation in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales.

“UWJV wanted a system that could provide real-time optimisation of load and haul operations, as well as truck assignments to the run of mine (ROM) and stockpiles for coal feed,” Rob Lloyd, Systems Coordinator, UWJV, Glencore, said.

The mine also purchased the Crusher API, a component of the FMS’ Crusher Suite and the recently-released Modular Mining Public API. The Crusher Suite’s Truck Diversion utility and the FMS’ DISPATCH Actions module work in tandem to increase the mine’s ability to manage their ROM and stockpile-related challenges, according to Modular, a company owned by Komatsu.

“The ProVision System delivers high-precision guidance to the mine’s excavator, dozer, and drill fleet,” the company said. “By increasing positional accuracy, the ProVision System will help ensure that the loading and dumping locations, roads, and drill patterns, are completed to design, thus eliminating rework, and reducing costs.”

Greg Sweeney, General Manager, Modular Mining Australia, said Glencore is a key strategic partner for Modular Mining.

“At UWJV, they have aligned with us to supply solutions via technology and expertise to assist them in optimising their production,” he said. “United Wambo is another opportunity for Glencore and Modular Mining to collaborate to extract maximum value from their operation.”

CR beefs up Pilbara service offering with ‘Boots on the Ground’

As part of CR’s strategy to further increase its on-site service model and ensure it maintains a high level of service through these times of regional and border restrictions, it has announced its local Pilbara ‘Boots on the Ground’ initiative.

“Equipped with the latest in vehicle safety, communication, navigation and journey management systems, we welcome Troy Honey back to the CR Australasia Team,” the company said. “Troy is residential to Karratha, has been a North West local for four years and, combined with over 20 years of experience servicing the Pilbara resources sector, he will be an asset to ensuring our customers productivity assets are maintained to the highest level possible.”

CR added: “Whether it is during restrictions or any time requiring service, CR’s ‘Boots on the Ground’ will provide the rapid response required by the Pilbara’s world leading mining industry, all the while supporting the local communities of the Pilbara in Western Australia.”

Pitram 4.17 offers operators a new level of mine control, MICROMINE says

The latest release of MICROMINE’s fleet management and mine control solution, Pitram 4.17, is set to take data management to the “next level”, the company says.

Currently the fleet management and mine control solution of choice for more than 58 mining operations across six continents, according to MICROMINE, the latest version has plenty more to offer users.

“Pitram’s Materials Management and Shift Planner modules boast key functionality enhancements providing greater data insights and enabling better decision-making, while Pitram Mobile can now launch third-party applications,” Chris Higgins, Pitram Product Strategy Manager, says. “Security and access control has also been upgraded across the suite of intuitive tools.”

New functionality in the Materials Management module has also been added, according to Higgins, enabling geologists to gain greater insight into “stockpile levels, composition, inputs and outputs as it interacts with the mine operation”.

He added: “Enhancements to the Stockpile Viewer enable you to more easily work with data up and down stream to manage and react to materials mis-matches.”

Stockpile-related data, which was readily available within Material Management (eg last movements in the Movements Screen) is now summarised within Stockpile Viewer, the company added.

“With the last source, last destination, quantity, depletion model, grade, colour and shape, and filtering data now all summarised and accessed from Stockpile Viewer, you have all the information needed to effectively manage the stockpile at your fingertips, enabling you to optimise the end-to-end process,” Higgins said.

Pitram’s Material Management module also includes a new metadata feature, enabling geologists to gain full transparency and a better understanding of material flows, according to the company.

The ability to make notes against grades and stockpile survey records in real time means geologists can better make sense of their data by providing context when reviewing compliance to plan, mill feed and other operational activities, MICROMINE says. The annotations also contextualise change so that technical services and control room operators can see the rationale behind updates to grades or tonnage, improving communications around grade adjustments as assays come in and shifts rotate.

Real-time shift data and planning is also now available in Pitram Connect, MICROMINE’s mobile application that allows users to retrieve information about their assets, people, equipment, production, and locations without needing to be on site.

“As Pitram Connect now integrates with Pitram’s Shift Planning module, mine planners, managers and shift bosses can make planning decisions from anywhere – whether they are at the face of the mine or off-site,” Higgins said.

“By being able to access a schedule view of planned tasks and their progress, users can reallocate resources sooner and correct plan deviations as they happen, minimising delays, improving utilisation and increasing productivity.”

Efficiency and usability are also the focus for the upgrade of Pitram Mobile, with the added functionality of the Generic Application Launcher, which allows third-party applications to be launched from the Pitram Mobile User Interface.

Pitram Mobile, a touchscreen tablet app installed in-cab on the mobile fleet, enables equipment operators to capture production data manually via the touchscreen or automatically via integration with on-board systems, MICROMINE says.

Third-party tools for safety, communications or positioning that operators would like to use in their cabs can now operate seamlessly with Pitram Mobile, according to the company. “With the third-party launcher, the need for additional in-cab hardware and software is removed and in-cab mining applications can be consolidated onto a single device,” it explained.

Data security is a business imperative for mining operations, according to Higgins, who said Pitram 4.17 has been strengthened with new authentication and auditing features to regulate access to operational data.

“Two-factor authentication can now be set-up in the Data Acquisition and Event Editor applications,” MICROMINE said.

“By configuring the applications to require a user to log-in on application start-up, you can protect and regulate access to your operational data, while the auditing functionality provides robust control and traceability.”

Higgins said: “With its extensive range of tools to record equipment, personnel and materials data, Pitram is at the centre of your mining ecosystem.

“Pitram 4.17 introduces new functionality to help you get an even better overall view of the current mine status and provides the basis for improved control over operations – increasing production, reducing costs, and improving safety.”

RCT expands reach of Muirhead, Smartrack and AusProTec solutions with Reliable Industries partnership

RCT has partnered with US-based Reliable Industries to, it says, supply quality technology solutions to mobile equipment around the world.

The partnership involves RCT manufacturing its foundation products, the Muirhead® protection systems, their industrial fleet management system, Smartrack® Global, and its AusProTec™ specialised electrical parts range.

Reliable Industries will supply the products to its existing customer base consisting of mining, power generation and industrial companies located in more than 60 countries, RCT said. The 40-year-old company will explore opportunities to implement additional RCT technology solutions to its clients on a case-by-case basis.

RCT Dealer and Product Management, Andrew Sells, said the partnership will greatly benefit both companies.

“RCT and Reliable Industries both have reputations for providing quality technology options around the world and going forward we can offer our services to a very broad customer base,” he said.

“Both companies understand that prompt service and having stock on the shelf ensures that our customer base is well serviced, both RCT and Reliable share this common value.”

Sells added: “Our Muirhead and AusProTec products incorporate decades of experience operating in mining and industrial operations in some of the world’s harshest conditions and they will rise to any occasion.”

Reliable Industries International Sales Manager, Christopher Callow, said: “Reliable Industries has worked in association with RCT for many years now and they rise to the challenge every time. RCT has a vast array of quality products that solve many problems which our clients encounter across the scope of their organisations.”

MineWare integrates mining value chain with new Argus tool

MineWare has introduced an advanced Material Classification module for its Argus Shovel Monitor to, it says, enable mine sites to save millions of dollars by reducing the amount of lost or contaminated ore.

The module integrates precise material information from each bucket, per the mine plan, with any fleet management system to give machine operators, haul truck drivers and processing personnel more accurate knowledge and feedback on the type of material being loaded and hauled, it said.

MineWare Vice President of Strategy and Marketing, Roy Pater, said by knowing upfront what exactly is being loaded at the face, the Argus Material Classification Module improves what material is being moved through the value chain – from pit to plant.

“Argus sets up the entire workflow for better success, providing the right feedback to more people and processes downstream to make informed decisions,” he said. “Shovel operators can now see in real time, via an intuitive, colour-coded display screen, the type and grade of material being loaded, not just the quantity of material.

“Unlike traditional systems that just track material via machine position, Argus precisely monitors each bucket fill and position, classifying the material in real time via a block model overlay on the Argus screen. The operator knows exactly what they’re digging, and where. Argus removes subjectivity when interpreting boundaries and reduces the risk of grade contamination at the dig face.”

Pater said operators no longer need to change grade manually or make assumptions on what they are digging, with the improvement in classification of material upstream having a positive effect on operations downstream.

“Better classification of material in the pit leads to better production output by knowing exactly what’s going in the truck and where it needs to go,” he said.

Argus feeds this material information from the shovel through to the mine’s fleet management system in real time.

Pater said: “The driver then knows exactly where to take the material based on its type and concentration – whether that’s a stockpile, waste point or straight to the crusher for processing.”

Poor stockpile management, ore loss, dilution and grade contamination are common challenges for mining operations, costing millions of dollars annually, according to Pater, with many of these downstream problems and efficiencies in mining directly linked to upstream load and haul processes.

“The misallocation of even a single bucket of high-grade ore can lead to significant monetary losses for mines, either in the pit or in the processing plant,” he said. “At the other end of the spectrum, highly acidic waste material must also be allocated correctly to ensure its safe removal and disposal.”

Pater said the new technology meets the global mining industry’s need for instant, on-demand access to information across a mine that can only be achieved by sharing data in real time between the various mining systems.

“By connecting more of the dots and closing the feedback loop between loading, hauling, dumping and crushing, Argus addresses these issues head on,” he said.

Detailed material classification compliance reports also help geologists, surveyors and reconciliation engineers meet their legal reporting obligations, with easier access to more accurate data on what and how material has been distributed on site, MineWare says.

Argus is an advanced monitoring system for electric and hydraulic loaders, designed to manage payload, mine compliance, machine health and situational awareness.

Acubis and SatNetCom target Australia fleet management market

Advitech Group’s Acubis and SatNetCom have announced a partnership to deliver an “end-to-end fleet management system offering to the Australian market”, they said.

The combined offering includes hardware, software, network connectivity and analytics, enabled by MineLink® (pictured), SatNetCom’s advanced mining fleet management system, and expands both companies’ footprints across the Asia Pacific region.

“The solution will help mining customers meet their current business challenges for fleet efficiency, connectivity, and increased uptime through the advanced fleet optimisation,” Acubis said.

Jeremy Pola, Director for Acubis, said: “Right from our first interaction, it was clear that SatNetCom is aligned with our customer centric focus. Our business is built upon developing solutions to provide customers with robust communications systems and reliable data access. We have a strong pedigree in delivering highly valued decision-making and business support tools. By working with SatNetCom, we will help ensure that our clients gain maximum advantage from optimising their fleet efficiency.”

Acubis is a system integrator that offers complete remote communication solutions within the oil and gas and mining industries, specialising in communication towers, solar communication trailers, digital radio systems, industrial wireless kinetic mesh, point to multipoint radio systems, IIoT and industrial CCTV solutions.

SatNetCom, meanwhile, has gained a reputation for designing, developing, installing, commissioning, training and supporting a vast range of world-class software, hardware, electronic and communications solutions for many types of businesses across the globe. It has a suite of fleet management and GPS tracking systems that increase productivity and improve fleet management for oil, gas and mining and the vast transportation businesses.

Rajant makes its underground mining move

Rajant is now looking to leverage the leading wireless network expert status it has built up in the open-pit mining space for the benefit of the underground mining sector.

At the AIMEX 2019 event in Sydney, Australia, last month, Mike Foletti, Sales Director, Asia Pacific, and Geoff Smith, Executive Vice President Global Sales and Marketing, talked IM through the move, explaining that the exclusive provider of Kinetic Mesh® wireless networks had teamed up with other firms to ensure its below ground offering is as complete as can be.

The underground solution the company was pushing for the first time at the event has been made possible by the strategic partnership between Rajant, Poynting Antennas, Extronics, and Australian Droid + Robot, the company said.

In the underground setup, Rajant’s multi-radio, multi-frequency BreadCrumb® nodes combine with Poynting’s wide-band, bi-directional, circular polarised antenna system to create a “complete underground and tunnel-wide wireless network for mission-critical data, video, and voice communications”, the company says.

As part of this, Extronics rugged and intrinsically safe AeroScout Wi-Fi-based active RFID tags for personnel and asset tracking operate in real time over Rajant’s network, never breaking for handoff. With location tracking precision of about 10 m, the tags can be used to identify productivity bottlenecks for improved operational efficiency, Rajant says. And, lastly, Australian Droid + Robot’s Explora droids (one pictured at AIMEX 2019), which Australian Droid says have “ridiculous amounts of traction and agility”, come equipped with Rajant BreadCrumb technology. This allows the small all-terrain robots to carry out underground inspections, enabling the machine to independently scan, sense, and explore locations that may be hazardous to miners.

While this is the first time Rajant has talked about this underground solution, it has already been deployed at one mine site, according to Foletti.

“This is basically an enhancement on any fixed solution that is installed underground,” he said, explaining that the high throughput and low latency network benefits open-pit miners have received above ground for many years, is now be translated into underground mines.

While Rajant will continue to service the open-pit sector as it has beforehand, providing the type of robust network solutions it has for more than a decade, its decision to move underground is easy to understand.

For starters, many of the big open pits are reaching the end of their mine lives, with mining engineers now planning for underground operations.

At the same time as this, underground mines either in development or production are expanding operations at a pace that makes it hard and expensive for fixed or conventional wireless network solutions to keep up with.

Rajant explains: “Underground mines and tunnels are some of the most challenging environments in which to deploy network systems. Connectivity and throughput demands are high, but circular ramps and declines, stopes, and mine layout place limitations on how far wireless signals can travel.

“Many mines, therefore, depend on fibre to achieve reliable underground communications, but installing fibre in active drives, panels and declines is difficult to schedule and can create operational and maintenance nightmares.”

In addition, development plus drill and blast areas can rarely support fibre infrastructure. “It is not uncommon for trucks to accidentally catch and rip down sections of fibre and when that happens connectivity across the entire underground mine can be lost,” Rajant said.

In Rajant’s Wireless Mesh solution, BreadCrumb nodes act independently of each other. This means if one node is damaged or has an issue, the system continues to operate by using another communication route. In addition, the underground solution boasts the highest data throughput on the market, according to Foletti; latency is less than a millisecond, he added. Both features will become even more important as the industry continues its transition to automation.

Smith and Foletti said the company chose AIMEX 2019 and the Australian market to launch this solution as the company already has 35 installations on surface in Australia, at operations owned by some major mining companies, such as Anglo American. Anglo, in fact, is standardising all its global operations with Rajant Wireless Mesh network technology, according to Smith.

The Rajant team is confident these companies and others will see there is a strong investment case for introducing Wireless Mesh underground, too.

In addition to gaining traction with mining companies, Smith and Foletti said Rajant had been making inroads with equipment manufacturers, fleet management providers and other service providers in the mining ecosystem.

Smith mentioned Wabtec (now GE Wabtec) had made an investment in the company as it looked to incorporate its wireless communications technology into its rail systems, while Japanese conglomerate Mitsui had created a strategic partnership looking to rollout Rajant’s technology across several of its portfolio companies.

Despite the introduction of LTE and 5G technology to the underground environment, Smith and Foletti believe there is still a business case for Rajant’s Wireless Mesh technology.

As Foletti said, “If they [the mining operation] move[s], that’s where Rajant comes in.”

This is likely to see the communications infrastructure installed alongside other technologies in the future such as LTE, fibre and 5G in rapidly expanding mining areas such as development and production.

Boliden Kevitsa takes delivery of first EU-Stage-V-compliant Komatsu haul truck

Boliden has received the first haul trucks from Komatsu as part of its investment in a new truck fleet at its Kevitsa (Finland) and Aitik (Sweden) open-pit base metal operations.

The delivery marks the entry of Komatsu electric dump trucks into the European market, according to the miner.

For Kevitsa, 17 Komatsu 830E-5 haul trucks will be delivered until January of 2020, with nine Komatsu 930E-5 haul trucks being delivered to Aitik until April 2020.

The new trucks are the first EU Stage-V haul trucks within Boliden’s fleet, significantly reducing diesel exhaust emissions, the company said. They will also provide improvements in operator environment and safety, Boliden added.

The Komatsu 830E-5 haul trucks have a 220 t payload and will replace the current truck fleet at Kevitsa, reducing the mine’s production cost, Boliden said. To further increase efficiency and productivity, the trucks will be equipped with dispatch and maintenance systems from Modular Mining to enable optimised production and tracking as well as fleet maintenance support, the company said.

Boliden mentioned the purchase of trucks back in October during its September quarter results, saying it had reached agreement with Komatsu regarding an investment totalling some SEK 900 million ($96 million). At the time, the company said all of the trucks were equipped for future electrification; an important point considering the trolley assist trial ongoing at Aitik.

To mark the delivery milestone of the first truck, a handover ceremony was arranged in Kevitsa on July 10.

During the event, strategies and technical solutions were presented by executives such as Boliden President and CEO, Mikael Staffas, and Managing Director and CEO of Komatsu Europe, Masatoshi Morishita.

Mikael Staffas said: “This is an important step in the development of our open-pit mines while improving our environmental performance from an already strong position. This [is], not least, because we now create opportunities for increased electrification and related productivity development.”

Masatoshi Morishita says: “Today is a milestone for Komatsu Europe. With the delivery of first CE-certified Electric Dump Trucks to Boliden, Komatsu can offer a full line-up of mining products and solutions in Europe as well. We aim this will only be the start.”