Tag Archives: Operator Assist

Autonomous drilling transition sets IAMGOLD’s Essakane up for longer mine life

The roots of IAMGOLD’s automation ambitions at the Côté gold project in Ontario, Canada, can be traced back to remote and auto drilling developments at its 90%-owned Essakane mine in Burkina Faso, which, according to a recent presentation from Zhi Jun Zhu, has resulted in significant operational benefits.

IAMGOLD launched the first automated drill rig in West Africa with assistance from Epiroc back in February at Essakane. This followed a series of automation steps carried out on the company’s fleet of Epiroc PV235 blasthole drills, beginning with the ‘Operator Assist’ phase back in 2016.

Added to the seven PV235 blasthole drills on site are five Sandvik D45KSs. These drills are working in medium-to-hard material of 100-250 Mpa rock where they drill 229 mm and 152 mm diameter holes on 10 m benches. They come with a single pass limit of up to 12.2 m in down-the-hole drilling mode.

The business case for adopting automation at the site, which began operating in 2010 and was expanded in 2013 to reach a mining capacity of 55 Mt/y, was centred around a capex versus opex dynamic – should the company purchase a new rig to increase drilling performance by 15%, or try to increase the use of automation on its existing seven PV235s to hit this goal?

Alongside this, the company wanted to provide its best drillers with the ability to operate multiple rigs simultaneously, enhance operational safety, support continued sustainability, and improve performance and productivity.

Zhu, who worked at Essakane as Technical Services Coordinator for five years prior to his current role as Autonomous Systems Engineer at Côté, explained during the recent GMG-led Autonomous Drills Virtual Forum: “During the start-up of the mine, the required fragmentation size was difficult to achieve because the ore was coming from the soft area where it was highly weathered and fractured. As the mine depth increased, the material got harder. As a result, the blasting fragmentation became harder to achieve. At the same time as the percentage of hard material increased, productivity of the crusher became a concern and bottleneck.”

With the last life of mine study in 2018 showing a required increase in the total material mined to keep up an average gold production rate of 400,000 oz/y – and the requirement to strip hard material from phase four, five, six and seven to reach a new ore zone from 2026 – the company needed to embed a suitable level of blasthole drill automation in advance of another expansion in the mine life.

Prior to 2016, Essakane required two people to operate a PV235 – one to guide the machine to the desired location and another to operate it.

This was neither safe or efficient, Zhu said, adding that hole deviation and sub-optimal fragmentation were also common with this setup.

Breaking down the project key performance indicators after the initial ramp up of remote and autonomous operation, Zhu said the company was looking for:

  • An improved drilling penetration rate of 15%:
    • 23 m/operating hour (propel + setup + drill); and
    • 28 m/drilling hour.
  • Improved drilling productivity from 63% to 75%:
    • Eliminate stoppage delays associated with lunch and shift change;
    • Lean drilling, less propel/tram and setup/positioning time.
  • Increased drilling capacity from 81,714 to 108,800 drilling meters/rig/year.

Having progressed from the ‘Rig Operator Assist’ mode in 2016, which used Epiroc’s Rig Control System, Surface Manager, Auto Level, first generation AutoDrill module, and Hole Navigation; the company has progressed to the ‘Rig Remote Operation’ phase where (Multi) Remote and AutoDrill generation two functions are employed.

This second-generation system represents a “big advance”, Zhu said.

“The system is very smart and could continuously optimise the engagement to deliver the desired result,” he said. “The only manual input required is the ‘aggressiveness’ setting, which balances the bit life with the penetration rate.”

This led to the launch of its first fully automated drill rig on February 8.

While the project is on course to hit all the above-mentioned KPIs, there have been other benefits including an operating hours improvement of 645 hours/year/rig; a 14,835 m/year/rig drilling metres gain; a $356,040/rig incremental annual production benefit; and a net cost saving of $202,794/rig compared with the equivalent rental equipment drilling cost.

All of these add to fewer people being in dangerous areas on the mine site – with all operators in remote operating centres – more consistent operation from a fuels/lubricants and drilling consumables perspective and, of course, less maintenance.

Reflecting on the implementation, Zhu noted several key required inputs for a successful automation implementation program.

“It is a critical requirement to have a reliable network connection between the on-board device and the remote operations office,” he said.

On top of this, the sensors on the machines need to be kept in top shape, meaning maintenance teams should evaluate their health on a regular basis and always keep spare parts available.

And, while fewer people will be needed to oversee drilling in autonomous mode, the skills level of the required personnel will be that much greater.

Some of the next steps at Essakane include improving the bandwidth and latency time for real-time control of multi-automated drills, developing a preventive maintenance system checklist, and carrying out a business case study on upgrading four PV235s to either Teleremote/AutoDrill 2 operation.

Zhu will no doubt bring these learnings and opportunities to the Côté gold development in Canada, which is expected to operate six blasthole drills in fully autonomous mode when ramped up, alongside more than 20 fully automated haul trucks. These will help the mine reach an average production rate of 367,000 oz/y of gold.

Cat improves efficiency and cost per tonne with 7495 mining shovel upgrades

Caterpillar has updated its 7495 and 7495 HF electric rope shovels with the result being an up to 10% increase in operating efficiency.

Drawing from more than a century of rope shovel innovation, the 2021 Cat® 7495 and 7495 HF Electric Rope Shovels (ERS) combine multiple standard feature upgrades to improve machine productivity, while component enhancements, increased frame durability and improved serviceability help reduce cost per tonne of material moved by as much as 15%.

Dan Wyatt, ERS Product Value Stream Manager, said: “Consistently, our customers tell us machine availability and productivity are primary contributors to their operation’s success. From the full adaptive control system for HydraCrowd™ to more innovative technology and data security, the advances made to the 2021 electric rope shovels reflect our commitment to meeting their needs.

“Many of these improvements are compatible with shovels in the field, so customers can realise these gains through upgrades to their existing fleets as well as new machine purchases.”

A new propel gear case for the 7495 and 7495 HF models nearly doubles the life of propel gear cases in some extreme operating conditions, Cat claims. Precise adjustments to gearing geometry and advancements in tooth hardening enhance gear case durability and productivity. The result is lower total cost of ownership of as much as $8/h when the drive system is replaced at one scheduled time.

Additionally, an ecology drain simplifies oil draining and enables kidney-loop flushing, which reduces abrasion-causing contaminants and oil change frequency.

Updates to the 7495 AC electric drive system deliver greater reliability, improved maintenance access, enhanced safety, and expanded high altitude and temperature capabilities, the company says. A liquid-cooled motion regulator cabinet efficiently dissipates heat generated by electrical components and enables operation at -40°C to +50°C and altitudes as high as 5,250 m without derating.

A faster propel transfer switch cuts lag time by 75% to improve productivity, while common motors in multiple applications means fewer parts to stock, improved parts availability and simplified maintenance, Cat says.

A reconfiguration of the crawler carriage allows drive shaft and tumbler replacement from the outboard side without removing the propel transmission. This slashes maintenance time by days while enhancing safety, Cat says. With this design, thrust loads are evenly distributed on large, tapered roller bearings rather than bronze thrust plates, increasing durability to align with 25,000-hour planned rebuilds, even in harsh environments.

Stress from every load passes through the shovel’s swing rack. This is where an enhanced design includes a single-piece rail casting that eliminates vertical segment cracks to increase durability. The rail provides a uniform path for roller movement, preventing rollers from coming loose and creating irregular wear patterns. The upgraded third rail improves access for inspection and retightening, in addition to providing added support to the thrust rail during operation. New swing girder bushings and girder-to-chassis shim designs offer improved access, reducing service time.

“All major rope shovel structures are built with high-strength steel and rugged castings, joined and thermally stress relieved to deliver reliable operation in harsh mining conditions,” Cat says. “Full penetration, profiled and ground welds are made at critical junctures, and MT, UT and X-ray inspections ensure weld quality. Structures are stress-relieved to prevent cracking, and white painted interiors facilitate inspection.”

Both the 7495 and 7495 HF ERS models now offer a full Cat bill of materials, streamlining the parts ordering process and improving parts availability, the company says.

Technology increases efficiency

Both the 7495 and 7495 HF come standard with Product Link Elite™, which transmits critical machine operating data such as utilisation, location and condition via cellular or site internet connection. Added router functionality helps to protect data security. Advanced productivity tools within Product Link Elite enable a cycle segmentation algorithm, and the combined data allows for advanced analysis of productivity, Cat says.

When linked with the available Cat MineStar™ Fleet, real-time machine tracking produces a comprehensive overview of all equipment assets to assist with fleet management and productivity.

Providing real-time feedback to improve loading efficiency, available MineStar Terrain uses guidance technology and an in-cab display to deliver precise dipper position guidance. Optional MineStar Health delivers critical event-based machine condition and operating data, while its advanced diagnostic and analytic tools improve service efficiency, the company says.

The standard Operator Assist – Enhanced Motion Control simplifies machine operation to promote high production while protecting the machine. This system is designed to yield more reliable crowd rope replacement schedules, full design life for hoist ropes, reduced wear on crowd brakes and longer life for hoist gear case components, according to Cat

HydraCrowd

A new adaptive control system (ACS) – a final piece of a multiphase enhancement initiative for HydraCrowd – delivers up to 25% cost savings on the ACS valve, resulting in up to 5% total cost of ownership saving for the entire system, Cat says. Lower initial costs, rebuildable elements and improved accessibility combine to reduce the time required for replacements. The new design also increases reliability without significantly changing the HydraCrowd maintenance schedule, according to Cat.

The new circulation filter employs two smaller, easily accessed filters that do not require roof panel removal for replacement. More affordable than the previous single-filter design, the new configuration also reduces replacement time, Cat says.

A new filter placed at the pump drive transmission improves filtration of the lubrication fluid, helping to extend the life and reliability of the system by reducing contaminants and decreasing wear. The new pump drive transmission filter assists in reducing unplanned maintenance events to decrease downtime.

Cat revamps 6060 hydraulic mining shovel

Caterpillar has launched its next generation 6060 hydraulic mining shovel, which, it says, features multiple design enhancements and new components that advance machine performance, durability, serviceability, and operator comfort.

The new 6060, which replaces the 6060B in the hydraulic mining shovel lineup, features updated engines, optimised hydraulics, heavy-duty structures and undercarriage, Cat electronics and a state-of-the-art cab, according to the company. It is also fully integrated into Caterpillar product support systems for efficient Cat dealer services.

One of these new-generation shovels is set to operate at Anglo American’s in-development Quellaveco mine, in Peru, as part of a fleet that includes autonomous 794 AC trucks.

The 600-t class mining shovel has a bucket payload of about 61 t/pass in both face shovel and backhoe configurations. This makes it an efficient four-pass match with the 231-t payload Cat 793 mining truck and five-pass match with the 291-t payload Cat 794 AC mining truck.

Twin Cat 3512E engines are optimised for high performance, fuel efficient operation and increased durability, according to the company.

For North America, the engines are equipped with a maintenance-free diesel oxidation catalyst emissions control system, do not use diesel exhaust fluid and comply with US EPA Tier 4 Final regulations, Cat says. The updated engine design boosts reliability and extends time between overhauls by 10%.

The combination of this updated engine and optimised hydraulics enables 10-15% percent better fuel efficiency compared with the previous face shovel model, with 3-5% greater efficiency for the backhoe configuration, Cat says. For reduced maintenance, engine oil and filter change intervals are doubled to 1,000 hours.

Structural, undercarriage and slew ring upgrades help maximise uptime and productivity and lower cost per tonne, according to Cat. To boost longevity, the Cat undercarriage features heavy-duty rollers, idlers and tracks, along with a revised track tensioning system. The superstructure frame, face shovel and backhoe attachment structures, meanwhile, have been redesigned to reduce structural repair and extend service life via increased plate thicknesses and geometrical improvements. The slew ring design extends component life with a triple-race roller bearing and sealed internal gearing.

“The 6060 features a new, state-of-the-art cab and operator station with industry-leading visibility provided by the large floor window and expansive windshield and side windows,” Cat said. “Unrestricted lines of sight to the crawler tracks and pit floor aid the operator when repositioning the shovel and when loading trucks.”

A pneumatically cushioned operator seat can be heated and ventilated. It also has integrated joysticks and is multi-adjustable to offer optimal ergonomics.

This cab also includes two additional seats: a full-size seat and laptop desk for a trainer and a fold-up seat for an observer. The three-seat cab design is the first in this size class of shovels, Cat says.

Improved sound suppression on the power module keeps spectator sound levels low, while the sound suppressed cab provides a quiet working environment for the operator, according to the company.

The first of several features within the available Operator Assist suite, Enhanced Motion Control is standard on the shovel. This improves machine controllability and loading efficiency while reducing linkage and cylinder mechanical contact, according to Cat.

The machine’s five-circuit hydraulics design allows simultaneous control over two cylinder motions, two travel motions and swing to boost digging and loading efficiency, the company added.

The next-generation design helps improve service and maintenance efficiency by offering more room inside the service compartment and easy ground-level accessibility to the service station, Cat says.

Integration of Cat hoses in the design allows for local hose sourcing, while improved hose and component organisation further reduces machine downtime.

Sensors located throughout the 6060 monitor operating data, record faults and give audible and visual notifications of issues to the operator. Product Link™ Elite, which is standard for the first time on the 6060, enables data communication for remote machine health monitoring.

The 6060 comes ready to accept Cat MineStar™ Solutions, a suite of mining technologies geared to enhance mine safety, improve efficiency and reduce operating costs.

In addition to the next generation diesel-powered 6060, Caterpillar continues to offer the electrically powered 6060 AC FS (face shovel) for mines optimised for such machines.