Tag Archives: mine automation

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.”

GMG examines functional safety in mine automation with latest guideline

The Global Mining Guidelines Group’s (GMG) latest guideline on autonomous systems will “provide clarity on the expectations between the various parties involved in delivering automation to mines”, Gareth Topham, one of the guideline project co-leaders, says.

“Whether it be fully autonomous or semi-autonomous, there are degraded modes or unexpected situations that people deal with every day in mines,” Topham, Principal Functional Safety at Rio Tinto, says. “To manage the removal of a potential control and introduce a technical solution as an alternative, we have to apply functional safety principles to confirm we are reducing the risks as much as we reasonably can.”

The GMG’s ‘Guideline for Applying Functional Safety to Autonomous Systems in Mining’ provides a common approach to applying functional safety to autonomous systems and references international standards within the context of the mining industry and its current maturity, according to GMG. It also describes clear expectations for the communication requirements to support change management and effective application.

“Functional safety is an important industry challenge as adoption of autonomous systems grows,” the GMG said. “While autonomous mining is an opportunity to remove people from potentially hazardous situations, there are also residual risks. Automatic protection systems in a mining environment need to respond to various kinds of errors and changes in conditions, such as human error, software failures and operational/environmental stress.”

To help readers navigate these risks, this guideline begins by identifying important reference materials and listing standards relevant to applying functional safety to various aspects of autonomous systems, the GMG says.

The core content of the guideline is an example of a functional safety lifecycle for applying autonomous systems in mining and identifies some key expectations and responsibilities for providing information, documentation and support at each stage. It also offers high-level guidance on software development, verification, and validation; competency management; cybersecurity; and assurance documentation, according to GMG.

Industry alignment on the expectations and requirements related to functional safety is also a key goal for this guideline.

Andrew Scott, Principal Innovator at Symbiotic Innovations and GMG Vice-Chair Working Groups, says: “Experts from a wide range of stakeholder groups – suppliers, consultants, operators, regulators and system integrators – have been engaged in this guideline’s development and extensive peer review. The engagement in this project has been an excellent example of how traditional competitors can come together to create a safer future through the GMG community.”

Because functional safety for autonomous systems in mining is a rapidly evolving topic, this guideline is expected to evolve and add any appropriate detail over time to align with new and updated standards and consider emerging concepts and technological advances.

A separate GMG project on system safety is also ongoing and will complement this guideline by addressing adjacent topics such as safety case and risk management, human factors, integration, and verification and validation, GMG says.

Modular Mining continues to invest and expand in Tucson

Modular Mining has unveiled its new Customer Experience Center (CEC) during a ribbon cutting ceremony this week.

Located in the company’s corporate headquarters in Tucson, Arizona, USA, the CEC’s opening coincides with Modular Mining’s 40th anniversary and celebrates the company’s continued growth and positive trajectory in both Tucson and the mining sector, Modular said.

Jorge Mascena, President & CEO, Modular Mining, said: “Our new Customer Experience Center is designed to showcase how mine management solutions can improve the safety, efficiency, and productivity of mining operations, and help our customers do so sustainably.

“Today’s announcement marks our third major renovation project in six years at this facility. Tucson is evolving into a key mining technology hub, and this expansion demonstrates our commitment to leading this transformation as a long-term member of this community.”

Established in Tucson in 1979, Modular developed the DISPATCH® Fleet Management System for the mining sector. This technology was the first of its kind in the industry and continues to help improve productivity and efficiency for open-pit mines today, the company says.

The DISPATCH system’s global success served as the springboard for further innovation, including the ProVision® High-Precision Machine Guidance system, the MineCare® Maintenance Management system, and others. The company employs more than 800 people globally, with nearly 350 located in Tucson.

The company was purchased by heavy-equipment leader, Komatsu Ltd, in 1996, enabling Modular Mining’s technology to support the world’s first autonomous mining trucks.

The expansion of the CEC comes on the successes of other recent company expansions in Tucson. Komatsu’s Autonomous Haulage Systems Center of Excellence opened in June 2019, where a cross-functional team of personnel from both Komatsu and Modular Mining work together under the Komatsu umbrella to develop, sell, and support the industry-leading AHS. In 2014, Modular Mining expanded their corporate campus to include a building dedicated to the company’s research and development. That same year, Komatsu opened their new Arizona Proving Grounds in Sahuarita, Arizona; a facility largely used for research and development of Komatsu mining equipment and testing Modular Mining’s technologies.

Autonomous haul trucks coming to Vale’s Carajás iron ore mine

Vale says it is to start trialling autonomous haulage at its Carajás mine in Pará, Brazil, following a successful deployment at its Brucutu iron ore mine in Minas Gerais.

The company plans to run both autonomous and manned trucks at the operation, the world’s largest open-pit iron ore mine, it said.

Completion of the autonomous testing phase is planned to June 2020, when the autonomous vehicles begin to operate. The number of autonomous vehicles will increase year by year and, depending on the test results, may reach 37 in 2024.

This year, the company’s Brucutu iron ore mine began operating exclusively with autonomous haul trucks. Thirteen Caterpillar 240 ton (218 t) 793F CMD fully autonomous trucks, managed using the Cat autonomous haulage system, Command for hauling, part of its MineStar™ suite of technology products, are now running, after the company equipped seven trucks with this technology in 2018.

Combined with a staff development and training plan at Carajás, the autonomous innovation aims to increase the safety of operations, in addition to generating environmental benefits and a competitive edge, Vale said.

Two autonomous trucks are expected to start the testing phase in an isolated area of Carajás mine by the end of November, but training of the operators began in October. In addition to autonomous haulage, three autonomous drills started operating in the mine last year, Vale said.

Vale explained: “In an autonomous operation, trucks are controlled by computer systems, GPS, radar, and artificial intelligence, and monitored by operators in control rooms located miles away from the operations, providing more safety for the activity. When risks are detected, the equipment shuts down until the path is cleared. Sensors of the safety system can detect larger objects, such as large rocks and other trucks, as well as people near the roads.”

Compared with conventional transport, productivity of the autonomous operation system is higher, according to Vale. “Based on the technology market data, Vale expects to increase the useful life of equipment by 15%. Fuel consumption and maintenance costs are also estimated to be reduced by 10%, and the average speed for trucks will increase,” it said.

Autonomous operation also brings important environmental benefits. The reduced consumption of fuel by the machines results in a lower volume of CO2 and particulate matter emissions and less waste, such as parts, tyres and lubricants.

According to Antonio Padovezi, North Corridor Director for Vale, in addition to the safety factor, the use of autonomous equipment in Carajás will ensure greater sustainability for Brazilian mining. “It is another breakthrough with great economic, environmental, and social gains. It reduces employees’ exposure to risks, increases competitiveness, reduces emission of polluting gases and promotes professional training and development, following a natural trend experienced today in the market worldwide,” Padovezi said.

Implementation of the autonomous operation is combined with a staff development plan, which includes creation of a training centre in the city of Parauapebas by the supplying company. The plan is along the lines of Brucutu, where all conventional truck operators will be reassigned to other activities. At Brucutu, part of the team is managing and controlling the autonomous equipment while another part is taking on new “automation-related tasks”. Some employees have been reallocated to other areas.

Vale is deploying a digital transformation program as part of its Industry 4.0 developments.

This has allowed the company to increase productivity, operational efficiency, and safety, in addition to improving its financial performance and driving innovation, the company said.

Technological innovations developed by the company include the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, mobile applications, robotisation, and autonomous equipment (such as trucks and drills).

The program will also support the strategic pillars presented by Vale this year – improve the company’s operational approach to safety and operational excellence as well as bring a positive impact to society, becoming a development facilitator for the areas in which it operates while promoting a safer and more sustainable industry, Vale said.

Whitehaven Coal reveals cost benefits of autonomous haulage with Hitachi

At an investor day presentation last week, Whitehaven Coal Chief Operating Officer, Jamie Frankcombe, confronted the topic of autonomous haulage systems (AHS), spelling out why the Australia-based coal miner is planning to leverage this technology at its expanding Maules Creek operation in northwest New South Wales, Australia.

In what was an honest assessment of AHS performance to date, he said miners and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) had made “broad suggestions about the scale of improvements” that came with automating equipment, but the “detailed underpinnings” of these improvements have not been disclosed publicly.

He gave a few reasons why this was the case: First, each mine is structurally different in nature, so performance metrics are not ‘one-size-fits-all’. Second, the underlying performance of each AHS fleet is proprietary information to the operator and OEM.

Despite this, productivity improvements of around 15-20% had been discussed by miners and OEMs – linked to higher availability and utilisation rates in fewer trucks being required – along with anecdotal reports of maintenance savings, tyre life improvement, equipment life improvement and safety benefits.

On the capital expenditure side, AHS was also expected to reduce fleet sizes by allowing more tonnes to be mined with existing equipment.

Frankcombe was speaking about automation at a time when the coal miner is embarking on its own AHS journey.

Back in July 2018, Hitachi Construction Machinery Co Ltd and Whitehaven announced the two had come to an agreement to implement the first commercial Hitachi autonomous truck fleet at the Maules Creek coal operation in northwest New South Wales, Australia.

The collaboration between the two companies entailed scoping the delivery and commissioning of phased AHS deployment for the fleet of Hitachi EH5000AC3 trucks at Maules Creek and the establishment of the physical and technological infrastructure to support AHS capability.

The original release was short on detail, but said the AHS solution would leverage the fleet management system provided by Hitachi’s Wenco International Mining Systems subsidiary, in addition to Hitachi Construction Machinery’s Smart Mining Truck with Advanced Vehicle Stabilisation Controls using Hitachi robotics, AC motor and drive control unit technologies. The Blockage management system from Hitachi’s railway business would also play a role in this solution, as would a sensing technology and navigation system cultivated in Hitachi Group’s automobile industry segment.

In Whitehaven Coal’s results for the six months ending December 31, 2018, it said testing of the Hitachi AHS system had begun and, in August, it confirmed the first fleet trials would take place by the end of June 2020.

During Frankcombe’s presentation to investors, he narrowed down those timelines, saying the Hitachi AHS had been approved for operational implementation, and commissioning and training was to follow in a segregated area of the mine. This was before the mine transitioned to an operational area for AHS from December 2019.

He also said the initial AHS fleet would comprise one EX3600 excavator and six EH5000 trucks. Following a six-month period, a transition to one EX8000 excavator and nine EH5000 trucks would occur, he said. Then, additional EX800 fleets would be added in six-monthly intervals based on “performance gateway” achievements, with a target of five fleets and up to 45 trucks within three years.

This is a rapid ramp-up of automation, but Maules Creek is being expanded over this timeframe, with Whitehaven expecting production to go from 11.7 Mt run of mine (ROM) in the year ended June 30, 2019, to 16 Mt/y of ROM coal. This expansion will also see the company incorporate in-pit dumping into its operations as it looks to lower its operating cost.

Frankcombe went further than a lot of other miners using AHS in outlining the estimated operating cost impact of introducing this technology into the operation.

He said the cost benefit of integrating autonomous haulage into Maules Creek equated to A$3.70-$4.10 ($2.53-2.81) per product tonne – including the related 16 Mt/y expansion.

The operating costs benefits included the direct savings associated with AHS across personnel – offset by AHS service fees – of A$1.40/product tonne, in addition to a A$0.90-$1.10/product tonne impact from increased productivity leading to lower capital intensity and a reduction in fixed costs across overheads, wages, equipment hire and coal handling preparation plant fixed costs.

On the capital benefits side, the low capital intensity of the expansion derived from in-pit dumping, cast blasting and the AHS trucking fleet would drive a capital saving on a unit basis of A$1.40-$1.60/product tonne, he outlined.

Not many other miners have gone into such detail about the cost benefits of AHS.

Of the major adopters, BHP has previously said safety incidents relating to heavy vehicles have fallen by 80% at its Jimblebar iron ore operation, in the Pilbara, while truck productivity has risen 18%. Fortescue Metals Group – on its way to having the world’s first fully-autonomous iron ore fleet – has reported a 32% increase in truck productivity; and Rio has previously said each of its AHS truck operates at a 15% lower load and haul unit cost vs manned trucks.

It will be interesting to see just how accurate Whitehaven’s predictions turn out to be in a few years’ time.

SICK UK launches ‘first safety-certified outdoor laser scanner’

SICK UK has launched its outdoorScan3, the first laser scanner in the world to, it says, be safety-certified for use outdoors.

The outdoorScan3 Safety Laser Scanner safely and reliably monitors hazardous areas around machines and industrial vehicles outdoors with a high level of availability, according to the company. It answers the need for a high-performance safety scanner certified for outdoor use in industrial automation and intralogistics environments, as well as for integration into autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles used in sectors such as airports, agriculture, and mining, SICK UK says.

The outdoorScan3 can be used in safety applications requiring certification to PLd (EN ISO 13849)/SIL2 (EN 62061) and is additionally a class D device, according to IEC TS 62998, the new technical specification governing outdoor use.

“Equipped with SICK’s safeHDDM™ time-of flight infra-red scanning technology, already used in SICK’s microScan3 family, the SICK outdoorScan3 uses intelligent algorithms to filter out the influences of bright sunlight, rain, snow and fog,” the company said. “With the outdoorScan3 onboard, automated guided vehicles (AGVs) can be certified for travel between indoor and outdoor industrial environments and thereby enable the continuous workflow of materials between production halls or warehouses.”

Dr Martin Kidman, SICK’s UK Product Manager for Machinery Safety, says: “The outdoorScan3 ably masters a delicate balance between performance and resilience to outdoor influences. It has the sensitivity needed to detect people or objects in its monitoring area reliably. At the same time, it is more resilient to the pitfalls of frequent error stops as a result of harsh weather, dirt or dusty environments.

“Until, now there has been no opportunity for outdoor applications to be safety-certified. IEC TS 62998 provides a new technical specification for compliant devices, and the outdoorScan3 is the first to meet the requirements for a Class D device.”

With a wide scanning angle of 275° and a protective field range of 4 m, the outdoorScan3 achieves a total safe scanning area of 38.4 m² with a minimum response time of 90 m, the company said. The outdoorScan3 can monitor up to 128 individual and freely-definable protective fields, and up to eight fields simultaneously, giving it ability to respond dynamically to the changing environment around it, SICK UK said.

The scanner offers options for integration using SICK’s Flexi Soft safety controller and SICK Flexi Soft EFI-pro gateway. Up to six outdoorScan3 devices can be networked into a safety system, with the option to integrate safety encoders for safe motion control. “Configuration and field set up is easy using SICK’s intuitive SafetyDesigner™ software tool,” the company said.

Resilient to ambient light with an intensity of up to 40,000 lux, the outdoorScan3’s intelligent software algorithms filter out the influences of snow (light to moderate) and rain to a precipitation intensity of 10 mm/h (moderate rain). Safety is ensured in foggy conditions by the fogSight function, which detects when meteorological visual range values eclipse 50 m and turns off the safe outputs. The outdoorScan3 can be used in temperatures from -25°C to +50°C.

The new safe contour detection fields provide additional versatility for mobile vehicle applications, such as safe AGV docking and protecting workers at narrow access points, SICK UK says.

“With a ‘non-safe’ warning field range of 40 m, the outdoorScan3 also can also output raw measurement data via Ethernet for navigation purposes, so safety and navigation duties can be achieved with a single device, without the need to use a separate scanner for navigation,” the company said.

SICK UK concluded: “It is likely new applications for the outdoorScan3 will be developed as users explore the potential of a new technology to operate in outdoor environments To support its customers, SICK has opened an outdoor development and testing centre at its headquarters in Waldkirch, southern Germany, to explore and develop best practice in outdoor safety sensing and systems.”

RCT on the importance of autonomous technology training

As an OEM-agnostic facilitator of autonomous solutions, RCT has vast experience in training up personnel and companies on how to best use this technology. Training Coordinator, Sunil Kumar, shares his thoughts on the subject.

Across the global mining industry there is an ever increasing take-up of smart technology. Gone are the days where miners worked in isolation, digging up earth and hoping to strike pay dirt. Now every stage of the mining process is jam-packed with technology designed to improve the mining process and safeguard mining personnel.

With the inevitable uptake of smart technology, advanced communication infrastructure and autonomous machinery, comes the need to ensure employees are suitably trained and confident in utilising this technology. At RCT, we categorise employee training needs into two streams; equipment operators and maintenance personnel.

Our comprehensive operator training is focused on functionality and designed to impart all necessary knowledge to get the most out of mining equipment. Our maintenance training goes a little bit deeper into the underlying technology of RCT’s proprietary products. We offer a regular maintenance package which teaches mine site personnel to replace components and conduct other minor maintenance works.

We also have an advanced maintenance package for select customers, which teaches suitably qualified mine employees to service individual components and carry out the type of activities that RCT’s specialised Field Service Technicians would carry out on a site visit.

Personal safety has been one of the key drivers behind an uptake of training programs in the global mining industry. Most countries that RCT works in have stringent laws governing people working in hazardous environments. Further to this is a cultural shift inside mining companies, which want to protect their workers and safeguard their operations.

Use of autonomous technology in this sort of hazardous environment is a no-brainer because a lot of the work involves people coming into contact with dust, smoke, extreme weather, chemical particles and long working hours often in confined working spaces such as underground operations.

Therefore, in order to use autonomous technology properly, they need to be informed about the standard operating procedure otherwise it can result in serious incidents involving machines and people. Properly trained personnel contribute significantly to operational efficiency and productivity because technology is only as good as how it is used. Most people underutilise the technology that they possess.

The most common example is the smart phone which can improve personal productivity multi-fold if used optimally, however most people only use about 10-15% of the features and capabilities. The same principle applies to autonomous technology in the mining industry, which, if properly used, will enable the mine site to increase productivity multi-fold, which in turn increases profits.

Training is equally essential for both younger workers who are traditionally more technologically savvy and older workers who are adapting to new technologies in the mining industry.

Autonomous technology is going into every mine so the technology is becoming part and parcel of new mine infrastructure. Therefore, it is important that the entire workforce be upskilled so they have some level of understanding of autonomous technology.

Going forward, RCT will continue to offer face-to-face training packages delivered on mine sites or in our offices. This will be complemented by an online training portal which will enable us to reach very remote mine sites that are difficult to access physically and will focus more on repeat trainings and refresher modules.