Tag Archives: Mobilaris

Epiroc makes significant safety stride with RCS Collision Avoidance System interface

Epiroc says it recently launched an offering that aims to support safety in underground mining environments with the RCS based Collision Avoidance System (CAS) interface.

Proximity Detection System (PDS) suppliers, compliant to the ISO 21815-2 Draft (March 2018), are able to interface with Epiroc RCS Materials Handling TMM (Trackless Mobile Machinery) to enable functionality for slowing and stopping, in what the PDS perceives to be a hazardous or unwanted event, Epiroc explains.

The interface allows for third-party systems to communicate with Epiroc’s Rig Control System, RCS, in a completely new way, Epiroc claims. This enables a third-party PDS added to the vehicle, when needed, to take interventional control of the machine and prevent accidents.

The CAS Interface, when coupled with a PDS, helps to detect objects in the collision risk area, evaluate the collision risk level and take interventional actions to avoid the potential collision, the company says. The system works on the understanding that all machines and all personnel in the mine are equipped with tags or sensors.

“A CAS installation is intended to assist with operator perception of potential hazards around the machine and prevention of potential incidents where operators cannot respond in time, however the overall responsibility for safe operation of the machine remains with the operator,” Epiroc said.

Daniel Sandström, Global Product Manager-Minetruck, in Epiroc’s Underground division, said: “With safety first and always in mind, I am proud to see the release of the Collision Avoidance System interface. This improves safety underground in a ground-breaking way.”

The CAS interface, which is now available for the complete Epiroc RCS Loader fleet as well as for Minetruck MT42 and soon thereafter for the Minetruck MT65, has been tested by customers, who have been pleased with the performance and functionality, Epiroc said.

Kumeshan Naidu, Integration Manager M&A, at Epiroc’s Technology and Digital division, said: “The Epiroc RCS CAS interface performed as designed, demonstrating high consistency in the cases where the PDS provided reliable input signals.

“The CAS initiative is not a ‘plug and play’ solution and must be tailored, with the participation of all parties to suite a particular site. Change management and risk mitigation strategies on these sites are key when implementing the system.”

Moving forward, Naidu can see further potential: “Solutions like Mobilaris On-Board can augment a mine’s efforts to ensure safety, as well as create a more ‘natural’ state of awareness that underground TMM operators can respond to. With an interface that is more familiar to the operator, who typically drives commercial vehicles (GPS, Waze, Google Maps), their reflex is to naturally avoid a potential unwanted event from occurring. An operator or pedestrian that is equipped with real-time information about their surroundings, through systems like Mobilaris’ MMI, On-board and Pocket Mine, will be better suited to promote a safe working environment; one in which the CAS slow down and stop functionality is a last resort in preventing collision events.”

Epiroc is part of the ISO standard working group where new standards are being developed. It is also participating in the International Council for Mining and Metals (ICMM) initiative for Vehicle Interaction.

Epiroc intends to change the interface from supporting ISO 21815-2 Draft March 2018 to further supporting the final version of ISO 21815-2 within a year of ISO 21815-2 being released.

Gold Fields keeps modernising Granny Smith with Mobilaris solutions

Gold Fields has implemented both Mobilaris Onboard and Mobilaris Situational Awareness at its Granny Smith underground mine in Western Australia as part of an ongoing modernisation program.

In 2018, Gold Fields launched a five-year modernisation program for the site. The first phase’s ambition is to ensure cost efficiency, productivity and a safe work environment by integrating data-driven solutions into the mine.

Michael Place, Mine Manager at Granny Smith, said Gold Field has three dedicated full-time personnel to work on the modernisation program. It has also employed external consultants and contractors to assist with the integration.

“Together, we integrate an underground LTE system to have full connectivity in the mine,” he said.

Gold Fields’ investment will also have environmental effects over time as its digitalisation allows the company to work more sustainably.

“Moving into a more digital world is going to make sure that we are sustainable long-term,” Place said. “For instance, we can maintain our cost profile during expansion and follow up on our environmental footprint.”

Historically, underground blasting has been one of the biggest time thieves in the Granny Smith Mine, with the operation currently losing four hours of production in a 24-hour period due to the firing. With the ongoing modernisation program, Place looks for the mine to become more efficient than before.

“Integrating technology into the mine allows us to look at options to reduce the inactive time,” he said. “We can increase efficiency through autonomous equipment, remote operations, and digital solutions. The expected outcome is a 5-15% increase in productivity.”

The Granny Smith Mine has close to 4,000 different locations, with over 100 employees underground at the same time. It already runs 1.2 km deep and, like many mines, is under constant development.

Michael Place, Mine Manager at Granny Smith

In 2019, a group from Gold Fields Granny Smith, including General Manager, Andrew Bywater, visited Boliden in Sweden to study the use of the Mobilaris product suite, with focus on Mobilaris Onboard and Mobilaris Situational Awareness in the Kristineberg mine.

Mobilaris Onboard, working as a machine navigator underground, creates traffic awareness and a safe and effective traffic flow, according to the company. Based on real-time data, Mobilaris Situational Awareness enables transparency and awareness. The information makes it possible to control the operations and resources, and people can quickly act upon what is happening and make smart decisions faster, Mobilaris says.

Because Mobilaris data and positions were shared in real time, the operation had seen an increase in safety and efficiency, according to Mobilaris.

This visit has since led to Gold Fields implementing both Mobilaris Onboard and Mobilaris Situational Awareness at its underground operations at Granny Smith.

Place said: “Mobilaris Onboard allows us to navigate to all locations underground quickly and efficiently. It will improve our productivity and decrease inactive time by reducing traffic congestion and finding equipment and machines faster.

“We are a haulage-constrained mine and, by reducing the cycle time of our haulage fleet, we can raise our productivity. It is a significant benefit.”

Strong customer relations allows Mobilaris to develop and test all products in real environments, as well as the possibility to bring companies to customer’s sites to experience the products in use, Mobilaris said.

“Our close relationship with the customer is a crucial success factor for Mobilaris,” Pascal Hansson, Sales Director, Mobilaris Mining & Civil Engineering, said. “All our solutions are tested in Boliden’s and other companies’ underground mines. This gives us the confidence to deliver what we promise to our customers.”

Gold Fields has plans to use Mobilaris Situational Awareness as its number one source of information and integrate it with fleet management, inventory systems, and the daily shift scheduler, according to Mobilaris. The mine’s digital investment is expected to pay off within a year, it added.

Place explained: “The location data will synchronise with daily schedules to ensure real-time data is captured from the time jobs are planned and executed. We are looking at efficiency improvements, but we are currently introducing this technology to maintain our production profile with the increasing depth and costs.”

The Gold Fields modernisation program has full support from top to bottom and is expected to be finished over the next two years, Mobilaris said.

During the research process, Gold Fields discovered that Mobilaris Onboard addresses specific safety issues. By sharing positional data and navigation in 3D, drivers can avoid traffic congestion and find shelter during emergencies.

Place said: “We have installed tablets in all our heavy vehicles. With Onboard’s traffic awareness feature, we can minimise the vehicle-vehicle interaction and the vehicle-personnel interaction. The application also tells us where to find the three nearest refuge chambers to our location. So, if there is an emergency, we can get the quickest path to safety.”

Mobilaris’ new devices to leverage latest communication, machine-learning tools

Intent on “mastering the latest technologies” in its domain, Mobilaris says it will focus on the use of next-generation communication technologies such as 5G and Wi-Fi 6, and artificial intelligence, to build out its new safety solutions in 2021.

Mobilaris says it is building a device using 5G technologies that will be used in a new offering for Mobilaris Industrial Solutions.

By leveraging these new technologies, it will bring Industry 4.0 digital workforce safety to all its customers, it said.

To ensure this new device is “truly world-class in terms of safety, performance and resilience”, Mobilaris has partnered with Sigma Connectivity and Ericsson to leverage their expertise in this domain. It says it is the first company to use the new reference cellular IoT design from Ericsson called Ardesco.

The company said: “5G and cellular IoT are technologies that will open up new possibilities, but they need connection to existing public mobile networks, or private networks. Therefore, Mobilaris has partnered with Telia to bring our new solution to the market.”

Earlier this year, the company joined Telia’s 5G program as a new member and, after that, secured a commercial partnership to bring solutions to the market while at the same time tailor its use of the Telia network to maximise performance and efficiency.

Another key technology for next generation communication solutions is Wi-Fi 6.

Mobilaris has been deploying Wi-Fi-based solutions for many years, with 2021 representing no change to the status quo.

“Many of our customers have Wi-Fi networks, and we are continuing to invest in this technology to secure our capability to meet all customer demands and to innovate, leveraging the new additions coming in Wi-Fi 6, 6E and beyond,” it said.

This is where a partnership with Aruba will bring best-in-class, real-time situational awareness to industry customers around the globe, Mobilaris said.

The use of artificial intelligence is also nothing new for the Sweden and US-based company. It has already deployed its Mobilaris Onboard product in several mines across the globe and, at its core, machine learning is creating “value for our customers” that would not have been possible just a few years ago, it says.

It concluded: “Moving ahead, we are continuing to invest in AI to further accelerate our products and solutions and we expect to announce several new research partnerships here within the near future.”

Maximising mining efficiency and productivity through control room best practice

As mines continue to increase their levels of mechanisation and automation, the importance of control rooms in providing situational awareness, and as the hub of operations management, is proportionally increasing, Tendayi V Mwayi*, Mobilaris MCE Sales and Business Development, Africa, at Epiroc’s Underground Rock Excavation division, says.

Control rooms collect, analyse and relay information necessary to monitor, measure and report performance, and control processes in mining operations. In its most modest form, a control ‘room’ can take the form of a desk in a quiet corner of a planning room equipped with a two-way radio and a desktop computer to record and report information from operations and relay information between operational units.

The more advanced control rooms, a couple of examples of which are showcased below, feature communications infrastructure; people and material tracking and visualisation tools; and planning, scheduling and optimisation systems that would closely rival the capabilities of those employed in the most advanced manufacturing and processing operations, Mwayi says.

In the West Rand Goldfields of South Africa, the 3 km-deep South Deep mine has constructed the South Deep Control Centre to “manage and monitor all operations (at its flagship Twin Shafts complex) from a central point”, Johan Sliep, Head of Technical and Production Intelligence Systems for Gold Fields Group Services, says. This is all tied to “improving the effectiveness and efficiency of operators through informed decision making”, he added. “This is where everything integrates.”

After one-and-a-half-years of construction, the ZAR2.5 million ($144,610) project is nearing completion.

In its final state, the state-of-the art control centre will provide overarching visualisation and control over all operations – including production, plant and logistics – centrally to deliver on South Deep’s strategic positioning as a highly efficient, safe, low cost, fully mechanised, world-class operation, Mwayi says.

The capabilities built into the South Deep control centre include mine planning, production scheduling, fixed plant management, safety management, production monitoring and control, backfill management, breakdown and planned maintenance management, processing and remote operations and analytics.

These systems rely on a fibreoptic backbone down the shaft and a blend of standard Wi-Fi and proprietary wireless mesh for communication of operational data from various sources. Additionally, an expansive network of leaky feeder supports voice communication over two-way radio in all areas of the vast underground mine.

Sliep reflected: “Every technology deployment has a business case associated unless it is a foundational requirement such as (communication) infrastructure, which on its own has a limited business case value.” Or, as Peter Burman, Program Manager – Mine Automation at Boliden Mine, puts it: “A communication infrastructure is nothing you should try to create a business case upon; that is stupid. A communication infrastructure is imperative to survival in today’s automated underground mines. It is like trying to create a business case for the sun or the air; it is simply a thing we need (in order) to survive.”

Tagging and tracking systems enable effective safety management from a central control room through real-time location tracking of personnel and equipment, which is often used to augment legacy clock-in, clock-out systems.

The improved situational awareness from systems such as Mobilaris Mining Intelligence reduces operational delays during normal operations, allows shafts to be cleared faster prior to blasting and reduces the duration of rescue missions when accidents occur by providing vital decision support to control room operators, Mwayi says.

Proximity detection systems together with the vehicle mounted collision avoidance systems, which original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as Epiroc now include as standard features on equipment, warn mine operators and pedestrians of potential person-to-vehicle or vehicle-to-vehicle interactions within a radius of up to 100 m. However, the situational awareness from Mobilaris Mining Intelligence extends the range of traffic awareness for control room operators, mine operators and pedestrians alike, providing the exact identity, location and direction of travel of people and vehicles in the entire mine, according to the company. This is achieved through the high-precision positioning and decision-support capabilities of Mobilaris Situational Awareness, Mobilaris Onboard and Mobilaris Pocket Mine, Mwayi said.

When quizzed about what is on his wish list for the South Deep Control Centre, Sliep suggests that “full operational control and management of operations” would be the ideal end goal for the mine.

What would that look like exactly and how could it be achieved?

Hans Wahlquist, VP Business Development & Strategic Product Management for Mobilaris MCE, explains: “Mobilaris Mining Intelligence is on the verge of launching a solution that would unlock the next level of control room capabilities in its innovative Mobilaris Event Automation platform which gives additional functionality to its already impressive Mobilaris Mining Intelligence product family.”

Wahlquist describes Mobilaris Event Automation as a tool to enable mine engineers to make full use of the information that comes from: location data of machines, equipment, materials and personnel; the status of work tasks in the shift plan; sensory data from various monitoring systems; machine data from a mixed fleet; and much more, by enabling engineers to create tailored automated actions themselves.

“With this feature, we give mines the power to take mine control to the next level,” Wahlquist says.

Event Automation, which is already deployed at Mobilaris’ first customers for the platform, would allow automated actions to be triggered when a defined set of causal events occur, for example, the switching on of a ventilation fan when threshold limits of carbon dioxide gas are detected, or the dispatch of a work order to a loader operator when a bolting activity is reported as completed.

“The beauty of the platform lies in the ability of mining personnel to ‘create’ the commands defining the cause and effect actions themselves,” Mwayi said.

Mwayi concluded: “Clearly, from the cases above, mining companies and OEMs that have embraced digital technology and evolved their operations; up-skilled, cross-skilled and re-organised their workforce enabling the use of technology that will inevitably be common place across all mines in the next three to five years, are achieving operational excellence in this industry 4.0 age.”

*This is an edited version of an article from Tendayi V Mwayi

Mobilaris Onboard easing the traffic flow at underground mines

One of the features of the new Mobilaris Onboard™ real-time situational awareness technology can, according to Hans Wahlquist, VP Business Development & Strategic Product Management for Mobilaris Mining & Civil Engineering, solve the majority of an underground mine’s traffic congestion issues without the need for any additional infrastructure.

As Wahlquist says, traffic congestion is one of the biggest time thieves in a modern underground mine.

“Even as there are bays to park in and let someone pass by, it is difficult to know if there is anyone coming my way,” he says. “Additionally, if I do know about an incoming machine or vehicle, it is still a possibility that the parking spot I am planning to use is already occupied by another vehicle. Simply put, using the radio to avoid traffic congestions is not a perfect solution.”

A traditional approach to solve this is the creation of an advanced traffic management solution where traffic lights would be controlled in order to manage the traffic. Solutions like this are expensive to build and deploy, according to Wahlquist.

“Luckily, these problems can now easily be mitigated with the advent of a new revolutionary product called Mobilaris Onboard using the patent pending Mobilaris Hybrid Positioning™ technology,” he said.

“With the advent of Mobilaris Onboard mounted inside a vehicle, you will get a virtual ‘radar’ that warns you about any vehicles coming your way. As the Mobilaris Onboard knows about all assets in the mine and who is moving and in what direction, together with its own location and direction with an accuracy of 5-10 m, we can create an early warning before a potential traffic situation,” he said. “This enables you to sort out the situation before it will turn into a problem.”

This new feature is called Traffic Awareness.

“We are confident that Traffic Awareness will solve the majority of your traffic congestion issues without any additional infrastructures for high precision positioning or traffic management solutions,” Wahlquist says. “The theory is simple but powerful, if two vehicles meet and both drivers see each other, they will directly know who should give way to whom.”

Investigations have shown traffic slowdown in ramps and other areas with dense traffic are one of the biggest contributors to lost productivity.

Wahlquist explained: “From a recent study at a Canadian mine, a truck round trip from stope to rock breaker averaged 20 minute; as small as 10 minutes, and as large as 50 minutes. The large variation in ramp time could be attributed to, in part, congestion on the ramp and/or rock breaker. By reducing the longest round trip from 50 minutes to, say, 35 minutes (but not changing the average), an extra three to four trips could be possible per shift. This would be facilitated by Onboard to keep ramps and haulage ways clear for priority truck traffic. Queuing time at the rock breaker could also be reduced as truck travel time becomes more repeatable.”

In addition to the productivity gains that Traffic Awareness enables, the effects on safety are huge, according to Wahlquist. “Traffic Awareness is not the same thing as a Collision Awareness system (CAS). Instead it gives drivers the needed awareness and a very early warning that something is coming their way. It will not replace CAS or Proximity Detection Systems but instead work as a very important complementary ‘long range’ system.”

Epiroc helps Barrick Gold’s Hemlo mine go deeper with automation and teleremote control

An autonomous and teleremote solution from Epiroc has allowed Barrick Gold’s team at Hemlo in Ontario, Canada, to enhance safety, and reduce ventilation and climate control requirements, even as the underground mine goes deeper.

These innovations are the most recent addition to an automation programme at Barrick’s Hemlo open stope mine. The programme began with an autonomous truck circuit in 2007 and is now accelerating with a five-year plan following a year-long search for a solution offering the lowest cost, quickest implementation and solid product support, according to Epiroc.

Hemlo has produced more than 21 Moz of gold, and has been operating continuously for more than 30 years. It produced 196,000 oz last year and is expected to produce 200,000-220,000 oz this year.

The complex is made up of an open pit and underground mine, with the latter expected to operate until 2021 at an average production rate of approximately 3,600 t/d, according to the latest mine technical report.

Patrick Marshall, Manager Automation Projects for Barrick, said the company studied all available technology before settling on Epiroc’s solution.

“We had conferences with manufacturers and visited their facilities. We toured operations where their equipment was at work,” he said.

“We believe the Epiroc package featured the product support we wanted, had the best integration capability for our multivendor operation, had the right pricing model and, in general, was the best fit for our needs.”

Barrick preferred to use Cisco for wireless infrastructure, with Marshall explaining the Epiroc system was “easily adaptable for use with third-party wireless systems”.

For Hemlo, which is now being mined from around 1.4 km below surface, safety is the greatest benefit of the automation-ready Epiroc Scooptram ST14. Combining autonomous tramming with teleremote operation also increases productivity, according to Epiroc.

Hemlo Mine Superintendent Jon Laird said: “Automation and teleremote control get workers away from the operating environment to an office on the surface ‒ the ultimate in safe operation. And, since it continuously mucks from stopes at a steady rate even through shift changes, it eliminates having to move operators to it every shift.”

Laird said the 14 t-capacity Epiroc Scooptram is “so efficient it threatens to outpace crushing operations at the ore pass”.

One solution to this ‘overproduction’ being discussed is creating additional ore passes to give one crushing operation time to clear ore between dumps. The Scooptram loader can easily learn multiple routes and alternate between them.

“Other systems Hemlo looked at took up to a full shift for the route-learning process,” Epiroc said.

The automation zone is marked with a laseractuated barrier at Hemlo. Crossing this light curtain will trip a shutdown of the level and alarm those on surface. An electronic ‘key’ from a safety box near the light curtain is required before a unit can enter the zone.

Operator Wayne Locht said: “It (the key) connects the rig to the automation area so that the safety system knows that the rig is in the area.”

Equipment at Hemlo is tagged to display its location in the mine with Mobilaris real-time tracking software. The same Mobilaris technology is planned for miners’ hard hats by the end of 2018.

Once in the zone, Locht radios the operator waiting at the control room operator station on the surface, 1.4 km above the mine. The rig can now be operated from this vantage point.

Certiq, the telematics system installed on the Scooptram, will be important for tracking, documenting and analysing operational data to learn how much Barrick gains from its investment in automation, according to Epiroc.

Mucking is not yet an automated feature, so this task is carried out by Locht remotely once back on surface.

“Until the rig is refueled, after approximately 16 hours, no human being will visit the rig or enter the automation zone. Teleremote operators will monitor its routine, taking control only during loading and dumping operations,” Epiroc said.

Barrick’s next step is finishing the wireless infrastructure throughout the Hemlo mine, expanding the automation zones, and getting more loaders. A single operator will run more than one machine from a control station, and the mine will have more than one station. Operators at any station will be able to control any of the automated Scooptram loaders, anywhere in the mine.

Marshall said: “Today, we’re connected. Tomorrow we’ll have optimised fleet management. In the near future, we’ll achieve our ultimate goal – fully autonomous mining underground executed by our operators from the surface.”

Epiroc names five keys to success of this operation:

  • “Mobilaris real-time location tracking: Mine-wide use of Mobilaris Mining Intelligence not only gives Hemlo real-time equipment tracking, but the precise location of each person underground – a vital advantage in case of an emergency;
  • “Designed with operators in mind: Operators report high satisfaction with the ergonomics, power, comfort and features of the Scooptram ST14 loader. Transitioning to teleremote and autonomous operation is quick and easy to learn;
  • “Capacity and speed boost productivity: The Scooptram ST14 loader with 14 t bucket capacity gives fast, fully loaded tramming speeds rated up to 29.5 km/h on level ground and up to 4.8 km/h up a 25% grade;
  • “Safer, more comfortable environment: Automated LHD operation reduces ventilation and climate control requirements for deep mining operations and moves operators to a safer, more comfortable environment than is possible with line-of-sight radio remote control;
  • “Multi-use Wi-Fi: Wireless infrastructure for autonomous operation also enables live access to performance data and provides minewide network access for location tracking and communication capabilities like mid-interval reporting.”