Tag Archives: proximity detection

South Africa coal mines continue proximity detection rollout, Booyco Electronics says

South Africa-based proximity detection system (PDS) specialist Booyco Electronics says it is continues to grow its footprint in the domestic coal mining sector as more mines work towards “Level 9” compliance.

According to Booyco Electronics CEO, Anton Lourens, the scale of recent orders from underground collieries and open-cast operations are testament to the company’s leadership in the sector.

“We support an extensive population of our proximity detection equipment on trackless mining machines (TMMs) in coal mines and expect to see enthusiastic take-up of our new-generation Booyco CXS product,” Lourens says. He highlights that the customer base includes not only the Mpumalanga coalfields, but also those in KwaZulu-Natal province – supported by the company’s network of branches including Witbank and Richards Bay.

Regulations currently demand that any electrically-powered TMM in an underground mine must be equipped with a PDS, but many coal operations have a combination of diesel and electric units. He emphasises that the regulatory framework will soon enforce Level 9 requirements – with more advanced collision avoidance capability – for both diesel and electric TMMs.

“We are working closely with many OEMs and mining customers on aligning and testing our respective equipment for Level 9 compliance,” he says. “It should be remembered, however, that the industry still has considerable work to do on the application of PDS technology to surface diesel TMMs, which pose a range of technical challenges.”

An active participant in the mining industry’s Earth Moving Equipment Safety Round Table (EMESRT), Booyco Electronics says it collaborates extensively with stakeholders to support mines’ safety and compliance efforts.

“Coal mines have a key role to play in the testing and application of collision avoidance systems, as the industry upgrades to ever-more effective safety protocols,” Lourens says. “The Booyco CXS consolidates all we have learnt in our 15 years in business, taking that vital step from a warning system to a fully-fledged collision avoidance system.”

He highlighted that the Booyco CXS retains the intrinsically safe technology of previous generations, making it more cost effective and generally easier to manage. “The common alternative to intrinsically safe equipment is for suppliers to add a flameproof enclosure to house the PDS, which tends to be heavy and impractical,” he says.

Another contribution to safety and productivity is the Booyco Electronics Asset Management System (BEAMS) – a central information hub for a mine’s PDS assets. Centralising information from PDS hardware and monitoring devices, BEAMS enhances operations by identifying patterns of unsafe behaviour that can be promptly addressed, according to the company.

Caterpillar and Guardhat collaborate to improve surface mining safety

Caterpillar says it is collaborating with Guardhat to offer its proven safety solutions to surface mining operations through Cat® dealers.

The two companies are also developing a new system, Cat Connected Worker, which will use wearables to provide added protection for people. The new system will also deliver event-based monitoring and mapping to aid analysis and enhancement of the mining environment, Cat says.

Bill Dears, Cat MineStar™ Solutions Marketing Manager, said: “Leveraging Guardhat technology, proven in challenging industrial settings, will speed development of a comprehensive, digital solution sought by mining customers. As a component of Cat MineStar Detect safety capabilities, Connected Worker will provide insight that will enable managers to create safer operations ‒ and to respond quickly if an incident does occur.”

Indranil Roychoudhury, Chief Operating Officer, Guardhat, said: “We are pleased to work with Caterpillar to deliver ‘smart’ technology to enhance miners’ safety. Our safety monitoring and data analysis system is a multi-product, feature-packed intelligent safety and productivity system that integrates cutting-edge wearable technology and advanced proprietary software. It is equipped to detect, alert and help prevent industrial work-related incidents, and it is designed to collect and analyse data to support and improve worker safety and productivity programs.”

When developed, Cat Connected Worker will provide precise location of all workers to the mine monitoring system, and it will allow communication between individuals, teams and sites, according to the company. Data will enable monitoring personnel to understand the environment workers are facing in near real time, which will facilitate decision making.

As part of Cat MineStar, Connected Worker will be supported by Cat dealers worldwide. The same Cat dealers are equipped to supply current Guardhat technology to surface mining operations of all types.

Connected devices in the Guardhat line include hard hats, personnel tags, asset tags and smartphones using Guardhat applications. The system is Wi-Fi and cellular compatible for communications with the Safety Control Center.

More OEMs join the ICMM’s Innovation for Cleaner, Safer Vehicles initiative

The Innovation for Cleaner, Safer Vehicles (ICSV) initiative – a supply chain collaboration between the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) – has made significant progress towards understanding what is needed to transform today’s fleet of mining vehicles into tomorrow’s new generation of cleaner, safer vehicles, members of its CEO Advisory Group announced today at IMARC Online.

The ambitions of the ICSV initiative are to introduce greenhouse gas emission-free surface mining vehicles by 2040, minimise the operational impact of diesel exhaust by 2025 and make vehicle collision avoidance technology available to mining companies by 2025.

Two years on from announcing these ambitions, eight new OEMs have joined the initiative, taking the number of participating OEMs to 19, the ICMM said. This includes 3MTech, Behault, Future Digital communications, MTU, Miller Technologies, Miller Technologies, Nerospec, Newtrax and Torsa, the ICMM confirmed to IM.

ICMM members, representing around 30% of the global metals market with over 650 assets, have undertaken assessments to establish a clearer view of the progress made at site level towards each ICSV ambition. These assessments indicate ICMM members are generally at early stages of maturity in the journey, and show what progress will look like for each ambition, the ICMM said.

“This significant representation of industry can speak with an aligned voice, on aligned objectives with OEMs and third-party technology providers,” it added. “In its first two years, the ICSV initiative has achieved the critical step of sending strong signals to OEMs and third-party technology providers on their requirements, and on what is needed to accelerate development and adoption of technology across the industry.”

The initiative is led by a CEO Advisory Group comprising each leader of BHP, Anglo American, Gold Fields, Caterpillar, Komatsu and Sandvik, several members of which spoke today at IMARC Online about the collaborative model.

Nick Holland, Chief Executive, Gold Fields (and Chair of the CEO Advisory Group), said there was a critical need to advance work on cleaner, safer vehicles in mining, which will have important health and safety benefits and contribute towards the pressing need of decarbonising the mining industry.

“It is recognised that there are measures we can implement now, but other, more impactful, interventions are reliant on technology pathways that are still evolving,” he said. “This will undoubtedly take time, but the industry’s collaboration with OEMs, through the ICMM, is critical as we look for these long-term, sustainable and integrated solutions.”

Mike Henry, Chief Executive, BHP, added: “Safer, cleaner mining equipment is important for our people and the world. No one party can tackle this on their own though. The ICSV initiative brings together equipment manufacturers and ICMM members to accelerate the innovations required to improve equipment safety and reduce emissions. This is a great example of the collaborative industry-level effort that can help bring about the scale and pace of change that is needed.”

Denise Johnson, Group President, Caterpillar, said the OEM was committed to helping customers operate safely and sustainably, with the ICSV initiative helping it collaborate even more closely with the mining industry in these important areas.

“Its progress to date has helped to form a shared understanding of where the industry is on its journey and demonstrates that by working together we can more quickly accelerate the pace of change,” she said of the initiative.

Tom Butler, CEO, ICMM, added: “Partnership and collaboration fuels long-term sustainable development, and is crucial to addressing some of the mining industry’s biggest sustainability challenges. Progress made on the ICSV initiative has been building the widespread confidence needed to accelerate the level of innovation investment required to scale up commercial solutions. The initiative will benefit the entire industry and is open to all OEMs who would like to join.”

ICMM has developed tools to support the industry, OEMs and third-party technology providers to meet the initiative’s ambitions, it said. These tools include an ICSV Knowledge Hub that, the ICMM says, facilitates knowledge sharing of industry innovations, provides technical and practical resources including case studies, standards, regulations and a technology and solutions database.

Additionally, a set of “maturity frameworks” that help to “map, motivate and measure” progress against the ambitions have been published, with the intention to stimulate conversations within companies that drive thinking, decision making and action, it added.

In 2021, ICMM’s company members will focus on integrating the initiative’s goals into their corporate planning processes, allocating internal resources and effectively leveraging external resources such as synergies with other industry initiatives and collaboration between member companies, the ICMM said.

Anglo American commits to Aquila coal development with >A$240 million of contracts

Anglo American has invested more than A$240 million ($175 million) with suppliers for its 70%-owned Aquila metallurgical coal project in Central Queensland, Australia, which, the company says, will be one the world’s most technologically advanced underground mines.

Aquila will extend the life of Anglo American’s existing Capcoal underground operations near Middlemount by six years and continue to use the associated infrastructure at the Capcoal complex as its nearby Grasstree Mine approaches end of life, Anglo says.

Anglo American has awarded nearly A$200 million to six longwall equipment suppliers to deliver a “walk-on, walk-off system” using two complete longwalls, a A$20 million overland conveyor system and more than A$20 million in civil works, it said.

The project, which is scheduled for first longwall production of premium quality hard coking coal in early 2022, includes a A$5 million reverse osmosis water treatment system to increase the use of recycled water and reduce the reliance on fresh water at the mine – a key target in Anglo American’s Sustainable Mining Plan.

Chief Executive Officer of Anglo American’s Metallurgical Coal business, Tyler Mitchelson, said: “Our Aquila project is progressing well, with support from its Queensland-based workforce and contracting partners. More than 90% of our Aquila contracts have been awarded to Queensland-based suppliers, and we currently have around 500 people working on the project in engineering, surface construction and underground development.

“Aquila will be a breakthrough project, designed to set a new standard of safety and performance by leveraging technology and focusing on operational improvements. The mine will showcase our innovation-led approach to sustainable mining, with a remote operating centre on the surface of the mine, proximity detection systems underground to alert machine operators to pedestrians, and the continued digitisation of our operations, using new technologies such as our Australian-first intrinsically safe underground electronic tablets.”

In addition to the aforementioned construction contacts, Anglo American awarded a A$95 million mining development contract to Mackay-based mining company, Mastermyne in 2019.

Inpixon to acquire location-based tech expert Nanotron Technologies

Inpixon has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Nanotron Technologies GmbH, a company with experience delivering proximity awareness and collision avoidance technology in mining.

The $8.7 million transaction is expected to increase Inpixon revenues by over $5 million on an annual basis and to be accretive, it said.

Nanotron, headquartered in Berlin, Germany, has established itself over the past two decades as a leading provider of innovative IoT solutions for real-time location systems (RTLS) and indoor and outdoor positioning solutions using both industry-standard technologies, such as ultra-wideband (UWB), and patented proprietary wireless communication technologies, such as Chirp Spread Spectrum (CSS).

Inpixon believes this acquisition is transformational for the company due to several factors, including, that it will:

  • Strengthen and expand Inpixon’s product portfolio and capabilities for UWB, RTLS, and 2.4 GHz CSS, increasing precision and decreasing latency to locate assets and people in real-time;
  • Expand Inpixon’s intellectual property portfolio, including patents covering its symmetrical double-sided two-way ranging licensed by Decawave;
  • Expand Inpixon’s user base. Nanotron cites that it has more than 500 deployments to date, including several large-scale deployments monitoring tens of thousands of anchors and tags;
  • Deepen Inpixon’s geographic presence in regions outside of North America including Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East;
  • Expands Inpixon’s partner relationships with marquee distribution and technology partners, such as Arrow Electronics, DigiKey and Decawave;
  • Enhance the company’s ability to design proprietary sensor systems, including chips and multifunctional sensor systems for various industries; and
  • Broaden Inpixon’s industry coverage with construction, manufacturing, mining, autonomous vehicles, and livestock, plus expand use cases including live positioning, asset tracking, collision avoidance, man-down and worker safety.

Nadir Ali, CEO of Inpixon, said: “Nanotron’s first-in-class products, patents, and other assets significantly enhance our overall Indoor Intelligence™ platform. Through this acquisition, we are adding one of the foremost engineering teams in the industry – a pioneer in the development of location-based technologies. Through the integration of technologies, we look forward to providing seamless integration across both indoor and outdoor positioning applications.”

Soumya Das, Chief Operating Officer of Inpixon, said: “Nanotron’s Chirp technologies are unique and give Inpixon a formidable offering for tag tracking in the 2.4 GHz ISM band, with accuracy to the one-meter level and up to five hundred meter in range. The 30 cm accuracy offered by UWB is essential to helping our large enterprise and government customers address some particularly tough challenges. Additionally, nanotron’s tag-to-tag communication methodologies can be incorporated into Inpixon’s Workplace Readiness solutions for advanced social distancing and contact tracing capabilities to help businesses reopen safely.

“We intend to leverage nanotron’s established global customer base, as well as their extensive system integrator and reseller relationships, in order to expand our customer reach, as well as to provide significant cross-selling and up-selling opportunities.”

Miners can leverage Booyco PDS for wholesale safety improvements, Lourens says

Centralising information from its proximity detection system (PDS) hardware and monitoring devices, Booyco Electronics says it offers mines a rare opportunity to become both safer and more productive.

According to Anton Lourens, CEO of proximity detection solutions focused Booyco Electronics, a single source of information on the mine’s assets is the key to enhancing operations by identifying patterns of unsafe behaviour.

“Our Booyco Electronics Asset Management System (BEAMS) is essentially a central information hub for the mine’s PDS assets,” Lourens says. “The software suite is a web-based application used on a robust database, linking the PDS hardware products and the monitoring devices.”

This provides a single source of data that can be leveraged for greater insight into relevant aspects of the mining operation – raising the level of safety and productivity in the workplace.

“The real achievement of BEAMS is that it allows the data from our Booyco CWS, Booyco PDS or Booyco CXS to be analysed for patterns which indicate unsafe behaviour,” Lourens says. “Customers can then design an appropriate intervention to prevent any further occurrences.”

This allows a mine to paint a complete picture of the working environment, shedding new light on operational issues previously not visible, Lourens said. Measuring the working environment and interactions in this way means risks and bottlenecks can be actively reduced and managed – boosting productivity as a result. This helps to give mines an in-depth view of the operation and the performance of their related assets.

“We have engineered BEAMS for easy implementation,” Lourens says. “It can be used on web browser platforms, and is designed to be adaptable to the information and infrastructure environment.”

BEAMS can also integrate with the lamp room management systems in underground mines, ensuring legal compliance with lamp room requirements. It helps mines locate its safety equipment, such as lamps, self-contained self-rescuers and gas instrumentation.

“BEAMS can be set up to suit the needs of each user,” Lourens says. “It can generate a standard set of reports, or be customised to specific requirements.”

Barrick continues to adopt new technologies at Kibali gold mine

Barrick Gold says its 45%-owned Kibali gold mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is continuing its technological advances with the introduction of truck and drill training simulators and the integration of systems for personnel safety tracking and ventilation on demand.

The mine, which is owned 45% by AngloGold Ashanti and 10% by SOKIMO, surpassed its 2019 guidance of 750,000 oz in 2019, delivering 814,027 oz in another record year, Barrick said this week.

Barrick President and Chief Executive, Mark Bristow, told a media briefing that Kibali’s continuing stellar performance was a demonstration of how a modern, Tier One gold mine could be developed and operated successfully in what is one of the world’s most remote and infrastructurally under-endowed regions.

He also noted that, in line with Barrick’s policy of employing, training and advancing locals, the mine was managed by a majority Congolese team, supported by a corps of majority Congolese supervisors and personnel.

Kibali is already one of the world’s most highly automated underground gold mines, with the operation’s backbone being Sandvik’s Automine Multi Fleet system, supervised on surface by a single operator. In a world first, it allows a fleet of up to five LHDs to be operated autonomously, 750 m below the surface, within the same 6 m x 6 m production drive while using designated passing bays to maintain traffic flow, the company says. A similar system is used in the production levels to feed the ore passes, according to Barrick.

The company said it had now introduced truck and drill training simulators and integrated systems for personnel safety tracking and ventilation demand control, adding that the simulators will also be used to train operators from Barrick’s Tanzanian mines.

Bristow also said that the company was maintaining a strong focus on energy efficiency at the mine through the development of its grid stabiliser project, scheduled for commissioning in the June quarter of 2020.

He said: “This uses new battery technology to offset the need for running diesel generators as a spinning reserve and ensures we maximise the use of renewable hydro power. The installation of three new elution diesel heaters will also help improve efficiencies and control power costs. It’s worth noting that our clean energy strategy not only achieves cost and efficiency benefits but also once again reduces Kibali’s environmental footprint.”

Bristow said despite the pace of production and the size and complexity of the mine, Kibali was maintaining its solid safety and environmental records, certified by ISO 45001 and ISO 14001 accreditations.

ICMM looks to align mining industry on cleaner, safer vehicles

When the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) launched its Innovation for Cleaner, Safer Vehicles (ICSV) program just over a year ago, some industry participants may not have realised how much progress could be made so quickly by taking a collaborative approach.

The ICMM has proven influential across the mining industry since its foundation in 2002 in areas such as corporate and social governance, environmental responsibility, and stakeholder relations, yet it has rarely, until this point, engaged directly as an industry group with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and service providers.

Close to 12 months after being established, it’s clear to see the program and the council itself has been successful in bridging a divide.

It has been able to corral a significant portion of the mining and mining OEM market players into a major industry discussion on core focus areas set to dominate the sector for the next two decades.

Now 27 of the world’s leading mining companies and 16 of the best-known truck and mining equipment suppliers are collaborating in a non-competitive space “to accelerate the development of a new generation of mining vehicles that will make vehicles cleaner and safer,” the ICMM says.

The ICSV program was created to address three of the most critical safety, health and environment performance issues in the ICMM’s mission towards zero harm and decarbonisation. Achieving this goal would involve the industry introducing and adopting the next generation of equipment to respond to the challenges.

More specifically, the program aims to:

  • Introduce greenhouse gas emission-free surface mining vehicles by 2040;
  • Minimise the operational impact of diesel exhaust by 2025; and
  • Make collision avoidance technology (capable of eliminating vehicle related collisions) available to mining companies by 2025.

In all three, it seeks to address the industry’s innovation challenge of ‘who motivates who’ or the chicken and egg analogy, according to Sarah Bell, Director, Health, Safety and Product Stewardship for the ICMM.

“You can imagine a mining company saying, ‘we can’t adopt technology that doesn’t yet exist’ or an OEM saying, ‘we can’t invest in development because we’re getting mixed market signals’. This is, of course, why this program has been set up in the way it has,” she told IM. “Bringing both the mining company and OEMs together, they have been able to work through these normal innovation challenges and align on defining the direction of travel and critical complexity to be solved for each of the ambitions set.”

High-level participation

The list of companies the ICMM has been able to involve in this program is impressive.

It is being guided by a CEO advisory group of six; three from the mining community – Andrew Mackenzie (CEO, BHP), Mark Cutifani (CEO, Anglo American) and Nick Holland (CEO, Gold Fields) – and three from the mining equipment supply side – Denise Johnson (Group President of Resource Industries at Caterpillar), Max Moriyama (President of the Mining Business Division at Komatsu) and Henrik Ager (President of Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology).

On the mining company front, ICMM membership makes up around 30% of the total metal market share, with some 46% in copper, 27% in gold and 42% in iron ore. Participating OEMs and third-party technology providers, meanwhile, include the three majors above, plus Cummins, Epiroc, Wabtec Corporation (formerly GE), Hexagon Mining, Hitachi Construction Machinery, Liebherr, MacLean Engineering, MTU, Modular Mining Systems, PBE Group, Nerospec, Future Digital Communication and Miller Technology.

Bell says the high-level participation builds the “widespread confidence” needed to accelerate investment in these three key areas”, while the ICMM’s focus on the leadership side of the technology integration equation and change management has proven “absolutely key”.

She clarified: “This collaboration operates under anti-competition and anti-trust rules. Our role is to convene the parties, motivate action and promote solutions.”

The program offers a “safe space for the OEMs and members to work openly in a non-competitive environment”, she added, explaining that the aim is not to come up with “preferred technologies”, but define the “functional and operational pathways required to meet the ambitions set”.

Vehicle interaction (VI)

Some of the ambitions look easier to achieve than others.

For instance, collision avoidance and proximity detection technology has made huge strides in the last decade, with the ICMM arguing its 2025 target is like a “sprint”, compared with the “10,000 m race” that is minimising DPM underground by 2025 and the longer-term aim to introduce GHG-free surface mining vehicles by 2040.

“There are regulations that require implementation of collision avoidance and proximity detection technology by the end of 2020 in South Africa,” Bell said. This will undoubtedly provide a catalyst for further developments to speed up.

The ICSV program is also leveraging the work of the Earth Moving Equipment Safety Round Table (EMESRT) in its development of fundamental functional/performance requirements for operators and technology providers.

These requirements were updated and released by EMESRT in September and are known as ‘PR5A’.

Credit: Hexagon Mining

Bell delved into some detail about these requirements:

“The EMERST requirements are designed around a nine-level system that seeks to eliminate material unwanted scenarios such as – equipment to person, equipment to equipment, equipment to environment and loss of control,” she said.

“The fundamental change with this newly released set of functional requirements by EMESRT is that the mining industry users have defined the functional needs for levels 7-9 (operator awareness, advisory controls, and intervention controls). That stronger level of collaboration hasn’t necessarily been there.”

EMESRT and its guidelines have been given an expanded global platform through the ICMM’s ICSV, with the program, this year, providing the convening environment for users and technology providers to help finalise these updated requirements, according to Bell.

With all of this already in place, one could be forgiven for thinking the majority of the hard work involved with achieving the 2025 goal is done, but the working group focused on VI knows that while OEMs continue to retrofit third-party vehicle collision and avoidance systems to their machines the job is not complete.

“Let’s think about the seatbelt analogy: you don’t give buyers of vehicles a choice as to whether they want a seatbelt in their car; it just comes with the car,” Bell said.

“At the moment, by design, vehicles don’t always have this collision and avoidance systems built in, therefore there is a big opportunity for collaboration between OEMs and third-party technology providers.”

Underground DPM goals

“The DPM working group have recognised that, in the case of the DPM ambition, ‘the future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed’,” Bell said.

“Bringing together the OEMs and the mining companies this year through the ICSV program has enabled the group to explore the variety of existing solutions out there today,” she added.

These existing solutions include higher-tier engines, battery-electric equipment, tethered electric machinery, fuel cell-equipped machines for narrow vein mining and solutions to remove DPMs and other emissions from the environment like Johnson Matthey’s CRT system.

And, there are numerous examples from North America – Newmont Goldcorp at Borden, and Glencore and Vale in Sudbury – South America – Codelco at El Teniente Underground – and Europe – Agnico Eagle Mines at Kittilä (Finland, pictured) – to draw from.

Bell also mentioned some examples from Australia where regulatory changes have seen miners apply existing technology and carry out changes in their work plans and maintenance practices to minimise DPM emissions.

Haulage and loading flexibility, battery charging and mine design have all come under the spotlight since these new generation of ‘green’ machines have emerged, so achieving the 2025 goal the ICSV stated is by no means a foregone conclusion.

“There remains more work to do in achieving diesel-free vehicles underground,” Bell said.

The interested parties are aware of this and the program’s DPM maturity framework is helping miners and OEMs plot a course to reaching the target, she explained.

“The DPM maturity framework promotes existing solutions available today that would enable a mining operation to reduce their DPM emissions to a level that would meet the ambition level (shown as Level 4 – transition to zero),” she said.

These frameworks are useful for starting a “change conversation”, Bell said, explaining that mining companies can assess within their organisations where they currently sit on the five-level chart and discuss internally how to move up the levels to meet their goals.

These same frameworks look beyond minimising “the operational impact” of DPM emissions underground, with Bell explaining that Level 5 of the maturity framework involves “non-DPM emitting vehicles”.

GHG-free surface mining vehicles

Even further in the distance is the longer-term target of introducing greenhouse gas emission-free surface mining vehicles by 2040.

This ambition, more than any other, is less clearly defined in terms of technological solutions across the industry.

While battery-electric solutions look like having the goods to reach DPM-free status underground with expected developments in battery technology and charging, the jury is still out on if they can create a GHG-free large-scale open-pit mining environment.

The world’s largest battery-electric haul truck – eMining’s 63-t payload eDumper (pictured) – may have proven its worth at a Ciments Vigier-owned quarry in Switzerland, but the world’s largest open-pit mines require a solution on another scale altogether.

As Bell said: “There is a lot of work to do to develop batteries at scale for surface fleet that suit the different operating conditions.

“That’s a key point because that lends itself to the fact that we don’t want one solution; we will need multiple solutions. We don’t want to stifle innovation; we want to encourage it.”

ICMM member Anglo American has hinted that hydrogen power could be one solution, and the miner is looking to show this next year with the development of its hydrogen-powered 300-t payload haul truck.

There has also been in the last 18-24 months a mini renaissance of trolley assist projects that, ABB’s Gunnar Hammarström told IM recently, could, in the future, work in tandem with battery-powered solutions to provide a GHG-free solution.

The ability for industry to pilot and validate technology options like this “within the boundaries of anti-competition” is crucial for its later adoption in the industry, Bell said.

She said a key enabler of industry decarbonisation is access to cost competitive clean electricity, which would indicate that regions like South America and the Nordic countries could be of interest in the short and medium term for deploying pilot projects.

It is this goal where the industry R&D spend could potentially ramp up; something the ICMM and the ICSV is aware of.

“For the OEMs and mining companies to effectively minimise capital expenditure, optimise R&D expenditure and reduce the change management required by the industry, there needs to be a careful balance of encouraging innovation of solutions, whilst managing the number of plausible outcomes,” Bell said.

In terms of encouraging the development of these outcomes, carbon pricing mechanisms could provide some positive industry momentum. Vale recently acknowledged that it would apply an internal carbon tax/price of $50/t when analysing its future projects, so one would expect other companies to be factoring in such charges to their future mine developments.

Industry-wide GHG emission caps could also provide a catalyst. In countries such as Chile – where up to 80% of emissions can come from haul trucks, according to ICMM Senior Programme Officer, Verónica Martinez – carbon emission reduction legislation could really have an impact on technology developments.

Forward motion

While 2019 was a year when the three working groups – made up of close to 50 representatives in each work stream – outlined known barriers or opportunities that might either slow down or accelerate technology developments, 2020 will be the year that regional workshops convened to “encourage first adopters and fast followers” to move these three ambitions forward take place, Bell said.

A knowledge hub containing the previously spoken of maturity frameworks (delivered for all three groups) will allow the wider industry outside of the ICMM membership to gain a better understanding of how the miner-OEM-service provider collaboration is working.

Bell said the ICMM already has a number of members testing these group frameworks on an informal self-assessment basis to understand “how they are being received at an asset level and feedback insights to the group in an effort to understand how we may portray an industry representative picture of where we are today”.

Such strategies bode well for achieving these goals into the future and, potentially, changing the dynamic that has existed between end users and suppliers in the mining sector for decades.

Bell said: “The feedback that we got from OEMs is that mining companies had completely different objectives, but they have now greater confidence that we are aligned on the direction of travel towards the ambitions set.”

Strata Worldwide enhances personnel tracking in underground mines

Strata Worldwide has released the StrataConnect™ second-generation miner communicator (MC2) as it looks to improve communication with and tracking of personnel in underground mines and tunnelling sites.

The MC2 device operates on the underground StrataConnect wireless mesh network, formally known as Strata CommTrac.

Strata said: “Designed specifically for the harsh environments in the mining and tunnelling industries, the Strata MC2 provides two-way text communications, real-time personnel location tracking and both critical alerts and response functions for workers.

“Its comprehensive physical redesign and enhancements were geared towards simplifying usability and expanding device functionality.”

Modeled after today’s smartphones, the MC2 has a full, hard-button QWERTY keyboard, a large display screen with multiple character sizes, and an easy-to-navigate operating system, according to Strata.

Its features include one-on-one or group text messaging, the ability to access a full, automatically updating contact list, data storage for up to 500 messages and a rechargeable battery that lasts through multiple shifts. MC2 also provides critical alerts and response capabilities for workers in the event of an emergency, has an audible alarm that ensures miners know when a message has been received and comes equipped with clearly distinguishable emergency messages that allows miners to easily respond with their condition, the company said.

Strata Worldwide ready for another HazardAvert first

Strata Worldwide is building on its Australia-first application of proximity detection on underground shuttle cars in a Queensland coal mine and expects to see the same mine install and commission a vehicle-to-vehicle interaction component within the next 12-18 months.

Strata said earlier this month that, as a proactive safety measure, one of the world’s leading mining companies had been undergoing extensive research on Strata’s HazardAvert® proximity detection technology. The mining client and Strata Worldwide worked together to test and trial the technology in underground coal mining environments, with the miner’s primary goal being to reduce the potential risks to people working in close proximity to mobile equipment.

HazardAvert proximity detection field generators, installed on equipment, form electromagnetic warning and danger zones around the machinery, according to Strata Worldwide. These zones are detected by the HazardAvert Personal Alarm Devices installed on miner cap lamps or worn on the miners’ belt. When the zones are breached, either by a miner entering the zone or by the shuttle car approaching a miner, the system alarms and alerts both parties. To overcome situations where reaction time is limited, the system can be interfaced into the controls of the equipment to automatically slow or stop the machinery, the company added.

Proximity detection has been used on shuttle cars in the US and South Africa for a good few years as regulators in those regions mandated the use of the technology. This Queensland installation is the first approved system to be introduced in an Australia coal production scenario, however.

At the AIMEX 2019 event, Paul Mullins, Global Product Manager for Strata, provided IM with some more detail on this recent project win, which was the culmination of two years of due diligence work at the mine. Over this period, underground shuttle cars were fitted with the proximity detection technology required as they were brought in for overhaul, allowing the mine to keep up with its coal production targets.

The physical installation of the proximity detection system was undertaken at Komatsu’s Rockhampton facility, in Queensland. Komatsu worked with both Strata and representatives from the mine operation to re-design the control system of the shuttle cars to ensure the system effectively integrated with the machine, according to Komatsu.

“In doing so, Komatsu were able to ensure the shuttle car automatically functioned in the manner requested by the mine operation, in the event the proximity detection system alerted the presence of mine personnel,” Komatsu said.

The machine was designed to slow down when miner personnel entered a ‘warning zone’ and stop in the event mine personnel became too close to the shuttle car and entered the ‘stop’ zone.

Komatsu and Strata both worked with the mining operation over the two year period to ensure the relevant hazards were understood and controlled, which has led to incremental improvements being made to the integrated system throughout the trial period.

Strata’s Mullins said the system had been running in sections at the mine since the start of this year, with 40-50 people now equipped with HazardAvert Caplamps. The mine in operation has four production crews, with two of these crews currently using the vehicle-to-personnel proximity system, he said.

By the end of the year, Mullins is expecting all shuttle cars, personnel and continuous miners at the operation to be equipped with the technology. He then expects the mine to move towards vehicle-to-vehicle interaction, which involves adding proximity detection to LHDs at the mine, within the next 12-18 months.

Vehicle-to-vehicle interaction would be a global first in underground coal mining environments.

This is not all for Strata Worldwide, with Mullins saying the company is currently working with other coal mining companies in Queensland on similar proximity detection projects.

Strata Worldwide also used the AIMEX 2019 event to unveil its DigitalBRIDGE Plus+ solution to improve existing leaky feeder systems by “digitising the network and expanding connectivity capacity in the mining and tunnelling industries”.

The solution, produced through an established partnership with Australia-based RFI Technology Solutions, enables mines to upgrade their existing leaky feeder systems to achieve digital high-speed Ethernet capabilities without losing VHF (Very High Frequency) voice communications, according to Strata.