Tag Archives: PYBAR

PYBAR sets records at Glencore’s Black Rock mine with Sandvik DL432i longhole drill

The introduction of PYBAR’s new Sandvik DL432i longhole drill in October 2020 has led to month-on-month improvements in drilling productivity at the Black Rock copper-lead-zinc mine, in Queensland, Australia.

Versatile and compact, the Sandvik DL432i is a fully mechanised electro-hydraulic top hammer longhole drill, designed for large-scale mining. The Sandvik iSOLO drilling control system allows the client (Glencore in this case) to provide electronic drill plans on a USB, which is plugged straight into the drill. The operator then lines the drill up on the survey markings and selects the required drill design, with the remainder of the drilling taken care of by the iSOLO software.

Since arriving on site, a specialised pump has been installed on the DL432i, allowing AMC (a subsidiary of IMDEX) to add a Bore Hole Stabiliser™ to the water circuit while drilling to improve hole integrity in the soft ground conditions. This technology, combined with Sandvik’s iSOLO drilling control software, has been key to PYBAR’s production success at Black Rock to date, the contractor said.

“The ground conditions at Black Rock have put Sandvik’s iSOLO drilling control system to the test, and the technology has proven itself with flying colours,” PYBAR said. “After several months of on-site refinement of the automated drilling system, the drill can now operate with minimal operator input.”

This has led to month-on-month increases in production drilling rates with a record month in March, closely matched in April, according to PYBAR. This, in turn, has meant a significant increase in available production fronts resulting in increased tonnes and improved overall project performance.

Trials of automated drilling for complete firing patterns will begin shortly at Black Rock to enable drilling to take place during firing and shift change, as well as free up the operator to assist with other tasks around the mine, PYBAR said.

The transition to further automation has the potential to significantly maximise both productive drilling time and overall performance for the project, it added.

PYBAR takes the load off raisebore reamer removal underground

PYBAR, an equipment manufacturer and the team at Carrapateena copper-gold mine in South Australia have developed a safe work methodology to remove large diameter raisebore reamers in an underground environment.

As the contractor says, the removal of raisebore reamers has traditionally been a hazardous, complex, costly and time-consuming process. Because of this, PYBAR saw a need to develop a safe work methodology to remove large diameter reamers in an underground environment.

Working with Carrapateena Mine and an equipment manufacturer, the SL100 Reamer Lifting Gantry system was developed.

The SL100 unit, based on the Enerpac SL100 lift and shift technology, is a track-mounted gantry system with hydraulic lifting units capable of lifting up to 80 t. The unit is operated remotely, removing employees from the shaft area during reamer lifts. When the reamer is lifted out of the shaft, the reamer is trammed away from the open shaft, which is then covered with a hole cover to create a safe working area.

PYBAR’s Raise Bore and Shaft Lining Manager, Phillip Viljoen, said: “PYBAR’s underground raisebore reamer removal system is a safety win for the raisebore industry, and we would be happy to share the methodology with anyone interested in a safer and more efficient way of removing large diameter reamers in an underground environment.”

The PYBAR underground reamer lifting gantry methodology has now been accepted as industry best practice, according to PYBAR, and sets the standard for removing large diameter reamers safely in an underground environment.

Emesent builds mining connections as Hovermap autonomy takes off

Having recently helped DJI’s M300 drone fly autonomously underground (through its Hovermap Autonomy Level 2 (AL2) solution) and signed an agreement with Deswik to provide surveyors and planners with more accurate data from inaccessible areas, Emesent has been on a roll of late. IM put some questions to CEO, Dr Stefan Hrabar, to find out more.

IM: First off, if no communications infrastructure is in place at an underground mine, how do Emesent’s drones stream a 3D map of the environment back to the operator’s tablet?

SH: Hovermap is smartly designed to operate beyond the communication range of the operator. The operator does not always need to see a live map since Hovermap is navigating by itself. The user can place a waypoint beyond the current limits of the map, and beyond line of sight and communication range. Hovermap self-navigates towards the waypoint, avoiding obstacles and building the map as it goes. Once it reaches the waypoint (or if the waypoint is impossible to reach), it automatically returns back to the operator. The map data is stored onboard Hovermap and when it returns back to within Wi-Fi range the new map data is uploaded to the tablet. The operator can then see the new areas that were mapped and place a new waypoint in or beyond that map, sending the drone back out again to explore further.

IM: What results have you so far received from using AL2 for Hovermap at mine sites? Were the results PYBAR got from trials at Dargues and Woodlawn in line with your expectations?

SH: Last year’s trials at Dargues and Woodlawn showcased some great outcomes for the PYBAR team, including the ability for Hovermap to capture valuable data using Autonomy Level 1 (AL1). The team saw great potential in the technology, leading to the purchase of two systems for their use. Earlier this year, AL2 flights were conducted at Dargues during the final pre-release testing phase. Even the first stope at Dargues that was mapped using AL2 highlighted the benefit of the system over traditional CMS (cavity monitoring systems). A large area of overbreak was identified in the Hovermap scan. The same stope had been mapped with a CMS, but this area was not visible from the CMS scan location so the overbreak was not identified.

A number of mines have been using AL2 to map their stopes and other areas beyond line-of-sight. With AL2, they can send Hovermap into places that previously would have been inaccessible, enabling them to obtain critical data in real time without risking the machine or personnel.

The AL2-based stope scans have been more detailed and complete (lack of shadowing) than ever before. A beyond line-of-sight flight down an ore pass was also conducted recently, with Hovermap guiding the drone down 120 m and returning safely to produce a very detailed scan.

The high level of autonomy provided by AL2 also allows remote operation of the drone. We recently completed a trans-continental demo, with a customer in South Africa operating a drone in Australia using our AL2 technology and standard remote collaboration tools. The remote operator in South Africa was able to use their laptop to experiment with the technology from the other side of the world, sending Hovermap exploring down a tunnel.

This is a taste of what’s to come, with drones underground being operated from the surface or from remote operation centres thousands of kilometers away. This will remove the need for skilled personnel on site, and reduce the time spent underground.

IM: What had been holding you back from achieving AL2 with drones/payloads? Is it the on-board computing power needed to that has been the issue?

SH: Flying underground where there is no GPS, the space is tight and there are hazards such as mesh, wires, dripping water and dust is very challenging. We overcame many of these with AL1, which makes it safe and easy for a pilot to operate the drone within line-of-sight (Hovermap provides collision avoidance, position hold and velocity control). AL1 has been deployed for 18 months with many customers around the world, clocking up thousands of hours of use. This helped to improve the robustness and reliability of the core flight capabilities.

Emesent CEO, Dr Stefan Hrabar

AL2 builds on this mission-proved base capability to provide additional features. AL2 allows the system to fly beyond line-of-sight and beyond commination range. This means it’s on its own with no help from the operator and needs to deal with any situation it comes across. There are many edge cases that need to be considered, addressed and thoroughly tested. A significant amount of effort was put into these areas to ensure Hovermap with AL2 is extremely robust in these challenging environments. For example, the drone downwash can kick up dust, blinding the LiDAR sensor. We’ve implemented a way to deal with this, to bring the drone home safely. Other considerations are returning in a safe and efficient way when the battery is running low, or what to do if waypoints cannot be reached.

IM: How do you anticipate your partnership with Deswik impacting the mine planning and survey process? Do you see this reducing the amount of time needed to carry out this work, as well as potentially cutting the costs associated with it? Have you already carried out work at mine sites that has proven these benefits?

SH: Our commitment is to help mining companies increase safety and production while reducing costs and downtime. We do this by providing surveyors and planners with more accurate data from inaccessible areas, allowing them to derive new insights. Our partnership with Deswik means we’re able to provide a more comprehensive end-to-end solution to the industry.

We see this as a very natural partnership that will improve the overall customer experience. Hovermap excels at capturing rich 3D data in all parts of the mine (whether drone based, hand-held, lowered down a shaft on a cable or vehicle mounted). Once the data is captured and converted to 3D, customers need to visualise and interrogate the data to derive insights. This is where Deswik and other mining software vendors come into play. They have powerful software tools for planning, survey, drill and blast, geotechnical mapping and a host of other applications. We’re partnering with these vendors to ensure seamless integration between Hovermap data and their tools. We’re working with them to build automated workflows to import, geo-reference, clean and trim the data, and convert it into formats that are suitable for various tasks.

Surveyors at Evolution Mining’s Mungari operation have been using this new process in Deswik. Previously they needed a third software tool to perform part of the workflow manually before importing to Dewik.CAD. The intermediate steps have been eliminated and others have been automated, reducing the time from more than 30 minutes per scan to five minutes per scan.

IM: Since really starting to catch on in the mining sector in the last five years, drones have gone from carrying out simple open-pit surveys and surveillance to drill and blasting reconciliation platforms to reconnaissance solutions carrying out some of the riskiest tasks in underground mining. In the next decade, how do you see them further evolving? What new tasks could drones carry out to improve safety, cut costs or increase productivity?

SH: Emesent’s vision is to drive forward the development of ‘Sentient Digital Twins’ of industrial sites to future-proof the world’s major industries, from mining to energy and construction. These industries will be able to move to more automated decision-making using high-quality, autonomously collected data across their sites and tapping into thousands of data points to make split-second decisions about potential dangers, opportunities and efficiencies using a centralised decision-making platform.

We see our Hovermap technology being a key enabler for this future. Drones and other autonomous systems will become an integral part of the mine of the future. Drones will be permanently stationed underground and operated remotely, ready for routine data collection flights or to be deployed as needed after an incident.

Hovermap is already addressing some of the biggest challenges in mining — including safety and operational downtime. It improves critical safety to mines, keeping workers away from hazardous environments while providing better data to inform safety related decisions such as the level of ground support needed. This then feeds into better efficiency by helping mines to more accurately calculate risks and opportunities, aid decision making and predict situations.

Hovermap can significantly reduce downtime after an incident. For example, it was used to assess the level of damage in LKAB’s Kiruna mine after a seismic event. More than 30 scans were captured covering 1.2 km of underground drives that were not safe to access due to fall of ground. In another case, one of our customers saved around A$20 million ($14.6 million) after an incident, as they could use Hovermap to quickly capture the data necessary to make a critical decision.

IM: In terms of R&D, what future payload developments are you investing in currently that may have applications in mining?

SH: We’ll keep adapting our Hovermap design to suit new LiDAR improvements as they are released. More importantly, we’ll improve the autonomy capabilities so that even more challenging areas can be mapped with ease. We’re also adding additional sensors such as cameras, as these provide additional insights not visible in the LiDAR data. Our colourisation solution is an add-on module for Hovermap, which uses GoPro video to add colour to the LiDAR scans. This allows the identification of geological and other features.

PYBAR encourages next generation of miners with scholarship program

PYBAR says it has introduced a new scholarship in partnership with the Curtin University Western Australian School of Mines (WASM) to support a full-time student doing a resource-related undergraduate degree.

The PYBAR Scholarship for Engineering Excellence will be offered to an eligible second-year student studying either a Bachelor of Engineering (Mining Engineering) or Bachelor of Science (Mining) delivered at the WASM campus in Kalgoorlie.

The scholarship is worth A$10,000/y ($5,761/y) over a maximum period of three years and will be awarded to a suitable applicant this year, the contract miner said.

The scholarship furthers PYBAR’s commitment to facilitating skills development and training in the mining sector, which has experienced a decline in the number of engineering students or graduates in recent years, it said. PYBAR has sponsored the WASM Graduates Association for the past four years, prior to converting to this new scholarship arrangement.

PYBAR Chief Executive Officer, Brendan Rouse, said: “This new scholarship forms part of our efforts to contribute to the long-term future of the mining industry in Australia.

“We believe we have a responsibility to nurture future generations of mining professionals and we take this very seriously. WASM has a strong reputation for excellence with many of its graduates employed in the Australian mining sector. We would like to give a deserving student a similar opportunity.”

PYBAR has several other skill development initiatives in place, including an active graduate program and annual vacation work opportunities for students at its various sites, it said. The new WASM scholarship enhances and supports these activities.

In 2019, PYBAR established the Australian Institute of Mining (AIM), a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) providing nationally-accredited training to support people and services improvement across the underground mining sector.

PYBAR takes Command of Dargues automation with new Cat R1700 LHDs

PYBAR has taken a step closer to advanced underground automation at the Dargues gold mine in New South Wales, Australia, with the arrival of a second new Cat® R1700 underground LHD at the Diversified Minerals-owned site.

The new loader visited the PYBAR head office in Orange, en-route to the mine site, where it was met by executives and senior management from PYBAR and WesTrac.

The first of two new R1700s purchased for Dargues from WesTrac was commissioned at the mine during August and the company, in November, announced that the underground loaders were undergoing staged testing that will see them move towards improved automation in early 2020.

Dargues is owned by Diversified Minerals, an associated company of PYBAR Mining Services. The mine is expected to have a 355,000 t/y capacity gold processing facility comprising crushing, milling, flotation and filtration circuits and produce a sulphide concentrate for export. This could see Dargues produce an average of 50,000 oz/y of gold in the first six years of production.

The new machines are equipped with Caterpillar’s next generation Command for underground technology, giving them automation capabilities that will allow them to be driven via tele-remote from the surface from early-2020. This will realise significant productivity, efficiency and safety gains, according to PYBAR.

Command is part of the Cat Minestar™ integrated suite of offerings designed specifically for mining, PYBAR said.

PYBAR Chief Technology Officer, Andrew Rouse, said: “With the second loader now on site we will complete the tele-remoting set up in time for stoping early next year.

“Our intention is to be able to tele-remote from the surface from the outset when both loaders go into full operation. It’s a milestone all three teams (Caterpillar, PYBAR and WesTrac) have been working towards and will deliver.”

The new loaders were purchased after trials at the Vivien gold mine in Western Australia during 2017, PYBAR said. These trials delivered impressive results, including quicker bucket loading, faster cycle times, greater payloads and less fuel burn, according to PYBAR.

PYBAR said: “These benefits were further highlighted when the Cat R1700 was tested against the R1700G at Vivien (owned by Ramelius Resources) in June 2018, prompting PYBAR to place the order for the new loaders.”

Rouse added: “We were extremely impressed with performance of the new loader during testing. With the knowledge gained from the activity at Vivien, we were able to carry out a rigorous analysis around the loader combinations required for the Dargues operation with the R1700 proving to be the most cost effective.”

Since the first new loader has been put into operation, PYBAR has been preparing for advanced automation through the use of the traction control and Autodig features on the new machines, it said. The feedback has been very positive with full buckets consistently being achieved, the company added.

“The Command technology enables remote operation from the surface or underground, providing productivity and efficiency gains, improved safety of personnel, more accurate tunnel navigation, and reduced machine damage,” PYBAR said.

Caterpillar’s Commercial Manager for Underground Technology, Randy Schoepke, said PYBAR has long seen the value of being on the “leading edge of technology” as a contractor and an owner miner.

“The new Cat R1700 loader will be a huge complement to their technology portfolio leveraging the most advanced features in the industry,” he said.

“The R1700 features of traction control, live payload, Autodig, and ride control will not only provide operator comfort and productivity but also be leveraged by Caterpillar’s latest generation of Command for Underground, Caterpillar’s remote and autonomous control system.”

Schoepke concluded: “When there is a requirement to remove the operator from the underground environment, the technology allows safety and utilisation to be taken to the next level. We look forward to our continued work with PYBAR on this project.”

WesTrac General Manager of Mining Sales, Jody Scott, said this development was the culmination of more than two years work with PYBAR to “identify and test the technology that will have the most impact and benefits for them and their clients”.

He added: “Extensive testing has enabled us to fully evaluate the challenges posed by the harsh underground environments in which the machines are required to operate. It has also allowed us to set up the machines to get the most out of their automation and tele-remote capabilities.”

PYBAR addressing training needs in underground mining sector

PYBAR says it has gained approval from the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) for its Registered Training Organisation (RTO), the Australian Institute of Mining (AIM).

AIM was established by PYBAR to address the need for quality, nationally recognised training for the underground mining sector.

AIM will facilitate Certificate II and III in Underground Metalliferous Mining programs as well as numerous short courses, providing significant opportunities for employees, and assisting PYBAR in achieving its goal of offering nationally recognised training for its workforce, the company said.

In addition to the RTO approval, AIM has gained approval from the New South Wales Resources Regulator to offer the one-day ‘Learning from disasters’ course which will be rolled out across NSW from January 2020.

The course, developed by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, is designed for mine managers and supervisors, ensuring lessons from past mining disasters are learnt.

As part of the RTO application process, PYBAR conducted a complete review of existing training and assessment packages offered by its Safety, Health, Environment & Training (SHET) team and recommended updates to ensure these packages met the national framework requirements, it said.

In addition, PYBAR consulted with state governments and held discussions with the Tasmanian Government to reduce barriers to traineeships in the underground metalliferous mining sector, according to the company.

As a result, 52 workers from the Henty gold mine, in Tasmania (owned by Diversified Minerals, an associated company of PYBAR Mining Services), are already enrolled in the Certificate III program in Underground Metalliferous Mining.

PYBAR CEO, Brendan Rouse, said: “This approval is a significant step in enabling PYBAR to develop its workforce in line with national standards. It will also ensure that we are able to offer training that is current, relevant, and applicable immediately in the workplace across the full range of roles.”

He added: “The establishment of the Australian Institute of Mining forms part of our commitment to the long-term sustainability of our business, supported by our ability to offer ongoing professional development opportunities for our employees.”

PYBAR SHET Manager, Robert Paterson, said the company’s ability to offer a wide range of training, including the Certificate II and III programs, supported the development of its workforce as well as the regions in which we operate.”

PYBAR to trial autonomous loading at Dargues underground gold mine

PYBAR Mining Services says it is applying new technology to several automation projects it is currently working on, including Diversified Minerals’ Dargues underground gold asset and the Heron Resources-owned Woodlawn zinc-copper operation, both of which are in New South Wales, Australia.

Chief Technology Officer, Andrew Rouse, says the company’s approach has always been to get the basics right using traditional means and then adding technology to enhance its capabilities. “This guiding principle is being applied to several current automation projects,” he said.

New Cat R1700 underground loaders being deployed at the Dargues gold mine are undergoing staged testing that will result in them moving towards improved automation in early 2020, according to PYBAR.

Dargues is owned by Diversified Minerals, an associated company of PYBAR Mining Services. The mine is expected to have a 355,000 t/y capacity gold processing facility comprising crushing, milling, flotation and filtration circuits and produce a sulphide concentrate for export. Dargues is expected to produce an average of 50,000 oz/y of gold in the first six years of production.

Testing of the LHDs has featured the use of Cat’s next generation MXZ technology, which includes traction control and Autodig, where the machine digs the load instead of the operator, PYBAR said. “Both technologies have made an impact with full buckets consistently being achieved,” the company added.

The next step in the process will involve setting up tele-remote operation from the surface in time for stoping in early 2020, according to the contractor.

PYBAR was part of the team at Ramelius Resources’ Vivien gold mine in Western Australia where the first global underground trial of the Cat R1700 loader took place in October 2017. This followed a global launch of the machine at MINExpo 2016.

Another project has seen PYBAR collaborate with Emesent to test automated drones at the Dargues and Woodlawn operations.

LiDAR and SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping) technology is used to track the drones underground and keep them away from obstacles, according to PYBAR, with the trials having delivered some favourable outcomes; among them the swift processing of information gathered by the drones.

“The technology has great potential and PYBAR is investigating how best it can be applied to our business,” it said.

Heron Resources kicks off commissioning at Woodlawn zinc-copper mine

Heron Resources has started commissioning at the Woodlawn zinc-copper-lead project in New South Wales, Australia, paving the way for first production in the March quarter.

The ASX-listed company said the owners and contractor commissioning teams for the combined underground mine and tailing retreatment project were now in place, while the hydraulic tailings retreatment preparations had started with infrastructure energised and water testing underway.

In addition, the process plant commissioning had started with testing of the plant control circuits. Heron noted commissioning of the water treatment plant was well advanced.

Heron said: “The hydraulic mining operation, alongside the underground operations that commenced in September 2018, will provide a second ore source to be processed through the new processing plant.”

The hydraulic mining operation covers the recently arrived hydraulic monitors and the associated high-pressure water, reclaim and slurry transfer pumps, with commissioning activities involving the functional testing of equipment in the circuit (including the commissioning of the trash screen and transfer pumps at the transfer station).

Commissioning is expected to ramp up over a four-to-eight-week period and will include the hydraulic excavation of the main channels in preparation for ore commissioning of the process plant with progression to full production rates, Heron said.

“The EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) contractor has commenced its commissioning activities in the main process plant, with low voltage and control circuit testing underway,” Heron said.

“These activities (dry, wet and ore commissioning) will continue through stages into quarter one, 2019, when first production is expected. As at the end of November, the EPC contractor reported commissioning at 5% complete.”

“In conjunction with the commissioning preparation-related activities that have been occurring over the past few months, the Woodlawn site team have also been progressing production readiness preparation.”

This has led to the first fill consumables orders being placed, in addition to the operation being bulked out with enough personnel for initial commissioning.

Woodlawn is envisaged as a 1.5 Mt/y operation able to produce 40,000 t/y of zinc, 10,000 t/y of copper and 12,000 t/y of lead at steady-state production over a 9.3-year mine life. This is based on a reserve base of 2.8 Mt at 14% ZnEq from underground and 9.5 Mt at 6% ZnEq from reprocessed tailings.

Underground mining, being carried out by contractor Pybar, kicked off in October.

Pybar to move into underground development and production at Aurelia’s Peak Mines ops

Pybar has recently signed a contract with Aurelia Metals to carry out all underground development and production mining activities at Peak Mines near Cobar, New South Wales, Australia.

The mining contractor has been at the operation since October 2017, providing underground development services and then labour hire to support the existing workforce, it said. This followed Aurelia Metals acquiring the operation from Toronto-listed New Gold.

Pybar CEO Brendan Rouse said: “We have a long-standing partnership with mine owner Aurelia having been contracted at its Hera (gold-lead-zinc) project since it started in 2013. We look forward to further strengthening that relationship, and our ties with the local Cobar community, as we expand our presence at Peak.”

The company said it is currently working closely with Aurelia to ensure ongoing employment for the Aurelia workforce at Peak Mines, should personnel choose to transfer. Some 40 additional new positions are also available at the site which Pybar is seeking to fill to achieve the increased production schedule.

The Pybar team at Peak Mines will be ramping up over the next few months with an initial tenure of five years and the potential to extend.

Peak Mines consists of a series of polymetallic high-grade orebodies dominated by gold, copper and zinc. There is a 750,000 t/y processing plant there, which takes ore from two underground mines.

Oz’s Carapateena underground copper-gold project on schedule

Oz Minerals’ Carapateena underground copper-gold project in South Australia remains on track, with total development at 6,285m as of the end of June, the company said.

Contractor Pybar Mining Services achieved record monthly development of 505m during May and, in accordance with Oz’s plan, transitioned over to Downer EDI for underground mining services in June with limited impact.

Carapateena is envisaged as a 4.25 million tonne per annum underground operation costing some A$916 million to build and producing 65,000 tonnes of copper and 67,000 ounces of gold per year over a 20-year mine life.

The deposit, which is shaped like a near vertical pipe and sits under some 500 m of unmineralised rock cover, will be mined using sub-level caving. The deposit will be blasted in 25-m sections with ore collected by loaders before being crushed and loaded onto a conveyer belt to surface.

Oz is now in phase two of construction with commissioning expected by the end of 2019.

In the company’s quarterly production results, it said underground development works, which were at 435m vertical depth at the end of June, would be expanded to include access development for future underground crusher installations in the current three-month period.

The first raisebore hole commenced in the June quarter (see photo) in preparation for installing and commissioning the first ventilation raise in the September quarter.

Site earthworks for the processing plant are now underway, with engineering progress exceeding 70%.