Tag Archives: mine automation

Hitachi to leverage Baraja Spectrum-Scan LiDAR tech on autonomous mining vehicles

Baraja, the creator of Spectrum-Scan™ LiDAR technology for autonomous vehicles, has announced its first volume commercial deal for long-range LiDAR with Hitachi Construction Machinery.

The multi-year commercial partnership will give some of the largest mines and mining operators global access to high-performance LiDAR systems capable of withstanding the world’s most hazardous mining environments, according to Baraja.

Baraja has worked closely with Hitachi Construction Machinery, a strategic partner and investor, to develop a LiDAR, Spectrum Off-Road using the core Spectrum-Scan platform, configured specifically for autonomous and semi-autonomous mining machines and vehicles.

Earlier this year, Baraja partnered with automotive supplier Veoneer to deliver Spectrum-Scan LiDAR for L2+ through L4 autonomous vehicle applications.

Spectrum-Scan, Baraja says, is built for the automotive industry and mining machines and vehicles at scale and will continue to evolve to implement its technology into many different types of vehicles to meet the world’s ever-changing needs.

“Baraja’s Spectrum-Scan LiDAR technology is built to enable true autonomy in mining, optimised for heavy industrial settings, and delivers high-resolution point clouds tested in a ruggedised system capable of withstanding hazardous environments,” the company says. “Baraja’s Spectrum-Scan technology has been tested in mine sites around the world, and proven outperformance in dust and fog, designed for high thermal tolerance (-40°C to +85°C) and built to endure shock and vibration in the harshest of environments on the planet.”

Federico Collarte, CEO and Founder of Baraja, says: “With this high-volume commercial deal, Hitachi Construction Machinery confirms Baraja’s maturity in long-range LiDAR by moving our technology to the real world at scale. This is a significant indicator that Baraja’s long-range LiDAR technology trumps the competition given the ruggedisation and reliability of the technology in mining environments. As a continuation of our existing relationship with Hitachi Construction Machinery, this will include the funding and testing partnership. The data and durability testing under this partnership will enable a step-change in LiDAR performance and durability in all sectors including autonomous vehicles.”

Hideshi Fukumoto, Vice President, Executive Officer and CTO, Hitachi Construction Machinery, added: “Following our strategic investment in Baraja earlier this year, this commercial deal demonstrates our continued confidence in Spectrum-Scan LiDAR as a high-performance system. After comprehensive testing with Baraja, we have been able to work closely with Baraja to accelerate the development of Spectrum-Scan LiDAR products with mine site specifications and the commercialisation of advanced autonomous driving and mining.”

Western Australia invests in new robotics, automation facility

Work has now started on the Australian Automation and Robotics Precinct (AARP) in Neerabup, Western Australia, which will form, the state government claims, one of the biggest test facilities of its kind in the world.

The 51 ha precinct, around 40 km north of Perth, will be a major hub for testing and research into the latest developments in automation, remote operation and robotic systems.

A broad range of industries including mining and resources, defence, oil and gas, agriculture, space, logistics, construction, advanced manufacturing and the education sector are expected to use AARP.

It will provide suppliers and operators of automation and robotics equipment or systems with access to specialist infrastructure including:

  • Common user test beds, with multiple areas and roadways for physical testing;
  • A common user facility operation building; and
  • Supporting research and development facilities.

The McGowan Government committed A$20 million ($14.5 million) towards the precinct as part of its WA Recovery Plan announced last year with the aim of creating jobs and diversifying the economy.

Development of the facility will generate at least 70 construction jobs as the precinct is built over the next three years, and up to 5,000 ongoing jobs in the fields of robotics, automation and remote operations, according to the government.

The facilities will enable companies and researchers the opportunity to accelerate technology and analytics testing and scaling without interrupting on-site production and activities, it says.

The site has the potential to expand to 94 ha to accommodate future growth and will not be sub-divided – remaining a long-term common user facility asset for Western Australia.

An Industry Advisory Group has also been established, while the AARP will collaborate with university and industry research sectors by offering doctoral top-up scholarships for projects that support the Western AustraLIA economy and the precinct’s objectives.

The precinct will also support the resources industry’s bid to transition to net zero carbon status by providing facilities for the testing of new technologies, it says.

Western Australia Innovation and ICT Minister, Don Punch, said: “This exciting precinct represents a A$20 million investment by the McGowan Government in further enhancing Western Australia’s position as a world leader in the growing fields of robotics and automation, and puts us in the best possible position to meet the opportunities and challenges of the future.

“Western Australia is a recognised world leader in the field of automation for the mining sector, and this new facility will see this same success mirrored across a range of industries.

“This builds on the A$100 million Investment Attraction and New Industries Fund announced in the recent State Budget to support and accelerate a range of emerging industries to diversify our economy and deliver the Western Australia jobs of the future.”

GMG tackles mine automation safety in latest whitepaper

The Global Mining Guidelines Group (GMG) has published the System Safety for Autonomous Mining white paper as it looks to provide a comprehensive view of the need for a “system safety approach” for mining companies deploying and using autonomous systems.

It also aims to increase awareness of the system safety and its benefits by providing education and context on safety management and the system safety lifecycle, the purpose and typical contents of a safety case, the significance of human-systems integration, and factors that influence software safety management, GMG says.

The white paper intends to addresses the use of autonomous systems within the mining industry, both surface and underground. It applies to all autonomous machines and to the integration of autonomous and semi-autonomous machines with manually-operated machines, as well as to complex integrated systems of systems across the mining industry. While it was developed with a focus on autonomous systems, most of the information is general and is also relevant to manual operations, GMG says.

Explaining the paper, GMG said: “System safety is a view of safety that extends beyond the machines to consider the complete system (ie machines, human factors, and environment, and the interfaces between these). The goal of system safety is to reduce risks associated with hazards to safety. It is a planned, disciplined and systematic approach to identifying, analysing, eliminating, and controlling hazards by analysis, design and management procedures throughout a system’s lifecycle. System safety activities start in the earliest concept development stages of a project and continue through design, development, testing, operational use and disposal.”

Chirag Sathe, Project Co-Leader and Principal Mining Systems at BHP, says: “With an ever-increasing use of technology in mining, particularly in surface mining equipment, it is important to understand the overall impact of systems implementation on safety. I hope the white paper helps to increase the awareness of this important emerging topic in mine safety, not only within mining companies but also for OEMs, technology developers and implementors.”

On the role of industry collaboration both in the development and intended use of this white paper, Project Co-Leader, Gareth Topham, says: “The white paper demonstrates that the mining community continues to see the benefit in collaborating to ensure the introduction and the ongoing operation of autonomous mobile equipment is done in a safe environment. It will enable discussions between all parties to pursue opportunities to improve the level of risk to safety by addressing the topics that are contained in the paper and improving on the communication that delivers a more holistic understanding of these systems. “

On the importance of this topic from an OEM perspective, Michael Lewis, Technical Director at Komatsu, says: “The adoption of autonomous systems in mining has been growing rapidly since the first Komatsu autonomous trucks entered into production in 2008 and it’s been exciting to support our customers as they expand use of autonomous systems. Safety has always been the top priority for our industry, and as the use of autonomy grows to cover more of the mining value chain it’s important that we look at the whole system it impacts.

“I applaud the truly collaborative work between mine operators, OEMs and other GMG members in the creation of this white paper,” Lewis adds.

As only an introduction to the topic, there will likely be future work to provide more complete guidance on applying system safety to autonomous systems in mining.

Andrew Scott, GMG Vice-Chair Working Groups and National Cluster Development Manager at METS Ignited, says: “GMG, as an industry-led organisation, is proud to have had the opportunity to facilitate this work with the global mining community. I look forward to the discussion this white paper will spark as well as further collaboration on the topic.

“I would like to thank all who provided their input and support.”

Sandvik, Exyn combine capabilities in new autonomous mine inspection concept

Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions and Exyn Technologies have furthered their strategic partnership looking at new horizons of mine autonomy with the introduction of the Sandvik Exyn inspection concept.

An autonomous mapping solution that can co-operate with autonomous machines without stopping production, according to Jussi Puura, Research and Technology Development, Digitalization Lead at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, the pair launched the concept at MINExpo 2021, in Las Vegas, today.

Back in March, the companies expanded the strategic partnership they initially signed in 2020, looking to integrate drone-based data processed using Exyn’s on-board 3D mapping technology with Sandvik’s OptiMine® Mine Visualizer solution for analysis and optimisation of underground mining production and processes.

The integration, the pair said, allows mining customers to benefit from comprehensive underground aerial 3D mapping with visualisation that increases overall transparency of mining operations – including for GPS-denied, hard-to-reach, or hazardous areas, or locations that would be time-consuming to survey and inspect using conventional methods.

Exyn and Sandvik deployed this integrated solution at gold exploration and development company Rupert Resources’ Pahtavaara project in Finland, using the ExynAero drone to autonomously create a 3D point cloud of an underground stope. This 3D data was then uploaded to Sandvik’s OptiMine Mine Visualizer and georeferenced to the CAD mine model for further analysis and visualisation.

The companies said back then that it planned to further develop the partnership to integrate more hardware and software systems, and they have now done just that, premiering the new concept at this week’s MINExpo.

The concept works by an operator indicating the area they want surveyed on the OptiMine 3D visual screens, and then ordering that survey. The ground-based machine then starts the assigned mission at a time that is convenient and does not cause any production interruptions.

After deployment and when the wheeled inspection vehicle cannot drive any further, the on-board autonomous UAV is deployed to complete the survey of the area of interest.

When the survey mission is complete, the UAV lands on the ground-based robot and both return to the charging station to await the next mission. The data from both vehicles is then automatically uploaded to the Sandvik Data Management Server, part of the OptiMine suite.

The server processes all data automatically and georeferences it to existing data in the server, using the survey team’s data as ‘anchors’ and ‘ground rules’ for the new data. The data is automatically merged into an updated model of the mine.

In addition to merging and ‘cleaning’ the data, the system can be set up to run automated analysis on the data. For example, automatic reports on change detection, shrinkage detection, road condition, etc can be run after every survey.

The solution results in better planning, increased safety and less production stops, according to the companies.

Cyngn’s autonomous vehicle tech set for Symboticware 4-Sight.ai integration

Symboticware has announced a partnership with industrial autonomous vehicle technology provider, Cyngn.

The partnership will, the companies say, make it easier for natural resources organisations to integrate Cyngn’s autonomous vehicle technology into their existing fleet and to manage these advanced capabilities with Symboticware’s Intelligent Operating System, 4-Sight.ai.

Symboticware’s flagship product, 4-Sight.ai is an industrial operating system with the potential to transform 4 million vehicles globally into smart, connected assets, according to the company. Through the Cyngn partnership, Symboticware customers may also manage their autonomous vehicle investments using the same platform, it says.

Cyngn’s autonomous vehicle technology has been designed from the ground up to integrate smoothly into the daily operations of industrial organisations. Vehicles running Cyngn’s technology can switch between manual, remotely-controlled, and fully autonomous driving modes, according to the company.

In addition to bringing self-driving capabilities to industrial fleets, Cyngn’s advanced safety features include machine vision-based collision avoidance and a backup system that brings equipment to a stop in case of emergency. Through 4-Sight.ai’s portal, vehicle operators can be immediately notified of emergencies along with the location of the equipment involved.

“Safety is the strategic priority for companies in the natural resources space,” Symboticware CEO, Ash Agarwal, says. “This is why we are proud that 4-Sight.ai – the industry’s first Operating System of Intelligence – will enable our clients to not only increase their assets’ productivity but also reduce unsafe incidents thanks to Cyngn’s AI-powered safety technology.”

Cyngn CEO, Lior Tal, says: “We are excited to make it easier for our clients to manage their autonomous vehicles through this integration with the 4-Sight.ai ecosystem. Cyngn’s AV technology integrates with a variety of commercially-available machines. We look forward to enabling companies in the mining, agriculture, construction and forestry sectors to bring greater autonomous capabilities and safety to their operations.”

Cyngn is part of 4-Sight.ai’s marketplace launch lineup. The innovative products of third-party technology providers will use the hardware and software capabilities of Symboticware devices and 4-Sight.ai, enabling companies across the natural resources industry to achieve ambitious operational and sustainability-related goals, the companies say.

SafeAI releases operating system focused specifically on autonomous heavy equipment

SafeAI has announced the release of what it says is the first operating system built specifically for autonomous heavy equipment with its SafeAI Autonomous Framework (SAF).

With the SAF, companies can leverage both SafeAI’s trusted infrastructure and industry expertise to accelerate their autonomous application development and create safer, more productive job sites faster than ever, according to the company.

The company explained: “Off-road heavy industries know they need to deploy autonomous solutions to remain competitive. However, many do not have the time, resources, or in-house expertise to build the solutions they need from the ground up. SafeAI’s new operating system, the SAF, enables companies across the heavy industry sector to overcome these challenges. The SAF provides proven, production-ready infrastructure to help companies fast track their application development and accelerate their transition to autonomy.”

The SAF is designed with the capabilities required for the development and deployment of autonomous applications, including high portability and reliability to ensure ease of use and functionality, according to the company. Written in accordance with both MISRA (C:2021 and C++:2008) and AUTOSAR coding standards, the SAF can support various compilers and operating systems, and can be used in embedded and real-time environments.

“With the SAF, SafeAI lowers barriers – both technological and resource-related – to autonomy, enabling companies to save up to four years of development time and the millions of dollars it would take to build their own operating systems,” the company claimed.

Bibhrajit Halder, Founder and CEO of SafeAI, said: “We’ve proven the impact autonomous solutions can have for industries like construction and mining, and we know this is the direction the industry is heading. But not every company has the resources, bandwidth and expertise to deploy autonomy as quickly as they’d like – and that’s where the SAF comes in. In the same way that operating systems have propelled development in industries like on-road autonomy and unmanned aviation, SAF will shave years off development timelines to move this industry forward in a meaningful way.”

With the release of the SAF, SafeAI says it will further advance the adoption of autonomy across off-road industries like construction and mining.

The release of this platform follows a year of significant growth for SafeAI as the company continues its mission of accelerating off-road deployment of autonomous technology.

Earlier this year, it announced its expansion into Australia and Canada, two of the world’s largest mining markets. This year, the company also announced $21 million in Series A funding to accelerate its research and development efforts and spur global growth.

Ferrexpo confirms trolley assist scoping studies at Poltava

Ferrexpo, as part of its efforts towards integrating into a ‘Green Steel’ supply chain, is embarking on scoping studies looking at installing trolley assist technology at its Poltava mine in Ukraine.

The iron ore miner produced 11.2 Mt of iron ore pellets in 2020 from its Yeristovo and Poltava mines, up from 10.5 Mt in 2019. With iron ore prices on the rise and costs down during the 12-month period, the company recorded underlying EBITDA of $859 million, 46% higher than 2019.

During 2020, the company achieved material reductions in its carbon footprint per tonne for both Scope 1 (8%) and Scope 2 (21%) emissions, with a similar trajectory expected in 2021, Lucio Genovese, Non-executive Chair of Ferrexpo, said.

In the future growth investment program of its 2020 annual results statement, the company unveiled several projects to boost production, operating efficiency and sustainability.

The first one up was its mining fleet automation project.

In December 2020, the company commenced Phase 1 deployment of autonomous trucks at its Yeristovo iron ore mine, also in Ukraine. This project saw Caterpillar 793 haul trucks retrofitted with autonomous haulage capabilities through an agreement with ASI Mining.

The company said: “Phase 1 deployment of autonomous trucks commenced in December 2020, with an expectation to deploy additional autonomous Cat 793 haul trucks to production areas throughout 2021 (Phase 1), delivering gains in both safety and productivity.”

The autonomous truck deployment represents a significant milestone, with Yeristovo becoming the first mine in Europe to successfully invest in this modern technology, Ferrexpo said.

Deployment of autonomous haul trucks follows Ferrexpo’s investment in semi-autonomous/autonomous drill rigs (with Epiroc) and drone surveys since 2017 and 2018, respectively, which have brought significant safety improvements, it said.

“We expect to see similar benefits throughout our mining department as further automation investments are realised,” the company added.

On the trolley assist project at Poltava, Ferrexpo said scoping studies were underway to install a pantograph network of overhead cables in the group’s mines, which would enable haul trucks to ascend the open pit using electricity rather than diesel. It noted benefits were expected in its C1 cost base and Scope 1 carbon footprint.

In December, Ferrexpo Acting CEO, Jim North, told IM that the company planned to move to electric drive haul trucks in the next few years as a precursor to applying trolley assist at the operation.

Power infrastructure is already available in the pits energising most of its electric-hydraulic shovels and backhoes, and the intention is for these new electric drive trucks to go on trolley line infrastructure to eradicate some of the operation’s diesel use.

“Initially we would still need to rely on diesel engines at the end of ramps and the bottom of pits, but our intention is to utilise some alternative powerpack on these trucks as the technology becomes available,” North said at the time.

He expected that alternative powerpack to be battery-based, but he and the company were keeping their options open during conversations with OEMs about its fleet replacement plans.

With around 15% of the company’s carbon footprint tied to diesel use, this could have a big impact on Ferrexpo’s ‘green’ credentials, yet North said the transition to trolley assist made sense even without this sustainability benefit.

“The advantages in terms of mining productivity are huge,” North said. “You go from 15 km/h on ramp to just under 30 km/h on ramp.”

Another carbon-reduction project the company is pursuing is the development of a 5 MW pilot solar plant positioned at its concentrator. In its 2020 results statement, the company said procurement for this project was expected in the second half of the year.

There was $4 million of capital outstanding associated with this project in 2021, with the pilot looking to investigate the potential for industrial-scale generation of solar power at the company’s operations, commencing with the 5 MW pilot plant.

Ferrexpo said: “Electricity consumption accounted for 55% of the group’s Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions in 2020, with solar power offering significant potential for cutting the group’s carbon footprint.

“Should this trial be successful, we will look to significantly expand this particular project.”

Exyn and Sandvik OptiMine auto drone integration tested at Rupert Resources project

Exyn Technologies has announced the expansion of its strategic partnership with Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions to integrate its data into Sandvik’s analytics and process optimisation suite, OptiMine®.

By synthesising critical data and capabilities, Exyn and Sandvik are helping mining customers transform their underground operations to be safer, more productive and more efficient, the companies say.

Back in July, the two companies signed an agreement to work together “to provide efficient solutions for mapping and visioning underground mines, which will make a substantial difference when it comes to mine locations that are hazardous, hard to reach or conventionally time-consuming to survey and inspect”.

In the latest release, the two said: “Using Exyn’s industrial-grade autonomous drone, ExynAero, mining companies can harness completely pilotless flight to access impossible-to-reach data with maximum safety. The data collected is processed using Exyn’s on-board 3D mapping technology – powered by ExynAI – which is then integrated with Sandvik’s OptiMine Mine Visualizer solution for analysis and optimisation of underground mining production and process.”

The partnership allows mining customers to benefit from comprehensive underground aerial 3D mapping with progressive visualisation that increases overall transparency of mining operations – including for GPS-denied, hard-to-reach, or hazardous areas, or locations that would be time-consuming to survey and inspect using conventional methods, according to the companies.

Exyn and Sandvik deployed this integrated solution at gold exploration and development company Rupert Resources’ Pahtavaara project in Finland, using the ExynAero drone to autonomously create a 3D point cloud of an underground stope. This 3D data was then uploaded to Sandvik’s OptiMine Mine Visualizer and georeferenced to the CAD mine model for further analysis and visualisation.

David Hallett, Vice President, Business Unit Automation, Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, said: “This step in our partnership with Exyn is critical. Our teams have been working closely together to ensure the connection between Exyn and Sandvik’s systems would be seamless and easy for operators to use. When this feature gets rolled out to the market as part of OptiMine, it will allow our customers to analyse Exyn’s high-resolution, aerial maps in OptiMine.

“After this demonstration, we look forward to further developing our partnership and integrating our hardware and software systems in the coming months.”

Nader Elm, CEO and Co-Founder of Exyn Technologies, added: “We’re very proud to expand our partnership with Sandvik and to deliver the key benefits of safety and operational efficiency to all the humans involved in the mining industry.

“By offering world-class software and technology, we have given customers the ability to map areas underground they could never before reach. Our end goal is to be an integral part of fully autonomous mining operations and I’m confident that through our partnership with Sandvik, we’re one step closer.”

Exyn and Sandvik have more product integrations in the plans, they said.

Foretellix expertise to speed up Volvo Autonomous Solutions’ time to market

Volvo Autonomous Solutions has signed an agreement with verification company Foretellix to, they say, jointly address the challenges of large-scale verification of autonomous driving solutions on highways and confined areas, such as mines.

Volvo’s partnership with Foretellix will see the two firms jointly create a Coverage Driven Verification solution for autonomous driving solutions. The solution will enable massive scale testing of millions of different scenarios, which will validate autonomous vehicles and machines dealing with anything they might encounter within their specified Operational Design Domain (ODD), according to Volvo.

The partnership will focus on providing high levels of safety and productivity of Volvo Autonomous Solution vehicles and machines.

The ability of the solution to orchestrate large scale simulation and conduct the big data analysis required will lead to a substantial reduction in costs and time to market, ensuring faster operational readiness and the ability to safely scale up the system across multiple sites and ODDs, according to Volvo.

Foretellix, Volvo says, is a pioneer in the commercialisation of coverage-driven methodologies for automated driving systems verification. It developed a novel verification platform that uses intelligent automation and big data analysis tools that coordinate and monitor millions of driving scenarios to expose bugs and edge cases, including the most extreme examples.

Volvo Autonomous Solutions will jointly adapt Foretellix’s verification system for applications in mining and quarrying, with both companies using the Open Measurable Scenario Description Language (M-SDL) created by Foretellix. M-SDL simplifies the capture, reuse and sharing of scenarios, and can specify any mix of scenarios and operating conditions, to identify previously unknown hazards, according to Volvo.

Magnus Liljeqvist, Global Technology Manager for Volvo Autonomous Solutions, said: “Volvo Autonomous Solutions believes in a collaborative verification concept, one that uses open standards. The partnership with Foretellix gives us access to the state-of-the-art verification tools and accelerating our time to market.”

Ziv Binyamini, CEO and co-Founder of Foretellix, said: “This partnership is a significant milestone for the industry as it is the first time that large scale Coverage Driven Verification will be used for verification of ADS in confined areas. Our partnership will combine the expertise of the two companies and set a new standard in the verification of automated driving systems, boosting both safety and productivity.”

In 2020, both companies conducted a successful pre-study that evaluated the Foretellix portfolio and its potential value in confined areas.

Yesterday, Volvo Construction Equipment confirmed it was building the world’s first test and demonstration area for electric, autonomous transport solutions at its Customer Center in Eskilstuna, Sweden.

Boliden and Luleå University of Technology enter into a collaboration agreement

Boliden and Luleå University of Technology have entered into a long-term strategic collaboration agreement that could help deepen the work the two have been pursuing in the fields of mine automation and optimal resource utilisation within the smelting process.

The new agreement means collaboration will be enhanced “in terms of competence provision and competence development, as well as research and innovation towards leading positions within automation and resource utilisation”, Boliden said.

The miner has long collaborated with Luleå University of Technology, with a focus on developing technology and strengthening competence in both mining and smelting operations. The university has also been an important recruitment base for Boliden.

Mikael Staffas, President and CEO of Boliden (left, pictured with Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn, Luleå University of Technology’s Vice Chancellor), said: “Attracting and further developing skills and technologies is an important part of Boliden’s strategy and requires long-term work. We are already a leader in areas such as climate performance and I look forward to future efforts to further develop the business.”

Some examples of projects the two are working on include process automation and digital twins, human-machine interaction in automation, and sustainability management and social acceptance.

Pär Weihed, Professor and Pro Vice-Chancellor, Luleå University of Technology, said: “In connection with the climate transition, we are seeing there is substantial demand for metals and minerals. At the same time, Luleå University of Technology and Boliden have a long and successful history, and together we can create better conditions for a more sustainable supply of raw materials.”