Tag Archives: mine communications

Agnico continuing to innovate at Kittilä gold mine as shaft project progresses

Agnico Eagle is likely to leverage more innovation at its Kittilä gold mine in northern Finland judging by André van Wageningen’s presentation at the FEM conference in Levi, this week.

In a talk titled, Building future mines through collaboration, van Wageningen, Engineering Manager of the Shaft project at Agnico Eagle Finland, said the company was testing out battery-electric equipment and could potentially apply LTE in the underground mine next year.

Much of the battery-electric machine testing the company is carrying out at the mine is in partnership with the EU-funded SIMS project, but van Wageningen said the company has also acquired two electric bolters outside of the program.

As recently as last week, Agnico tested out an Epiroc MT42 Minetruck and ST14 Scooptram at the mine (pictured), with van Wageningen saying the trials had, so far, gone well, with operators noticing less heat generation and vibrations, and better air quality within the operating environment.

“The battery capacity is of course the main concern,” he said in answer to an audience question about how the electrified equipment had so far performed. “Our mine is designed to drive up and…[the machines] have a limited capacity for [that].”

On the topic of collaboration, van Wageningen mentioned that if Agnico had decided on the use of battery-electric and electrified equipment four or five years ago, it would have likely deepened the shaft further and redesigned the mine to suit the reduced ventilation needs and required battery charging/changeout infrastructure.

“If you go for electrification, you either do it or you don’t as you have to build charging stations for this,” he said, adding that these need to be plotted around the mine in relevant locations to ensure the machines are as productive as possible.

As it stands, the company plans to go down to 1,040 m below surface as part of an expansion plan at the mine to increase production by 25% to 2 Mt/y of ore. This could see Kittilä add 50,000-70,000 oz/y of gold to its profile.

The company is building the 5.6 m diameter shaft by, first, raiseboring to 4 m diameter and then slashing to 5.6 m, van Wageningen said. The company is then concrete casting the shaft.

van Wageningen said Agnico has raisebored down to 875 m, and the 94 m headframe was likely to be finalised in the very near future.

The deepening of Kittilä and the evolution towards using autonomous underground machinery is probably behind the company’s plans to leverage LTE communications at the operation.

Agnico is already a leader when it comes to LTE, having become the first company to roll out the communications technology at an underground mine – the La Ronde Zone 5 operation in Quebec, Canada. This move was predicated on Agnico trialling autonomous equipment underground at the mine. In its June quarte results, the company said results from these trials had produced “favourable” results.

The mining industry’s guiding hand

Ahead of the WA Mining Conference & Exhibition, in Perth, Western Australia, IM spoke with Michelle Ash, Chair of the Global Mining Guidelines Group (GMG), on mining guidelines, the industry’s rate of technology adoption, automation and, of course, interoperability.

Given that Ash is due to sit on a panel discussion titled, ‘The future generation of mining – who, what, when and where’ at the event on October 15, the conversation was very much forward looking.

IM: The development of mining guidelines has been a big focus for you in your work with GMG. Outside of the existing working groups GMG already has in place, where, in the next three to five years, do you see the need for future industry guidelines to ensure mining companies and their employees can leverage new technology?

MA: Our mission at GMG is to work collaboratively with industry and help speed up its rates of change. The guidelines are one of our main products, but we are involved in two others.
One is education where we bring the mining industry (mining companies, suppliers, consultants, academics/academic institutions, regulators and governments) together on topics. Blockchain is a good example of that; we’ve had our members raising the use of blockchain as an issue for the last couple of years – some have not known what the use cases might look like or even the full capabilities of the technology.

An example of the second product is what we have recently carried out in the tailings dam space…where we initially looked at who was doing what in the public arena worldwide. From this, we created a database of that activity with the intention that our members should, first, engage with work that is already being conducted. We are now trying to think through how we codify that data. In this regard, part of the way we will speed up innovation in the mining industry is not only through collaboration, but also making sure we leverage industry work that has already been completed.

Then on the guidelines, we have covered battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), automation and communications systems. We’re currently going through the process of devising a guideline on interoperability and functional safety, too. In the next few months, we will start working with our members to define what ones to pursue from 2020 onwards.

IM: What might these future guidelines look like?

MA: At our leadership summit this year, we will be talking about climate change and how that is going to impact the mining industry. Thinking about the workforce of the future is another potential avenue for future guidelines. That is on top of some of the more futuristic topics like blockchain provenance tracking, changes to business models, etc.

IM: What is likely to push most mining companies into increasing their uptake of new and disruptive technology? Will operational, regulatory, social or technical changes have the biggest influence?

MA: It’s going to be a combination of these, but risk reduction will definitely come into it – a lot of mining companies still feel technologies are risky whether that is in their implementation, operator acceptance, cost, etc. There is a myriad of risks associated with changing the way you do things and investing in technologies. A lot of that risk is, at least, reduced through collaboration; creating a bigger market and being clear on what products we want and how we develop the business cases, produce products and then implement them. That dynamic will evolve as mining companies get more used to implementing some of these new technologies and working with their people in a more agile way.

That said, I do think the rate of social change being driven through technology – the way we interact, get information, perceive and interact with the world, and how all of that continues to change social expectations – is accelerating. That cycle is putting more and more pressure on all companies, not just miners, to, for example, continually reduce their environmental impact (greenhouse gas and diesel emission reductions, for example). There is also an ever-increasing pressure for governments and communities to get greater amounts of wealth from their resources. In addition, investors are changing their thinking – what we used to call ‘impact’ investors are now almost considered ‘mainstream’.

There are a whole series of pressures that will be put on mining companies to make substantive changes to the way they do things and that will link to de-risking the way they implement new technologies.

IM: Looking at regulation, what are the major technology trends that will be influenced by incoming legislation, and where is this new legislation likely to come in first?

MA: A lot of governments – and I have recently spent most of my time in Canada, Australia and Europe – are thinking about how they reduce their environmental impact. Many of them have various greenhouse gas and climate change challenges, and I think aspects of these will find their way into legislation. That could be future reductions in diesel usage/emissions or energy usage (especially as it pertains to diesel, coal, etc). That means the electrification of industry and mining, specifically, could be impacted by regulations.

One of the reasons why I am keen to get more regulators involved in the GMG is because sometimes, in aspects of certain technology, the regulations are behind the technology use cases/implementations. As a result, there is a really great opportunity for industry and government to work hand-in-hand and get those regulations developed faster so some of these technologies can be implemented in a way that meets community, as well as industry, needs. I think drones, automation and robotics have all fallen into this category.

On automation specifically, the Western Australia Mining Department has led the world in thinking about and applying legislation around automation. That is in part because Western Australia is where a lot of the automation use cases started. There is a great role for them to show other regulators how these regulations could translate in their own regions. For instance, I spend time with Canadian Provincial Governments, and they are very keen to learn from what Western Australia has done in this arena. I think the Nordics – Finland and Sweden, especially – have also shown some great examples of how to create sandboxes and multi-industry collaborations for such technologies.

IM: Is there anything from a technology perspective stopping mining companies creating a fully autonomous operation?

MA: The challenges with automation are related to how to coordinate and control all autonomous equipment on a mine site in an integrated fashion. That is why we, at GMG, are pushing so strongly for greater interoperability so we can, say, connect Cat trucks with Boston Dynamic robots and some OffWorld swarm bots, operating them all on the one mine under one system. From a technology perspective, that is yet to be refined and developed; we can automate pieces – for example, trucks on surface, or trucks and scoops working together underground – but we can’t go beyond that.

IM: Interoperability has been holding back technology uptake for decades; are we close to a tipping point when it comes to solving this problem?

MA: While we have been talking about interoperability for decades, we haven’t had the really fast communications systems we have today with the likes of 4G and LTE. We also haven’t had the plethora of sensors or the computing power and storage via cloud computing. The latter is a big part of the puzzle as mining companies were using on-premises software for so long for their computing needs, which creates limitations.

I think we are starting to see some movement from the OEMs around interoperability and this whole open innovation concept. There has been wider acceptance across the mining community that open innovation creates competition, instead of stifling it. The interoperability work we are doing is starting to prove that.

Cat, for example, has just announced a partnership with IOSoft to upload the data from a lot of their machinery so it can be interpreted and analysed, etc. That is a move forward in terms of creating open data platforms.

IM: Lastly, with the advent of machine learning and AI, what do you see happening in the future with roles such as the geologist, metallurgist, engineer? Will mine site teams in, say 10-20 years, be dominated by data scientists/engineers, as opposed to personnel with these traditional skillsets?

MA: Going forward, we will have a much more diverse skillset on mine sites. I don’t think the geologist, metallurgist, or mining engineer – that knowledge base – will be completely replaced. Even in 50-100 years, I see that human ingenuity still being required. But I do think, in the next five, 10, 20, or so years, artificial intelligence and machine learning will help augment what we currently do.

For example, as a geologist, you spend a lot of time uploading data, manipulating geological models, etc. You spend far less time pondering what it all means or analysing the best way to obtain and evaluate that data based on what you already know and understand. Similarly, a lot of mining engineers spend time running numbers and changing small pieces of design and calculating the myriad of knock-on changes, as opposed to running numerous mine engineering scenarios.

What machine learning and AI will do is free us up from a lot of the mundane work carried out now and allow us to spend much more time on the analysis and contemplation side of the business.

3D-P on hybrid LTE: a first step towards mine digitisation

While larger mines and those looking to automation are often the most obvious candidates for new LTE connectivity, 3D-P thinks a hybrid LTE solution can offer smaller mines the chance to ramp up their digitisation efforts.

One of the expected benefits of LTE is connectivity at greater distances than what Wi-Fi traditionally offers. This has seen several large companies such as Agnico Eagle Mines (La Ronde), Newcrest Mining (Lihir), South32 (Cannington) and MMG (Las Bambas) ramp up their LTE efforts in recent times.

Yet coupling this distance connectivity benefit with a hybrid solution like the 3D-P hybrid LTE/InstaMesh® (from Rajant) client can offer smaller operations a simple and affordable network, according to the communications provider. This allows remote access to their data in near real time, it says.

“In this scenario, with no network required at the bottom of the pit, vehicles can still remain connected and sharing data via peer-to-peer connectivity,” 3D-P says. “Leveraging the Store and Forward capabilities of the 3D-P hybrid client, data is stored on-board the client while travelling outside the pit and is communicated to the server as coverage resumes and the client connects to the LTE network either directly or through a connected peer.”

With minimal infrastructure requirements, the solution is suited to applications with non-real-time communication requirements, the company said.

With this hybrid network in place, mines need to leverage the data they are receiving.

“The good news is that a number of simpler, more affordable applications have appeared over the last few years making digitisation an option for smaller operations,” 3D-P said. “Even better, and critical to smaller operators, is the ability that those new solutions provide to prove rapid return on investment on the technology.”

3D-P used its partner iVolve’s fleet management system as an example here. iVolve provides miners with a range of modules from production, maintenance, tyre pressure, material management, etc. “With the ability to integrate directly to existing or third-party systems, iVolve offers a scalable application for your mobile equipment as your mine digitises,” 3D-P said.

Through a proof of concept run at a mine in Western Australia, where productivity data was previously recorded manually, implementation of the iVolve solution proved to deliver an immediate 10% efficiency improvement, according to 3D-P.

Rajant makes its underground mining move

Rajant is now looking to leverage the leading wireless network expert status it has built up in the open-pit mining space for the benefit of the underground mining sector.

At the AIMEX 2019 event in Sydney, Australia, last month, Mike Foletti, Sales Director, Asia Pacific, and Geoff Smith, Executive Vice President Global Sales and Marketing, talked IM through the move, explaining that the exclusive provider of Kinetic Mesh® wireless networks had teamed up with other firms to ensure its below ground offering is as complete as can be.

The underground solution the company was pushing for the first time at the event has been made possible by the strategic partnership between Rajant, Poynting Antennas, Extronics, and Australian Droid + Robot, the company said.

In the underground setup, Rajant’s multi-radio, multi-frequency BreadCrumb® nodes combine with Poynting’s wide-band, bi-directional, circular polarised antenna system to create a “complete underground and tunnel-wide wireless network for mission-critical data, video, and voice communications”, the company says.

As part of this, Extronics rugged and intrinsically safe AeroScout Wi-Fi-based active RFID tags for personnel and asset tracking operate in real time over Rajant’s network, never breaking for handoff. With location tracking precision of about 10 m, the tags can be used to identify productivity bottlenecks for improved operational efficiency, Rajant says. And, lastly, Australian Droid + Robot’s Explora droids (one pictured at AIMEX 2019), which Australian Droid says have “ridiculous amounts of traction and agility”, come equipped with Rajant BreadCrumb technology. This allows the small all-terrain robots to carry out underground inspections, enabling the machine to independently scan, sense, and explore locations that may be hazardous to miners.

While this is the first time Rajant has talked about this underground solution, it has already been deployed at one mine site, according to Foletti.

“This is basically an enhancement on any fixed solution that is installed underground,” he said, explaining that the high throughput and low latency network benefits open-pit miners have received above ground for many years, is now be translated into underground mines.

While Rajant will continue to service the open-pit sector as it has beforehand, providing the type of robust network solutions it has for more than a decade, its decision to move underground is easy to understand.

For starters, many of the big open pits are reaching the end of their mine lives, with mining engineers now planning for underground operations.

At the same time as this, underground mines either in development or production are expanding operations at a pace that makes it hard and expensive for fixed or conventional wireless network solutions to keep up with.

Rajant explains: “Underground mines and tunnels are some of the most challenging environments in which to deploy network systems. Connectivity and throughput demands are high, but circular ramps and declines, stopes, and mine layout place limitations on how far wireless signals can travel.

“Many mines, therefore, depend on fibre to achieve reliable underground communications, but installing fibre in active drives, panels and declines is difficult to schedule and can create operational and maintenance nightmares.”

In addition, development plus drill and blast areas can rarely support fibre infrastructure. “It is not uncommon for trucks to accidentally catch and rip down sections of fibre and when that happens connectivity across the entire underground mine can be lost,” Rajant said.

In Rajant’s Wireless Mesh solution, BreadCrumb nodes act independently of each other. This means if one node is damaged or has an issue, the system continues to operate by using another communication route. In addition, the underground solution boasts the highest data throughput on the market, according to Foletti; latency is less than a millisecond, he added. Both features will become even more important as the industry continues its transition to automation.

Smith and Foletti said the company chose AIMEX 2019 and the Australian market to launch this solution as the company already has 35 installations on surface in Australia, at operations owned by some major mining companies, such as Anglo American. Anglo, in fact, is standardising all its global operations with Rajant Wireless Mesh network technology, according to Smith.

The Rajant team is confident these companies and others will see there is a strong investment case for introducing Wireless Mesh underground, too.

In addition to gaining traction with mining companies, Smith and Foletti said Rajant had been making inroads with equipment manufacturers, fleet management providers and other service providers in the mining ecosystem.

Smith mentioned Wabtec (now GE Wabtec) had made an investment in the company as it looked to incorporate its wireless communications technology into its rail systems, while Japanese conglomerate Mitsui had created a strategic partnership looking to rollout Rajant’s technology across several of its portfolio companies.

Despite the introduction of LTE and 5G technology to the underground environment, Smith and Foletti believe there is still a business case for Rajant’s Wireless Mesh technology.

As Foletti said, “If they [the mining operation] move[s], that’s where Rajant comes in.”

This is likely to see the communications infrastructure installed alongside other technologies in the future such as LTE, fibre and 5G in rapidly expanding mining areas such as development and production.

Resolute Mining starting to deliver automation benefits at Syama Underground

Resolute Mining, in its 2019 financial year results, said commissioning of the Syama Underground automation system is now well underway following the company reaching commercial production rates in quarter just ended.

The gold mine, in Mali, mined 737,338 t of ore over the period, as the company, in its financial year, moved from development to production in the sub-level cave.

At full capacity the underground mine is expected to produce around 46,000 t/week of ore, or 2.4 Mt/y, using a fully integrated automated mine fleet that is being facilitated through a partnership with Sandvik. Once the underground mine is fully commissioned, Syama will be capable of producing over 300,000 oz/y of gold, according to Resolute.

In the financial results, the company said the automation switch was gradually being turned on, with operators in the newly completed surface control room (pictured) now able to control underground production units over shift-change, blasting and re-entry periods, when there are no personnel in the underground mine.

Resolute said: “This represents the initial delivery of one of the main benefits of automation, the ability to maintain production over periods when operations would normally cease in a typical manual mine.”

The company noted that the fibre optic backbone and mine-wide wireless network was now complete from the portal down to the 1055 haulage level and was connected to the surface control room.

“This network enables the operation of the automated haulage loop, automated rehandle level, mine digitisation and production automation, all of which allow operators to monitor and control mine production in real time,” the company explained.

A major technical characteristic of what Resolute is referring to as “the world’s first fully automated haulage loop” is the ability for Syama’s haul trucks to rapidly transition from laser-based underground navigation to surface-based differential global positioning system (GPS) navigation.

The company said recent trials at Syama demonstrated Resolute’s haul trucks can acquire the feed from the two surface GPS base stations and seamlessly lock onto satellite guidance to complete the transition to GPS navigation without any delay or speed reductions.

The next phase of the company’s automation work will see the commissioning of the 1055 haulage level with automated rehandle loaders and haulage trucks working together to load from an ore pass and truck directly to the surface run of mine pad, Resolute said.

“With the fans, pump stations, control room and communications network complete, the automation project is being progressively handed over to the operations team which is now at normal operational manning levels,” the company concluded.

Plan Nord backs Newmont Goldcorp’s 4.0 mine vision at Éléonore gold operation

The Government of Québec, through the Société du Plan Nord, says it will invest C$1.75 million ($1.28 million) to connect Newmont Goldcorp’s Éléonore mine facilities to the existing regional fibre optic network.

“This project will enable one of Quebec’s most innovative mining companies to continue advancing its vision to create mine 4.0, an interconnected mine of the future,” the government said, adding that the connection, which will help optimise the company’s operations, will also increase the quality of life of workers on site and encourage employee retention.

Jonatan Julien, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Côte-Nord region, made the announcement this week while visiting Éléonore.

As part of this project, 124 km of fibre optic cable will be laid from the Eastmain 1A link to the Éléonore mine. This project, valued at C$3.5 million, will be delivered by the non-profit organisation Eeyou Communications Network (ECN), with the new high-speed connection expected to be operational in 2020.

Julien said: “The mining sector is entering a new era with mine 4.0. Today’s funding will contribute to the Éléonore mine’s competitiveness in the future: access to a reliable and high-performance telecommunications network is fundamental for the industry to modernise. The realisation of this project is excellent news for the Eeyou Istchee James Bay region, but also for the Quebec economy.”

Sophie Bergeron, General Manager, Éléonore Mine, Newmont Goldcorp, said: “This joint investment from our Cree partner, Eeyou Communications Network, and the Société du Plan Nord will connect the mine to a fibre optic network, providing far more bandwidth than we have today, and will support our vision of creating the first 4.0 mine in Quebec.

“With this technology backbone in place, new sustainable and responsible mining developments can consolidate the leadership role Quebec plays in Canada’s mining sector and beyond.”

Éléonore was expected to produce some 360,000 oz of gold in 2018 from the underground Roberto deposit. Ore is mined from four horizons using sill and stope techniques, then processed onsite using a conventional circuit that includes crushing, grinding, gravity, flotation and cyanidation.

The operation has begun to develop a fifth mining horizon and build a production shaft, both of which will bring Éléonore closer to its full production capacity, a key part of the company’s plan to increase production by 20% by 2021.

At Éléonore, all underground workers, vehicles and other heavy equipment are outfitted with radio frequency identification tags that transmit a unique ID number via a Wi-Fi connection to the Cisco access point throughout the mine. Telemetry units integrated into vehicles also monitor the functions and systems in the vehicle’s engine, and issue an alert to mine managers when something needs attention, the company said.

The Société du Plan Nord contributes, from a sustainable development perspective, to the planning and integrated and coherent development of northern Quebec, it says. It does so in consultation with representatives of the regions and indigenous peoples, as well as the private sector.

Volvo CE staying connected to automation trend with 5G collaboration

As the application of automation in underground mines accelerates, several companies have started exploring 5G communications developments in order to handle the massive amounts of data that is being generated from autonomous equipment.

One company interested in exactly this is Volvo CE, which earlier this year, in co-operation with Telia and Ericsson, launched Sweden’s first 5G network for industrial use at its facility in Eskilstuna. The partnership could see the mining and construction equipment company become one of the first in the world to use 5G technology to test remote-controlled machines and autonomous solutions.

IM, as part of its annual focus on Nordic Suppliers (to be published in the June print issue), put some questions to Calle Skillsäter (pictured below), Volvo CE’s technical specialist for ‘Connected Machines’, to find out more about this collaboration and understand what hurdles companies are facing when trying to implement such communications solutions.

IM: What is the justification for investing in 5G technologies with Telia and Ericsson? How much of your equipment is currently controlled remotely or autonomously?

CS: Connectivity is a crucial enabler for automation, which is why this 5G project is so significant for us at Volvo CE and for the construction industry as a whole. We also believe that automation technology is at its most efficient when it is run hand in hand with electromobility – as we demonstrated through the Electric Site quarry project.

Thanks to a prior research collaboration with Telia and Ericsson, in the Pilot for Industrial Mobile Communication in Mining (PIMM) project, and now this established Telia Journey to 5G Partnership Program, we have the possibility to test future connectivity solutions for our machines in mining applications, as well as other potential applications.

Currently we are focusing on our L180H wheel loader remote-controlled prototype, but will soon test 5G on the HX2 concept (pictured above) autonomous hauler as well. There are no autonomous or tele-operated machines from Volvo CE available on the market today.

IM: Most of the 5G investment in mining has, so far, come from the Nordic region; why is this?

CS: That’s right, we do have a rather unique setup in that many Nordic companies are at the absolute forefront of their industries with this technology. Mining companies like Boliden and LKAB are driving the business to be more intelligent and automated, Ericsson & Telia bring the connectivity perspective, ABB bring their experience of automation into the process industry, and Volvo CE and Epiroc bring the machine perspective. It’s certainly the case that the Swedish engineering mindset is very open and collaborative, which is what you need to be if you are to explore the potential of new technologies and new ways of working. We are a small country and we need to collaborate and be on the edge of technology to stay competitive.

IM: Do you expect this region, in addition to Canada, to offer the most immediate potential for 5G automated and remote-controlled technologies in mining?

CS: As I’ve mentioned earlier, we have all ingredients available in the Nordics to succeed in this transformation towards more connected and automated mining solutions. Another strong reason is that we have high demands on health and safety for the people working in the mines. Automation is a key way to improve site safety and reduce the dangers and accidents associated with mining. In addition, automation is our key to staying ahead of our competitors.

IM: What testing have you so far been able to carry out at Eskilstuna? What results have been achieved?

CS: We quite recently inaugurated the new test area for automation and tele-operations, so we are still in the early phase. The initial focus is on the tele-operation of the remote-controlled wheel loader L180H, but we will very soon start testing 5G for the HX2 autonomous hauler concept machine. At the moment, it is too early to reveal any results.

IM: When do you expect to be able to test this out in a real-life underground mining environment?

CS: Tests have very recently been performed within the PIMM Digitalized Mining Arena (DMA) project in one of Boliden’s mines, using LTE wireless 4G communications, the results of which will be announced next month. Testing on a customer site with 5G is not planned yet.

IM: When comparing 5G to 4G technologies, what are the main benefits for mining companies when it comes to using this newer communication infrastructure (aside from lower latency, bandwidth, quality of service, positioning, etc)? What sort of impact could it have on operating costs considering the improved accuracy/responsiveness it brings to automated and remote-controlled operations?

CS: The main benefits are, as you say, lower latency, bandwidth and the quality of connection. But lower latency will also mean that tele-operated machines are more responsive, therefore resulting in much higher productivity. Higher bandwidth also means better video quality, which means a better work environment for the operator. Better video quality also creates a better feeling of presence, which helps to improve productivity. Quality of Service will mean machines are up and running for longer.

IM: How far is the industry away from employing these 5G solutions commercially? What are the three biggest hurdles to achieving this milestone?

CS: It’s too early to say when we think customers will be ready to see 5G solutions available commercially. But the biggest hurdles are:

  • Legislation related to the radio frequencies. There are still a number of open questions here; for example, will there be space for local industrial solutions, or will everything be dedicated to the mobile network operators?
  • Hardware availability. For example, there are not many 5G devices designed for demanding mining environments available right now on the market.
  • Business models. The new technologies will push us to review our business models. Should we continue to sell machines like we are used to?

IM: Do you expect underground mines of the future to be run solely off 5G networks? Or, do you expect a combination of 5G/Wi-Fi?

CS: There is a potential for mines to be run only on 5G in the future. But this is one of the questions that we hope to be able to answer in our coming tests and collaboration with our partners.

DAMM and Wellracom to digitalise Amman Mineral’s Baju Hijau copper-gold mine

DAMM and its systems partner, Wellracom, have successfully commenced an upgrade from an existing analogue system to a digital TETRA communication solution for Indonesia mining company, PT Amman Mineral Nusa Tenggara.

DAMM has delivered five 2-carrier DAMM Outdoor Base Station BS421s for voice and data communication for the entire mining operation, it said.

Key factors for choosing DAMM were the cost-efficiency and scalability of the system combined with the open API, DAMM said. DAMM says its MultiTech Platform enables voice and data communication across technologies, including TETRA, TEDS, DMR and Analog in one single system.

To facilitate the gradual migration to the new TETRA system, Amman Mineral has deployed a DAMM TetraFlex Group Bridge, which enables communication between the two different technologies. This will ensure a seamless migration and smooth integration, according to DAMM. The site will eventually become fully digitalised.

Amman Mineral operates the Batu Hijau copper-gold mine, in the West Sumbawa regency, West Nusa Tenggara province. This is the second largest copper and gold mine in Indonesia.

Desmond Cheong, Regional Manager at DAMM, said: “This has been an exciting project for us. It is great for us to demonstrate our ability to deliver communication in challenging conditions, a success that can be attributed to the high quality of our DAMM TetraFlex solution as well as our great collaboration with Wellracom.”

Mr Suprapto, Managing Director of Wellracom Group, said DAMM has a proven track record in the mining industry, adding: “The challenge in the mining industry, in Indonesia, is to secure communication 24/7 to minimise any disruption to operations.”

Hard-Line’s Teleop system receives LTE certification with Redline partnership

Redline Communications Group and HLS Hard-Line Solutions have successfully integrated the operation of Hard-Line’s Teleop Teleremote Control System with Redline’s industrial Private LTE solution, enabling tele-operation of heavy mining machinery from a remote-control station.

This integration will allow machinery such as rock breakers, drills, excavators, wheel loaders and dozers to be operated by operators totally out of the proximity of danger, in addition to “more easily expand a mine’s progression”, Redline said.

“The system saves time, heightens operator safety, improves comfort, and allows a greater percentage of the workforce to operate equipment,” the company said. “Together, the companies demonstrated they could deliver safe, reliable and cost-effective remote operations, on a fit-for-purpose, secure private LTE infrastructure designed for the mining environment.”

Hard-Line is certified for installation of Redline Private LTE networks and is partnering with Redline to deliver communications infrastructure solutions to the mining industry. Its latest Teleop Auto system delivers 2D and 3D views, with ‘real-time’ operator control achievable when the system is coupled to robust communication networks.

Louis Lambert, Senior Vice President, Business Development for Redline Communications, said: “As the mining industry progresses through digital transformation to enable ‘smart mining’, private LTE is surfacing as the wireless technology of choice to deliver robust, reliable and secure mobile communications.”

Hard-Line’s, Scott Whelan, Vice President of Sales, said: “As a result of our collaboration with Redline, Hard-Line is now certified in both Wi-Fi and LTE solutions to satisfy our customers’ needs. This enables our customers to have the flexibility to operate our products on the solution and infrastructure of their choice.”

In addition to the collaboration with Hard-Line, Redline continues to invest to further develop communication solutions that are fit-for-purpose for mining companies to deliver on smart mining initiatives globally, it said.

Komatsu’s FrontRunner autonomous haulage system and Nokia make mining LTE history

Komatsu America Corp’s FrontRunner autonomous haulage system (AHS) has achieved a mining industry first, after the system qualified to operate on private long-term evolution (LTE) mobile broadband technology.

This makes it the sector’s first AHS enabled to run on private LTE in commercial operations, paving the way for ultra-high system availability and reliability, while adhering to Komatsu’s renowned safety standards, the company said.

Komatsu’s FrontRunner AHS allows unmanned operation of ultra-class mining trucks. It delivers significant benefits, including reduced worker exposure to harm, protocols designed to constantly improve mine-site safety, reduced operating costs, and increased productivity and efficiency. The company completed a year-long qualification programme at the company’s proving grounds in Tucson, Arizona, conducting extensive testing of the FrontRunner AHS on Nokia’s Future X infrastructure, a leading provider of private LTE communication solutions for the mining industry.

Komatsu said: “Mining operators demand wireless networks with high-availability, seamless mobility, world-class quality of service, and the ability to support multiple applications and services simultaneously. Accordingly, the industry is moving away from less predictable wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, and towards private LTE networks, that improve security, capacity, and overall performance within a multi-application environment.”

Luiz Steinberg, Komatsu Global Officer and President/CEO of Modular Mining Systems, said: “This industry milestone represents a key step in Komatsu’s exploration of private LTE and highlights Nokia’s role as the leading global supplier of mission-critical solutions and services for the mining industry.

“As the leader in autonomous haulage technology, we are firmly on our way to helping the industry move the next billion tons of material with autonomous technology. We have come together with Nokia to further this vision of delivering increased value to the mining industry.”

Kathrin Buvac, President of Nokia Enterprise, said: “We are excited to be engaging the mining automation market with Komatsu, a powerhouse in the industry, to further highlight the benefits of Future X for mining companies as a strategic advantage in their operations.

“Private LTE is a key element in the Nokia Bell Labs Future X architecture to help industries, such as mining, create an intelligent, dynamic, high-performance network that increases the safety, productivity and efficiency of their business.”

Komatsu pioneered the first AHS for the mining industry with a commercial deployment in 2008 at Codelco’s Gabriela Mistral (Gaby) copper mine in Chile. In November, the company’s FrontRunner AHS system marked the movement of 2 billion tons (1.81 Bt) of surface material moved.