Tag Archives: Queensland Mining Awards

Anglo American’s longwall automation milestone recognised in awards ceremony

Anglo American’s innovation-led approach to sustainable mining, FutureSmart Mining™, and a willingness to collaborate with industry parties, has enabled it to achieve a major milestone in longwall operation: 100% machine automation.

This work was recently recognised at the Queensland Mining Awards where team members received the METS Ignited Collaboration Award.

Billed as delivering a significant step change in the safety and efficiency of underground mining, the ability to remove people from hazardous situations at the face and, instead, relocate them to a purpose-built Remote Operations Centre (ROC), has enabled the company to deliver a breakthrough in performance being recognised across the underground coal mining industry.

Anglo American says the development of industry-first systems and technology for this project were completed through working collaboratively with partners including Restech, Aurecon, Komatsu, Eickhoff, Marco and GTick systems.

The miner achieved its first longwall shear fully controlled from surface in late 2018 at its Grosvenor mine in Queensland, Australia, with this milestone achieved on its Komatsu Mining longwall equipment.

Yet, it was the Moranbah North mine that became the first of the company’s three operating longwalls to achieve the 100% automation mark (pictured above).

This mine uses SL 900 shearers from Eickhoff, with a team of operational and engineering experts monitoring the longwall mining process from start to finish. These operators, located in the ROC above-ground, are able to analyse the data and drive safer operations, better decisions and achieve mining excellence, the company says.

Head of Transformation for Anglo American’s Steelmaking Coal business in Australia, Dan Reynolds, said Moranbah North has now become Australia’s most capable remotely-operated underground steelmaking coal mine, with the company’s other mines – Grosvenor and the recently-commissioned Aquila – following close behind.

“All three underground mines are now fully remote-capable, allowing operators to work from state-of-the-art ROCs on the surface of the mine,” he said.

Aquila, Anglo American’s most recently commissioned mine, is also remote-capable, allowing workers to work from a Remote Operations Centre above ground

Step change

The key drivers behind automating longwall operations were to improve safety by reducing personnel exposure to underground hazards; reduce operational variability, to deliver more stable operations and improve efficiency; and improve sustainability of operations, through ensuring automation resilience in various operating conditions.

Much of the technology required to achieve these improvements did not yet exist when Anglo American was considering such a move, and previous industry attempts at achieving sustainable autonomous and remote operations had fallen down, Anglo American said, due to:

  • Enablers not being defined to the level required;
  • Key operational systems being unavailable;
  • OEM operating logic not providing the required operational solutions;
  • The technology enablers not being available; and/or
  • The workforce not being suitably prepared.

Anglo American saw collaboration as a key tool able to overcome these issues, recognising that significant leaps forward in technology were required, including the development of various automation-enabling applications.

“Working with operational teams, the Underground Technology and Automation team developed a leading practice target operating model for integrated remote operations and automation and technology enablers after extensive workforce collaboration,” Reynolds said.

Anglo American says its Steelmaking Coal business has delivered a breakthrough performance in the development and implementation of autonomous longwall technology and remote operations for the underground coal mining industry

“It was identified early in the project that a step change in the supply of systems and technology would be required to achieve project goals. This was reached through working with the OEM and third-party technology providers, which ensured the technology and the software systems provided the solutions that met our mining requirements.”

This work required the team to work collaboratively across its underground operations and corporate partners to develop a series of industry-first safety and production systems that were required to “unlock” autonomous longwall operations, the company said.

The list of innovative, industry-leading processes and systems that the partners have developed, include:

  • A longwall remote operations framework
  • Autonomous shearer:
    • Auto duck – system solution
    • Auto gate road entry – system solution
    • Anglo Seam Steering – system/technology solution
  • Integrated remote powered roof support (PRS) control:
    • Integrated face controller – system/technology solution
    • Remote strata control – system solution
    • Enhanced logic solutions – system solutions
  • A Remote Operating Centre longwall system manager:
    • Integrated central interface solution for longwall remote management comprising:
      • Auto gate road entry
      • Anglo Seam Steering
      • Auto alerts
      • ROC reporting
      • Auto blockage detection
      • Longwall positional control
      • Creep management.

The high levels of collaboration between internal teams and third-party providers enabled these systems to be developed, according to Anglo American.

“The outcomes of this work are significant,” Reynolds said. “It is delivering a significant step change in the safety, stability and sustainability of underground mining.”

The company shed a bit more light on these innovations – many of which have been spoken of by suppliers and mining companies as the missing pieces of the fully-autonomous longwall mining puzzle – in its Queensland Mining Awards application.

“Auto duck”, for instance, allows the shearer to automatically cut under roof supports in challenging strata conditions.

“Auto gate road entry” involves the longwall shearer becoming more “intelligent”, using existing data from scanned files, PRS height data or manual measurements to determine the next cut height for the gate road.

“Seam steering” identifies whether the longwall is in or out of the coal seam by automatically detecting the tonstein band position. This, Anglo American says, is a valuable stratigraphic measure.

“Blockage detection” is conducted using eight cameras across the longwall face, which automatically detect if a face blockage is seen, alerting a ROC operator as necessary.

Similarly, “longwall alerting” sees a ROC operator alerted of potential events or issues. “Tailgate lag control” automatically identifies if the tailgate drive is lagging the face line, while “strata management logic” enables automation of shields.

The company says its Steelmaking Coal business has delivered a breakthrough performance in the development and implementation of autonomous longwall technology and remote operations for the underground coal mining industry.

Anglo’s remote multi-pass drill wins plaudits for work at Dawson coal mine

Anglo American has been recognised for the development and testing of a world-first remotely operated multi-pass drill at its Dawson coal mine, with the company recently taking out the JCB CEA Innovation (Miner) Award at the 2020 Queensland Mining Awards in Mackay.

Driven by a commitment to make its open-pit operations safer by removing operators from the field, the team at Dawson produced the first known rotary blasthole drill rig to be able to complete multi-pass operations remotely.

General Manger of Anglo American’s Dawson Mine, Clarence Robertson, said the team had worked tirelessly over around 18 months to deliver the project.

“Our project team did an incredible job upgrading the (Sandvik) D90K drill rig by giving it a new control system and mechanical modifications,” he said. “This allows the drill rig to continually add and remove multiple drill rods during the drilling process without operator intervention, making it more efficient and consistent.”

He explained: “The drill can reach depths up to six times deeper than a standard single-rod drill, including angled and vertical holes, to reach the coal seams more easily.

“Most importantly, the innovation is improving safety by removing our people from an operational area where they could be exposed to noise, dust, vibrations and vehicle movements. They now work from a site office environment, where a remote operations centre has been setup for them to use new one-touch drilling technology.”

Robertson said the drill rig is now delivering beyond benchmark performance, and the operation is in the process of automating two more drill rigs in the next six months.

Tyler Mitchelson, CEO of Anglo American’s Metallurgical Coal business, said the project was a great example of the positive impacts innovation and technology can have on daily operations.

“The remote multi-pass drill is a strong demonstration of how technology, digitisation and remote operation can come together to make our operations safer, more sustainable and more productive.

“Congratulations to our team from Dawson Mine on their achievement, which has made a significant impact on the way we operate.”

Presented by the Bowen Basin Mining Club, in partnership with the Queensland Resources Council, the bi-annual Queensland Mining Awards recognise industry excellence across the categories of productivity, safety, innovation, environment, collaboration, product launch, community, staff engagement and equal opportunity initiatives.

Anglo American was also recognised as finalists the following Queensland Mining Awards categories:

  • Innovation Award (Miner):
    • Dawson Mine’s world-first remote multi-pass drill; and
    • Development of first electronic tablet device certified for use in underground coal mining.
  • Community/Staff Engagement Award:
    • Anglo American LIVE online concert series.
  • Equal Opportunity Award:
    • Moranbah North Mine’s Balancing the Team female trainee program.
  • Collaboration Award:
    • Mitchell Services/Anglo American for innovation in underground coal gas drainage UIS drill rig.