Tag Archives: proximity detection systems

Nerospec and Schmidt Kranz Group combine automation, digitalisation expertise

South Africa’s Nerospec Group and Germany’s Schmidt Kranz Group have joined forces to, they say, implement flexible wireless automation and digitalisation solutions for its mining customers.

The two companies signed a shareholder agreement this month to form the new German entity, Nerospec SK GmbH. Nerospec Group is renowned for its reliable wireless communication and machine control technology (particularly proximity detection to trackless mining machine interface and control solutions) within sub-Saharan Africa. Schmidt Kranz Group, meanwhile, has a wide array of products and services for the mining industry through companies such as GHH, Hazemag, allmineral and Mine Master, and operates in 25 countries.

“Founding Nerospec SK is part of our strategy of expanding our global business and delivering a promising new generation of specialised underground mining technology products,” Michael Bruno, CEO and founder of Nerospec Group (top left), said. “Our objective is to innovate underground wireless connectivity solutions, perfect data acquisition and control systems, enhance edge computing and apply the industry’s best-in-class automation technologies. In so doing, we are advancing the automation of ore extraction processes, specifically within the harsh and unforgiving underground mining environment.”

Nerospec SK offers specialised underground mining technology to an existing global customer base. The technology is OEM-independent and is tailored by Nerospec SK specifically in accordance with individual customer requirements, it said. This way, its solutions can add maximum value to customers worldwide through improved connectivity, timeous decision-making information and automation techniques, for any brand, type and generation of machine.

Mortimer Glinz, CEO and shareholder of Schmidt Kranz Group (top right), said: “Our combined underground mining knowledge providing for the efficient implementation of our digital solutions will hoist productivities to a new level. At reasonable cost, we support our customers with reliable cutting-edge technology keeping their miners safe and at the same time increasing transparency of their operations.”

Mining3 equips miners with tools for proximity detection decision making

Mining3 has launched an online sensor technology capability tool that provides users with, it says, unbiased information on Proximity Detection System (PDS) sensors to assist in their decision-making process.

The PDS Toolkit is part of the Mining3 ACARP funded project titled, ‘PDS Validation Framework – Phase 3’. The interface provides a high-level summary of the six most prevalent PDS sensors available to the market, according to Mining3.

This information has been extracted from the PDS Sensor Capability Assessment document developed by the PDS Project Team comprised of Mining3, the University of Pretoria and The University of Queensland. The document, in its entirety, will also be published and made available to industry shortly, Mining3 said.

Mining3 Chief Operating Officer, Susan Grandone, said: “The purpose of this toolkit is to provide a fundamental understanding of how various sensors operate, both individually and in combination. This, in turn, will aid in a user’s decision-making process by providing unbiased information and data on each sensor.”

As well as providing individual sensor information, the toolkit contains a spider attribute chart that enables users to toggle between the sensors, identifying strengths and weaknesses for a specific application or attribute. A searchable scoring system with the ability to filter is also available in a table format underneath.

Finally, sensor technology usage in the PDS/Collision Avoidance System industry and references used in compiling the assessment document and developing the toolkit are also provided.

Free access to the PDS Toolkit is available to the industry, however users will need to register as a method of accepting the usage disclaimer, Mining3 said.

Click here to access the toolkit.

Wabtec on the evolution of collision awareness systems in mining

In an article arguing proximity detection and collision awareness technology makes for not only a safer, but more productive mine, Craig Hoffmann, Senior Product Manager – Collision Awareness & Geospatial Systems at Wabtec Corp’s Digital Mine division, has revealed that the company is currently working on conducting single and multiple machine testing on a production mine site using its collision awareness system.

In an opinion piece titled, Pioneering collision awareness technology enables safer mining practices, Hoffman went into the history of this technology, as well as the milestones the Wabtec team have achieved.

Mining has always been seen as a risky business, whether undertaken above ground or deep beneath the earth’s surface. But, thanks to a combination of government regulation in South Africa and a concerted industry effort by mining companies and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), further enabled by cutting-edge technology, it’s becoming a lot safer, he writes.

In several respects, South Africa is leading the way in this drive towards the ideal of a mining industry with zero avoidable fatalities. Collision awareness is a crucial component of this quest, contributing to the layers of protection against significant risk associated with vehicle interactions.

A collision awareness system (CAS)* is an integral part of mine safety management tools that helps workers make the right decision at the right time in order to mitigate vehicle interaction risk while helping to increase productivity and improve situational awareness.

The need for a CAS in South Africa was identified as far back as 1995, when the Leon Commission of Inquiry into Safety and Health in the Mining Industry identified haulage and transport accidents as the second largest category of accidents in mines.

The government wasn’t slow to respond. A year later, the Mine Health and Safety Act was enacted, which places the responsibility on employers to ensure mines are safe and workplaces healthy.

At the same time internationally, there was a concerted move towards making interactions between vehicles, vehicles-to-persons and vehicles-to-environment significantly safer. The Earth Moving Equipment Safety Round Table (EMESRT) was established in 2006 by six global mining companies. From the outset, engagement with OEMs was seen as crucial to the success of its efforts.

Since its formation, EMESRT, as part of the Vehicle Interaction Systems Performance Requirements PR-5A, has defined 24 surface vehicle interaction scenarios and established nine levels of vehicle interaction defensive controls, namely: level 1 – site requirements, level 2 – segregation controls, level 3 – operating procedures, level 4 – authority to operate, level 5 – fitness to operate, level 6 – operating compliance, level 7 – operator awareness (proximity awareness – alerts the operator), level 8 – advisory controls (proximity detection – advises the operator) and level 9 – intervention controls (collision avoidance – takes control from the operator). EMESRT has also driven the mining industry development of a standard communications protocol between the proximity detection system (PDS) and OEM machine for the practical implementation of level 9 – intervention controls as part of the standard ISO 21815.

The importance of level 7 – operator awareness and level 9 – intervention controls was highlighted on February 25, 2015 when the South Africa Minister of Mineral Resources signed the Amendment of Chapter 8 of the Mine Health and Safety Act. This legislation makes it necessary to implement a system which provides proximity awareness (level 7) and collision avoidance (level 9), which will automatically apply the brakes to trackless mobile machinery (TMM) without any human intervention at any mine where there is a significant risk of such collisions.

This functionality essentially requires the traditional level 7 PDS to mature to provide full machine interventions of a level 9 collision avoidance system. The final date for implementation is still to be confirmed but the mining industry is targeting late 2020.

The legislation requires that each mining operation conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to determine the risk exposure introduced by TMM. Based on the risk assessment, the mining operation is then able to define a collision management system user requirements specification with regards to CAS required on the TMM fleet.

The need for such measures was underlined when it emerged that fatalities attributable to TMM-related accidents increased nearly 50% from eight in 2016 to 14 in 2017.

Wabtec Digital Mine has been the global provider of a best of breed high integrity level 7 PDS system for the past 14 years and, therefore, was perfectly positioned to take on the journey to progress towards a fully compliant level 9 CAS system. At this level, the PDS automatically applies full intervention controls to the vehicle and takes control from the operator when a dangerous vehicle interaction situation is detected after the operator has failed to respond to the earlier level 7 proximity alerts and level 8 advisory controls.

It is recognised by Wabtec and the mining industry that CAS alone should not be viewed as a ‘silver bullet’ for mitigating the risk of vehicle interactions, as the initial focus should be on maximising the maturity of the more effective mine site defensive controls at levels 1 – 6 and supplemented by PDS/CAS levels 7 – 9 where required. This approach has also been adopted through a new initiative by the International Council on Mining & Minerals (ICMM) as part of the program for ‘Innovation for Cleaner Safer Vehicles’, where the mining industry globally has an ambition at the CEO level to eliminate all fatalities from vehicle interactions in mining by 2025.

The Minerals Council of South Africa is currently coordinating the development and testing of all the CAS suppliers by providing a best practice framework with the aim of fast tracking the industry developments. This work is also being integrated into a new EMESRT initiative to develop a unified, integrated industry PDS testing methodology and validation framework.


The first milestone for the CAS supplier is to conduct independent lab scale testing done by the University of Pretoria (UoP) at the Gerotek testing facility, in South Africa. The UoP uses high precision measuring equipment to test and log the performance of the CAS system as is capable of providing a detailed independent report on the capability of the CAS system. The tests provide invaluable insights into the capability of the system and level of technology readiness.

The second milestone, which the Wabtec Digital Mine Collision Awareness System team conducted on an independent machine OEM site, is single and multiple machine testing. These tests were successfully performed, as real-world scenarios were created and tested against. These tests were conducted in dry and wet conditions and to speeds up to 40 km/h.

The third key milestone that the Wabtec team is currently working towards is to conduct single and multiple machine testing on a production mine site. The range of machines being tested include rigid body haul trucks, articulated dump trucks and a rubber-tyred wheel loader, which represent the typical high risk TMM found working on a mine site.

In order to address the significant challenges in achieving a level 9 – compliant CAS system, Wabtec Digital Mine has developed proprietary software algorithms that are able to interpret and anticipate the complex scenarios presented during normal mining operations. This enables the Wabtec systems to operate seamlessly with the operator.

If Wabtec’s experience has shown anything, it’s that proximity detection and collision awareness technology makes for not only a safer, but a more productive mine, thanks to the wealth of data the systems are able to gather, analyse and feed back to the mine operators we support. We remain committed to delivering a world class, Level 9 CAS system to the global mining community.

* “CAS” has been alternately referred to as collision awareness system or collision avoidance system. Wabtec CAS solutions should be understood as collision awareness systems

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.”

Booyco looks to new technology, Mining Charter requirements with PDS tie-up

Booyco Electronics has teamed up with Mernok Elektronik and Selectronic to bring new generation technology to its proximity detection systems (PDS).

The collaboration with the two firms will speed up development of future technologies, according to Anton Lourens (pictured), Managing Director of Booyco Electronics.

Booyco Electronics claims to have pioneered the use of PDS in South Africa and today has around 5,000 of its PDS units in the field, which have delivered over a million hours of service to date.

Lourens said: “The experience we have gathered in the field with our existing technology has informed the direction of more recent technology, and this collaboration agreement allows quicker development and rollout of technology.”

South Africa-based Mernok Elektronik’s strength lies in its in-house design and engineering capability, according to Founder and Managing Director, Schalk Janse van Rensburg.

“This expertise, which we have been developing for over 10 years, drives our research and development efforts,” he said. “The result is a world-class product range developed for the specific needs of the South African mining sector.”

With an extensive branch footprint developed over the past 13 years, Booyco Electronics will ensure the new generation technology is within reach of customers and is constantly supported, the company said. Booyco’s service facilities are manned by trained field technicians, capable of both installing and supporting this hi-tech equipment, according to the company.

“Our proven levels of field support will ensure that the technology benefits of the latest PDS design are translated into bottom-line and safety benefits for our mining customers,” Lourens said.

The collaboration also recognises the value of greater localisation in the mining supply chain, in line with the requirements of the South Africa Mining Charter. “Together, these two South African companies are able to further enhance their respective contributions to local economic development by promoting the country’s technology advancement and skills growth,” Booyco said.

Lourens highlighted that regulatory compliance has been an important factor in driving the application of PDS in mining. All products are therefore certified in terms of South Africa Department of Mineral Resources requirements.