Tag Archives: Rig Control System

Epiroc makes significant safety stride with RCS Collision Avoidance System interface

Epiroc says it recently launched an offering that aims to support safety in underground mining environments with the RCS based Collision Avoidance System (CAS) interface.

Proximity Detection System (PDS) suppliers, compliant to the ISO 21815-2 Draft (March 2018), are able to interface with Epiroc RCS Materials Handling TMM (Trackless Mobile Machinery) to enable functionality for slowing and stopping, in what the PDS perceives to be a hazardous or unwanted event, Epiroc explains.

The interface allows for third-party systems to communicate with Epiroc’s Rig Control System, RCS, in a completely new way, Epiroc claims. This enables a third-party PDS added to the vehicle, when needed, to take interventional control of the machine and prevent accidents.

The CAS Interface, when coupled with a PDS, helps to detect objects in the collision risk area, evaluate the collision risk level and take interventional actions to avoid the potential collision, the company says. The system works on the understanding that all machines and all personnel in the mine are equipped with tags or sensors.

“A CAS installation is intended to assist with operator perception of potential hazards around the machine and prevention of potential incidents where operators cannot respond in time, however the overall responsibility for safe operation of the machine remains with the operator,” Epiroc said.

Daniel Sandström, Global Product Manager-Minetruck, in Epiroc’s Underground division, said: “With safety first and always in mind, I am proud to see the release of the Collision Avoidance System interface. This improves safety underground in a ground-breaking way.”

The CAS interface, which is now available for the complete Epiroc RCS Loader fleet as well as for Minetruck MT42 and soon thereafter for the Minetruck MT65, has been tested by customers, who have been pleased with the performance and functionality, Epiroc said.

Kumeshan Naidu, Integration Manager M&A, at Epiroc’s Technology and Digital division, said: “The Epiroc RCS CAS interface performed as designed, demonstrating high consistency in the cases where the PDS provided reliable input signals.

“The CAS initiative is not a ‘plug and play’ solution and must be tailored, with the participation of all parties to suite a particular site. Change management and risk mitigation strategies on these sites are key when implementing the system.”

Moving forward, Naidu can see further potential: “Solutions like Mobilaris On-Board can augment a mine’s efforts to ensure safety, as well as create a more ‘natural’ state of awareness that underground TMM operators can respond to. With an interface that is more familiar to the operator, who typically drives commercial vehicles (GPS, Waze, Google Maps), their reflex is to naturally avoid a potential unwanted event from occurring. An operator or pedestrian that is equipped with real-time information about their surroundings, through systems like Mobilaris’ MMI, On-board and Pocket Mine, will be better suited to promote a safe working environment; one in which the CAS slow down and stop functionality is a last resort in preventing collision events.”

Epiroc is part of the ISO standard working group where new standards are being developed. It is also participating in the International Council for Mining and Metals (ICMM) initiative for Vehicle Interaction.

Epiroc intends to change the interface from supporting ISO 21815-2 Draft March 2018 to further supporting the final version of ISO 21815-2 within a year of ISO 21815-2 being released.

Autonomous drilling transition sets IAMGOLD’s Essakane up for longer mine life

The roots of IAMGOLD’s automation ambitions at the Côté gold project in Ontario, Canada, can be traced back to remote and auto drilling developments at its 90%-owned Essakane mine in Burkina Faso, which, according to a recent presentation from Zhi Jun Zhu, has resulted in significant operational benefits.

IAMGOLD launched the first automated drill rig in West Africa with assistance from Epiroc back in February at Essakane. This followed a series of automation steps carried out on the company’s fleet of Epiroc PV235 blasthole drills, beginning with the ‘Operator Assist’ phase back in 2016.

Added to the seven PV235 blasthole drills on site are five Sandvik D45KSs. These drills are working in medium-to-hard material of 100-250 Mpa rock where they drill 229 mm and 152 mm diameter holes on 10 m benches. They come with a single pass limit of up to 12.2 m in down-the-hole drilling mode.

The business case for adopting automation at the site, which began operating in 2010 and was expanded in 2013 to reach a mining capacity of 55 Mt/y, was centred around a capex versus opex dynamic – should the company purchase a new rig to increase drilling performance by 15%, or try to increase the use of automation on its existing seven PV235s to hit this goal?

Alongside this, the company wanted to provide its best drillers with the ability to operate multiple rigs simultaneously, enhance operational safety, support continued sustainability, and improve performance and productivity.

Zhu, who worked at Essakane as Technical Services Coordinator for five years prior to his current role as Autonomous Systems Engineer at Côté, explained during the recent GMG-led Autonomous Drills Virtual Forum: “During the start-up of the mine, the required fragmentation size was difficult to achieve because the ore was coming from the soft area where it was highly weathered and fractured. As the mine depth increased, the material got harder. As a result, the blasting fragmentation became harder to achieve. At the same time as the percentage of hard material increased, productivity of the crusher became a concern and bottleneck.”

With the last life of mine study in 2018 showing a required increase in the total material mined to keep up an average gold production rate of 400,000 oz/y – and the requirement to strip hard material from phase four, five, six and seven to reach a new ore zone from 2026 – the company needed to embed a suitable level of blasthole drill automation in advance of another expansion in the mine life.

Prior to 2016, Essakane required two people to operate a PV235 – one to guide the machine to the desired location and another to operate it.

This was neither safe or efficient, Zhu said, adding that hole deviation and sub-optimal fragmentation were also common with this setup.

Breaking down the project key performance indicators after the initial ramp up of remote and autonomous operation, Zhu said the company was looking for:

  • An improved drilling penetration rate of 15%:
    • 23 m/operating hour (propel + setup + drill); and
    • 28 m/drilling hour.
  • Improved drilling productivity from 63% to 75%:
    • Eliminate stoppage delays associated with lunch and shift change;
    • Lean drilling, less propel/tram and setup/positioning time.
  • Increased drilling capacity from 81,714 to 108,800 drilling meters/rig/year.

Having progressed from the ‘Rig Operator Assist’ mode in 2016, which used Epiroc’s Rig Control System, Surface Manager, Auto Level, first generation AutoDrill module, and Hole Navigation; the company has progressed to the ‘Rig Remote Operation’ phase where (Multi) Remote and AutoDrill generation two functions are employed.

This second-generation system represents a “big advance”, Zhu said.

“The system is very smart and could continuously optimise the engagement to deliver the desired result,” he said. “The only manual input required is the ‘aggressiveness’ setting, which balances the bit life with the penetration rate.”

This led to the launch of its first fully automated drill rig on February 8.

While the project is on course to hit all the above-mentioned KPIs, there have been other benefits including an operating hours improvement of 645 hours/year/rig; a 14,835 m/year/rig drilling metres gain; a $356,040/rig incremental annual production benefit; and a net cost saving of $202,794/rig compared with the equivalent rental equipment drilling cost.

All of these add to fewer people being in dangerous areas on the mine site – with all operators in remote operating centres – more consistent operation from a fuels/lubricants and drilling consumables perspective and, of course, less maintenance.

Reflecting on the implementation, Zhu noted several key required inputs for a successful automation implementation program.

“It is a critical requirement to have a reliable network connection between the on-board device and the remote operations office,” he said.

On top of this, the sensors on the machines need to be kept in top shape, meaning maintenance teams should evaluate their health on a regular basis and always keep spare parts available.

And, while fewer people will be needed to oversee drilling in autonomous mode, the skills level of the required personnel will be that much greater.

Some of the next steps at Essakane include improving the bandwidth and latency time for real-time control of multi-automated drills, developing a preventive maintenance system checklist, and carrying out a business case study on upgrading four PV235s to either Teleremote/AutoDrill 2 operation.

Zhu will no doubt bring these learnings and opportunities to the Côté gold development in Canada, which is expected to operate six blasthole drills in fully autonomous mode when ramped up, alongside more than 20 fully automated haul trucks. These will help the mine reach an average production rate of 367,000 oz/y of gold.

Epiroc charged up by automation, digitalisation and battery equipment wins

Epiroc’s second ever Capital Markets Day, in Stockholm, Sweden, was an enlightening affair, with the original equipment manufacturer backing up its credentials as a leader in the mine automation, digitalisation and electrification space.

Speakers including Per Lindberg, President and CEO; Helena Hedblom, Senior Executive Vice President Mining and Infrastructure; Sami Niiranen, President Underground Rock Excavation; and Jose Sanchez, President Drilling Solutions, with all of them reeling off a number of statistics worth highlighting.

For example, the company said around 60% of Epiroc equipment is now being delivered with its rig control system (RCS), a system that on Pit Viper blasthole drills is the next “evolutionary step toward fully autonomous mining”, the company recently said.

At the same time as this, 3,400 of its machines have been delivered with “connectivity”, Lindberg said, a transition that is allowing customers to monitor, in real time, elements of a machine’s performance. As recently as the company’s June quarter results release, Lindberg said more than 2,500 machines were ‘connected’.

When it came to automation underground, Epiroc said it had 43 projects on its books, with 600 drill rigs equipped for complete automation of the drilling process; the latter up from the more than 550 Lindberg quoted in the June quarter results.

Epiroc has also seen a 30% increase in utilisation of connected Simba production drills globally, according to Lindberg.

On surface, meanwhile, Epiroc was involved with autonomous and teleremote drilling in 16 countries on five continents, he said.

Among these automation projects were the fully autonomous electric drill at Boliden’s Aitik copper mine, in Sweden, an autonomous SmartROC D65 at Newmont Goldcorp’s Hollinger mine, in Canada, and autonomous Pit Vipers at the leading gold miner’s Penasquito mine, in Mexico.

A map shown by Sanchez also included first remote/teleremote operations in Morocco, Ukraine (see Ferrexpo Yeristovo story), Chile and Papua New Guinea. There was also mention of first autonomous solutions in South Africa (along with a first multipass autonomous operation) and a first autonomous drill in operation in Australia.

And, of course, the company provided an update on its battery-electric solutions, which Epiroc believes will improve health and safety, reduce emissions, lower total cost of operation and improve productivity for its customers.

Lindberg said the company had accumulated 100,000 hours of battery-electric machinery operation to date and, so far, customers had achieved a more than 70% reduction in energy consumption – mainly through reduced ventilation needs.

On the company’s recently-launched Minetruck MT42 Battery, specifically, Niiranen said Epiroc had observed 10% increased productivity through faster ramp cycle time at operations where the machine was being trialled/operating. One of these machines is currently being trialled at Agnico Eagle’s Kittilä gold mine, in Finland, as part of the EU-funded Sustainable Intelligent Mining Systems project (a project Epiroc is coordinator of).

Epiroc expands production drilling capabilities with Simba teleremote e-tramming option

Epiroc says it is looking to maintain a leading position in the development of innovative equipment for use in mining and production drilling with the release of a new teleremote e-tramming option for its Simba series of rigs.

In the Simba Automation package, multiple automation functions are available to optimise the drilling process, according to Epiroc. With the recent addition of the e-tramming function the production drilling process can be handled in an even safer and more continuous way, the company said.

This will allow a Simba rig to be operated remotely and work more productively in a continuous “ring-to-ring” fashion, Epiroc said. “After drilling a ring and retrieving the rods, the rig can be tele-remotely trammed to the next ring, saving time and work effort. Not only does the tramming process become faster and simpler, the teleremote e-tramming function also provides a safer work environment since the operator can control the machine out of harm’s way, even between rings.”

Guilherme Paiva, Global Product Manager of Automation at Epiroc, said: “Our Simba drill rigs are globally recognised as the best in their class, and we continue to strive towards even smarter and faster solutions. Teleremote e-tramming makes for an easier, safer and more continuous drilling process. Fewer disruptions mean greater productivity.”

Simba rigs that feature Epiroc’s Rig Control System can be operated through a control panel from onboard the rig or from a remote location where potentially hazardous work conditions can be avoided. With information provided by laser sensors and cameras mounted on the rig, the operator can navigate, position and stabilise the rig to ensure drilling is executed according to plan, Epiroc said. “Mission accomplished in one ring, the operator can then tram to the next and the next.”

Paiva said: “We want to make the world’s best production drill just a bit better to optimise the entire drilling process, from positioning the rig to emptying the stope. Through automation and the ability to process more real-time information, we are taking huge steps towards greater safety and efficiency.”

Epiroc provides the next ‘evolutionary step toward fully autonomous mining’

Epiroc has introduced the fifth generation of its Rig Control System (RCS) on Pit Viper blasthole drills as it looks to equip miners with all of the tools to embrace full automation.

RCS 5 for Pit Viper blasthole drill rigs is the next “evolutionary step toward fully autonomous mining”, the company said upon launch of the system earlier this month at the Bauma fair in Munich, Germany.

Features such as Machine-to-Machine Communication, sharing real-time drill plan updates between drills, Auto Tower Angle and Integrated Camera View advanced awareness are some of the early features introduced, Epiroc said.

“Whether operating from a remote location or on-board the drill, the new and improved RCS 5 intuitive main menu creates a user-friendly experience that ultimately increases productivity. This new design allows the operator to focus on the task-at-hand and switch seamlessly between screens in a well-organised and dynamic environment.”

RCS 5’s new Drill Plan Generator function allows for creation and editing of drill plans on-board the rig or from a remote location quickly and easily, according to Epiroc. The new Drilling Data Screen, meanwhile, features real-time depth and penetration rate feedback with histogram for easy in-hole monitoring.

Tyler Berens, Product Line Manager, Automation at Epiroc Drilling Solutions, said: “We’re excited to continue our automation journey, pushing the limits in sustainable productivity. Launching the RCS 5 platform will allow our customers and partners to further advance their operations, saving valuable time and dollars while increasing predictability and safety with either on board or autonomous operations.

“Autonomous operations began with RCS 4, wait until you see where we take it with RCS 5.”