Tag Archives: Kiruna

LKAB to boost remote drilling operations with new Epiroc Boomer, Boltec and Simba rigs

Epiroc says it has won a large order for a variety of underground mining equipment including Boomer face drilling rigs, Boltec rock reinforcement rigs and a Simba production drilling rig from LKAB in Sweden.

LKAB, Europe’s largest iron ore producer, is set to use the rigs at its Malmberget and Kiruna underground iron ore mines in northern Sweden. The order is valued at SEK105 million ($12.2 million) and was booked in the third (September) quarter of 2021.

“Epiroc and LKAB have a long history together as partners around innovative technologies, always aimed at optimising operations in the most productive and sustainable way,” Epiroc’s President and CEO, Helena Hedblom, said.

The machines include many advanced automation features, according to Epiroc.

For example, the Simba production drill rig will be operated remotely from a control room in the Kiruna mine. This rig adds to LKAB’s existing fleet of six Simba production drill rigs that are remotely controlled from the control room and two that are remotely controlled in the mine environment.

One of the Boltec machines (an example pictured) will also be equipped with a new automated pumpable resin system, a key component in Epiroc’s automated bolting development. All the machines come with Epiroc’s telematics system Certiq, which allows for intelligent monitoring of machine performance and productivity in real-time.

LKAB to trial AI-backed XRF drill core logging with help of Minalyze and Sentian

LKAB, Minalyze AB and Sentian say they have joined forces in a consortium to develop the latest technology for scanning drill core.

In March 2020, LKAB started a test with the Minalyzer CS drill core scanner where the goal was to improve the workflow for core logging – ie how the results of exploration drilling are analysed. The test led to a permanent installation in Kiruna (Sweden) and expansion to Malmberget where data from the Minalyzer CS is used to help geological logging of the drill core.

The consortium of LKAB, Minalyze and Sentian are now set to take the use of data to the next level when boreholes in LKAB’s deposits are to be investigated. The new artificial intelligence application being developed by the trio will make the analysis much faster, with the time to evaluate a drill core reduced from weeks to minutes, with increased accuracy.

This could see Minalyze’s X-ray Fluorescence-backed CS scanner analyse LKAB drill core while leveraging Sentain’s industrial artificial intelligence solutions to make real-time decisions relating to drilling and exploration activities.

The technology development driven by the consortium will be a world first, changing the entire industry, the companies say.

Jan-Anders Perdahl, Specialist at LKAB’s Exploration Department, said: “With the collaboration, the core logging takes a big step through machine learning and artificial intelligence. The geologist can, at an early stage, place greater focus on the parts of the core that show chemical or other changes. Opportunities are opened up to gain increased knowledge about ore formation processes and alterations in a completely different way than before. One can also get indications that you are close to mineralisation and where it may be located, and thereby streamline exploration.”

The technological leap will give LKAB’s staff increased competence, increased quality in and efficiency of the work, as well as reduced need for other analysis methods, according to the companies.

Annelie Lundström, CEO of Minalyze AB, said: “We are at an interesting time when the hardware to extract consistently high-resolution data from drill cores is available and we can now take the next step and generate value from data together with our customers. In this collaboration, we will develop algorithms that can map rock layers in so-called lithological logs with very high confidence. This can only be done by combining expertise from all three parties.

“The results from our collaboration will forever change how drill core logging takes place everywhere and will result in a more efficient, non-subjective and consistent process.”

Martin Rugfelt, Sentian CEO, added: “We see great power in the application of modern artificial intelligence to data from the mining industry and there is major potential in further combining our machine learning technology with Minalyze’s unique capabilities in data collection and analysis.”

LKAB welcomes more autonomous LHDs at Kiruna ahead of electric machine arrivals

LKAB says it is now running six autonomous LHDs at its Kiruna iron ore mine, in northern Sweden, with battery-powered and cable-electric machines set to arrive at the operation later in the year.

The company has been stepping up its automation efforts at the underground mine, going from three autonomous loaders in November to five in December and, now, six as of this month.

These loaders have come from both Sandvik and Epiroc, with at least three of these being 21 t Sandvik LH621i LHDs and two being 18 t Epiroc Scooptram ST18 LHDs.

“For the time being, the loaders are diesel-powered, but battery-powered Epiroc machines and Sandvik’s larger electric loaders will be delivered this year,” the company said. “Safety and loading capacity will be tested and assessed, so that the vision of a carbon-dioxide-free LKAB can be realised.”

Magnus Lindgren, Production Manager for the remote-control centre at level 1365 in the Kiruna mine, said: “Our operators work in close collaboration with both Sandvik and Epiroc and, thereby, take part in these suppliers’ development. We test the systems and provide feedback, so we can eventually take delivery of a better product.”

LKAB conducts blasting at the mine each night. When the blasting gases have been evacuated and rock stresses have decreased, personnel can access the production area. With remote-control machines, LKAB can load, haul and dump crude ore without having to worry as much about these considerations.

Roger Lärkmo, Engineering Developer at LKAB, added: “Autonomous loading at night is optimal in terms of both safety and work environment, and from a productivity perspective. That doesn’t mean manually-operated machines are a thing of the past; it just means that we have more tools in the toolbox. Many parameters have to be taken into the equation for our loading operations to deliver an even flow of ore to the processing plants.”

This summer, the Konsuln mine will take delivery of its first battery-powered loader, the 14 t ST14 from Epiroc. Epiroc said last month it will also deliver a Minetruck MT42 Battery for use at the main Kiruna iron ore mine for production, and in the Konsuln test mine.

Preparations are now under way for the ST14 Battery’s arrival at Konsuln, from planning of the drifts where batteries will be exchanged, to risk analyses and simulations, LKAB said.

During 2021, three of Sandvik’s larger 625IE electric loaders, which have a 25-t payload capacity, will also be delivered to LKAB in Kiruna. The company took delivery of a “renewed” Sandvik LH625iE electric loader for field testing in 2020.

Lindgren said: “LKAB has been running loaders with electric power cables for more than 20 years, both manually operated and with remote control. Now we are going to test the new generation of electric loaders. These tests will begin in the autumn.”

Anita Oraha Wardi, Project Manager for autonomous, smart and carbon-dioxide-free machines at LKAB, said the company was participating in development work early on, so it can understand and influence performance, loading capacity and, not least, the safety aspects.

“We are going to test to see how battery-driven and electric loaders compare with diesel-powered machines, and how remote-control machines function in comparison with manually-operated loaders,” she said.

“One of several objectives is that operators, regardless of the make or model of the vehicle, should be able to run remote-control vehicles via the same system and in the same production area. Then, we will be approaching a world standard.”

LKAB leveraging Sandvik, Epiroc autonomous loading solutions at Kiruna

Autonomous operations are stepping up at LKAB’s Kiruna asset, in northern Sweden, with the underground iron ore mine adding another two autonomous loaders to its fleet this month.

The company says new technological solutions leveraging automation and digitalisation are needed as mining proceeds to ever greater depths at Kiruna.

“We are already operating three automated loaders, and, in December, we will scale up to five units,” Mikael Winsa, Production Manager at Kiruna, said.

LKAB is well acquainted with automated and remote loading, having started using this technology all the way back in 2000.

Magnus Lindgren, Production Manager for Remote Operations, says: “The infrastructure is much better today and there are better conditions for doing it really well. All of the components to make this work, for example, the network, are now more mature and stable.” Lindgren has been with LKAB since 1994 and worked with the first driverless loaders when they were introduced.

Today three 21 t Sandvik LH621i loaders are operated from a control room at level 1365 in the mine. Sandvik also provides the software that makes it possible to control the machines at some distance from the production area.

Winsa added: “The traffic system has revolutionised automated loading. It allows us to run several machines at the same time, in the same area, and back and forth to the same destination. This is a great leap forward in terms of technology and development.”

The automation system, Sandvik’s AutoMine® Multi-Lite, enables greater flexibility by creating better prerequisites for increasing production, LKAB says.

“We can boost production in one area from around 3,000 t to 5,000 t, since we can run more machines, even at night time,” Winsa says.

This mean significantly more buckets of ore can be hauled over a 24-hour period; something not possible after blasting with conventional loaders, since personnel cannot be exposed to blasting gases.

Lindgren says: “In some ways, this is a completely new approach to loading and production. It is very exciting to take part in this journey and contribute to a solution for mining at greater depth.”

Lindgren said the company is also in the initial phase of launching Epiroc’s remote loading system: “The system is now being fine-tuned and we plan to commission the traffic system early in the new year.”

The automated loaders navigate through the drifts safely and efficiently, according to LKAB. Cameras are installed at the front and back of the machine, which means the operator can follow the loading progression in real time. In addition, one operator can run several machines simultaneously.

“We are able to increase both availability and production by operating more automated loaders,” Lindgren said. “But this doesn’t mean that the manually-operated machines have outlived their usefulness. It just means that we have more tools in our toolbox.”

And the flexibility this enables is the key to mining the Kiruna orebody at greater depth, not least after the seismic event that occurred on May 18, which affected several of the production areas. This has meant fewer areas must produce more ore. In that context, automated loaders are a necessity.

Winsa concluded: “We are always taking small steps forward. It feels like we’ve crossed a threshold and can see many new possibilities leading into the future.”

LKAB plots carbon-free pathway with direct reduced iron switch

LKAB has presented its new strategy for the future, setting out a path to achieve net-zero carbon emissions from its own processes and products by 2045, while securing the company’s operations with expanded mining beyond 2060.

Jan Moström, President and CEO of LKAB, said the plan represented the biggest transformation in the company’s 130-year history, and could end up being the largest industrial investment ever made in Sweden.

“It creates unique opportunities to reduce the world’s carbon emissions and for Swedish industry to take the lead in a necessary global transformation,” he said.

The strategy sets out three main tracks for the transformation:

  • New world standard for mining;
  • Sponge iron (direct reduced iron) produced using green hydrogen will in time replace iron ore pellets, opening the way for a fossil-free iron and steel industry; and
  • Extract critical minerals from mine waste: using fossil-free technology to extract strategically important earth elements and phosphorous for mineral fertiliser from today’s mine waste.

The transformation is expected to require extensive investments in the order of SEK10-20 billion ($1.2-2.3 billion) a year over a period of around 15 to 20 years within LKAB’s operations alone. The company said the new strategy was a response to market developments in the global iron and steel industry, “which is undergoing a technology shift”.

The move could cut annual carbon dioxide emissions from the company’s customers worldwide by 35 Mt, equivalent to two thirds of Sweden’s domestic greenhouse gas emissions, it said.

Developments under the HYBRIT project, in which SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall are collaborating on a process to enable the reduction of steel from iron ore using hydrogen instead of carbon, will be keenly observed following the miner’s announcement.

On top of this collaboration, LKAB is working with Sandvik, ABB, Combitec, Epiroc and several other industry leaders to develop the technology that will enable the transition to fossil-free, autonomous mines, it said.

Moström added: “The market for iron and steel will grow and, at the same time, the global economy is shifting towards a carbon-free future. Our carbon-free products will play an important part in the production of railways, wind farms, electric vehicles and industrial machinery.

“We will go from being part of the problem to being an important part of the solution.”

The market for steel is forecasted to grow by 50% by 2050. This growth will be achieved by an increase in the upgrading of recycled scrap in electric arc furnaces, according to LKAB. Today, the iron and steel industry accounts for more than a quarter of industrial emissions and for 7% of the world’s total carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, according to an IEA report.

The company said: “The global market price for recycled scrap is now twice that of iron ore pellets. The carbon-free sponge iron that will in time replace iron ore pellets as LKAB’s main export product is suitable for arc furnaces, allowing the company to offer industries throughout the world access to carbon-free iron.”

Moström said the switch from iron ore pellets to carbon-free sponge iron was an important step forward in the value chain, increasing the value of its products at the same time as giving customers direct access to “carbon-free iron”.

“That’s good for the climate and good for our business,” he said. “This transformation will provide us with good opportunities to more than double our turnover by 2045.”

During the transformation period, LKAB will supply iron ore pellets in parallel with developing carbon-free sponge iron.

To reach the new strategy’s goals, rapid solutions must be found for various complex issues, according to the company. These include permits, energy requirements and better conditions for research, development and innovation within primary industry.

Moström said: “Our transformation will dramatically improve Europe’s ability to achieve its climate goals. By reducing emissions primarily from our export business, we will achieve a reduction in global emissions that is equivalent to two-thirds of all Sweden’s carbon emissions. That’s three times greater than the effect of abandoning all cars in Sweden for good.

“It’s the biggest thing we in Sweden can do for the climate.”

Göran Persson, Chairman of the Board of LKAB, said: “What Swedish industry is now doing, spearheaded by LKAB, is to respond to the threatening climate crisis with innovation and technological change. In doing so, we are helping to secure a future for coming generations. This will also create new jobs in the county of Norrbotten, which will become a hub in a green industrial transformation. Succeeding in this will create ripples for generations to come. Not just here, but far beyond our borders.

“Now we are doing, what everyone says must be done.”

LKAB warms to Sandvik’s ‘renewed’ LH625iE as second electric LHD heads to Kiruna

Having been on a journey to electrify its operations with Sandvik since the mid-1980s, LKAB says the latest addition to its electric fleet, a Sandvik LH625iE, is performing well at its flagship Kiruna iron ore mine in northern Sweden.

The company took delivery of the “renewed” Sandvik LH625iE electric loader for field testing earlier this year and, according to Per Brännman, Section Manager for sublevel caving at LKAB in Kiruna, the machine’s performance has picked up recently after some adjustments, mainly to the cable reeling system.

“It has completed 350 hours without any error codes or stops, and loaded over 140,000 t of crude iron ore,” he said.

The machine in question is operating down on block 15, level 1022, at the iron ore mine, and the company is expecting to put another LH625iE into action on this level in early November.

“The future looks bright and carbon dioxide free,” Brännman said.

The underground loader, which features a 9.5 cu.m bucket and 25,000 kg payload capacity, is designed specifically to operate in the world’s largest underground iron ore mine. It comes with a total length of 14 m, bucket width of 4 m and cabin height of 3 m.

The basic LH625iE design is well-proven (and based on the LH625E), according to Sandvik, with the equipment manufacturer delivering electric loaders powered by a trailing cable for more than 35 years.

In addition to using the proven design and robust structures, Sandvik says its LH625iE belongs to its i-series, featuring advanced technology, the latest digital solutions and smart connectivity. This sees the new Sandvik LH625iE equipped with Sandvik Intelligent Control System and My Sandvik Digital Services Knowledge Box™ as standard. To use the payload capacity it offers, the loader can also be fitted with Sandvik’s Integrated Weighing System, as well as AutoMine® and OptiMine® solutions, Sandvik said.

Sandvik enters LKAB-led SUM project as Volvo Group departs

Sandvik has joined the Sustainable Underground Mining (SUM) project being run by LKAB at the same time as the Volvo Group has exited the Sweden-based collaboration.

The moves come as the iron ore miner looks to “further strengthen a joint endeavour towards sustainable underground mining at great depths”, it said.

To develop the digitalised, autonomous and carbon-dioxide-free mine of the future, in collaboration with other globally leading Swedish companies, LKAB initiated SUM in 2018.

After 2030, LKAB must be ready to mine iron ore deeper in the mines in Kiruna and Malmberget, in northern Sweden. For this, one of Sweden’s biggest industrial investments ever, decisions will have to be taken in the mid-2020s.

“This type of strategic collaboration project is very complex, each company contributes its specific expertise, and the partners will link together both digital systems and operations,” LKAB says. “Providing unique possibilities for SUM, the test mine, Konsuln, in Kiruna will serve as a real mine environment where technology, machines and working methods will be tested.”

Sandvik will be joining LKAB, Epiroc, ABB and Combitech in trying to achieve this goal. The Volvo Group’s earlier partnership in SUM will now take the form of other collaboration with LKAB, the miner said.

Jan Moström, President and CEO of LKAB, said: “In the coming years, LKAB must have a solution in place to be able to mine iron ore at depths approaching or exceeding 2,000 m in a cost-effective way by employing technology that is safe, autonomous, electrified, digitalised and carbon-dioxide-free.

“To enable this, collaboration with other leading industrial companies will be decisive. Sandvik’s longstanding experience of producing underground vehicle systems will complement the ongoing work in an important way.”

Stefan Widing, President and CEO Sandvik, said: “LKAB has used automated equipment from Sandvik for many years and we look forward to the opportunity to extend our collaboration and introduce new and advanced solutions that will set an industry standard.”

Epiroc and Sandvik will be relied on for battery-powered, autonomous and efficient mining equipment and related solutions that will ensure improved productivity and safety in LKAB’s mines. ABB’s role is to contribute knowledge and solutions for electrification, automation, service and maintenance. Combitech, meanwhile, will bring broad expertise and experience when it comes to connecting autonomous processes and people via so-called digital ecosystems.

LKAB says significant progress has been made on the project to date, including:

  • Successful establishment of the test mine, Konsuln, in Kiruna, where testing is carried out in a real mine environment;
  • An integration and collaboration platform, ‘LOMI’ (LKAB Open Mine Integrator) has been developed to enable an open systems architecture whereby all partners can develop modules and solutions that work together;
  • ABB has delivered ABB Ability System 800xA, the control-room console Extended Operation Workplace and a “Collaboration table” for visualising key functions and key figures in the mine, allowing the operator to monitor and control equipment in the best, most sustainable way. The ambition is that everything that is done in the test mine can be approved, planned and controlled via a project office at surface level, so that underground work can be done more efficiently;
  • Epiroc has delivered the drill rig Easer L and Scooptram ST18 LHD, both equipped for automation functionality, for the test mine, and operators and service personnel have been trained. The Easer L, commissioned in 2019, has shown good results in drilling over 50-m-long holes in the test mine, which is an important step for planning the future mine layout. For the loader, during Autumn 2020, the plan is to conduct tests with increasing complexity in terms of automation and interoperability; and
  • Combitech has delivered new solutions for systems platforms on an ongoing basis together with LKAB’s IT department. The aim is to synchronise new technology with existing systems.

In March 2020, the “Testbed for integrated, efficient and carbon-dioxide-free mining systems”, a part of SUM, received funding amounting to 207 million Swedish kronor ($23 million) from the Swedish Energy Agency.

Emesent builds mining connections as Hovermap autonomy takes off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emesent CEO, Dr Stefan Hrabar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LKAB uses drones to inspect Kiruna workings after tremor

LKAB says it is using drones equipped with scanners to survey much of the area recently affected by seismic activity at its Kiruna iron ore mine in Sweden.

On May 18, a major tremor measuring 3.3 magnitude caused extensive and widespread damage to the mine. Since then, the company has been trying to secure the mine with rock technicians surveying the workings.

Per Brännman, Section Manager for sublevel caving at LKAB in Kiruna, said the use of drones and scanners for surveying was a safe and efficient way to work.

“No one carrying out inspection work will be exposed to any kind of risk,” he said.

Principally, the inspection involves surveying the damage to obtain a solid reliable data for decision-making with respect to, for example, rock reinforcement, LKAB says.

“The drone is a good tool, but the scanner is truly revolutionary. The drone is actually only the vehicle that carries the equipment,” Brännman said.

For this particular task, the company looked to Sweden-based AMKVO AB – which specialises in geodata and remote sensing – and its UAVs.

LKAB said, in terms of safety and technology, use of drones and scanners represent a major step forward. It is also a very effective means of investigating difficult-to-access areas, ore passes and areas affected by rock bursts.

“For example, we have been able to look at one of our loaders, which sits in an area that cannot yet be accessed physically,” added Brännman.

Drones and scanners can be made ready for deployment in barely 15 minutes. The technology is very precise, functioning well without detailed instructions from the pilot, according to LKAB.

Mirjana Boskovic, Seismology Specialist at LKAB in Kiruna, explained: “It works much the same way a bat navigates. The scanner helps us to form a wide picture of the area that is very useful in our work.”

Using sound waves, the drone finds its way around using “echolocation”. And, like a bat, a drone equipped with a scanner can navigate in its surroundings while avoiding obstacles with precision, LKAB said. This means that a scanner-equipped drone can fly into very confined, difficult-to-access damaged areas, which personnel cannot enter.

“There are many advantages with this type of technology, particularly in terms of safety,” Boskovic said. “When we inspect an area, we have to consider seismicity, the condition of rock and safety in an area. That’s the first step of our work. With this technology, we don’t even have to enter an area.”

Film sequences from the affected areas can be stored and used over the long term to discover changes in, for example, structures. The sequences can also be successively compiled to form a single, large model of the mine.

Boskovic added: “The rock bursts that we have discovered with the help of drones are to be expected after this type of event.”

Material from the drone flights is already being analysed, which means that the damage survey can be carried out more efficiently, safer and faster than before.

In just over a week since being deployed, much of the mine, from the Y15 to Y31 blocks, has been scanned, according to LKAB. The inspection area covers about 1.5 km and includes several levels and production blocks.

However, the company has not been possible to inspect block 22, the part of the mine that was the epicentre of the event.

Brännman said: “At this point, everything that we have been able to scan has been covered and, looking forward, we will be able to start scanning the ore passes.”

This means, in all, some 13 km of ore passes will be investigated in detail this summer.

“We have seen fantastic commitment and willingness to help on the part of so many people,” Brännman said. “About 15 people have been involved in conducting the flights and measurements.”

The scanner is here to stay and will be used for a range of purposes in the future, according to LKAB.

“This is a major step forward for safety in conjunction with inspection of affected areas of the mine,” it added.

Sandvik’s largest electric LHD receives an upgrade as it heads to Kiruna

Sandvik says it is preparing to deliver its renewed Sandvik LH625iE electric loader for field testing at the LKAB-owned Kiruna mine, in northern Sweden.

The unit to be tested is the 600th electric loader from Sandvik, and is custom-designed to meet the needs of the underground iron ore mine, it said.

The underground loader, which features a 9.5 m³ bucket and 25,000 kg payload capacity, is designed to operate in the world’s largest underground iron ore mine.

The basic LH625iE design is well-proven (and based on the LH625E, pictured), according to Sandvik, with the equipment manufacturer delivering electric loaders powered by a trailing cable for more than 35 years.

In addition to using the proven design and robust structures, today’s Sandvik LH625iE belongs to its i-series, featuring advanced technology, latest digital solutions and smart connectivity. This sees the new Sandvik LH625iE equipped with Sandvik Intelligent Control System and My Sandvik Digital Services Knowledge Box™ as standard. To utilise the payload capacity it offers, the loader can also be fitted with Sandvik’s Integrated Weighing System, as well as AutoMine® and OptiMine® solutions, Sandvik said.

With a total length of 14 m, bucket width of 4 m and cabin height of 3 m, the LH625iE is able to offer a roomy, ergonomically designed operator’s compartment, Sandvik said. “For example, the spacious cabin is equipped with a unique 180° turning seat which significantly improves operator ergonomics because it can be turned to face in the direction of travel rather than requiring over-the-shoulder visibility. The upgraded Sandvik LH625iE has an IE4 classified energy-efficient electric motor, with a further significant improvement being the totally new, low-tension reeling system to increase the trailing cable’s lifetime. “

The collaboration between Sandvik and LKAB’s mine in Kiruna dates back 20 years, during which time Sandvik has delivered a total of 28 loaders.

Michael Palo, Senior Vice President, Northern Division at LKAB, said: “We are satisfied with the loaders delivered from Sandvik, with 14 still in production today. We have had a long and good collaboration and look forward to a good continuation.”

Sandvik concluded: “The Sandvik LH625iE is living proof that it is possible to achieve enormous carrying capacity and productivity without the use of traditional diesel engines and fossil fuel.”

Battery-electric loaders are also providing evidence of this, with Sandvik saying it had received positive results from its testing of Artisan A10 battery-electric loaders in Canada.