Tag Archives: Helena Hedblom

Epiroc spots further agnostic automation opportunities

Having convinced iron ore miner Roy Hill to move ahead with plans to create the world’s largest autonomous mine, Epiroc and ASI – which the OEM owns 34% of – are ready to take on new equipment-agnostic automation opportunities, Helena Hedblom says.

Speaking after the company’s December quarter and 2022 results were released, Hedblom, President and CEO of Epiroc, said the company and ASI had progressed through three years of rigorous testing of the system, with the solution now entering the “scale” phase.

The Roy Hill project’s Production Verification phase was recently completed with 10 converted haul trucks fitted with vehicle automation kits and in cab clients using ASI Mining’s Mobius traffic management and on–board automation systems to navigate the mine’s virtual map, communicating with ancillary vehicles and the control room.

From March, the companies will start converting the mixed fleet of 96 conventional haul trucks to driverless operation, which is an increase from the 77 trucks originally set to be converted to running autonomously.

“There are certainly opportunities to deploy such solutions elsewhere,” Hedblom told IM. “If you look at how we started autonomous drilling with BHP, we took a step-by-step approach ahead of rolling that out to our customer base.

“We and ASI hope to be able to do that for this type of autonomous haulage solution too.”

Epiroc’s financial results highlighted another robust quarter where orders received increased 18% year-on-year to SEK13.7 billion ($1.3 billion), representing an organic decrease of 4% and organic growth of 3% when excluding Epiroc’s Russian business (which has now ceased). Revenues increased 25% to SEK13.9 billion, an organic increase of 8%, and operating profit increased 25% to SEK3.2 billion.

While this quarter saw fewer large orders than previous three-month periods, it did see the easing of supply challenges and good output levels, Epiroc said, adding that operating profit was at a record high.

The period also saw the company complete the acquisition of four companies – Remote Control Technologies (RCT), Wain-Roy, Radlink and Geoscan – continuing the acceleration of M&A activity Epiroc has become known for.

The purchase of RCT also offers another automation in-road, with the Australia-based company known as an OEM-agnostic automation specialist.

Listing off several of these acquisitions, Hedblom also highlighted the planned acquisition of CR, which has an offering covering surface and underground mining, and products including cast lips, teeth, and protective shrouds installed on mining buckets and loaders.

“CR and ground engaging tools represent a new niche for us,” she said.

When Epiroc announced the planned acquisition in December, it said the move was predicated on expanding its “first-rate offering” of essential consumables and digital solutions.

Hedblom, meanwhile, said the company would continue to evaluate further M&A opportunities as they appeared.

Outside of automation and digitalisation, Hedblom remained confident the company would hit its electrification goals in 2025 – goals that include offering a complete range of emission-free underground products.

“We actually had our first order for the underground tunnelling sector recently,” she said. “We are very well positioned to achieve these targets.”

ARM selects Epiroc equipment to help restart Bokoni platinum mine

Epiroc says it has won a large order for low-profiling mining equipment from African Rainbow Minerals for use at its Bokoni platinum mine in Limpopo Province, South Africa.

African Rainbow Minerals has ordered drill rigs, loaders and mine trucks for use at the mine, which is restarting after operations were paused for care and maintenance in the past few years.

The machines ordered are built with a low profile well suited for the mine’s low tunnel heights. The equipment includes Boomer face drilling rigs, Boltec and Cabletec rock reinforcement rigs (an Epiroc Cabletec SL, pictured), Scooptram LHDs and Minetruck haul trucks. All machines come with Epiroc’s Certiq telematics solution for automated monitoring of productivity and machine performance. Other advanced features include, for example, the Boomer machines being equipped with a pilot hydraulic control system that further improves drilling accuracy.

The order is valued at more than ZAR200 million ($11.6 million) and was booked in the March quarter of 2023, with deliveries set to beging this quarter and continue into 2024.

“We are excited to once again provide equipment to the Bokoni platinum mine,” Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, said. “We look forward to supporting African Rainbow Minerals as they restart and operate the mine in the most productive and safe way possible.”

Back at the end of 2021, ARM agreed to buy Bokoni from Anglo American Platinum and Atlatsa Resources, stating plans to restart mining operations in 2023.

Epiroc to acquire Australia-based GET player CR

Epiroc is bolstering its exposure to the ground engaging tools (GET) market through the planned acquisition of Australia-based CR.

The company has agreed to acquire the GET and related digital solutions company as part of a plan to expand its “first-rate offering” of essential consumables and digital solutions, it says.

CR, which has an offering covering surface and underground mining, is headquartered in Brisbane and operates globally. The company’s products include cast lips, teeth, and protective shrouds installed on mining buckets and loaders. Its digital solutions include, among other offerings, the real-time GET loss detection system, GET Trakka, and the Titan 3330 payload management system. The solutions strengthen safety and productivity, and protect against expensive delays in the mining operations, according to CR.

CR has about 400 employees and had revenues of about A$240 million ($163 million) in the 12 months ending September 30, 2022.

“This acquisition will expand our offering of innovative and high-quality consumables and digital solutions that strengthen customers’ productivity and safety,” Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, says. “We look forward to welcome the strong team at CR to Epiroc.”

The acquisition is expected to be completed in the first half 2023.

Epiroc to provide ‘complete’ collision avoidance systems via Mernok acquisition

Epiroc has agreed to acquire Mernok Elektronik (Pty) Ltd, a South Africa-based company that provides advanced collision avoidance systems for mining companies.

With this acquisition, Epiroc will strengthen its position as a world-leading provider of automation and safety solutions for mining operations, it says.

Mernok Elektronik is headquartered in Pretoria, South Africa. The company designs and produces proximity detection technologies and collision avoidance systems of the highest level (EMESRT Level 9) applicable for either a single machine or an entire mixed fleet of machines regardless of manufacturer or type of equipment, it says. Mernok Elektronik’s customers are primarily in Africa, with its systems designed to significantly reduce the risk of vehicle accidents, strengthening operator safety as well as productivity.

The company’s focus was initially vested in three main areas, namely mining applications, military applications and high-end industrial applications. In 2016, it decided to re-focus the company to service only the mining sector. Back in 2019, it teamed up with Booyco Electronics and Selectronic to bring new generation technology to the proximity detection system space.

Mernok Elektronik has about 45 employees and revenues in the fiscal year ending February 28, 2022, of approximately R80 million ($4.7 million).

“Collision avoidance is critical for the mining industry to strengthen safety and productivity, and Mernok’s advanced solutions complement Epiroc’s existing equipment and automation offering well,” Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, said. “Together we will provide complete collision avoidance solutions to the highest industry standards to support our customers on their journey towards the safest and most optimal operations. We look forward to welcoming the dynamic Mernok team to Epiroc.”

The acquisition is expected to be completed in the March quarter of 2023.

Epiroc acquires OEM-agnostic mine automation leader RCT

Epiroc has agreed to acquire Remote Control Technologies, an Australia-based company that provides automation and remote control solutions for mining customers around the world.

With this acquisition, Epiroc says it will be the world-leading automation solutions provider not only for surface and underground rock drilling but also for underground loading and haulage.

Remote Control Technologies, known as RCT, is headquartered in Perth, Australia, with customers in more than 70 countries. The company provides automation and remote control solutions applicable for either a single machine or an entire mixed fleet of machines, regardless of manufacturer or type of equipment. RCT also provides data and information systems, fleet and machine management systems, and machine protection systems.

RCT has about 225 employees and had revenues in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, of approximately A$85 million ($54 million).

Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, said: “Automation is increasingly important for the mining industry to strengthen safety and productivity, and RCT’s advanced solutions complement Epiroc’s existing automation offering well. Together we will provide complete automation and remote control solutions to support our customers on their journey towards optimal operations.

“We are especially pleased that Bob Muirhead, RCT’s founder and a true pioneer within mining automation, will continue in an active management role. We look forward to welcoming the strong RCT team to Epiroc.”

Epiroc to deliver automation-ready Pit Viper 271 XC rigs to CITIC Pacific’s Sino Iron mine

Epiroc says it has won a large mining equipment order from CITIC Pacific Mining in Australia to deliver a fleet of Epiroc Pit Viper 271 XC blasthole drill rigs.

The drill rigs will come with advanced automation features for use at the Sino Iron open-pit mine in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, with the Pit Viper drills used to drill for magnetite. They build on the delivery of three other Pit Vipers the company made to the operation back in 2019.

The equipment order was booked in the September quarter of 2022 and is valued at more than SEK300 million ($26 million).

“Epiroc delivered Pit Viper rigs to the Sino Iron site in 2019, and we are proud to continue this productive partnership as CITIC Pacific Mining is expanding the mine while optimising productivity and safety,” Epiroc’s President and CEO, Helena Hedblom, said.

Xianglin Cheng, General Manager – Mining at CITIC Pacific Mining, added: “In the last three years, Epiroc has provided satisfactory after-sale services to help the three Pit Viper 351 drill rigs perform to expectation and has also successfully established mutual trust with CITIC Pacific Mining. The confidence and trust are the major reasons for us to choose Epiroc.”

The Pit Viper drills are manufactured in Texas, USA. They will be installed with automation features including AutoDrill, which allows for up to 100% of the hole drilling cycle to be in automatic mode with high consistency and reliability of operations; and AutoLevel, which minimises the time it takes to level and delevel and hence provides more time drilling, according to Epiroc.

Epiroc to supply loaders, drills and bolters to Luannan’s Macheng iron ore mine

Epiroc says it has won a large order for underground mining equipment from Luannan Macheng Mining, with several dozen machines with automation features set to head to the new Macheng iron ore mine in Hebei Province, northern China.

Luannan Macheng Mining, part of Shougang Group, has ordered a fleet including Scooptram loaders, Simba production drilling rigs, Boomer face drilling rigs and Boltec rock reinforcement rigs. Some of the loaders are the electrically-powered Scooptram EST1030s (powered by cable), and all the machines have market-leading energy efficiency, Epiroc says.

Automation features for many of the machines include Epiroc’s Rig Control System, making them ready for automation and remote control, and ABC (Advanced Boom Control) Total, which enables drilling a sequence of holes (full round) automatically, the company explained.

Epiroc says it will also provide rock drills and other consumables as well as on-site services.

The equipment order was booked in the September quarter of 2022 and is valued at more than SEK300 million ($26 million).

“Epiroc and Shougang Group have a productive partnership going back many years,” Epiroc’s President and CEO, Helena Hedblom, said. “We look forward to supporting them with highly productive and sustainable solutions at their new Macheng mine.”

Fu Zhen Xue, Mine Manager at Luannan Macheng Mining of Shougang Group, said: “China, in recent years, started the quick move towards consolidation of steel companies and the high-quality development of the steel industry, focusing more on safety and the environment. The equipment will help Shougang Group lead China’s steel industry and the shift towards safety and productivity.”

Epiroc grows orebody knowledge portfolio with Geoscan addition

Epiroc has agreed to acquire Geoscan Pty Ltd, an Australian provider of digital geological imaging solutions to mining companies, as it looks to bolster its orebody knowledge solutions.

Geoscan is based in Perth, Australia, and has presence in Australia, Latin America, North America, Europe and Africa. Its main offerings are Corescan and Coreshed.

Corescan (a unit pictured) is a leader in hyperspectral scanning, core photography and 3D laser profiling of drill core, rock chips and other geological samples with the associated processing and interpretation, according to Epiroc. It offers an automated solution that increases both the speed and reliability of imaging, processing and data delivery.

“Providing a rapid and reliable mineralogical profile of each drill core, Corescan improves mining companies’ decision making across exploration, resource modelling and ore processing,” the company said.

Coreshed complements this by providing an advanced digital core storage, visualisation, management and data integration solution for drill core and other geological samples, according to Epiroc.

Geoscan has about 50 employees and had revenues in 2021 of about A$9 million ($5.8 million).

Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, said: “Mining companies continue to strive for greater orebody knowledge to strengthen productivity and consistency in their operations, and Geoscan’s solutions play a vital role in achieving that. This acquisition will complement our existing offerings well. We look forward to welcoming the strong team at Geoscan to Epiroc.”

The acquisition is expected to be completed in the December quarter of 2022.

Epiroc makes a play for low-profile underground equipment specialist AARD Mining

Epiroc has signed an agreement to acquire South Africa-based low-profile mining equipment manufacturing specialist, AARD Mining Equipment, in a deal that will see the Stockholm-based OEM further strengthen its growth ambitions in Africa and beyond, Helena Hedblom says.

AARD, based near Johannesburg, designs, manufactures, services and supports a wide range of mining equipment, specialising in low-profile underground machines for mines with low mining heights. Its product line includes drill rigs, bolters, loaders, scalers and more. The company’s customers are mainly in the southern Africa region, with the company having approximately 200 employees and revenues in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, of about SEK650 million ($62 million).

“AARD has reputable and reliable products that complement our underground product portfolio well,” Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, said. “This acquisition will further strengthen our growth ambitions in Africa and beyond. We are looking forward to welcoming the great team at AARD to Epiroc.”

Mike Adendorff, AARD’s CEO, added: “We are excited about the prospect of continuing to grow the business within the Epiroc Group.”

The acquisition is expected to be completed in the next few months, with the transaction containing conditions normal for transactions of this nature, including regulatory approval from the competition authorities.

AARD was established in 1983 as part of the Boart group of companies. It is currently wholly owned by Matasis Mining Equipment Pty Ltd. The company’s corporate office and manufacturing facility are based in Chamdor on the West Rand, some 55 km from OR Tambo International Airport.

AARD’s product range of trackless mobile mining machinery (TM3) is used extensively on more than 30 base metal, precious metal, coal and diamond mines in sub-Sahara Africa. Its engineering and technical teams can custom design and build bespoke machines to suit customer’s needs, according to the company, with modifications and changes to existing equipment, as well as complete or partial rebuilds, able to be undertaken at the factory in Chamdor, Gauteng.

AARD says it continuously undertakes research and development, factoring this into the design and manufacture of equipment that meets customer requirements for improving safety and productivity.

The company carries a full range of spares and major components for its product range and, with satellite warehouses in Kuruman, Steelpoort, Rustenburg and at some mines, says it is able to make spares available on a 24/7 basis.

Alongside its facilities in South Africa, it also has subsidiaries in Zambia (AARD Zambia, based on the Copperbelt) and Zimbabwe (AARD Zimbabwe, based in Harare, Zimbabwe).

Epiroc records ‘best quarter ever for electrification’

In a quarter of record revenues and adjusted operating margin, Epiroc’s battery-electric equipment orders and market demand for electrified mining solutions again came to the fore.

The company posted revenues of SEK11.9 billion ($1.2 billion) in the June quarter, 22% up on the same three-month period of a year ago. Its adjusted operating margin came in at 23.6%, compared with 22.6% a year earlier.

Epiroc’s aftermarket division continued to dominate the balance sheet, accounting for 73% of revenues, which itself was up on the 69% registered in the June quarter of 2021.

Included within this revenue is the company’s growing mid-life battery retrofit solution, which it launched last year to provide a second electrified life for its diesel-powered machines. Able to convert existing machines to battery-electric versions, CEO Helena Hedblom said the offering continued to find favour with existing mining customers.

“With brownfield operations, there are great opportunities to bring battery-electric solutions into the fleet with our retrofit option when, for example, existing diesel-powered machines go in for their mid-life upgrades,” she said.

To this point, the company has devised readily available battery-electric retrofit options for its diesel-powered Scooptram ST1030, Scooptram ST14 and Minetruck MT436 machines, but Hedblom said the company was working on offering this option across its entire diesel-powered fleet, with the machine retrofit rollout plan determined by the size of the installed base in the marketplace.

The company also won several major equipment contracts in the June quarter that included battery-electric solutions.

Its electric machines are set to feature on major projects such as Odyssey and Onaping Depth in Canada. Closer to home in Sweden, the Epiroc battery-electric fleet will grow at LKAB’s underground iron ore operations and Boliden is set to use several of zero-emission truck and loaders at numerous mine sites.

Epiroc labelled Q2 as its “best quarter ever for electrification”, and Hedblom was equally effusive about the company’s offering, saying it was built for both greenfield and brownfield mines.

“We have a strong position in the electrification market; both for equipment sales, retrofit and electrical infrastructure,” she said.

The company’s infrastructure proposition was strengthened during the quarter with the acquisition of JTMEC, an Australia-based company specialising in providing mines with electrical infrastructure.

This comes on top of the company’s recent purchase of Meglab, a Canada-based company with expertise in providing electrification infrastructure solutions to mines, meaning it has electrification infrastructure expertise in two major mining hubs.

One of the battery-electric orders received during the most recent three-month period was from Boliden for the Rävliden, Kristineberg and Renström mine sites in northern Sweden. Included within this order was an Scooptram ST18 Battery that, the company previously confirmed, will include the incorporation of Scooptram Automation, representing one of the first times these battery-backed machines will receive an automation upgrade.

While a solution for automating the battery charging or swapping process remains some way off, Hedblom sees the convergence of the two – electrification and automation – getting closer in the future.

“Electrification and automation go hand in hand, with companies that are high on electrification also typically being high on automation,” she said.