Tag Archives: Mine networks

Aqura to supply LTE equipment to Iron Bridge magnetite project

Veris Ltd subsidiary, Aqura Technologies, has secured a contract to supply advanced LTE equipment for the Iron Bridge Magnetite project, a joint venture between Fortescue Metals Group subsidiary FMG Magnetite Pty Ltd and Formosa Steel IB Pty Ltd, in the Pilbara of Western Australia.

The A$2 million ($1.4 million) contract reflects Aqura’s strong focus to understand the evolving technology needs of the project and demonstrate its industry-leading capability to identify and design robust technology solutions that will support clients’ future operational strategies, the company said.

Aqura Technologies CEO, Travis Young, said: “This contract award is a great validation of the strategy the Aqura team are pursuing to leverage their expertise to enable other organisations to achieve positive business outcomes with leading-edge technology. We are very pleased to be supporting the great work of FMG and look forward to assisting them with their longer-term technology transformation program.

“Aqura continues to lead in high-performance industrial connectivity with advanced engagements for new rollouts, and other developments such as the imminent completion of our first 5G-enabled LTE network to bring the benefits of private LTE to a broader spectrum of businesses.”

The $2.6 billion Iron Bridge Magnetite project is expected to see a new magnetite mine developed to support production of 22 Mt/y of high-grade concentrate, according to Fortescue. First concentrate is expected to be produced by mid-2022.

Meglab extends its mine network reach with Rajant partnership

Meglab says it has extended its mining telecommunications service offering through a new partnership agreement with Rajant Corp.

Underground telecommunication is one of the main areas of Meglab’s expertise. With the addition of the Rajant connectivity solution for open-pit mines, the mining industry telecommunications needs can now be fully met, Meglab says.

Rajant provides fully mobile, mission-critical data, video, and voice communications networking for open-pit mines as well as underground mining.

Meglab explains: “As the shape, depth, and configuration of mines are continually changing during the extraction of ore, the mining equipment and infrastructure must be moved, which means network coverage must adapt also.

“Rajant provides Kinetic Mesh®, a wireless network that autonomously adapts to operational and environmental changes. The unique nature of their networking architecture allows open-pit and underground operations to easily introduce, relocate, or remove network infrastructure – without causing any network downtime – to deliver highly adaptable coverage and continuous connectivity.”

Kim Valade, VP Sales for Meglab, said: “We are proud to work with Rajant. The reliability of their products meets the highest quality standards. As integrators, we are a one-stop-shop that offers installation and commissioning of a complete telecommunications solution, from underground to surface.”

Darrell Gillis, Rajant Sales Director – Canada, said: “Rajant welcomes Meglab as a channel partner servicing the mining industry. Open-pit and underground mines, like many industrial environments, depend on autonomous mobility for improved efficiency, safety, and profitability. Our BreadCrumb® nodes can be mobile, and create a mesh between stationary and moving equipment, working peer-to-peer to form a multi-radio Kinetic Mesh network.

“These nodes can be deployed on fixed infrastructure or moving assets, such as trucks and loaders, uniquely enabling vehicle-to-vehicle communications between mobile equipment.”

Strata Worldwide takes advantage of Geoverse ‘5G-ready’ solution

Geoverse, a leading provider of private LTE/5G solutions and the largest neutral host carrier in the US, has announced support for licensed wireless spectrum on its existing GeoCore™ network service platform.

This solution combines low-band licensed spectrum with Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) to form a high performance and reliable private LTE/5G network that enables the adoption of Industry 4.0 for mining, oil and gas exploration, utilities, and other industries, it said.

“It merges the power of CBRS with the performance of licensed 600 MHz and 700 MHz spectrum to guarantee a reliable network where it is needed, supporting voice calling, high-speed broadband and critical low-latency IoT,” the company added.

One company taking advantage of GeoCore and the combined spectrum offering is mining-focused Strata Worldwide.

Tom Michaud, CTO of Strata Worldwide, said: “In such extreme environments, the performance and reach of the low-band spectrum can make it a preferred option for select applications. And, it complements CBRS quite well so collectively they can serve a variety of use cases found across our remote locations, providing a high-performance service connecting users, devices and even delivering highly reliable service for our automated equipment.”

Geoverse offers an option to use its unique GeoCore service platform to deploy the licensed 600 MHz and 700 MHz spectrum from their solutions across 14 western states in the US. “The best part is that since the network uses licensed spectrum it belongs exclusively to the enterprise it serves,” the company explained.

It added: “Industries such as mining, oil and gas exploration, energy, and more have turned to a variety of wireless solutions to try to keep their daily operations flowing smoothly. However, this patchwork of networks can be costly and difficult to manage, while still falling short of the various connectivity requirements. In the era of automation and the digital workplace, inadequate coverage and inconsistent performance can disrupt operations to reduce productivity and impact the bottom line.”

Rod Nelson, CEO and Co-Founder of Geoverse, said private LTE networks meet the design, operational, and performance requirements that heavy industry needs, while giving them authority over coverage, capacity and function.

“By combining the coverage and exclusive use of licensed spectrum with the capacity depth provided by CBRS, we create one private LTE/5G networking solution to satisfy many needs,” he said.

CBRS enables enterprises to deploy and maintain their own networks. Now, with the addition of licensed spectrum, these same networks can do even more, all from a single, scalable, and secure network, the company said.

“The Geoverse 5G-ready solution provides a unique opportunity for enterprises to digitally transform their business,” it added.

Costerfield gold-antimony mine firing on all cylinders thanks to RCT solution

Removing personnel from underground loading operations at Mandalay Resources’ Costerfield gold-antimony mine in Victoria, Australia, through RCT’s ControlMaster® Teleremote and Guidance Automation, has led to time and cost savings, as well as maintenance and safety benefits, according to a recent case study from the automation specialist.

Costerfield produces ore via a single portal underground mine with narrow vein mining carried out to extract vertical veins of ore. The mine produces up to 80,000 gold-antimony-equivalent ounces per year in a concentrate comprising around 54% antimony and 60 g/t gold.

The nature of narrow vein mining dictates that ore drives are quite thin to reduce the amount of waste material that is captured, with Costerfield’s drilling and blasting program designed to maximise ore recovery by throwing the ore towards the draw point. Historically, however, the site could only recover 75% of the ore, according to RCT, due to the remaining ore sitting in the stope void out of reach of the underground LHD as manually operated loaders could not exceed the stope brow.

Looking to increase productivity, Mandalay investigated implementing a loader that could be managed remotely to extract additional ore and to safeguard equipment operators from hazardous situations at the mine face. This led to it, in 2015, engaging RCT to implement its ControlMaster Teleremote and Guidance Automation product on a Sandvik LH203 LHD.

The automated loader enabled Mandalay Resources to retrieve significant amounts of ore that were previously unreachable, RCT said.

In recent years RCT has increased the autonomous fleet at Costerfield by commissioning ControlMaster Teleremote and Guidance Automation on a second Sandvik LH203 as well as a Sandvik LH151D.

The machines are managed from Fibre Optic Control Stations at secure locations in the underground mine protected by Laser Guard Containment Units as well as stations on the mine’s surface.

Jayson Guzzo, Major Projects and Innovation Manager – Costerfield, Mandalay Resources, said removing operators from the machine is the “best outcome” as it eliminates their exposure from one of the highest risk jobs, which is working at a stope brow.

“The small loaders we use are very rigid which has the potential for repetitive strain injuries,” he said. “They also have open cabs and, in this environment, dust, machine exhaust and debris can be an added safety concern.”

In mid-2019, Mandalay made the decision to implement a digital mine communications network to accommodate future technological growth.

Guzzo said: “Given that we are a narrow vein operation we may have to access ore a significant distance from the mine access point so we are looking at going to a digital platform so we can run a fibre backbone and autonomously operate machines over a vast distance.

“In a traditional mine, you might spend a whole week bogging a single stope before moving, but at Costerfield we might bog three or four headings in one shift, so the number of sites that we have to have set up at any one time are multiple, hence a digital system will significantly speed up the process of commissioning new drives.”

Mandalay has reported that ControlMaster Guidance Automation enabled them to carry out bogging and firing operations simultaneously, saving them substantial time which was previously spent clearing personnel to a safe distance, RCT said.

Guzzo said the solution has enabled the company to reduce shift changeover time by two thirds – which is a significant cost saving – and the site has also experienced less unplanned machine downtime.

“At Costerfield, the drives are roughly 2 m wide so Guidance Automation keeps the machines off the walls and stops them bouncing around the tunnels, so the damage to the machines is a lot less and results in significantly reduced unplanned maintenance time,” he said.

Guzzo concluded: “Relocating operators from the cab of our loaders to safer environments on the mine’s surface is essential and being able to continue bogging during firing as well as significantly reducing shift changeover time is critical to improving site productivity.

“Plant automation is definitely the way of the future in the mining industry and RCT are the leaders in that area, which is why they are our preferred supplier with this equipment.”

Emerson and Cisco to improve plant productivity, reliability and safety

Emerson has partnered with Cisco to introduce a “next-generation industrial wireless networking solution” that, the Missouri-based company says, can improve plant productivity, reliability and safety.

The combination of the Emerson Wireless 1410S Gateway with the Cisco Catalyst® IW6300 Heavy Duty Series Access Point results in the latest in wireless technology with advanced WirelessHART® sensor technology, it said. The solution, according to Emerson, delivers reliable and highly secure data, even in harsh industrial environments like mining.

Emerson said: “To help enable new digital transformation strategies, this industrial networking solution combines Emerson’s expertise in industrial automation and applications with Cisco’s innovations in networking, cybersecurity and IT infrastructure.

“Driven by the demand for greater productivity, lower maintenance costs and improved worker safety, industrial manufacturers are accelerating investment in robust IoT sensor networks combined with scalable operational analytics tools to improve organisational collaboration and decision making. In these environments, network performance and security are critical for success.”

The new wireless access point supports mobile applications that offer instant access to process control data, maintenance information and operation procedures, enabling improved plant productivity and worker safety.

Liz Centoni, Senior Vice President and General Manager of IoT at Cisco, said a secure connection that scales easily is the foundation for every successful IoT deployment. “By using the power of the intent-based network, Cisco provides a secure, automated, rock solid infrastructure helping IT and operational teams work together to reduce complexity and improve safety.”

This wireless access point provides enhanced Wi-Fi bandwidth necessary for real-time safety monitoring, including Emerson’s Location Awareness and wireless video. These applications enhance personnel safety practices, improve plant security and help ensure environmental compliance, according to Emerson.

“A reliable and fast connection between devices and people streamlines decision making by providing real-time analytics,” Emerson said. “It also enables a mobile workforce to virtually come together, collaborate and resolve critical issues in a timely manner.”

Bob Karschnia, Vice President of Wireless at Emerson, said the need for products installed in industrial plants to last for years – even decades – was a key criterion for this new networking solution.

“This kind of longevity was a critical design and engineering requirement to ensure this new wireless access point was future-proofed to meet a rapidly evolving technology landscape.”

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.

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.”

Epiroc and Ericsson connect on 5G and LTE technologies for mining

Epiroc has signed a cooperation agreement with leading communications technology provider Ericsson to jointly help mining companies achieve optimal wireless connectivity in their operations through Long Term Evolution (LTE) and 5G technologies.

Key advantages of LTE and 5G solutions compared with other wireless solutions include better coverage, higher reliability and stronger security, especially when machines are in the same area and share information, according to Epiroc.

The technology, which is for both underground and open-pit mines, has already been tested on Epiroc’s machines at the company’s test mine in Kvarntorp, Sweden, with further testing scheduled before providing solutions to customers.

Epiroc said: “Mining companies are increasingly seeking to digitalise and automate their operations to increase productivity, enhance operator safety and lower cost. This includes, for example, remotely operating machines from a control room, and collecting machine performance data to optimise use of the equipment.”

All of this creates a need for reliable, high-performance wireless connectivity at the mines, it said.

Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s Senior Executive Vice President Mining and Infrastructure, said the mining OEM is happy to team up with Ericsson so that its mining customers can get the most reliable and high-performing wireless connectivity possible.

“This is a crucial step in our ongoing work to ensure mining customers reap all the benefits, including higher productivity and better safety, made possible by digitalisation and automation,” she said.

Åsa Tamsons, Ericsson’s Senior Vice President and Head of Business Area Technologies & New Businesses, said cellular technology and the introduction of 5G is critical to realising the full value of digitalisation and automation “for smart industries”.

“By combining our expertise in connectivity and Epiroc’s cutting-edge technology in mining equipment, we will be able to ensure stable and secure mining operations, leading to increased utilisation, improved productivity and reduced costs.”

This connectivity tie-up follows a recently-signed agreement between Sandvik and Nokia to further develop solutions for private LTE and 5G technology.