Tag Archives: Randy Schoepke

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.”

Caterpillar talks up future battery electric vehicle offering

In the latest edition of its customer magazine Viewpoint, Caterpillar has provided an update on its development programme for battery electric vehicles.

Following a successful proof-of-concept programme that saw a R1300G LHD test unit shipped to a mine in Canada, the company is now looking to move to its product development phase for LHDs and trucks.

While Caterpillar admits it wasn’t the first to look into developing battery electric vehicles underground, it feels its expertise integrating electric drivetrain technology and components in a number of surface machines stands it in good stead to make a big impact on this fast evolving side of the market.

Jay Armburger, Product Manager for Underground Technology, said the company had recently wrapped up its field and operational evaluation as part of its battery electric vehicle development plan, with the results proving beneficial as it moved into its next stage.

“We ran it (the results) through performance analysis, duty cycle testing and all that for both the machine and the charging system. We collected a wealth of data and now the team is analysing it,” he said.

“This is going to be very valuable as we launch our product development phase for LHDs and trucks.”

Armburger says underground electrification will bring with it substantial benefits, not just a reduction of greenhouse gases.

“Mining operations are going deeper and deeper in search of larger reserves and higher-grade ore,” Armburger said. “With that depth comes significant challenges with ventilation and temperature management. It takes a lot of capital investment to put in the infrastructure for ventilation systems and air conditioning systems. Battery electric machines really bring significant cost savings to these customers.”

One customer working with Caterpillar on this solution estimates a $40 million or more saving on capital expenses by reducing the volume requirements of ventilation shafts, he said. “Their vent reduction requirements can be reduced by 40%, and inlet and return shafts can be reduced up to 24%.”

Opex costs could also fall, according to Armburger.

“It’s very expensive to maintain the fans and reduce the heat,” he said. “Heat becomes a big issue underground, and diesel engines create a lot of it. So this is really a way to attack a couple things — emissions and heat — that add to significant costs. From an operation standpoint, customers are looking at $7-$8 million in potential savings annually.”

Caterpillar will bring its surface mining knowledge to this underground task but the underground charging system the company plans to use, based on proven microgrid technology, is something new.

“We don’t want to lose sight of the importance of the charging system. When you’re using energy storage or batteries to power machines, there’s a whole additional programme involved with developing the charging system,” Armburger said.

Caterpillar believes its battery electric vehicles will differ from the existing solutions on the market, in regards to its all-encompassing production focus.

Steve Rich, who now leads all underground sales and support for Caterpillar’s underground mining division, said: “I think it’s pretty clear when we hear the feedback from customers who may have tried other solutions that they’re still not satisfied. They want a true production machine that can go out, survive a whole heavy-duty cycle on the performance side, and live up to their expectations — and they’re still not getting it. They’re quite excited over the Cat solution coming.”

And, the company’s Commercial Mining Manager for Technology, Randy Schoepke, is not concerned about undeground electrification eradicating the automation business case, expecting electrification to be a step toward making machines easier to automate.

In fact, the first battery electric machine to be introduced will be equipped for Command for underground, Cat said. This is the Cat® system for semi-autonomous and remote operation of underground loaders.