Tag Archives: LHD

Newcrest, Epiroc and Volvo weigh up new underground mining system

Newcrest Mining, in collaboration with Epiroc and Volvo, is working on a potential new system of mining to improve the safety and efficiency of underground load and haul involving the use of a Häggloader, haul truck and LHD.

The proof of concept trial with Newcrest Mining has already seen testing in Sweden at the Epiroc Kvarntorp mine and at SweRock’s Atle quarry, which saw Newcrest, Epiroc and Volvo contributing equipment and personnel, Epiroc said. This saw an Epiroc Häggloader and Scooptram ST18 interact with a Volvo truck.

Tony Sprague, Group Manager Technology & Innovation, Newcrest Mining, Australia, said: “As mines are getting deeper, and with escalating energy and haulage costs, mining companies must be constantly on the lookout for better ways to work.

“The goal with this proof of concept trial was about setting a baseline on what can be achieved with Häggloader, Volvo trucks and Scooptram ST18.”

The team came together to observe the Häggloader, Volvo trucks and Scooptram ST18 in action both underground (Kvarntorp) and on surface (Atle). Data was collected and improvements were identified by the team, according to Epiroc.

Sprague continued: “We will now move onto the next phase which involves working with Epiroc and Volvo to progress the system to higher productivities and efficiencies.

“Newcrest is setting a rapid pace of technology and innovation change to improve our mining operations. Without the collaborative support from our selected partners, we will not move fast enough, or be as successful. And we select our partners based on their attitude and culture towards innovation. In Epiroc and Volvo, both two great Swedish success stories, we see like-minded companies willing to work together to achieve great outcomes for our people, companies and the environment.”

He concluded: “We are looking for win-win outcomes where all parties involved stand to gain – that’s the best way to drive effective collaborations. With the Häggloader, Epiroc has a unique system of loading that has not been widely utilised into the global mining industry, and Newcrest is keen to help change this.”

Mine automation starting to take hold, RFC Ambrian says

In its second report in a series on innovation and new technology in the mining industry, RFC Ambrian has tackled the subject of autonomous mining equipment, which, the authors say, has reached an “important level of maturity”.

The report considered both surface and underground equipment, but most notably surface mine haulage trucks where there has been an area of significant focus for major mining companies.

As the authors said: “This has reached an important level of maturity, although it is still evolving and its penetration across the industry is still in its infancy.”

AHS

The Autonomous Haulage Systems (AHS) have evolved from improvements in GPS for positioning and navigation, developments in sensors and detection –particularly radar and LiDAR, improved computing power and on-board monitoring, faster and more reliable networks and internet connection, and the development of effective and accurate algorithms and software, the authors said.

“AHS has appeared , first, at large mine operations where the benefits have the largest impacts, due to the high component of fixed costs in an AHS operation, and in developed countries where there is a shortage of skilled workers and labour costs are higher,” they said.

Outlining the potential benefits of AHS is straightforward, but finding hard data to support it is more difficult, according to the authors.

“Companies have made suggestions about the scale of improvement, but they are light on detail, definitions are not clear, and the data varies between companies,” the authors said.

Suggested improvements in productivity have come from Caterpillar (15-20%), Fortescue Metals Group (30%), Komatsu (15%), and Rio Tinto (15%), according to the authors.

“These improvements are still meaningful, and corporate companies would argue that every mine is different and that the mining companies and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that have so far implemented AHS have the right to guard this proprietary information and hold on to the competitive advantage,” the authors said.

Autonomy in other surface equipment

The authors said they are also now seeing this same technology used to automate other operations in the surface mine. This includes drill rigs, dozers, loaders and ancillary equipment.

“Much of this equipment is currently, at best, semi-autonomous, although a few mines have implemented fully-autonomous drill rigs and dozers,” they noted.

“Moving this equipment to full autonomy offers significant production improvements, although the scale of actual savings is not likely to be as great as those achieved with AHS,” the authors said.

“However, we have not yet seen quantified the downstream benefits of the resultant improved drilling and blasting.

“The automation of earth moving machines provides another step to increased productivity within the mine. However, loaders face additional challenges as a result of the variability of the loading face and the risk of collisions with the haulage trucks.”

Due to the complex nature of the bucket-media interaction, developing automatic loading functions that are better than or equal to expert manual drivers with regard to performance is a highly difficult task, according to the authors.

“As a result, fully-autonomous loading is not yet commercially available. Some observers suggest that the implementation of fully-autonomous surface loading is still some five years away, while others believe that full automation is unlikely.”

Underground mining

When it comes to underground mining, the authors of the report said, as with surface mining, full autonomy remains the goal.

“Mining companies and contractors are constantly looking to use technological developments to better utilise their investment in equipment and human resources and improve safety,” the authors said. “Particular features of traditional underground mines are: long unproductive periods caused by re-entry times required for operators after blasting; and higher health and safety risks due to geotechnical and environmental challenges.

“The use of autonomy underground aims to increase the productivity of the equipment and improve the safety of the operators.”

While the aims remain the same, full autonomy in the underground mine is not as advanced as in the surface mine, according to the authors.

“Haul trucks are used less frequently in underground mines, although a few mines are using haul trucks with AHS. More underground mines perform a short cycle of loading, hauling and dumping from a draw point to a tipping point with LHD equipment.

“Implementation of autonomous systems underground for LHDs is occurring, however, as with surface loading, one of the major hurdles to automating LHDs is replacing human judgement required for filling the bucket.”

This has seen full autonomy being used for the hauling and dumping cycle, but semi-autonomy usually used for loading, according to the authors. “Successful trials of fully- autonomous LHDs have been achieved and Sandvik i-series now offers an automated bucket filling assistant as a standard function,” they said.

Underground drilling operations, meanwhile, are achieving increased levels of autonomy but are also presently only semi-autonomous.

Robotic rail operations

The authors then looked at autonomous rail haulage systems, a segment of the market that has gained in prominence in the past few years thanks to initiatives such as Rio Tinto’s AutoHaul in the Pilbara of Western Australia.

The authors said: “There has been some form of automation on worldwide metro systems for many years, but one area where autonomous technology has yet to gain a foothold is rail freight. Trials are underway in Holland and Germany but implementing autonomous train driving on a complex rail network, with passenger trains and freight trains, is more difficult than on a metro system.”

The one exception to this is in the mining sector and AutoHaul, they said, where Rio has completed commissioning of the world’s first fully-autonomous, long distance, heavy-haul rail network which is now in full operation.

Pace of implementation

Despite the acclaimed success and the relative level of maturity of the technology, the wider implementation of AHS does not appear to be happening very fast, the authors argue.

“The systems of both the two main suppliers (Caterpillar and Komatsu) are well proven and have delivered positive results, although, according to consultants, both systems also have examples of less-than-expected performance.

“Nevertheless, the technical issues appear relatively minor and there is interest right across the industry but, in spite of the potentially significant benefits, more mines are not now using AHS.”

There are a number of likely reasons for this, the authors said, explaining that one of the most important is a lack of skilled personnel.

“We believe there is a lack of in-depth knowledge of the technology and limited personnel with the requisite experience, skills, and training throughout the industry’s hierarchy,” they said.

“Further, there is a shortage of skilled autonomous operators, developers, and consultants, some of who are moving to the autonomous auto market.”

Important factors in the success of AHS appear to be the level of management commitment, planning, and focus in the implementation, with the best results reported from well-operated mining sites, the authors said.

“Another factor is likely to be limitations on equipment supply from OEMs for new equipment and truck conversions, either due to manufacturing backlogs or maybe market caution, limiting investment. This is allowing the OEMs to be more selective in their customers.”

The authors cautioned: “However, if the existing suppliers do not develop additional capacity quick enough this could create opportunities for additional entrants in to the market.”

Capital availability in the mining industry could also be an issue holding back AHS advancement, they said, although it is less tight than it has been in recent years.

“Certainly, some lower-margin operations might struggle to finance the capital, although the uplift in relative profitability could be transformational, with relatively quick paybacks,” they said.
And the historical conservatism of the mining industry is also likely to be a factor, the authors said.

“There is still a natural reluctance within the industry to adopt new or unproven technology due to the high capital cost involved and the potential operational and reputational risks involved.

“This will be compounded if the organisation has limited experience and limited access to the technology.”

You can read the full report here.

Codelco puts its mine electrification efforts into first gear

Codelco says it will trial a Komatsu hybrid LHD at its El Teniente underground copper mine, in Chile, as the company looks to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas it emits from its operations.

The diesel-electric hybrid is likely to increase productivity by 10-20% and cut diesel consumption by at least 25%, Codelco said.

The LHD is just one of a number of pieces of new equipment the company is bringing into the El Teniente operation to reduce its carbon footprint. The others include an RDH-Scharf electric scissor lift (the Liftmaster 600 EB), which comes with operating costs 70% lower than the diesel equivalent; two 100%-electric buses to transport workers from Rancagua to the El Teniente operations (at 3,100 m high); and a 100%-electric bus link for urban use within Rancagua.

“Codelco’s electromobility strategy also contemplates the incorporation of an electric bus for the Chuquicamanta Division for the first half of this year,” Codelco said in a statement translated from Spanish to English. “In addition, El Teniente will add three additional electric buses during the year, a second LHD, this time 100% electric, and an electric mining truck for the interior of the mine.”

Octavio Araneda, a Vice President of Operations for Codelco, said (also in Spanish to English translation): “In the framework of our Sustainability Master Plan, in Codelco we execute a transition program to gradually decarbonise the energy matrix of our operations.

“An edge of this initiative is our strategy of electromobility that, after positively avoiding a pilot experience with light vehicles last year, today celebrates this new milestone with unprecedented production teams. ”

On the Komatsu hybrid LHD, Codelco said the electric drive machine has no gearbox or filters and uses diesel only for the generation of “motive power”.

“It will be used industrially for the first time in Codelco El Teniente to start marketing it to the rest of the industry internationally,” Codelco said.

Komatsu has, so far, released details on an 18 t hybrid LHD (the Joy 18HD) and a 22 t hybrid model (Joy 22HD). Last year, Byrnecut Australia said it was to trial a Joy 22HD at OZ Minerals’ Prominent Hill copper-gold mine in Australia in the June quarter of 2018, as it looked to test production efficiencies, diesel savings and overall costs associated with this equipment.

Codelco is hoping use of this hybrid LHD will bring down operating costs by 30%, increase the reliability and availability of LHDs by 10-20% – due to less engine hours, longer life and easier replacement of components – and reduce emissions and heat released by over 25%.

The company is after an even bigger boost in scissor lift use, expecting reliability and availability of the new machine to go up 20-30%, while the energy expenditure of the electric scissor platform is expected to be just 75-149 kW. Noise reduction is estimated at 70% compared with the diesel version, while the heat released is expected to drop 80-90% when compared with the diesel version.

The XMQ6130 eTech electric buses transferring workers from Rancagua to El Teniente have been manufactured by King Long in China and can hold 44 passengers, while the urban electric buses, also built by King Long, are the model XMQ6127e for up to 87 passengers.

Cat’s R1700 LHD the first to get battery-electric treatment

Following the development of a proof-of-concept battery-electric LHD in 2017, Caterpillar has confirmed at the Bauma fair that its first environmentally-friendly commercial machine will be a version of the recently released R1700 loader, the R1700 XE. The company hasn’t yet given a release date but has said the 15 t LHD will be the first in its line of battery-electric equipment. Robert Droogleever, Cat’s General Manager, Underground, said the company was targeting deep mines in Canada with the battery-electric R1700, but he also saw demand for the machine coming from countries such as Peru and Australia. The testing on the proof-of-concept R1300 took place at a Glencore underground mine in Sudbury, Canada, with the machine running in trials alongside the diesel equivalent.

Cat believes that battery-powered LHDs have the potential to significantly impact the economics of underground-mining and the viability of opening new mines. Benefits can include reducing ventilation infrastructure requirements and costs; generating less heat and dust that must be removed with additional air conditioning; and lowering the overall operating costs of the mine. “For a battery electric driven LHD to realise these types of benefits, it must balance high production capability with extended run times between battery charges. To this end, Caterpillar has chosen to make the new R1700 its first battery electric platform while using fast, onboard charging to facilitate high production levels. The new Cat® R1700 XE will be well positioned and engineered to accomplish these critical design parameters.”

The Cat R1700 was introduced in 2018 as a ground up redesign providing customers with game-changing productivity improvements. These improvements primarily come from its efficient new electro-hydraulic system, which saves fuel and provides a 65% increase in lift force – leading to significantly improved digging performance in the pile. “The R1700 XE combines these new features with a Caterpillar-developed lithium-ion battery operating and charging system. “The company’s exclusive MEC-500 fast charging system allows rapid, on-board battery charging with little to no impact to existing electrical infrastructure. Our charging system eliminates both battery handling during recharging (with its potential safety hazards) and the necessity to maintain change-out battery inventories.”

In designing the R1700 XE, Caterpillar “is relying on a long history and wealth of experience in designing electrified machines and power generation components and solutions. These include over 350 patents spread across such products as the electric-drive D7E and D6 XE crawler dozers, 988K XE wheel loader, and 794 AC and 795F AC mining trucks. The R1700 XE program also uses components from the Cat Microgrid solution. For underground mining specifically, this electrification experience was backed up by the development of a proof-of-concept machine whereby Caterpillar converted a conventional mechanical Cat LHD into a battery-electric platform. Concurrent to this program was the testing of the new MEC 500 charging system – both of which saw substantial testing at Caterpillar’s Peoria Proving Grounds followed by weeks of operation and testing at a customer mine in Canada.”

Results were impressive, says Cat. “Compared with base-line numbers for a diesel-powered R1300, the battery-powered model exhibited more than a 10-fold decrease in total energy costs; nearly an 8-fold decrease in generated heat; significantly less noise at the operator’s ear; instant torque from the electric motors; reduced dust levels attributed to not having a conventional diesel-related radiator fan; and reduced tyre wear.”

Caterpillar has used the insight gained from its proof-of-concept testing to design the R1700 XE and the MEC 500 charging system as a safe, profitable and productive option for mines going to electric fleets.

 

RCT’s Kalgoorlie branch makes quick work of automating Sandvik LH621i LHD

RCT says it has successfully installed its autonomous technology on the recently released Sandvik LH621i underground loader for one of its clients in Western Australia’s Goldfields.

Earlier this month, RCT’s Kalgoorlie branch received the loader and commissioned the ControlMaster® Guidance automation technology package only weeks after the machine was first released to the Western Australia market.

The ‘i’ series represents Sandvik’s latest iteration of its underground loader range and, according to Sandvik, is the LHD of choice for rapid mine development and large-scale underground production. It is a matching pair with the previously introduced 63-t payload Sandvik TH663i truck.

ControlMaster Guidance Automation means machines can automatically tram between production level locations at higher speeds while also providing real time, graphical machine information to operators situated in remote automation centres, RCT said.

RCT Kalgoorlie Branch Manager, Rick Radcliffe, said the company could install and commission the Sandvik LH621i loader and deliver it to site within a relatively short lead time.

“Now that we have documented the new LH621i, all future ‘i’ series loaders can be commissioned in exactly the same amount of time as traditional Sandvik 621 loaders,” he said.

“This work follows on from a previous project where we commissioned two Sandvik LH517i loaders in the Kalgoorlie workshop for clients in the region.”

Brain Industries devises versatile self-filling tanker for sludge, slurry clean up

An underground coal mine in Australia is piloting the use of a self-filling tank to help clean up sludge and slurries.

The mine in question is Anglo American’s Moranbah North coal operation in Queensland and the product is a new hydraulics-fitted version of Brain Industries’ self-filling tanker, Brain said.

Brain’s Managing Director, Gillian Summers, said the tanker is an advancement on Brain’s air-driven model which enables vacuum recovery, haulage and dumping of heavily solids laden slurries and sludges containing lumps up to 150 mm in size.

Summers said the new 6 cu m tanker has been produced in response to calls from the underground mining industry for more versatility and can be run from any LHD.

She said powerful jet pumps mean Brain’s self-filling tankers vacuum-load continuously to achieve high loading rates. Also, it is constructed aluminium free to comply with mining regulations.

“While the new hydraulics version was produced for underground mines, our self-filling tankers are also suited to applications in hard-rock mining, tunnelling and contract cleaning services,” she said.

“With no moving parts in contact with the material, continuous loading of large lump solids, including waxy, fibrous and abrasive materials, is possible without detriment to the pump.”

Loading stops automatically at a high level when handling wet materials, according to Brain. Excess water can be drained from the tailgate valves to allow top-up of load, maximising hauled solids.

Summers said the tanker is not only easy to use but easy to empty, with the use of a 250-mm diameter dump hatch or full-sized rear door.

Existing customers can also benefit from this new technology, with the company’s line of air driven self-filling tankers able to be retrofitted with hydraulics.

Brain’s self-filling tankers can be skid-mounted or trailer-mounted. The skid-mounted unit is made to be transported on a flatbed trailer or truck using the side-accessed forklift sockets, with the multi-purpose vehicle unit also able to be transported above ground in this way. The trailer-mounted self-filling tanker has a rocker arm, load sharing wheels with oil-filled hubs and solid tyres, Brain added.

Caterpillar’s R1700 underground LHD starts to prove its worth

Caterpillar’s recently launched Cat® R1700 Underground Mining Loader has proven its high productivity and efficiency in extended field trials and in-production studies, the company says.

The completely new design R1700 carries a size-class-leading payload of 15 t, 20% more than its predecessor, yet maintains the dimensions of the R1700G.

“A recent head-to-head study and multiple field trials show that the machine surpasses its payload advantage in faster truck loading and more productive load-and-carry operations while delivering 21% less fuel consumption per hour in a recent study,” Cat says.

The R1700 comes with cycle time advantages over its predecessor through fast bucket loading. This has been enabled through high digging forces and a new traction control system that limits tyre slip when the bucket enters the pile.

“The result is fast loading, good bucket fill factors and reduced tyre wear. Excellent machine balance and a new electrohydraulic braking system aid load-and-carry cycles,” Cat says.

Fuel efficiency is improved through on-demand adjustment of the cooling fan and the hydraulic system, as well as the proven efficiency of the Cat C13, six-cylinder engine, according to the company. The engine is turbocharged and air-to-air aftercooled, and it produces 269 kW in standard configuration and 257 kW in EU Stage V compliant form.

The engine is available in three different emissions configurations – Cat Ventilation Reduction, US EPA Tier/EU Stage IIIA, and EU Stage V – tailoring the R1700 to the mine’s ventilation needs. Aftertreatment for the Stage V engine configuration is chassis mounted for convenience and includes a Diesel Emission Fluid tank sized to match the 12-hour capacity of the fuel tank.

The R1700’s productivity is boosted even further with multiple subsystems for fast technology implementation.

“Optional Autodig helps new operators be productive the first day and reduces fatigue for experienced teams. Remote machine health monitoring, payload operating technologies are available via MineStar™ Command for underground,” the company says.

During the load or dump cycle, the harder the operator pushes the controls, the faster the machine responds. The steering system is pilot-controlled to provide a more precise feel for the operator during manoeuvres in tight places.

“Ride control is now fully integrated into the hydraulic system and engages automatically as the machine goes above 5 km/h. Electronically snubbing the cylinders protects them and provides greater operator comfort,” Cat says.

The R1700 has auto retarding which is hydraulically actuated. The system comes on automatically when the operator’s foot is lifted from the throttle, with cycle times improving as operators gain confidence and become more comfortable on downhill grades at faster speeds.

For easier maintenance, the R1700 features several components that have modular designs – they can easily be removed and replaced.

In addition to modular components, all filter and key service points have been grouped into a centralised section on the cold side of the engine. The radiator guard swings open for ground-level access to the radiator, and oil coolers and the batteries are easily accessed just under the centralised service location.

For the entire underground loader line, Caterpillar now offers Bolt On Half Arrow ground engaging tools (GET) for bucket edges. The system is designed for high abrasion applications where weld-on GET experience high wear rates.

“With a proven and reliable retention system, the bolt-on GET offer more wear material than standard weld-on GET, and the bolt-on design enables fast and easy removal and replacement.

“Despite additional wear material, the low-profile front edge eases pile penetration and promotes fast bucket loading,” Cat says.