Tag Archives: mining networks

Zinkgruvan Mining and Epiroc collaborate on teleremote drilling trial backed by LTE

Zinkgruvan Mining is feeling the effects of teleremote drilling using a 4G LTE network and Epiroc’s Simba E7 rig at its underground base metal mine, according to a case study from the Sweden-based OEM*.

In early spring 2021, Zinkgruvan Mining, working in conjunction with Epiroc and IT, and telecom operator Telia, first connected its Simba E7 rig to an LTE (Long Term Evolution) network. Since then, remote production has taken off like a shot in the areas where the LTE network has been commissioned, according to Epiroc, while acknowledging this is still in trial mode.

The mine has a total of four Epiroc Simba rigs, with, at present, one of these connected via Simba Teleremote, some 350 m underground. In the future, operators may move to an office 800 m underground to get closer to the rig.

“So far, we’ve drilled seven pallets remotely,” Operator, Jocke Lindblad (pictured on the left), said. “It runs very smoothly, and as soon as we find something that doesn’t work, I can call the Epiroc service engineer who has been there from the start.”

Lindblad monitors the rig from a quiet above-ground office, next to a window where daylight flows in.

“I like being down in the mine too, but it’s certainly safer and better for the body to sit here,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to take a coffee break or get a breath of fresh air when I feel like it.”

The fact the operators do not need to drive down into the mine on a regular basis means they can drill an average of four hours more per day, according to Epiroc. In purely technical terms, Lindblad can operate the rig from an office in the same way as he would down in the mine. The screens and levers are the same as on the rig.

“The only difference is that I can’t hear the drill,” Lindblad said. “But you do have to keep a close watch on the measurement values on the display.”

An LTE future

Epiroc said: “Building a dedicated LTE network has been a challenge. It is much harder to bring together a design in a mine than above ground. However, the choice was easy.”

Craig Griffiths, Mining Manager at Zinkgruvan Mining, said the company, a Lundin Mining subsidiary, looked at running automation via Wi-Fi, but decided against this as it wanted the network to work for at least another 10 years and be able to handle the demands of the future.

He is convinced the investment puts the mine in a good position for years to come.

“This will give us better control over our production and reduce our costs,” he said. “It feels really good. But the greatest gain will be in respect of safety, with our employees having to spend less time in the mine.”

No-one to ask

While the Simba occasionally – under Lindblad’s supervision above ground – changes position for a new drill hole, Mattias Dömstedt, Technical Production Coordinator, and Håkan Mann, Project Manager, have time to explain how the technology works, and how the work of installing it has progressed.

“Once complete, the project will have seen about 70 remote radio units, ie transmitters and receivers of radio signals in the LTE network, installed in the mine, providing coverage of around 70 km,” Mann said. “The LTE network will then be extended as the mine expands. The portion of the LTE network currently in operation covers around 15 km.”

By then, hopefully some time in 2022, it will be possible to run another Simba rig by teleremote, provided that RCS4 can be used via LTE, Epiroc said. But Dömstedt, Mann and their colleagues on the project have already come a long way since the very first tests in December 2020, which were designed to show whether teleremote over the LTE network worked at all.

Dömstedt said: “We were in Epiroc’s workshop 800 m down in the mine. We had a remote station in the room next to the rig, and we looked out to see if it was moving around on the rig, and it was.”

The company sees LTE opening further possibilities. For example, Zinkgruvan has collaborated with Mobilaris to set up unique, full site coverage, communication and positioning infrastructure at the site, a project that led to the development of Mobilaris Virtual Tag™, which is running on LTE.

Mann said: “As we are the first to build something like this, we haven’t been able to ask anyone for help, we’ve had to solve all the problems ourselves along the way.”

According to Mann, the key to success lies in clear, short decision-making paths and a responsive way of working where everyone, including partners and suppliers, takes responsibility and is fully committed.

“This is exactly our approach to this project,” he said. “Everyone involved has had direct contact with each other. Even the operators have been able to talk directly to those building the network.”

The close cooperation with Epiroc has been crucial to the project, according to the OEM.

“Our development has gone hand-in-hand with that of Epiroc,” Mann said. “They’ve known that we were going to build an LTE network and then developed their teleremote system accordingly.”

Despite the fact Zinkgruvan is still a long way from bringing home the project, both Mann and Dömstedt are proud of what they have achieved. After completing 6,500 remotely drilled meters, they say the drilling is more efficient than ever, while the operators are satisfied and happy. The target is to reach 10,000 m, after which a thorough evaluation of the technology will be carried out.

Dömstedt said: “It’s been fantastic to work on this project. I’ve been working with automation in different ways for four years here in the mine and now have started drilling and see how it has developed – it’s been really fun! Of course, the fact that we’re getting such good feedback from the operators makes it even more exciting.”

*This story is an edited version of an Epiroc Customer Story here 

Aqura Technologies to expand Private 4G LTE network at Roy Hill

Veris Limited’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Aqura Technologies, has been selected to support Roy Hill in the design, install and commissioning of an expansion of its advanced Private 4G LTE network at its Pilbara iron ore mining operations in Western Australia.

The new project builds upon Aqura’s first phase delivery of Roy Hill’s new Private 4G LTE network in May 2021.

The new A$1.8 million ($1.31 million) project value leverages Aqura’s experience with Roy Hill in the first phase installation and commissioning, it said, building on Aqura’s track record in delivering “leading-edge, high performance Private LTE networks underpinning the digital transformation programs of large-scale operational activities in highly remote locations”.

Aqura Technologies CEO, Travis Young, said: “We are very pleased to have our performance, quality and value-driven approach recognised by Roy Hill through the form of this new contract following the highly successful outcomes delivered in our initial engagement earlier this year.

“The installation and successful commissioning of the first phase within such a short timeframe proved critical in the validation work of Roy Hill’s autonomous haulage and broader digitisation programs.

“Our in-house team is looking forward to continuing to extend the reach of the Roy Hill Private LTE network, which will accelerate the realisation of benefits from their Autonomous Haulage Systems and digital transformation initiatives.”

The project will commence with the design phase in November 2021 with scheduled completion to occur by June 2022.

Back in May, Roy Hill said of the AHS project: “Roy Hill’s autonomous haulage project has completed its initial start-up phase and has moved into production testing at the company’s Pilbara mine. A fleet of seven trucks have been converted using the Epiroc/ASI Mining autonomous haulage solution. This interoperable conversion kit has been fitted to both Hitachi EH5000 and CAT 793F trucks enabling load and haul circuits to commence in a segregated autonomous operating zone.

“Having established a stable haul circuit, work is progressing on optimisation and testing across additional mining scenarios. Another core feature of Roy Hill’s innovative AHS program is an open architecture approach, allowing existing and new systems to work together to deliver superior outcomes. We recently commenced testing the dispatching interface between Roy Hill’s existing fleet management system Wenco and ASI Mining’s Mobius traffic management software.”

Nokia extends Industrial portfolio of ‘ruggedised’ devices for improved connectivity

Nokia has announced it is extending its Industrial portfolio of ruggedised devices to allow more enterprises to connect teams and equipment in demanding environments, such as mining, using private wireless networks.

The new 5G SA devices complete the portfolio and include a highly-durable smartphone, fieldrouters and 5G millimetre wave (mmW) hotspot providing even more connectivity options and capabilities for industries around the globe, it said.

“The Nokia Industrial portfolio of ruggedised devices is designed to ensure reliability and continuity of operations in the most arduous and remote environments, whether on an off-shore platform, a busy factory floor or even in the depths of a mine shaft,” the company said. “It maintains reliable team and equipment connectivity for mission-critical communications and operations at ports, mines, manufacturing facilities, logistics companies, government and public safety agencies as well as other entities.”

Nokia Industrial devices are pre-tested for industrial use and pre-integrated with Nokia private wireless solutions. Device Management, running on MX Industrial Edge, simplifies the introduction of new devices and operation processes on a customer’s network, according to the company.

With this range of devices, Nokia is also able to support frequency band combinations often associated with private wireless in 4G and 5G, including bands B31/72/87 as well as band 53. The solution also brings unlicensed capabilities to private wireless, such as the recently launched Nokia MulteFire fieldrouter.

The new range of 5G SA fieldrouters will enable enterprises to connect industrial machinery, sensors and vehicles to private wireless networks, Nokia said. With an anti-vibration design, Nokia fieldrouters are IP67-rated for both indoor and outdoor use. They connect to assets wirelessly, meeting the demands of a range of industrial standards and protocols including PROFINET communications, EtherCAT and Modbus. New 5G mmW devices starting with a hotspot will allow customers to take advantage of new spectrum as it’s released for high data rate industrial applications, the company said.

The Nokia XR20, a 5G SA capable smartphone, is built to withstand extreme temperatures from 55°C to -22°C, 1.8 m drops, one hour under water and more with its military-grade resilience, the company said. Nokia Industrial handheld devices come pre-loaded with key industrial applications including Nokia Team Communications running on MX Industrial Edge and Nokia Group Communications, allowing teams to securely keep in contact using push-to-voice, video and messaging.

The company concluded: “Deploying Nokia Industrial devices within a private wireless network that leverages the high-processing power of the Nokia MX Industrial Edge will enable enterprises to securely monitor and analyse operational data from myriad connected devices and sensors in real time. Customers can unlock new capabilities by downloading Nokia and third-party digitalisation enabler applications from the Nokia DAC catalogue to their devices, while monitoring and management of the devices is conducted over a single device management portal.”

Hiber to leverage Inmarsat satellite connectivity backbone in Hiberbrand IoT products

Hiber, an IoT-as-a-service scaleup, has announced that Inmarsat, a leader in global, mobile satellite communications, will provide the satellite connectivity backbone on which it will continue to build Hiberband, its low-cost, low-power network for Internet of Things (IoT) products.

The agreement pairs Inmarsat’s recently-unveiled ELERA network, the global satellite network for IoT, with Hiber’s IoT-as-a-service ecosystem to provide easy-to-use, low power and cost-effective IoT solutions and services to transport, logistics, agriculture, mining and other industries worldwide, it says.

Hiber will continue using its own proprietary protocols that allow for ultra-low power and low-data consumption levels to connect to Inmarsat’s ELERA network and power its IoT solutions. Additionally, the partnership will enable Hiber to support a range of new industrial IoT applications and provide its customers with reliable, affordable connectivity even in areas without dependable cellular or Wi-Fi network availability, it says.

“Inmarsat ELERA builds on our global leadership in L-band satellite services, providing a reliable, resilient and global narrowband network that is ideally suited to the rapidly evolving world of the IoT,” Mike Carter, President, Inmarsat Enterprise, says. “We are delighted to work with Hiber to provide the IoT connectivity backbone that will support and accelerate their development of proven industrial IoT solutions and services worldwide. Together we will extend the efficiency, sustainability and productivity benefits that IoT can offer to businesses in those areas where terrestrial or cellular connectivity is either unreliable or non-existent.”

Roel Jansen, CEO, Hiber, says: “This strategic partnership with Inmarsat creates the most powerful global network for IoT available and helps Hiber to focus on rural, remote and industrial IoT solutions, which is where the real life-changing innovation will happen. The partnership also gives Hiber immediate access to a global market, helps us accelerate our time to market, supports new industrial IoT solutions and widens access to cost-effective near real-time two-way communication on proven, reliable technology.”

Redline to supply CBRS spectrum and Private LTE solution to Salt Lake City mine

Redline Communications Group Inc is set to provide industrial-grade Citizens Broadband Radio Systems (CBRS) spectrum and Private LTE connectivity solutions for what it says is a leading salt and minerals mine in Salt Lake City, Utah. USA.

The provider of mission-critical data infrastructure for remote and harsh environments is supplying the company with its 150 MHz mid-band CBRS spectrum, enabling the mine to access its Private industrial LTE (iLTE) service and maximise spectral efficiency, it says. Leveraging Redline’s industrial-grade broadband wireless solution, using the CBRS spectrum, the mine can harness the power of superior broadband access, increased network stability and mobility, according to Redline.

“With Salt Lake City being an extremely harsh environment for equipment, the company chose Redline because of its consistent capability to deploy durable products and best-in-class wireless solutions in some of the most challenging working conditions,” Redline says.

Redline’s iLTE is currently deployed at the mine connecting a wide variety of Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) devices, pumps and laptops to support operations. The partnership will eventually expand connectivity services to mining trucks by early 2022.

Reno Moccia, Redline Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, says: “While Wi-Fi coverage is great for some businesses, it has some limitations and is not always the best choice for demanding business and mission-critical applications. The CBRS band combined with Redline’s private iLTE solution overcomes those limitations and provides the mines with two times the capacity and up to four times the range of Wi-Fi.

“With a more reliable, secure and efficient network capability, Redline ensures continuous connectivity for all of their real-time applications and PLC devices.”

MTS, Ericsson deploy Russia’s first commercial 5G-ready private network at Polymetal’s Nezhda

Mobile TeleSystems PJSC, a leading provider of media and digital services, has completed the construction and launch of operations of what it says is Russia’s first commercial 5G-ready Private network at Polymetal International plc’s Nezhdaninskoye gold deposit in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia).

The planned installation of the network, built on the Ericsson Dedicated Networks solution, was announced last year.

Within the project, MTS deployed a wireless network for Yuzhno-Verkhoyansk Mining Company JSC, affiliated with Polymetal. The network supports integrated mining dispatching systems, positioning, remote and automated control of various equipment, including excavators, drilling rigs, measuring devices, monitoring systems for remote equipment and video monitoring.

Within the project a full range of turnkey works and services has been implemented, including site inspection, network architecture design, supply and installation of radio base stations, network core and auxiliary equipment, network testing and commercial launch, MTS says. At the first stage, the network built on Ericsson solutions will operate in the LTE standard with the possibility of smooth and fast upgrade to 5G, according to the company.

The network is built on Ericsson Dedicated Networks solution, which complies with the 3GPP standards and includes a full-fledged carrier-grade network core. It supports 4G and 5G Non-Standalone (NSA) simultaneously and allows dual-mode core capability to support 5G New Radio Standalone (5G NR SA). An enterprise can use all the carrier grade packet network functions for its own mission-critical applications, MTS says.

Georgy Dzhabiev, Director, Digital Solutions, MTS, says: “We are grateful to our partner Polymetal for cooperation that resulted in the creation of the first commercial Private LTE network in Russia for remote monitoring and managing critical processes in difficult geographic and weather conditions. I am sure that the competence and experience of MTS in the implementation of unique network and IT solutions, digitalisation and automation of production processes will help our customers to increase their business efficiency and improve the working conditions.”

Alexander Laguta, Head of Information Technology and Communications department, Yakutsk branch of Polymetal, says: “The system is already showing its effectiveness and is ready to move to next stage of introducing innovative technologies in production. The Private 5G-ready network will significantly increase the speed of transferring large amounts of data and reduce the cost of maintaining the technological network. One of the first projects on the basis of this network will be launch of dispatching systems, remote control of drilling rigs and video monitoring.”

Alexander Romanov, Head of Private Networks, Ericsson Russia, says: “The Private Network is the backbone of critical communications infrastructure and the Industrial Internet of Things, not only in mining, but also in other industries with a high demand for seamless coverage, performance, security and reliability while supporting mission-critical business processes in a new digital reality.”

At the next stages of the project, the implementation of a dispatch radio communication system based on MC-PTT (Mission Critical Push-to-Talk) over LTE network is planned, along with integration with the internal telephone network of the enterprise.

Rajant launches global LTE radio, personnel and asset tracking solution at MINExpo

Rajant Corporation, the provider of Kinetic Mesh® wireless networks, has announced two new products on day one of MINExpo 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The latest enhancements include the addition of a global LTE radtio to its fourth-generation BreadCrumb® Peregrine product line, and the launch of MeshTracer a software-based personnel and asset tracking solution that, Rajant says, can monitor Rajant BreadCrumbs, AeroScout tags and any Wi-Fi device that uses a static MAC address.

The addition of the global LTE radio means that with one 2.4 GHz radio, two 5 GHz radios and LTE, the enhanced Peregrine can provide up to 2.633 Gb/s of aggregated capacity, the company says.

Geoff Smith, EVP of Sales and Marketing for Rajant, says: “Improving the safety and productivity of mining operations is the by-product of Rajant Kinetic Mesh. It is the only industrial wireless network enabling machine-to-machine connectivity and mobility in markets like open-pit and underground mining”

“Adding an LTE client now allows all mining companies that have invested in LTE to leverage that infrastructure while benefiting from the mine-wide mission-critical coverage Kinetic Mesh provides.

He added: “Tracking personnel and assets is mandatory underground, making Rajant’s latest MeshTracer a logical addition to the BreadCrumb portfolio. Adding the ability to track BreadCrumbs both above and below ground allows a mine to observe areas for process improvements. Finally, supporting Wi-Fi devices allows for two-way communication in emergencies.”

Chris Acton, General Manager for Acubis Technologies, the largest Rajant Kinetic Mesh “Premier Partner” in Australasia, said: “We are ecstatic with the performance we have seen in the new Peregrines that we have deployed throughout Australia. Our customers see as much as four times the increase in capacity over the previous generation.

“Rajant provides unique value by maintaining backward compatibility with previous generation BreadCrumbs deployed in the field. This allows sites to upgrade between models knowing that there will be no loss to communications.”

He added: “We also have many customers in Australia who have invested in LTE solutions but are experiencing coverage and data upload issues. These customers are very anxious to deploy the latest LTE-equipped Peregrines. And being able to now track BreadCrumbs as well as personnel above and below ground provides critical new benefits for our customers.’’

Aqura to take on Australia’s 5G LTE underground mining challenge

Aqura Technologies has been awarded a grant from the Australian Government under the 5G Innovation Initiative to, it says, augment the organisation’s own development work to address the challenge of delivering underground 5G LTE.

The grant is an important step to overcome the technical and commercial barriers associated with operating next-generation broadband wireless networks in sub-surface environments, according to Aqura.

Aqura Chief Executive Officer, Travis Young, said the project was founded on extensive customer and industry feedback as critical to enable mining operators to unlock the benefits that surface operators had been enjoying for a number of years.

“With over 50% of mining in Australia being conducted underground and increasing, the industry is still playing catch-up with technology that is being widely utilised to great benefit in surface operations,” he said.

“Our track record and development work, coupled with the 5G Innovation Grant, will enable our team to work to deliver technical architectures and a validated commercial model which will enable and accelerate adoption.”

The 5G Innovation Initiative grant will complement investment already made by Aqura to deliver technical architectures, commercial model development and installation of a live Private 5G LTE network in an operating mine. The project leverages a lot of learnings from a 2017 project where Aqura successfully delivered Private 4G LTE in an underground mine in the Kalgoorlie region of Western Australia, Aqura said.

The focus of the program is to fast-track the enablement of applications and processes that are being adopted in surface operations so underground operators can realise the benefits of enhanced environmental, safety and productivity outcomes that advanced wireless communications can deliver, it added.

Aqura’s Chief Operations Officer, Alan Seery, said underground operators are wanting a kick-start to advance their technology capabilities.

“Many underground mines use processes and technologies that are decades old and operators want to leverage the latest technology, but the technical challenges and the commercial model to acquire can be prohibitive,” he said.

“We’ve learnt a lot through our previous work in underground, and we believe our new LTEaaS (LTE as a service) platform optimised to deliver next-generation private industrial operations networks will support a new commercial approach that will better suit the business models utilised by mining operators.

“And with new advances in radio access, we’re excited to have the opportunity to work with some very motivated partners to develop and make available new architectures which will bridge the underground connectivity gap.”

Many of Aqura’s core team were behind the first Private 4G LTE network in Australian resources, delivered Private 4G LTE underground and supported delivery of one of the first above-ground Private 5G LTE networks in north Queensland earlier this year, it said.

The project has kicked off with Aqura working with a large gold operator to commence scoping. Various partners have indicated support to validate applications, devices and processes around autonomy, condition monitoring, safety systems, data access, PTT communications and IoT sensors.

Speedcast to expand VSAT network at Kinross’ Udinsk open-pit gold project

Speedcast, a communications and IT services provider, says it has received a contract from JSC Chukotka Mining and Geological Company, a Kinross Gold subsidiary, to expand the company’s very small aperture terminal (VSAT) network, supporting the development of the Udinsk Gold open-pit mine to two new license areas in Russia’s Far East.

The Kayenmyvaam and Kavralyanskaya areas are early-stage gold projects that previously depended on satellite phones for connectivity. According to Kinross, the Udinsk prefeasibility study is expected to be completed in the December quarter of 2021, and will focus on an initial three-stage crush heap leach process flow and potential early works related to infrastructure, with the goal of fast-tracking construction. First production at Udinsk is anticipated to occur in 2025.

Speedcast will provide a fully managed wide-area network (WAN) connectivity service for Kinross and has installed dedicated WAN connections over VSAT at each site to establish a corporate virtual private network.

The contract is the second extension received by Speedcast since its original start of service in 2020. Recently, Speedcast doubled bandwidth speeds available at the Udinsk mine.

“Kayenmyvaam and Kavralyanskaya sites required a compact Ku-band VSAT terminal, which needed to be flown in by helicopter due to their extremely remote locations,” James Trevelyan, Senior Vice President of Enterprise and Emerging Markets at Speedcast, said. “Providing this type of critical communications solution at the most challenging and remote sites is our business.”

Epiroc boosts mine network offering with 3D-P acquisition

Epiroc has announced its second acquisition in two weeks, adding 3D-P, a Canada-based company that provides wireless connectivity solutions for surface mining, to its expanding portfolio.

3D-P, based in Calgary, provides reliable wireless connectivity solutions for mining companies within surface mining.

As Epiroc explains, a robust wireless network is crucial to enable mining automation, including teleremote and autonomous operations. 3D-P is active in North America, Chile, Peru and Australia, offering a variety of networking solutions to miners including “hybrid LTE”. It has about 50 employees and had revenues in 2020 of about $12 million, according to Epiroc.

The 3D-P buy follows an announcement on May 28 that Epiroc had agreed to acquire Kinetic Logging Services Pty Ltd, an Australia-based company that provides mining companies with geophysical logging services.

Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, said having reliable, high-quality wireless connectivity is key for mining companies that invest in automation and digitalisation to strengthen safety and productivity.

“We are happy to welcome the excellent team at 3D-P to Epiroc,” she said. “Together we will ensure that our customers succeed on their automation and digitalisation journey.”