Tag Archives: Komatsu

The Komatsu AZPG: bringing unique mining concepts to life

Seeing Komatsu’s Arizona Proving Grounds (AZPG) in person, it is easy to understand why the OEM is in a leading position when it comes to both surface mining automation and electrification.

The 660-acre (270-ha) facility is a living and breathing example of mining’s past, present and future; touring round, one can see 20-plus-year-old machines, the latest -5 ultra-class haul trucks and concept vehicles that will form the basis for future commercial autonomous and/or electric solutions.

These concept vehicles – at least when IM visited in November – included the company’s EVX battery proof of concept vehicle and the cabless IAHV autonomous mining truck concept.

The EVX is based off the basic 860E platform (a 254-t payload machine) and was shown off at MINExpo 2021. Prior to that, it had been testing out its all-battery power functionality at AZPG.

The IAHV, which debuted at MINExpo 2016, was developed by Komatsu as an unstaffed vehicle designed to maximise the advantages of such operation. It remains on show, with the company incorporating several learnings from this vehicle into its standard Electric Drive Trucks (EDT) and autonomous products.

Pat Singleton, Product Director, EDT, refers to AZPG as the “ultimate laboratory to be able to bring unique mining concepts to life”.

He added: “The testing we do at AZPG gives us the opportunity to reduce product development risk and take the validation process one step further before the products make it to the mine.”

The original focus at AZPG was the EDT product line, yet, as Komatsu has expanded its product offerings, more solutions continue to be tested or validated at the facility each year.

This testing is extensive, as was made obvious to IM while navigating an autonomous vehicle ‘assault course’ and hearing about new wet- and dry-disc brake trial combinations, higher speed tramming on autonomous haul trucks and more.

It is not just trucks subject to these try outs either, with hydraulic shovels, surface drill rigs, water trucks, dozers and other vehicles having a presence on site.

“If anything, the importance of AZPG has increased as technology has continued to evolve,” Singleton said. “AZPG allows for a single location to harmonise development efforts of all the Komatsu entities, providing research and development into our products.”

What’s more, the facility is located in Arizona’s renowned copper heartland.

This has been very useful for Komatsu, with Asarco’s Mission mine next door to the facility representing a real life mine site testing opportunity for solutions that have graduated from AZPG.

AZPG has 23 full-time staff, but its desk count is much higher, indicating the number of visitors and partners AZPG welcomes on a weekly basis from across the globe.

Some of these visitors include FrontRunner® autonomous haulage system (AHS) customers, who have, more recently, been invited to send operators to the facility for invaluable training ahead of planned autonomous deployments.

Anthony Cook, Vice President, Autonomous Systems, Mining Technology Solutions, told IM that this approach is enabling mining operations to leverage more of the benefits of AHS from day one of deployment, reducing the need to conduct a ‘soft start’ with the technology as operators come to terms with the transition from staffed to autonomous operations.

A representative from Komatsu’s dealer network was receiving training on the AHS system during IM’s visit, with Cook confirming another major mining customer and Komatsu distributors had sent operators to Arizona earlier in 2022 ahead of a planned deployment in 2023.

AHS developments are a key focus area for AZPG, with the on-site trucks testing out many different scenarios that customers could experience at their operations.

Software updates make up many of the ongoing FrontRunner AHS developments, but the company also continues to explore the use of more sensors and cameras on board its vehicles for obstacle detection and positioning. This is all geared towards improving visualisation, communication and safety, reducing potential false positives during operation and ultimately helping to improve productivity.

As for software upgrades to FrontRunner AHS, all developments are initially tested in a bench environment where the company can simulate the system. This may be within the former Modular Mining facility, also in Tucson, or at another one of Komatsu’s many testing hubs.

“Once it has passed virtual testing then final functional and stability testing is validated at AZPG before release to the customer,” Singleton said.

Some recent testing related to mixed fleet operations of staffed and autonomous trucks that originated in the lab to later emerge at AZPG has since led to a FrontRunner first at Anglo American’s Los Bronces mine in Chile.

The mining company only recently started its AHS deployment at the copper mine, initially going live with ten 930E-5 trucks, but Cook confirmed to IM that these vehicles are now interacting with staffed trucks in the mining environment.

“We’ve got off to a very strong start at Los Bronces, with Anglo American really embracing the technology and pushing it to its limits,” he said.

The full Los Bronces deployment could see 62 electric drive Komatsu 930E trucks running by 2024.

Those who visited MINExpo 2021 in Las Vegas will also remember the PC7000-11 shovel that was being teleremote operated live from the show, while the unit was over 600 km away at AZPG. This unit (above) is still positioned on site and the teleremote operation is continuing to be refined from inside the facility, with AutoSwing and AutoDump functions a few recent notable additions for improved operability.

Komatsu expects to replace this shovel with a backhoe version later this year, to also be teleremotely operated.

Trolley transformation

The first vehicle IM saw when driving up to AZPG was the EVX; its shiny yellow exterior providing the perfect contrast to the rich blue backdrop of the Tucson sky.

Since leaving Las Vegas in September 2021 and heading for Tucson, the company has made preparations to remove the small on-board battery which was displayed on the Komatsu stand and begin replacing it with a larger one from one of its integration partners.

The connectors for trolley were still on board and the team was awaiting final commissioning of the on-site trolley line ahead of further testing.

IM Editor Dan Gleeson (left) on site at AZPG with some of the Komatsu team

Singleton explained: “The EVX was a proof of concept to demonstrate that a large electric drive haul truck could be powered by a battery. Now that we better understand the ability of this technology to work in our EDT products, we must continue to advance the technology to drive increased performance and reduced operating costs.”

To date, Komatsu has continued with truck testing to learn how the various subsystems work with batteries while finalising its battery chemistry.

“We’ve also installed trolley infrastructure, which will allow us to conduct further testing on batteries and other alternative power sources,” Singleton said.

This infrastructure – made up of 39 poles that are ‘movable’ and ‘self-supporting’ – could support two 980E-5s running on the line at the same time.

Initially, it will support both the EVX and one 930E running in tandem.

The line itself is powered by a 9 MW substation, which Siemens and a local electrical and engineering company established.

The trolley course has been designed with a 60° corner to demonstrate to operators that this technology is for more than just straight hauls.

“This highlights the flexibility of the system and shows mining operators where the technology can already go today,” Cook said. “The concrete pillars, which can be moved with wheel loaders and other support equipment, are an indication that the trolley can ‘move with the mining’, too.”

Singleton said the next development for the EVX will focus on an increase in the battery capability and the investigation of proof of concept on a variety of static and dynamic charging options.

The trolley line will, no doubt, play a role in this testing, although it is not yet known if a single or hybrid power setup will be selected initially.

What is more certain, however, is the status of fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) testing on the EVX. Singleton said research into this area continues, yet a practical test where fuel cells and a battery were mounted on the chassis was some way off.

At this early stage, Singleton says the first commercial power-agnostic offering the company establishes will likely be diesel and/or diesel trolley.

He explained: “This approach delivers reduced risk to the overall portfolio by blending the power-agnostic chassis with a refined version of an existing technology (diesel engine + overhead dynamic trolley).”

“It also serves the secondary purpose of allowing battery technology the opportunity to mature from a performance perspective as we work to define overall truck fleet performance. Additionally, static and dynamic charging options (including development of an industry-standard connector) are within the scope of this product.”

And the first commercial power-agnostic truck will be in the 291 t (320 ton) class – the same size as a 930E – Singleton confirmed, adding that scalability was something being considered at every stage of the truck’s development.

“Scalability is the overall goal and is in alignment with the general power-agnostic approach to our design,” he said. “The major challenge will be the scalability of the energy storage componentry from a cost and performance standpoint. This is the primary driver behind the continued deliberate development cadence designed to give the battery technology time to mature over the intervening period before the design is finalised.”

When asked about fixed fast charging – a concept that has risen up the mine truck charging rankings of late with Charge On Innovation Challenge work from Hitachi Energy and a consortium led by Shell, respectively – Singleton referred to developments as a “two-way street” and a “work in progress”.

“Essentially those solutions need better definition and ‘mining proofing’ before we introduce them into AZPG,” he said. “Perhaps an opportunity exists to co-develop these technologies and improve speed to market but, again, this is still being defined.”

The trolley infrastructure at AZPG – made up of 39 poles that are ‘movable’ and ‘self-supporting’ – could support two 980E-5s running on the line at the same time, according to Komatsu

All this work sounds encouraging for those companies interested in adding to their ultra-size class truck fleets in the 2030s in line with industry-wide decarbonisation plans, but Komatsu customers looking to buy trucks today will be after future-proofed solutions.

Komatsu is all too aware of this and planning to provide a battery retrofit solution for its current -5 products, Singleton said.

GHG Alliance and beyond

As has been well documented, Komatsu has aligned with a core group of customers under its GHG Alliance to accelerate developments on the electric haulage front.

Rio Tinto, BHP, Codelco, Boliden, Teck, Antofagasta Minerals SA and Freeport-McMoRan are key stakeholders within the alliance and will be keen to see what testing emerges on that trolley line into 2023.

While Singleton said the communication process with these customers was still being refined, he acknowledged AZPG’s role in future developments.

“There is no question AZPG will provide a critical backdrop to accelerating our efforts and streamlining our ability to communicate and advance the development progress with our customers,” he said.

Whether the company chooses to initiate an early-learner program like the other big yellow equipment maker it competes with is yet to be seen, with Singleton saying its plans will leverage the “Komatsu approach” regardless of what the competition is doing.

What is clear is that AZPG will continue to keep Komatsu on the leading edge of mobile mining equipment technology developments.

As evidence, Cook reeled off several ongoing projects the company was engaged in, including an autonomous water truck in Australia, automated dozers in Brazil and plans to semi-automate electric blasthole drills.

Going forward, another consideration will be the ability to integrate AHS with trolley operations.

“Komatsu, as an organisation, is committed to solving our customer’s and the industry’s challenges, and we will continue to leverage AZPG and the wider Komatsu network to do this,” Cook said.

Komatsu to expand its underground mining equipment offering with GHH acquisition

Komatsu has entered into an agreement to acquire Gelsenkirchen, Germany-based GHH Group GmbH (GHH), in a deal that will see it significantly expand its underground mining equipment market share.

Founded in the 1960s and currently part of the German-owned Schmidt Kranz Group, GHH offers a wide range of equipment focused on loaders (LHDs) and articulated dump trucks in the mid-seam mass mining, narrow-vein and low-profile market segments The company also supports customers with aftermarket parts and service support through the entire life of each machine.

With this acquisition, Komatsu will add GHH’s factories and rebuild facilities in key markets, in addition to its robust product offerings and talented staff, the company said.

Peter Salditt, President and CEO, Komatsu Mining Corp, said: “We are very excited about this acquisition as it represents a great opportunity for Komatsu to expand its offerings for underground mining equipment and accelerate new product development through synergies with Komatsu’s existing team and product offerings.

“By adding GHH’s factories and rebuild facilities in key markets in Europe, South Africa, India and Chile, we also aim to strengthen production and service capabilities for our customers.”

Komatsu intends to continue the service GHH provides and plans to support business as usual post-acquisition. The combined team will then work together to expand Komatsu’s offering for underground mining equipment and increase customer access to products in new territories.

GHH Group CEO, Dr Jan Petzold, said: “GHH is excited to be able to start a new journey with a strong player in the mining world. This opens huge doors for our people and our products to develop further and grow beyond what we could have hoped for.

“This is the next logical step in becoming a true global player and we look forward to becoming part of the Komatsu family.”

The official close of the acquisition is projected for the first half of 2023. 

In line with its ongoing mid-term management plan “DANTOTSU Value – Together, to ‘The Next’ for sustainable growth”, Komatsu says it is working to expand offerings for underground hard-rock mining, creating new value for customers with the development of new equipment, processes and technologies that will help operations step forward to the next stage for the workplace of the future and provide a more sustainable environment for the next generation.

GHH for its part has been doing exactly this, expanding its offering of, especially, load and haul equipment for the hard-rock mining space with the launch of the likes of the MK-42 underground truck (pictured) and, most recently, the LF10-NEO.

Komatsu on gaining control in room and pillar mining through automation

Komatsu has made automation headway in several different underground mining areas, with the room & pillar (R&P) space being another key market where it is making inroads to improve safety and increase productivity by moving operators away from harm’s way.

IM caught up with Toby Cressman, a Senior Product Manager for R&P Automation and Data Solutions at Komatsu, to gauge how advanced the market is with its automation transition, as well as where the focus areas are for the company going forward.

IM: Compared with both the underground longwall sector and underground hard-rock haulage and loading sector, how advanced is your automation offering for the R&P sector? What elements are yet to be automated within the R&P mining setup?

TC: Compared with the longwall (LW) sector and hard-rock (HR) sector, R&P automation is not as advanced. These reasons are market-, application- and regulatory-driven.

When it comes to market demand, we saw a much earlier push from the longwall side as customers were dependent on these high productivity systems. We have spent considerable time and focus on automating longwall faces over the years as they are critical to the success of our customers. We now see that demand trending into entry development machines and our continuous miners (CMs) as they become the limiting factor for our customers.

Regarding the application, as the LW sector operates in a more controlled and consistent environment, the act of automating the process becomes easier because the number of variables is reduced. Since this is a system, things like utility management have been designed into the system before automation – not to mention the lack of requirement to bolt as the roof is allowed to subside as the system advances.

On the HR side, their application has haulage routes that are similar for long periods of time and operate in an environment where regulatory controls around the types of sensors used are not as rigid when it comes to the approval process (ie explosive environment).

Currently when it comes to R&P automation, we have automated the CM to cut repeated sump and shear cycles in a straight line. We have the technology to keep the heading of the CM straight. In applications using our Flexible Conveyor Train (FCT), the FCT has been automated to follow the CM in and out of these cut cycles until the sequence is stopped by an operator. The FCT can make steering corrections to adapt to the direction of the CM.

IM: Do you tend to offer all new equipment as ‘automation ready’, or are many of these advances being made with hardware and software upgrades to existing equipment?

TC: This really depends on the market, product type and level of automation. Today, most of our original equipment CMs leave the factory automation ready, all the way up to our highest commercially available automation package. Even for our higher levels of automation that are currently being tested, those kits could easily be retrofitted in the field. When machines come in for rebuild, upgrading is an easy option that some customers take advantage of.

For our haulage products, the automation option we offer is on our FCTs. We have an option for FCT follow-me mode where the FCT will follow the CM in and out of the cut, making miner steering corrections. Though the field upgrade is a simple task, these are only being shipped equipped as such when requested by the customer.

Komatsu has an option for FCT follow-me mode where the FCT will follow the CM in and out of the cut, making miner steering corrections

IM: Are the majority of your clients taking advantage of these automation advances, or does it differ between sectors (ie are coal clients more open to this than those in potash, for example)?

TC: A majority of our clients are taking advantage of our level-one continuous miner automation (CMA). This is our one touch shear option. In this mode, the roof and floor points are set, and the operator simply controls the sump depth. This has been popular in the market for years. Our level-two CMA is growing in popularity and now running successfully in more than five countries. At this level, the machine functions are controlled by a sequence table and the CM will complete multiple cycles until stopped by the operator.

We have seen the adoption of automation features more widely implemented in our industrial minerals markets, where the coal markets lag some. I would generally credit this difference to cutting conditions, application and haulage methods.

IM: Can you single out some major automation releases or upgrades in the last few years that represent ‘game changing’ innovations? Were these developed specifically from customer requests?

TC: Our level-two CMA is definitely making waves in the industry. We are rolling it out on more and more machines globally and it is proving to be valuable in various applications. Some of the best news – in terms of technology and automation features – is that it is highly affordable. This feature wasn’t directly requested by the customer (our customers are always asking to assist in moving operator’s further from harm’s way, increase productivity, extend component life, etc).

This feature is excelling at those things, based on the data we have analysed to date. We can do this in near real time with customers who have connected machines (machine to surface communication) taking advantage of our Smart Solution product offerings. Even with customers who don’t have connected machines, this can be accomplished manually through data dumps taken locally at the machine. This feature is also critical in enabling customers who want to operate their equipment from remote management centres. Automation and operator assist features will be key in teleremote mining.

IM: What part of the R&P mining process is next up for an automation advance? Where is this potential product/solution in terms of your R&D pipeline?

TC: We are currently working on field trials for bolter automation and in the initial phases of automating our batch haulage products. These are next for the room and pillar products.

IM: Anything else to add on trends within the room and pillar sector?

TC: When it comes to R&P automation, we are focusing on those repetitive tasks an operator is performing that could be completed by the control system. This allows an operator to focus on the task at hand and reduce fatigue. As we continue to assist the operator with these tasks, it also enables flexibility of where the operator is positioned, improving the overall operating environment for them.

Komatsu and Proterra to showcase battery-powered hydraulic excavator at Bauma

Komatsu Ltd is to exhibit a 20-ton (18-t) class electric hydraulic excavator equipped with a lithium-ion battery system for the first time at bauma 2022, in Munich, Germany, from October 24 through 30.

The machine is powered by a lithium-ion battery system from US-based Proterra, representing the first electrically-powered solution to come out of the two companies joint development work on electric medium-sized hydraulic excavators. In addition to this, Komatsu and Proterra have been collaborating on development of battery-electric LHDs, drills and bolters for underground hard-rock mining.

Komatsu and Proterra have been conducting proof of concept tests on advance research machines at customers’ construction sites. The machine is scheduled to be introduced to the Japanese and European markets in the 2023 financial year.

Hydraulic excavators are the most versatile type of construction equipment and the mid-size class, in particular, is used in a wide range of job sites and applications, mainly in earth excavation and loading operations, requiring power and durability to withstand heavy-load work.

This model optimises the entire body control system by capitalising on Komatsu’s proprietary coordinating technology, Komatsu says. It specifically integrates Proterra’s lithium-ion battery technology, which has a proven track record for use in heavy-duty and commercial vehicles deployed in various fields around the world, with Komatsu’s components, such as the hydraulic pump, controller and electric motor, for work equipment operation.

In addition, Komatsu has developed a robust cage structure to provide additional protection on-board the vehicle for its battery packs. As a result, Komatsu says it has achieved digging performance and durability equivalent to those of engine-driven hydraulic excavators. In addition, the high energy on-board the excavator’s Proterra powered battery system enables operation for up to eight hours when fully charged.

As global awareness of climate change accelerates, Komatsu has declared to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 with the aim of realising a sustainable society. In collaboration with its partners, Komatsu is developing electric construction equipment to achieve zero exhaust gas emissions and a significant reduction in noise emissions with the vision of developing safe, highly productive, smart and clean workplaces of the future.

Boliden’s trolley journey continues to evolve with Kevitsa line launch

In its latest move to become the most climate friendly and respected metal provider in the world, Boliden has opened the trolley line at its Kevitsa mine in Finland.

The line, which encompasses a 1.3-km-long track, now has three Komatsu 227 t 830E-5 trucks running on it, according to Stefan Romedahl, President Business Area Mines, Boliden. “The following 10 trucks will be converted in the spring of 2023 when the in-pit trolley line will be commissioned,” he told IM.

This project aims to cut the mine’s carbon dioxide emissions, with estimates the volume of CO2 emitted could reduce by 9% over mine’s lifetime using this electrical infrastructure.

Boliden is not new to trolley operations. It started testing trucks on the Kevitsa line late last year, while its Aitik copper mine in northern Sweden ran electric-drive trucks on trolley as far back as 2018.

Following a two-year trolley assist pilot project on a 700-m-long line at Aitik – which saw Eitech and ABB supply electrical infrastructure; Pon Equipment and Caterpillar carry out truck modifications; and Chalmers University provide supporting research on system aspects of the electrification – the company, in late-2019, decided to further invest in trolley operations at Aitik. This was announced at the same time as the Kevitsa trolley plans.

Romedahl confirmed there are now 14 Caterpillar 313 t 795F ACs trucks running on a 1.7-km-long trolley line at Aitik, which will be extended as the depth of the mine increases.

Stefan Romedahl, President Business Area Mines, Boliden

While all the trucks at these two operations use diesel-powered propulsion after they come off the trolley infrastructure, Romedahl said the plan was to convert them to ‘zero emission’ solutions in the future, with a battery-trolley setup under consideration.

“Yes, this is the long-term strategy,” he said. “Boliden is working closely with our suppliers to achieve this in the upcoming years.”

With the world requiring many more mines to electrify industry, Romedahl was hopeful more of these would move towards fossil-free operation.

“At Boliden we have the vision to be the most climate friendly and respected metal provider in the world,” he said. “That is not something you can have as a vision without doing quite a lot in the field of sustainable company development. The trolley lines are one of many activities we do to reach that vision.

“For Boliden, it is crucial to perform in the direction of fossil freeness as soon as possible. The green transition can’t happen in 10 years; it needs to happen now.”

Copper Mountain increases scope of trolley assist haulage project

Copper Mountain’s 2021 ESG Report has highlighted the progress the company has made on its “net-zero journey”, with its ongoing trolley assist project in British Columbia, Canada, one of the key drivers towards hitting its major 2035 goal.

The company operates its namesake mine in BC, which has recently increased throughput to 45,000 t/d as part of this net-zero journey.

Earlier this year, the company commissioned its trolley assist project with the help of Komatsu, SMS, ABB, BC Hydro and CleanBC. This project, the first of its kind in North America and a key plank of Copper Mountain’s goal of achieving net zero GHG emissions by 2035, was designed to support four full-sized, trolley-capable 830E-5 Komatsu trucks at a time with hauling ore up a 1-km section of ramp in the operation’s main pit to its primary crusher.

Since commissioning the project, the company has amended its plan to convert seven trucks to trolley assist operation, now saying a total of 11 trolley-capable Komatsu trucks will be available to use trolley assist in the pit.

Each truck is expected to reduce diesel use by approximately 400 litres per hour, the company says, which equates to approximately 1 t of CO2 emissions.

“The trolley assist system will reduce annual carbon emissions by 30% compared to 2019 levels,” Copper Mountain says. “This is based on calculated savings of 6,000 t CO2e/y for the initial seven trucks as calculated for the trial, which, when scaled to the full fleet of 28 trucks, would produce a savings of 24,000 t CO2e/y, or approximately 30% compared to 2019 levels.”

With additional trolley sections planned over the next five-to-seven years, Copper Mountain says it could see a reduction of carbon emissions of up to 50% compared with 2019 levels.

The fact the Copper Mountain Mine is connected to the BC electricity grid, which has one of the lowest carbon intensities in the world due to being powered by clean and reliable hydroelectric power, makes the trolley assist project even more ‘sustainable’.

The company says it has been working with BC Hydro to upgrade the power supply infrastructure to the Copper Mountain Mine to provide more power for trolley assist and future power demands as it decarbonises and explores additional ways to electrify its operation.

Alongside the trolley assist project, Copper Mountain says it is working with partners to reduce emissions from diesel-powered haul trucks.

In 2021, it established a partnership with Cummins, Komatsu and SMS to test the use of a renewable diesel in haul trucks, and it continues to advance other partnerships to further reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Outside of trucks, Copper Mountain said it has targets to electrify its shovels in 2023 and drills in 2024.

Also in 2021, Copper Mountain collaborated with the B.C. Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation and IBM to build a digital carbon emissions certification system called Mines Digital Trust. Using blockchain technology to attach ESG disclosures to metal production, this program enabled transparency along the supply chain and allowed third parties to track responsible producers through the Open Climate Network, led by the OpenEarth Foundation and the UN Global Innovation, the company said.

Anglo American’s longwall automation milestone recognised in awards ceremony

Anglo American’s innovation-led approach to sustainable mining, FutureSmart Mining™, and a willingness to collaborate with industry parties, has enabled it to achieve a major milestone in longwall operation: 100% machine automation.

This work was recently recognised at the Queensland Mining Awards where team members received the METS Ignited Collaboration Award.

Billed as delivering a significant step change in the safety and efficiency of underground mining, the ability to remove people from hazardous situations at the face and, instead, relocate them to a purpose-built Remote Operations Centre (ROC), has enabled the company to deliver a breakthrough in performance being recognised across the underground coal mining industry.

Anglo American says the development of industry-first systems and technology for this project were completed through working collaboratively with partners including Restech, Aurecon, Komatsu, Eickhoff, Marco and GTick systems.

The miner achieved its first longwall shear fully controlled from surface in late 2018 at its Grosvenor mine in Queensland, Australia, with this milestone achieved on its Komatsu Mining longwall equipment.

Yet, it was the Moranbah North mine that became the first of the company’s three operating longwalls to achieve the 100% automation mark (pictured above).

This mine uses SL 900 shearers from Eickhoff, with a team of operational and engineering experts monitoring the longwall mining process from start to finish. These operators, located in the ROC above-ground, are able to analyse the data and drive safer operations, better decisions and achieve mining excellence, the company says.

Head of Transformation for Anglo American’s Steelmaking Coal business in Australia, Dan Reynolds, said Moranbah North has now become Australia’s most capable remotely-operated underground steelmaking coal mine, with the company’s other mines – Grosvenor and the recently-commissioned Aquila – following close behind.

“All three underground mines are now fully remote-capable, allowing operators to work from state-of-the-art ROCs on the surface of the mine,” he said.

Aquila, Anglo American’s most recently commissioned mine, is also remote-capable, allowing workers to work from a Remote Operations Centre above ground

Step change

The key drivers behind automating longwall operations were to improve safety by reducing personnel exposure to underground hazards; reduce operational variability, to deliver more stable operations and improve efficiency; and improve sustainability of operations, through ensuring automation resilience in various operating conditions.

Much of the technology required to achieve these improvements did not yet exist when Anglo American was considering such a move, and previous industry attempts at achieving sustainable autonomous and remote operations had fallen down, Anglo American said, due to:

  • Enablers not being defined to the level required;
  • Key operational systems being unavailable;
  • OEM operating logic not providing the required operational solutions;
  • The technology enablers not being available; and/or
  • The workforce not being suitably prepared.

Anglo American saw collaboration as a key tool able to overcome these issues, recognising that significant leaps forward in technology were required, including the development of various automation-enabling applications.

“Working with operational teams, the Underground Technology and Automation team developed a leading practice target operating model for integrated remote operations and automation and technology enablers after extensive workforce collaboration,” Reynolds said.

Anglo American says its Steelmaking Coal business has delivered a breakthrough performance in the development and implementation of autonomous longwall technology and remote operations for the underground coal mining industry

“It was identified early in the project that a step change in the supply of systems and technology would be required to achieve project goals. This was reached through working with the OEM and third-party technology providers, which ensured the technology and the software systems provided the solutions that met our mining requirements.”

This work required the team to work collaboratively across its underground operations and corporate partners to develop a series of industry-first safety and production systems that were required to “unlock” autonomous longwall operations, the company said.

The list of innovative, industry-leading processes and systems that the partners have developed, include:

  • A longwall remote operations framework
  • Autonomous shearer:
    • Auto duck – system solution
    • Auto gate road entry – system solution
    • Anglo Seam Steering – system/technology solution
  • Integrated remote powered roof support (PRS) control:
    • Integrated face controller – system/technology solution
    • Remote strata control – system solution
    • Enhanced logic solutions – system solutions
  • A Remote Operating Centre longwall system manager:
    • Integrated central interface solution for longwall remote management comprising:
      • Auto gate road entry
      • Anglo Seam Steering
      • Auto alerts
      • ROC reporting
      • Auto blockage detection
      • Longwall positional control
      • Creep management.

The high levels of collaboration between internal teams and third-party providers enabled these systems to be developed, according to Anglo American.

“The outcomes of this work are significant,” Reynolds said. “It is delivering a significant step change in the safety, stability and sustainability of underground mining.”

The company shed a bit more light on these innovations – many of which have been spoken of by suppliers and mining companies as the missing pieces of the fully-autonomous longwall mining puzzle – in its Queensland Mining Awards application.

“Auto duck”, for instance, allows the shearer to automatically cut under roof supports in challenging strata conditions.

“Auto gate road entry” involves the longwall shearer becoming more “intelligent”, using existing data from scanned files, PRS height data or manual measurements to determine the next cut height for the gate road.

“Seam steering” identifies whether the longwall is in or out of the coal seam by automatically detecting the tonstein band position. This, Anglo American says, is a valuable stratigraphic measure.

“Blockage detection” is conducted using eight cameras across the longwall face, which automatically detect if a face blockage is seen, alerting a ROC operator as necessary.

Similarly, “longwall alerting” sees a ROC operator alerted of potential events or issues. “Tailgate lag control” automatically identifies if the tailgate drive is lagging the face line, while “strata management logic” enables automation of shields.

The company says its Steelmaking Coal business has delivered a breakthrough performance in the development and implementation of autonomous longwall technology and remote operations for the underground coal mining industry.

RCT to automate Komatsu WX07s for WestAuz Mining at Norseman project

RCT says it has been selected as the preferred automation partner of Kalgoorlie-based contract mining company WestAuz Mining.

Westauz Mining is an underground mining specialist planning to equip two of its Komatsu WX07 7-t-payload LHDs with RCT’s Digital Automation solution.

These loaders will be deployed at the Norseman Project, a gold mine site located in the Goldfields – Esperance region of Western Australia.

Norseman is 50%-owned by ASX-listed Pantoro Ltd (Tulla Resources owns the remaining 50%), which said earlier this month at the Diggers and Dealers conference, in Kalgoorlie, that mining – both open-pit and underground – had commenced ahead of first gold this quarter.

Pantoro has focused initial project planning on six initial mining areas containing multiple deposits amenable to both open-pit and underground mining. A Phase One definitive feasibility study was completed in October 2020 detailing an initial seven-year mine plan with a centralised processing facility and combination of open-pit and underground mining producing approximately 108,000 oz/y.

RCT said of the agreement: “RCT is thrilled to collaborate with Westauz Mining to maximise remote production with the deployment RCT’s latest innovative digital technology. Machine installations are currently in progress, and it won’t be long until they are operating on site.”

Komatsu to expand ‘mother plant’ in Longview, Texas

To upgrade and consolidate multiple functions into a single location, Komatsu is building a significantly expanded office and administration building on its manufacturing campus in Longview, Texas, USA.

Last month the company broke ground for the new 56,000-sq.ft (5,202 sq.m) building at 2400 S. MacArthur St. and is targeting a move-in date of December 2023.

With design and manufacturing responsibility for Komatsu’s electrical drive and SR (Switch Reluctance) hybrid drive systems for the company’s electric drive wheel loaders, the Longview campus also supports Komatsu’s global mining business through manufacturing assembly of other key parts and modules for electric rope shovels, rotary and track drills, trucks for surface mining, and underground hard-rock mining trucks and wheel loaders. Komatsu will also soon begin a project to expand the facility’s motor shop.

Designated a “mother plant” within the network of Komatsu’s global facilities, the Longview facility has research and development, design and manufacturing capability on one campus. Mother plants are tasked with strengthening the production competitive edge of their plants as well as those of their “child plants” that manufacture the same models, Komatsu explained.

“We value our partnership with the city of Longview and this investment is a reflection of Komatsu’s commitment to the southside of the city,” Jesse Dubberly, General Manager of Longview operations for Komatsu, said. “With new investments in this campus of close to $100 million, our goal is to continue to demonstrate that we are a solid community partner that offers good, family-sustaining jobs.

“By taking functions that were spread across six buildings and consolidating them into one new energy-efficient facility, we are constructing a building that is designed to not only better serve our existing workforce, but is also sized for our future growth.”

In addition to office facilities for up to 230 people, the new building will house an employee centre which includes a café, marketplace, indoor and outdoor seating, multipurpose room and Komatsu store; and a facility care centre maintained by the Environmental Health and Safety department that will provide an audiometric booth, first aid room, mother’s room and direct access for emergency vehicles in the event of an emergency. There will also be a Komatsu Customer Experience Center showcasing both Komatsu’s legacy and ingenuity.

Both the general contractor, Transet Co., and the engineering firm, Johnson & Pace, are local Longview firms. The architectural design team for the project is Arkansas-based Polk Stanley Wilcox.

Ritchie Bros to auction EMECO’s excess mining equipment

Ritchie Bros. has entered into an agreement to deliver excess mining equipment dispersal services to EMECO, collaborating with the mining services supplier to deliver what it says is competitive integrated sales and marketing solutions for the sale of heavy earthmoving equipment.

EMECO is one of Australia’s largest, independent mining equipment rental businesses, providing tailored earthmoving equipment solutions for mining companies – with operations in key mining regions of Australia.

With this joint agreement, EMECO has received a dedicated storefront on Ritchie Bros. IronPlanet, a custom branded seller page that includes EMECO listings for sale. Assets will either be sold via both Marketplace-E and IronPlanet auctions with the approach tailored to deliver the optimal result, Ritchie Bros. says.

Ritchie Bros. Sales Director, Finlay Massey, said: “We are pleased to be working in collaboration with EMECO to deliver innovative solutions to the dispersal of excess assets. With a shared focus on asset solutions, this agreement is the foundation for a strong partnership and complements our efforts to diversify our sales solutions.

“We are uniquely positioned to deliver EMECO with our substantial resources, industry expertise and extensive buyer database to maximise the return on sale of surplus EMECO assets.”

EMECO Steve Crofts, GM HME Disposals, said: “We have been in the mining business for 50 years providing heavy earthmoving equipment to mining companies and contractors across coal, gold, copper, bauxite and iron ore. We are pleased to start selling surplus assets through Ritchie Bros. to the global mining industry.

“Ritchie Bros.’ multichannel sales approach will allow us to sell equipment when, how, and where, we choose.”

EMECO carries out a comprehensive scope of work from its component and rebuilding company, Force Equipment, to its line boring company, Borex, and underground mining services company, Pit N Portal.

EMECO says its operations are supported by close to 1,300 employees equipped with proprietary asset management and fleet optimisation technology and more than 1,000 units of heavy equipment in various quality brands such as Caterpillar, Hitachi, Liebherr and Komatsu.