Tag Archives: mining networks

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.”

Rajant Corp furthers Eastern Europe, CIS ambitions with CompTek pact

Rajant Corp, the provider of Kinetic Mesh® wireless networks, is expanding further into Eastern Europe and the CIS with a strategic distribution agreement with Russia’s CompTek.

The Russia-based reseller of network and telecommunication equipment will help support machine-to-machine connectivity and mobility in markets like open-pit mining, underground mining, indoor warehousing, ports, and other industrial markets, Rajant said.

Marcin Kusztal, Sales Director Eastern Europe and CIS for Rajant, said: “Russia has a vast, high tech economy and CompTek is keenly focused on providing their channel partners with value-added solutions within their portfolio to support emerging IIoT networking demands.

“Rajant’s unique ability to hold many connections over multiple frequencies and overcome obstructions in the hardest-to-network areas was missing from CompTek’s offerings. With Rajant, CompTek has what their telecom operators, systems integrators, application developers, and resellers in more than 100 cities in Russia and the CIS have been looking for, creating favourable conditions for its partners’ business development.”

Nikita Ivanov, Comptek’s Head of Sales, added: “We believe Rajant is the most valuable solution for clients in different verticals and markets.

“Industrial wireless networks are needed more than ever. As companies try to digitalise most processes to evolve their overall productivity, Rajant solutions are vital for them. We are happy to be partnered with Rajant.”

Back in August 2019, Rajant announced it was expanding its global presence to include Eastern Europe and the CIS, with its first strategy targeting the mining market in Russia and CIS, and its second approach looking at developed countries (Germany, Switzerland and part of Eastern Europe) where investment in developing advanced technologies was a high priority.

3DP confronts mining-specific challenges with tailiored LTE solution

While LTE provides undeniable benefits to users of all kinds – including a high level of predictability, quality of service and connectivity at longer distances than Wi-Fi style networks – its application in mining creates some specific challenges regarding its use, 3DP reports.

First, LTE has been developed with a bias for consumers to download information from the network (using the downlink) while mining applications typically upload data to the network (using the uplink). So, there is an asymmetry aspect at play with LTE.

This is exacerbated as most industrial LTE User Equipment (UE) is not operating in a MIMO antenna configuration in both downlink and the uplink, 3DP says. As the technology is geared towards downloading from the network to the UE, the UE (alternatively called the LTE modem or CPE) will use both of its antennas to receive the signal, which aids in higher throughput transmission of data. When operating in the uplink mode only, one antenna will transmit to the LTE network. “Another way of explaining it is that with two antennas typically available, both are physically capable of receiving but only one is physically capable of transmitting,” the company says.

This can be problematic in mining as the size of the vehicles can effectively shadow the single transmit antenna on one side of the vehicle from the LTE base station it needs to connect to.

This issue is solved with the Osprey Intelligent Endpoint®, according to 3DP, as the company has designed an intelligent dynamic switch for the transmit function of the endpoint. This RF switch is implemented independently from the LTE modem, providing flexibility in the choice of modem integrated into the Osprey.

The RF switch implementation includes a hysteresis algorithm to prevent flapping between transmit antennas.

“This means that if the switch’s decision to change antenna was based on just connection quality every time the machine moved it would switch antennas, flap, and create a loss in performance,” 3DP says. “The hysteresis algorithm has a configurable threshold so that a switch will not happen unless the performance increase is significant. We’ve also implemented a configurable delay that can be set to match the dynamics of the movement of the environment. The result is an endpoint that is responsive to the mining environment but not at the cost of performance.”

As an example, miners that only have access to public LTE will typically be dealing with network coverage and capacity that was never intended for the purpose of mobile mining applications. In contrast, purpose designed and built private LTE networks should be more performant in relation to these applications, 3DP says.

“The ability to configure the Osprey to adapt to either scenario, or anything in between, means that our customers will get the most out of their network regardless,” the company says.

Challenging the L2/L3 VXLAN solution

The second challenge refers to the fact current mining applications are layer 2; that is, they operate at the MAC level of the network, according to the OSI 7-layer model.

LTE is a layer 3 technology, which uses segmented routing over IP.

To solve this issue a layer 2 fabric needs to be created on top of the layer 3 network. Traditionally there are multiple ways of doing this: GRE, L2TP and IPSEC are all examples of “old school” tunnels very much like a VPN.

“The problem with these options is that they aren’t ‘stateless’ and this creates more complication around how detection of broken tunnels is performed and connection re-establishment time,” 3DP says. “This incurs lost connection time and ultimately dropped packets – which equals poor performance.”

The mining industry looked to L2 technologies that came about from large-scale data server deployments. A tunneling protocol called VXLAN has become the prevalent solution in mining but the solution isn’t cut and dry, according to 3DP.

“VXLAN doesn’t support packet fragmentation and reassembly, and that creates problems for our miners using LTE as the network technology,” 3DP says. “Typical LTE deployments only support a maximum MTU packet size of 1,500 bytes so if a packet from an application operating over the network is larger than that, the packet will be dropped. One somewhat clunky workaround is to manually set applications to send smaller packets or to lower MTU size on a per device basis.”

Tunneling solutions require a back-office appliance that supports the tunnel creation and operates as a concentrator for all connections out in the field, according to 3DP. It needs to know what client devices are operating over the network and, again, this is not a seamless problem to solve with VXLAN. The appliance needs to be constantly updated with the list of operating devices.

“We’ve chosen a different approach, and importantly, one that solves both of these issues natively, without any additional manual effort or per-device configuration of the layer 2 fabric,” the company says.

Comilog enlists help of JRC, Geka Telecom for Moanda 4G/LTE infrastructure

Comilog, a leading manganese miner and part of Eramet Group, has decided to build a Private 4G/LTE network in Moanda, Gabon, as part of an effort to modernise the operation.

JRC (Japan Radio Co Ltd) and Geka Telecom were selected to provide a turnkey solution. JRC will provide the LTE infrastructure for hundreds of subscribers and 4 RF sites, while GEKA Telecom will provide the full services.

Comilog, as part of its modernisation efforts, is investing in a modern and secured LTE infrastructure. This will see field staff equipped with ruggedised tablets and smartphones, with a target to digitalise the various processes to increase efficiency and reduce its use of paper. This is part of an overall project called Comilog 2020 to increase the capacity of the mine and to enhance the operation’s local added value.

JRC LTE infrastructure was chosen for the quality of its offer, JRC said. The proposed LTE infrastructure is designed to meet mission critical environment and performance. GEKA Telecom will provide its expertise for the settings of the network and the installation.

“We are very proud to contribute to the Comilog 2020 project,” Sato Katsuhiko, General Manager of 5G Project at JRC, said. “We are a specialist of wireless communication for mission critical networks. Projects such as Comilog 2020 are crucial for us. We aim to grow our private LTE/5G business significantly in the EMEA region.”

The Moanda mine is currently undergoing an expansion that will see a new mine open up on the Okouma plateau, 13 km to the north of Moanda. This could lead to 7 Mt/y of products being available for sale in 2023, compared with just over 4 Mt/y currently.

JRC, or Japan Radio Co Ltd, is a specialist of wireless infrastructure founded in 1915. Based in Japan and with offices across the world, it has provided complete Private LTE/5G networks since 2015.

GEKA Telecom, founded in 1982, has specialised in telecommunication networks in Africa, the Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe, to facilitate access to communication for all.

Nokia teams up with Speedcast to improve connectivity in remote locations

Communications and IT services provider, Speedcast International Ltd, has signed a long-term agreement with Nokia to deploy its industrial-grade private wireless solutions globally via the Nokia Digital Automation Cloud.

Through this new collaboration, Speedcast is providing remote backhaul, data and voice connectivity to enterprise customers, covering areas up to a radius of 30 km and supporting hundreds of users from a single cell, it said. The network will also support critical, high-bandwidth applications with low latency requirements.

Stephan Litjens, GM Digital Automation at Nokia, said: “Nokia Digital Automation Cloud meets stringent requirements across multiple industries to deliver network coverage, capacity, mobility, reliability, quality of service and security, while connecting a wide variety of devices. By integrating with Speedcast we can significantly improve local connectivity in remote locations.”

Nokia’s 5G-ready Digital Automation Platform provides industrial-grade high-bandwidth private wireless networks – both outdoors and deep indoors – to increase efficiency and productivity for industry verticals, including manufacturing, supply chain, mining, utilities, oil and gas, as well as large enterprise compounds outside of standard cellular connectivity.

Acting as a private wireless network that brings IoT to enterprises, the Nokia private LTE/ 4.9G solution opens up new opportunities such as smart manufacturing, predictive maintenance, remote operations, and machine-to-machine communication, in addition to critical-voice and data solutions. Nokia’s cloud solution provides high reliability and security in any challenging conditions, according to the company. Leveraging the future-proof solution, users can scale up and down according to changing needs, while the solution also provides for flexible business models to suit the enterprise requirements.

Combining the power of the Nokia Digital Automation Cloud with Speedcast core connectivity options – including C-band, Ku-band, Ka-band, MEO and LEO backhaul – will increase the reach of several Speedcast products, including:

  • Speedcast IoT Solutions: with LTE-enabled devices solutions from the Speedcast IoT portfolio, customers can connect to headquarter locations and the internet. The cloud-based Speedcast IoT Center provides lifecycle support of LTE as well as satellite devices and offers customers full deployment and management capabilities of IoT devices on Nokia private LTE networks at scale;
  • Speedcast Speedtalk: the Speedtalk voice app allows users to capture live footage from remote sites and provides instant communications with remote teams. Private LTE/ 4.9G will extend the coverage of remote camp areas further compared with standard Wi-Fi, allowing for better access to Speedtalk via smartphone apps. In addition, private wireless networks will enable superior QoS and high-speed mobility; and
  • IPTV: the Nokia Private LTE solution will also provide higher bandwidth capacity for Speedcast’s IPTV solutions to handheld devices.

Chris Hill, Chief Technology Officer at Speedcast, said: “Nokia Digital Automation Cloud is a plug-and-play platform optimised for low latency and ultra-reliability, which are critical factors for remote communications. Bringing this technology to our customers’ remote sites will enable the use of bandwidth-intensive and low-latency solutions such as CCTV video analytics, drone surveillance, and personnel push to video applications.

“This is a game-changer for customers who need to keep personnel safe and operations running efficiently in hard-to-reach locations such as the energy and mining sectors.”

Matrix to bring Maestro’s Plexus PowerNet to US mining market

Matrix Design Group is to introduce Maestro Digital Mine’s Plexus PowerNet™ networking system to the US market following the signing of a distribution agreement between the two companies.

Plexus PowerNet, the first coaxial-based gigabit network, provides both data and power over a single cable, according to Canada-based Maestro. The system delivers a high-speed, low-latency digital communication network that provides PoE+ power to Access Points, cameras and any other IP-based devices, it says.

The Plexus PowerNet coaxial cable carries both power and network connectivity, eliminating the need to run both fibre and power to new network devices. The system can also extend a fibre-optic-based system from the fibre patch panel at any level as needed. Plexus PowerNet eliminates the need for costly outside fibre-optic contractors and can be installed and maintained by any mine personnel, Maestro says.

Chris Adkins, Sales/Business Development, Matrix Design Group, said: “For a mining application, Maestro gives mines the ability to have high-speed data and power without the technical and time constraints of running a fibre network to the face of the mine. Of course, the maintenance requirements of fibre are complex, but Maestro has reinvented the high-speed data network, allowing delivery of real-time data and power combined into one durable coaxial cable that’s easy to install, maintain and repair.”

The Plexus PowerNet is a backbone network system that can be used in mines with or without a fibre-optic network, Maestro says.

“Supporting existing underground infrastructure, Plexus provides network connectivity to new and existing IIoT devices and automation technologies,” the company said. “It enables the digital mine and connected worker for: autonomous and tele-remote vehicles; telemetry to drills, loaders and support equipment; support for short interval control and connectivity to tablet and smart devices; IoT sensors, such as environmental and seismicity; Voice over IP; augmented reality; asset tracking; PoE+ based IP cameras and PoE+ LED lights for paste fill; and PLC connectivity. Plexus is an enabling technology for the digital mine.”

Michael Gribbons, Co-founder and CEO, Maestro Digital Mine, stated: “The collaboration with Matrix Design Group is an essential part of expanding our reach into the US market with a team that understands the value of our digital network solution and how it aligns with the mines in the area. Bringing digital solutions, such as the Plexus PowerNet, online enables worker safety, increased production and reduced costs; all of which are vital to Maestro and Matrix.”

Nokia’s Jadoul on keeping miners safe amid COVID-19

Workplace safety is a major objective of every mining company on the planet, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time perhaps, the primary danger may simply be getting too close while talking to our fellow team members, Marc Jadoul*, Strategic Marketing Director at Nokia, says.

In the mining industry, we are going to have to adapt our business practices to accommodate the current pandemic, and we have to be better prepared for similar events in the future. The pandemic has led to a re-thinking of certain safety protocols, procedures and personal protection, and it is accelerating the adoption of recent innovations that will improve workplace safety in other ways as well.

As the world has re-opened the economy, organisations such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the US and the World Health Organization (WHO) have published recommendations for how to operate manufacturing and other business operations while still practicing social distancing and other aspects of workplace safety. These include having office employees telework where possible, staggering shifts to reduce the number of workers using lunch, break and washrooms at the same time, increasing physical space between employees in the workplace, wearing masks and even downsizing operations if necessary.

Given COVID-19’s ability to be spread by individuals who do not show symptoms, it is generally acknowledged that tracking contacts will be a key way to identify those who might have been exposed to a sick employee. Knowing the cost to the business of having to shut down a facility due to illness, management will need to work with public health authorities to implement practices that allow for the quick identification of suspected contacts, allow for testing and quarantine of workers in the case of an outbreak in their operation and, in some jurisdictions, be able to show compliance with these practices.

Marc Jadoul, Strategic Marketing Director at Nokia

The technologies needed to do this are not so far away. In fact, they already exist in industries where operating environments have residual risks or require robust control measures in ways that are similar to what will be needed to protect people from contracting the virus. Some of these practices have already been implemented in mines as well as nuclear facilities and high-tech chip fabricators. With some adaptation, it is not hard to see how these technologies can be adapted more broadly to make the mine workplace of the future nearly virus-free.

From a larger safety management perspective, the ultimate goal is to create a real-time, dynamic picture of what is happening with people, assets and environmental conditions at all times – what is known as ‘situational awareness’. It is crucial for conducting forensic analysis to understand the pattern of interactions and identify possible transmission paths so as to limit exposure and trigger remediation protocols, including testing and quarantining. Much of this already exists, but simply needs to be adapted to the current outbreak.

The ultimate objective of situational awareness is having 360° visibility of people, assets, infrastructure and environmental conditions. Because what you don’t see, you can’t manage. Which is important, not only for saving lives, but also for preventing productivity losses and increasing operational efficiency.

This full digital awareness of everything going on in the workplace is the main thrust of Industry 4.0, which brings together several technology streams: low-powered IoT sensors, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, edge computing and next-generation wireless connectivity. These technologies combine to allow for the automation of repetitive processes, improved efficiency of operations, preventative maintenance of assets, quality control and enhanced situational awareness.

Applying these technologies to deal with COVID-19 will help to solve many of the new workplace constraints identified above. For instance, there are types of digital smart personal protective equipment (PPE) that incorporate wearable sensors and communications devices. They communicate with the operations control centre and could be used to trace employee movements, enforce geo-fenced areas deemed too dangerous for entry, or sense environmental contaminants and warn employees who have had excessive exposure to leave the area and follow decontamination protocols.

With some small adjustments, smart PPE and wearables could be deployed in many operations to enforce safe distancing between employees, using software to digitally map out work zones. They could warn employees when they are entering crowded areas or no-go zones. They could improve safety and efficiency during mustering and evacuation. And they could also enable management to forensically track past exposure of employees to those who have tested positive for the virus.

With the ongoing spread of COVID-19, mining companies need to find ways to enforce physical distancing among miners in order to keep operations open and miners safe

If sifting through location data for all the employees in a large mine sounds like a nightmare, this is where AI comes to the rescue. Sophisticated analytics software already exists that can analyse location data to look for correlations. It isn’t much of a stretch to adapt this software to smart PPE data that tracks worker movements in the facility – as long as unions and laws allow for it. This kind of software also exists to analyse video footage from CCTV cameras. All of this analysis can be used to trace infection vectors and to re-assure health authorities that protocols are being enforced on the job site.

One of the important enablers of Industry 4.0 use cases is the existence of highly reliable, secure wireless connectivity. The key to end-to-end awareness of operations is ubiquitous connectivity. Because of privacy concerns, that connectivity should be very secure. To support video and the large amount of data that can be generated within a fully automated facility, it also has to have bandwidth capacity as well as be able to support low latency edge computing. Geo-positioning and geo-fencing services for employees and mobile machines need more precise coordinates than can be provided by GPS – and need to work underground and in-building as well as on surface.

Delivering all these essential capabilities is fortunately available with today’s 4.9G/LTE and tomorrow’s 5G industrial wireless networks. Early generation wireless technologies, such as Wi-Fi, were designed for connectivity to best-effort networks. They are not highly reliable, secure or capable of providing mobility and geo-positioning services. Cellular-based 4G services, on the other hand, have been used in public mobile networks for a decade and have never been compromised. 5G is designed to be even more secure and has a number of features, like ultra-low latency, that are specifically intended for industrial automation use cases.

COVID-19 is likely to be a reality we have to live with for several years. If we are lucky and develop a vaccine quickly, it may be a short-term problem. But the scientists have been warning us about the possibility of pandemics of this nature for decades. This will not be the last. The good news is that the same Industry 4.0 technologies that are transforming our workplaces can be harnessed in this fight. Industrial IoT, edge computing, AI/machine learning and industrial-strength wireless networking will play a key role in ensuring the safety of our workers and our ability to come out of this crisis stronger than before.

*Marc Jadoul leads Nokia’s marketing efforts for the mining industry, working with key stakeholders across the business to evangelise digital technologies for creating safer, more efficient and productive mines

Cat’s autonomous hauling and dozing platform receives wireless signal boost

After a year of extensive testing, Caterpillar says it has completed the validation of a wireless technology that will improve networking capabilities for users of its Cat® MineStar™ Command automation offerings for hauling and dozing.

The wireless technology is provided by Fluidmesh Networks, a leader in wireless networking for operational technology applications involving fast roaming and autonomous vehicles, which only yesterday became the subject of a takeover offer from Cisco.

Cat Command for hauling helps improve productivity, efficiency and profitability while reducing overall costs, according to the mining OEM, while Cat Command for dozing provides line-of-sight and non-line-of-sight solutions to keep operators out of the cab and out of harm’s way.

Cosimo Malesci, Fluidmesh Co-Founder and Executive Vice President of Sales, said: “Fluidmesh’s goal is to help customers achieve higher mine-wide productivity by offering a better wireless transport layer. We are extremely pleased to have been able to achieve this milestone with Caterpillar and extend our solutions to Command customers.”

Fluidmesh employs a multiprotocol label switching based solution over wireless, a routing technique capable of reducing roaming times, packet drops and overall network complexity, according to the company.

Gabe Klyber, IT Communications Consultant for Cat MineStar Solutions, says this translates to higher uptime, higher throughput, and lower latency for Command customers when compared with other solutions. “It will also give our customers more options when it comes to connecting trucks, dozers and other supporting assets,” Klyber said.

The Fluidmesh solution, transmitting at 5 GHz end-to-end, uses artificial intelligence algorithms and dual-polarity antennas to improve transmission in challenging environments, according to Fluidmesh. “This approach adds diversity to the networks supported by Caterpillar for use in Command applications,” Cat says.

Malesci added: “Validating wireless solutions for Command offerings and tele-remote operations takes a massive amount of energy and dedication. We are committed to assisting mining companies with their connectivity needs and are truly excited to be able to offer to Command customers a radical new approach to wireless networking.”

Miners to further leverage mobile tech for real-time data access, survey shows

A new study looking into the use of mobile technologies to optimise and transform workings from remote locations indicates real-time data access is defining the field strategies of mining companies.

The ‘Future of Field Operations’ report from Zebra Technologies Corp, which calls itself “an innovator at the edge of the enterprise with solutions and partners that enable businesses to gain a performance edge”, revealed field service providers in the telecommunications, manufacturing, construction, mining, and agriculture industries globally are expected to increase the use of mobile technologies to optimise and transform workflows in the field.

Picking out mining specifically, 86% of respondents to the survey said real-time data access drives their mobile device usage in the field, with the majority of organisations (82%) now considering themselves “mobile-first” businesses, Zebra said.

Considering this statistic, it was hardly surprising to learn faster wireless networks (4G/5G) were driving mining company investments in new field operations technologies. In the exploration space, these wireless networks will help connect those in the field to cloud-based platforms where they can upload and download data to make real-time decisions on projects around the globe.

Drilling down the mining-specific stats further, it showed a positive correlation between the effective use of mobile devices and productivity, efficiency, worker satisfaction, and equipment availability. “Organisations who have implemented mobile devices have already achieved many benefits with 61% indicating they increased productivity and efficiency, 50% experienced improvements in worker satisfaction and 46% increased equipment availability,” Zebra said.

According to Zebra’s report, predictive mobile usage is expected to more than double over the next five years. Eight out of 10 mining organisations acknowledged that data is evolving, which requires them to look at their business in new ways, Zebra said. This is expected to see the use of “predictive mobile solutions” rise.

When quizzed about adequate resourcing for mobile device use, just 21% of mining organisations said they were assigning the right resource to the right issue at the right time with the use of mobile devices.

This compared favourably with 16% of all organisations across the telecommunications, manufacturing, construction, mining, and agriculture industries that Zebra quizzed. In five years’ time, the mining industry representatives expected this number to reach 46%, according to Zebra.