Tag Archives: FutureSmart Mining

Anglo moves Los Bronces Pit Viper drilling operations to remote operations centre

Anglo American has launched the first Epiroc Pit Vipers operating at its Los Bronces copper mine in Chile to be remotely controlled from its Integrated Remote Operation Center (IROC) in Santiago.

These five drills are the first in Chile and Latin America to be operated from outside the designated mine site, with the company planning to have all five blasthole drills running by fully-autonomous means by 2022, Anglo American Chile said.

All five drills have automatic drilling systems, such as AutoDrill and self-levelling. These features allow the controller to set the target depth of a hole, with the machine automatically drilling, while the self-levelling function results in the machine automatically altering the hydraulics to level the equipment. The rigs are also fitted with a high-precision GPS system with automatic navigation system, which enables the drilling sequences to be carried out after the controller issues the relevant instructions.

The sensors and advanced control systems of this equipment allows the continuation of work routines with minimal human intervention, translating into increasingly safer operations, Anglo American Chile said.

These five rigs in question were previously operated from the Operational Management Room in the Los Bronces mine offices.

The automation initiative is part of a plan for the development and implementation of new technologies for mining at the Anglo American group level, all guided by the overarching FutureSmart Mining™ approach.

“With these innovations, the operation will become autonomous in its drilling cycles, without the intervention of an operator, manually or remotely, turning the operator into a system controller, and making this task much more efficient,” the company said (translated from Spanish).

Anglo has a 50.1% interest in the Los Bronces mine, which it manages and operates.

De Beers to boost southern Africa safety performance with advanced driver assistance systems

De Beers Group says it is rolling out the use of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) across its operations in southern African, following two phases that saw the technology installed on buses and any vehicles that carry four or more people.

The world’s leading diamond producer places “Putting Safety First Everywhere” as its number one value and has been fatality-free for the past two years, according to Dr Urishanie Govender, De Beers Group Head of Safety and Sustainable Development.

“The application of ADAS aligns with our culture of pioneering brilliance as we equip our operations for FutureSmart Mining,” Dr Govender says. “This exciting initiative has provided another valuable tool for our amazing people on site who are constantly looking for ways to improve our safety performance.”

She highlights that the intervention contributes to the De Beers Group’s critical control management, one of the areas for advancement identified at the company’s regular safety summits.

“Driven by the chief executive officers across the group, the specific focus areas are Competence, Culture, Connectedness, and Cultivating Care to enable everyone to be Ready to Respond to Risks,” she said.

Head of Asset Strategy and Reliability at De Beers Group, Meshal Ruplal, says the first phase of the ADAS initiative saw the technology being installed on buses and any vehicles that carry five or more people. In a second phase, vehicles with four passengers were fitted with the equipment. The technology comprises a range of functionality, including cameras to monitor “harsh and distracted driving”, the company said.

“The camera software can also check on the driver’s eyelid movements and other indicators of drowsiness, and can transmit short video clips to a control room for improved monitoring,” Ruplal says. “It can register infringements like changing lanes without indicating, or crossing a solid barrier line.”

The technology – which has been proven in the trucking industry abroad – assists the driver by checking if there is a safe distance to the vehicle in front, recognising speed limit signs and detecting whether the seat belt is being worn.

“ADAS makes an important contribution to our coaching and training activities, as the data we gather is fed back to drivers to continuously improve their performance,” Ruplal says. “Used as a proactive warning system, the technology has generally received good support from drivers and their trade unions.”

He notes that De Beers Group’s contractors – who assume much of the company’s staff transportation function – have been quick to come on board and align with the ever more stringent safety standards.

Water treatment plant starts up at Anglo American’s Aquila met coal project

Anglo American’s Metallurgical Coal business says it is now operating the first of two state-of-the art reverse osmosis (RO) water treatment plants at its Aquila project in the Bowen Basin, Queensland.

The aim of the RO plants is to reduce the use of fresh water in its mining operations.

Chief Executive Officer of Anglo American’s Metallurgical Coal business, Tyler Mitchelson, said the A$5 million ($3.9 million) water treatment system was currently treating two megalitres of mine affected water (MAW) a day and supporting construction of the Aquila Mine, near Middlemount in central Queensland.

“A key target in Anglo American’s global Sustainable Mining Plan is to reduce our reliance on fresh water by 50% by 2030 across our mine sites, and I’m pleased to say Aquila is currently sourcing recycled water during construction of the mine,” Mitchelson said.

“A planned second RO plant will to be used to recycle a further 2.4 megalitres of MAW – once Aquila becomes operational in early 2022, more than doubling capacity and helping to reduce the reliance on water from local sources during times of drought.

“Aquila will be one of the world’s most technologically advanced underground mines and will showcase our innovation-led approach to sustainable mining. The project is currently supporting 500 jobs.”

Aquila, owned 70% by Anglo and 30% by Mitsui & Co Ltd, will extend the life of Anglo’s existing Capcoal underground operations by six years and continue to use the associated infrastructure at the Capcoal complex as its nearby Grasstree Mine approaches end of life, Anglo says. The mine will also continue to adopt Anglo American’s FutureSmart Mining™ program, which applies innovative thinking and technological advances to address mining’s major operational and sustainability challenges, the company said. One of the initiatives the company is working on as part of this is remote operation of the longwall; a process the company has trialled at some of its other Bowen Basin coal mines.

Aquila’s Project Director, Tony Willmott, said the A$240 million Aquila Mine was committed to awarding contracts locally.

“Our Aquila project is progressing well, with support from its Queensland-based workforce and contracting partners. More than 90% of our Aquila contracts have been awarded to Queensland-based suppliers,” Willmott said. “Aquila’s integrated network of pipes and pumps is securing the distribution of high-quality water which is necessary in metallurgical coal mining for equipment cooling and coal cutting operations.”

Anglo American enlists First Mode to help with carbon-neutral mining goals

Anglo American has signed a multi-year agreement with design, engineering, and system development firm First Mode that could see the Seattle-based company develop new systems and technology for the diversified miner.

First Mode, well known for its work adapting the tools and technologies developed for the robotic exploration of the solar system, will be supporting projects across Anglo American’s FutureSmart Mining™ program as part of the $13.5 million contract, it said. FutureSmart Mining is an innovation-led approach to address mining’s major sustainability challenges.

This work will include technology trade-off studies, engineering design, prototypical developments, technology demonstrations, delivery of integrated systems, and deployment to sites around the world, First Mode said.

This collaboration builds on successful projects across Anglo American’s portfolio during 2019, where First Mode is supporting Anglo American on the systems engineering, integration, and test program for its hydrogen-powered mine haul truck with ‘first motion’ planned in 2020, it said.

Tony O’Neill, Technical Director of Anglo American, said the miner looked forward to developing and implementing innovative technologies over the coming years in tandem with First Mode.

“This work supports our trajectory towards our carbon and energy targets for 2030 and, ultimately, our vision of carbon-neutral mining,” he said.

Chris Voorhees, President and Chief Engineer of First Mode, said: “Mining produces the resources needed for a cleaner, more sustainable planet. Development of the world’s largest hydrogen-powered mine truck is an important step in making the natural resources sector carbon-neutral from start-to-finish.”

Rhae Adams, VP of Business Development at First Mode, meanwhile, said Anglo was the “perfect partner” to help fulfil the company’s vision of a future based on renewable energy.

Back in October, First Mode confirmed it had been selected by NASA to develop a pioneering lunar mission concept with Arizona State University (ASU), to be funded through NASA’s Planetary Mission Concept Study program. The mission, called Intrepid, would develop and deploy the Intrepid rover to traverse the furthest distance of any rover in NASA’s history, examining the geology of the lunar surface over an area of some 1,800 km.

Plug Power on the charge for world’s largest hydrogen-powered mining truck

Plug Power Inc is to provide a custom refuelling system for the world’s largest hydrogen-powered mine haul truck, set to begin operating next year as part of a project between Anglo American and ENGIE.

Plug Power, a leading provider of hydrogen engines and fuelling solutions enabling e-mobility, was selected by ENGIE following the signing of a global partnership agreement between the two announced in September.

ENGIE is working with Anglo American to develop a renewable hydrogen production and refuelling solution to support a new hydrogen-powered haul truck that, according to Anglo, will have ‘first motion’ next year, followed by a testing and validation program at the Mogalakwena platinum group metals mine (pictured. Credit: Anglo American), in South Africa. After this point, the trucks are expected to be deployed at other Anglo American operations. All of this is part of the miner’s FutureSmart Mining program.

To support the refuelling project, Plug Power has been tasked with building a full compression, storage, and dispensing system to service the new hydrogen-powered vehicle. Plug Power’s system will be the first of its kind, and the largest refuelling system built by the company to-date, with an expected output of 1,000 kg/d, it said.

Andy Marsh, CEO of Plug Power, said: “The incredible scope of this project reaffirms not only Plug Power’s commitment to facilitating the global adoption of hydrogen as a clean energy source, but also our position as the world leader in hydrogen refuelling.

“Our partnership with ENGIE is opening the door to exciting new opportunities outside of both the US, and the material handling market, where we have continuously demonstrated our expertise.”

Anglo American goes for truck overhaul ahead of automation at Dawson coal mine

Anglo American has taken the decision to overhaul the existing truck fleet at its Dawson open-pit coal mine in Queensland, Australia, following the completion of a study weighing the introduction of autonomous haulage systems (AHS) for a portion of the fleet.

The AHS study was timed to align with a key decision on whether to undertake major overhauls on the Cat 797 fleet (23 trucks), or replace them, a spokesperson for Anglo American said. The company announced the study back in June.

The spokesperson added: “Following the completion of the study, the decision has been taken to overhaul the existing fleet, rather than purchase new trucks and implement AHS at Dawson mine at this time.

“In the future, this decision will be revisited as we look to replace the fleet in a few years.”

While the study found that AHS do present opportunities to improve truck fleet performance, Anglo will be prioritising other measures to achieve safer and more productive operations at Dawson, in line with its productivity program and FutureSmart Mining™ approach, which applies innovative thinking and technological advances to address mining’s major challenges, the spokesperson explained.

“The accelerating pace of technological innovation, particularly in the areas of digitalisation, automation and artificial intelligence, is opening up opportunities for the mining sector to be safer, more productive and sustainable,” the person said.

“In addition to our open-cut technology program, our scale as the largest underground coal miner in Australia provides us with the opportunity to leverage the development of technology in our operations, through initiatives including remote longwall operation from mine surface, and the development of our Australian-first electronic tablet device certified for use in underground coal mines, which was launched at our Moranbah North mine earlier this year.”

While Anglo has decided not to proceed with AHS at Dawson, Whitehaven Coal is currently in the process of trialling AHS with partner Hitachi at its Maules Creek operation in northwest New South Wales, Australia.

 

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.”

Anglo approves development of ‘technologically advanced’ Aquila coal mine

Anglo American has approved the development of the Aquila project, in central Queensland’s Bowen Basin, which will become one of the most “technologically advanced underground mines in the world”, according to the company’s Tyler Mitchelson.

With an expected capital cost of $226 million (Anglo American share), development work is expected to begin in September 2019, with first longwall production of premium quality hard coking coal in early 2022, the company said.

Aquila is an underground hard coking coal project, near Middlemount, which will extend the life of Anglo’s existing Capcoal underground operations by six years, to 2028, and continue to optimise the Capcoal complex, it says. The complex consists of the Capcoal open-pit mine, underground Grasstree operations and associated infrastructure, and is a joint venture between Anglo American (70%) and Mitsui & Co (30%).

Mitchelson, CEO of Anglo American’s Metallurgical Coal business, said Aquila was an important growth project for the business, and would provide ongoing employment opportunities for the company’s Grasstree workforce as the mine reaches its end of life.

“The Aquila project is a key part of our long-term business strategy, as we continue to optimise existing capacity in our operations,” Mitchelson said.

The mine will have a total average annual saleable production of around 5 Mt of premium quality hard coking coal, according to Mitchelson.

Aquila will also continue to adopt Anglo American’s FutureSmart Mining™ program, which applies innovative thinking and technological advances to address mining’s major operational and sustainability challenges, the company said.

Mitchelson said: “Anglo American has been at the forefront of embracing innovation to drive the next level of mine safety and performance, and our Aquila mine will be developed as one of the most technologically advanced underground mines in the world.”

One of the initiatives the company is working on as part of this is remote operation of the longwall; a process the company has trialled at some of its other Bowen Basin coal mines. The company’s “Australian-first intrinsically safe underground electronic tablets”, are also set to be a feature of the mine, according to Mitchelson.

He concluded: “The accelerating pace of technological innovation, particularly in the digitalisation, automation and artificial intelligence areas, are opening up opportunities for the mining sector to be safer, more productive and sustainable. As the largest underground coal miner in Australia, we are leveraging the innovative work already under way at our existing mine sites and scaling the development of new technologies in our operations.”

Anglo American’s FutureSmart Mining on its way to tangible technology results

“It’s clear that the pressures on us are unsustainable, whether it is around our carbon footprint, water footprint, or physical footprint, and we are always looking for different ways to push us in this future direction where our footprint will be very different.”

Tony O’Neill, Anglo American Technical Director, knows the company he works for is up against it when it comes to retaining its reputation as one of the world’s leading sustainable mining companies.

It’s clear from the company’s 2018 sustainability report – which saw it achieve a best-ever performance in terms of injuries, a cut in energy use and an increase in greenhouse gas emission savings – that Anglo is going down multiple paths to reach its goals. O’Neill, who joined the company almost six years ago, believes Anglo’s FutureSmart Mining™ programme will play a major role in confronting and overcoming many of the issues it (and the industry) is facing.

“If you look at FutureSmart Mining, at its absolute essence, it is about footprint; how do you change the footprint of mining? How do you have a mine that draws no fresh water? Mines without tailings dams? Mines that look very different?” he told IM.

“It’s getting people to believe there is a different way for mining in an industry that has, to this point, been quite traditional. It is not going to happen overnight, but I think we have a genuine vision that is, in my view, quite feasible.”

IM spoke with O’Neill and Donovan Waller, Group Head of Technology Development, this week to get to the bottom of how technology is making Anglo ever more sustainable.

IM: Could you explain how the Anglo operating model facilitates and fosters innovation within the context of FutureSmart Mining?

TO: The Anglo American operating model is the chassis that underpins everything, giving us certainty in the delivery of our work. When you have got that stability – and the lack of variability – in your business outputs, it is much easier to overlay new technologies and processes. When you then see a difference in operating or financial results, you can confirm it is down to what you have implemented, rather than the underlying processes.

I look at it a little bit like a three-legged stool: you have the operating model on one leg, the P101 benchmark-setting on another, and technology and data analytics on the third leg. They all co-exist in this system and work off each other. Without one, the stool falls over.

The operating model has given us a drumbeat of delivery, and we get the licence to innovate because of this drumbeat.

IM: Do you think FutureSmart Mining is starting to be understood and valued by investors?

TO: They’re awake to it now. I think it is still in the early stages of the story, but they can see what we are doing and the ambition behind it. Ultimately, it will result in a different investment profile, or more investors because of it, but I am not sure that it’s translated in full up to now. The recognition has been more around the general results of the company.

With all these technologies coming through – much of them driven by higher levels of data and the ability to interrogate that data – the vision we imagined way out into the future, I think, is a lot more tangible than when we started out four years ago.

IM: Out of all the tailings dam elimination work you are carrying out (around passive resistivity, fibre-optics, micro-seismic monitoring, coarse particle recovery, polymers, and dry stacking), which innovation will have an impact on Anglo’s operations in the next three-to-five years?

TO: All of them. We started out with our tailings programme in 2013; in fact, our group technical standards were re-issued at the beginning of 2014 and they are now one of the main guidelines the ICMM (International Council on Mining and Metals) uses.

Tailings dams have always been at the back end of the mining process and, in a way, the science behind them has never been part of the mainstream operation. Our view, internally for many years, is tailings dams are one of the industry’s greatest risks.

“Our view, internally for many years, is tailings dams are one of the industry’s greatest risks,” Tony O’Neill says

Ultimately our aim is to eliminate tailings dams. Period. Coarse particle flotation – getting that coarser particle size that drains much more freely – is core to that and you can see a development pathway there. For example, with some of these new flotation techniques, we now only need 1% exposure of the mineral for it to be effective. In the past, it was much higher.

When we upgraded the capability of our tailings organisation, it became clear we needed to get a lot more data off these tailings dams. About three years ago, we started putting fibre-optic sensors into the dams. We have since developed, through our exploration arm, passive resistivity seismic monitoring, which basically tells you where your water sits in the dams. And, we’re putting into Quellaveco micro-seismic measuring techniques, which will be more granular again. You can see the day coming really quickly where tailings dams are a real-time data source for mining companies.

We’re also, with our joint venture partner Debswana, building the first polymer plant in Botswana, which could have an impact on dry tailing disposal.

The thing we need to crack – both ourselves and the industry – is how to dry stack at scale. At the moment, that is still a work-in-progress, but it is doable in the long term.

IM: How is the bulk sorter you have operating at El Soldado, which is equipped with a neutron sensor, working? How has it made a difference to recoveries and grades at the operation?

TO: With the bulk sorter, we’re taking packages of tonnes rather than individual rocks to enable us to get both speed and volume. At El Soldado, we are sorting in four tonne packages. You can adapt the sorting profile by the characteristics of the orebody. We’re generally looking to sort tonnages that are less than you would put in a haul truck body or bucket.

If you step right back, in the past, most processing plants wanted to blend to get an average feed. We are going the other way. We want to use the heterogeneity of the orebody to its advantage; the less mixing we can get ahead of these sorting processes, the better it is for recoveries.

Being able to remove an orebody above the cut-off grade alongside waste tonnages and upgrade the latter has led to an effective lift in head grade. It has been enabled by new sensing technology with a particular type of neutron sensor.

What we have seen in early results has surprised us on the upside. We thought we would see a 5% uplift in head grade, but in fact we have seen about 20% – to qualify that, it’s in its early stages.

O’Neill says the bulk sorting trial at El Soldado has seen about a 20% uplift in head grade in its early stages

If you take this to its logical conclusion, you can see the day coming where you would cut the rock – no drilling and blasting – immediately sort the rock behind the machine cutting it and distribute said rock efficiently into its value in use; you don’t have stockpiles, you have plants sensing the material right through and adapting in real time to the change in mineralogy. I think there is another 3-4% increase in recovery in that whole process when we get it right.

Our sweet spot when we created FutureSmart Mining was always the orebody and processing plants, more so than automation (although that is part of the potential mix). That was different to a lot of the other players in the industry. This focus could lead to the development of different types of plants; ones that are flexible, more modular and you can plug and play.

IM: Do you see these type of neutron sensors being applied elsewhere across a mine site?

TO: Yes, through processing plants and conveyors. In fact, we’re preparing for this on conveyors right now.

What we have found with all this new technology is that, when we implement it, quite often another opportunity arrives. They end up playing off each other, and that is the context for the bulk sorting and coarse particle flotation.

IM: How have Anglo’s Open Forums played into these developments?

TO: We have held eight Open Forums on sustainability, processing, mining, exploration (two), future of work, energy and maintenance.

Out of those eight, I think we have got around 10,000 ideas from them. These forums have been specifically designed where only about a third of participants are from the mining industry, with the other two thirds coming from the best and brightest analogous industries we can tap into – automobile, oil & gas, food, construction, even Formula 1 racing and NASA.

The reality is that out of those 10,000 ideas, the success rate is about 1:1,000, but the one that makes it is quite often a game changer.

IM: Going back to the bulk sorters, am I right in thinking you plan to put these into Mogalakwena and Barro Alto too?

TO: The aim is to have them across our business. At El Soldado, the copper angle is very important. The technology – the sensing and using the data – is probably a touch more advanced in copper, but we are building one currently in our PGMs business at Mogalakwena and a bit behind that, but ready to be built, is one in nickel, yes.

In terms of our programme, you will see them spread across our business in the next, hopefully, 18 months.

IM: Where does your approach to advanced process control (APC) fit into the FutureSmart Mining platform?

TO: We want to have APC in some form across all our business by the end of this year. We have probably come from a little behind some of the other players in the industry, but we’re pushing it quite aggressively to give us the platform for data analytics. The upside we have seen just by putting the process control in so far has surprised me a bit – in a good way; power reductions, throughput, having this different level of control. All of it has been pleasing.

We spent about 12 months looking at the whole data analytics space to see how we were going to implement our solution. If you look around at the sector, everyone wants to be involved and profit share. If you add it all up, you could end up with not a lot of profitable pieces at the end. We have strategically chosen the pieces we think are important to us and our profit pool and have been happy to be a little looser on some of the non-core areas.

The other key plank to the APC is that we own the data. The reality is, in the new world, data is like a new orebody and we’re not willing to let go of that.

IM: Your Smart Energy project involving a haul truck powered on hydrogen has certainly caught the attention of the market: how did you come up with this innovation?

TO: Initially, we couldn’t make renewables work from an investment criteria perspective – it was always close, but never quite there. Donovan’s team then took an approach where they said, ‘forget the normal investment criteria. All we want to do is, make the business case wash its face.’ In doing so, it enabled them to oversize a renewable or photovoltaic energy source – the power plant – using that extra power to produce hydrogen and putting that hydrogen to use in the haulage fleet. Re-engineering the haulage fleet gave us the business outcomes we were looking for.

DW: These business cases bring you to temporary barriers. When you hit that temporary barrier, people normally stop, but what we said was, ‘OK, just assume it is not there and go forward.’ That brought the whole business case back again by looking at it differently again.

Anglo’s Smart Energy project is aiming to power a 300-t class truck with hydrogen fuel

IM: Where is this project likely to be situated within the group?

TO: We’re still not 100% fixed as the initial work will be done here (the UK). You are talking about quite specialist skills working with hydrogen.

When the system has gone past its initial testing, it will go to a site, probably in South Africa, but we are not 100% locked into that at this point.

IM: On the 12-month timeline you have given, when would you have to be on site?

TO: The infrastructure will be pre-built here in the UK. We’re effectively testing it here. In a way, the physical truck is the easy bit.

It’s going to be using a 300-t class truck. The guys have already done quite a bit of the detailed measuring and the design elements are well under way.

We’ve also taken the approach to use pre-approved technology, which Donovan can talk about.

DW: This minimises the risk on the first go and allows us to, later, tailor it. For example, if you don’t have a right sized fuel cell currently available off-the-shelf, you just use multiple standard-size fuel cells for now. Then, when you get into the final version you could tailor them into something more specific.

IM: On mechanised cutting, you recently mentioned the building of a “production-sized machine” for at least one of your mines in South Africa. Is this a variant of the Epiroc machine – the Rapid Mine Development System – you have been using at Twickenham?

TO: It’s the next generation of machines. It’s fair to say that, in the last 12 months, the technology has come to the point where we are confident it is viable.

What we’re looking for is a fundamental breakthrough where, for example, we can take the development rates up three or four times from what you would usually expect. That is what we’re chasing. It would involve some sort of pre-conditioning of the rock ahead of the cutting, but the cutting, itself, works.

For us, mechanised cutting is a real solution to some of the safety issues we have had on our plate. Regardless of whether it goes into South Africa or another underground mine, we see it as a key part of our future underground design and operation.

IM: What type of rock pre-conditioning is this likely to be?

TO: I think around the world, people are looking at electricity, microwave, laser, a whole suite of things. None of them have yet quite landed, but they all have potential.

IM: Where does haul truck automation fit into the pipeline for Anglo American?

TO: All the equipment we buy, going forward, will be autonomous-capable, which means we can run it in either format (manned or unmanned). You are then left with a number of decisions – have you got the design to retrofit automation? Is there a safety issue to be considered? Is there a weather issue to contend with? There are a whole series of gates that we’ll take it (automation projects) through.

It’s good to go back to P101 here. Where P100 is getting all of our key processes to world-class benchmarks, P101 is about establishing a new benchmark. By definition, if you get your operations to that point, the gap between that manned performance and autonomous performance is not that great.

Autonomy is part of our future armoury, but when and where and how, we’ll have to wait and see. For example, we are currently looking at the option of autonomous haulage trucks at one of our open-cut mines in Queensland.

When you look at our portfolio of operations, it’s often a more complex environment than when you are just working in the wide open Pilbara.

Anglo American’s O’Neill gives analysts a taster of hydrogen haulage plan

Tony O’Neill, this week, provided analysts with some more detail around Anglo American’s hydrogen haulage plan and how the mining company plans to operate a haul truck on hydrogen power alone within the next 12 months.

O’Neill, the company’s Technical Director, mooted this goal in the company’s 2018 sustainability performance presentation in April, saying that oversizing the photovoltaic (PV) generation capacity at one of its mine sites would allow it to capture enough hydrogen to potentially power a haul truck.

During a roundtable discussion with analysts, O’Neill presented a new graphic of the hydrogen haulage plan (see below), and said the plan, which would see excess hydrogen produced with oversized PV unit capability, could reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a large site by 30% in the plant and 100% in the trucks.

On top of this, it could increase the truck power by 5% compared with diesel power, provide energy security and price security, allowing the company to move to the “hydrogen economy” and design the “next generation” in mining vehicles.

Anglo American is not the only mining company looking into hydrogen as a fuel source for its operations. Late last year, Fortescue Metals Group signed an agreement with CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, to look at hydrogen technologies.

This hydrogen haulage program is just one of several projects the company is pushing forward with as part of its FutureSmart Mining™ technology and innovation initiative. These are focused on the Concentrated Mine™, the Waterless Mine, the Modern Mine and the Intelligent Mine.