Tag Archives: Simon Andrews

De Beers taps Sandvik expertise for Venetia underground diamond mine transition

De Beers Group has ordered 19 units of high-tech equipment from Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology for its Venetia Underground Project (VUP), in South Africa.

According to Simon Andrews, Managing Director at Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology Southern Africa, the company will supply a range of intelligent equipment including LHDs, ADTs, twin-boom drill rigs, roof bolters and cable bolters. Amongst the advanced models are the 17 t LH517i and 21 t LH621i LHDs, 51 t TH551i ADTs, DD422i face drills, DS412i roof bolters and DS422i cable bolters.

Partnership will be the watchword in the technological collaboration between the global diamond leader and mining OEM.

South Africa’s largest diamond mine, Venetia has been mined as an open pit since 1992. De Beers Group is investing circa-$2 billion to start mining underground from 2022, extending the mine’s life beyond 2045. The VUP represents the biggest single investment in South Africa’s diamond industry in decades, according to the company.

Allan Rodel, Project Director of the VUP, says the use of new technology is critical in building the mine of the future and will ensure the safety of its people, as well as create unique employment opportunities.

He adds that the successful implementation of this technology holds the key to further improve the mine’s productivity and cost effectiveness, enabling the quality and accuracy required for precision mining. This will also provide real-time geospatially referenced data that supports digitalisation of processes and provide a wealth of data for analysis and continuous improvement.

The underground mine will use sublevel caving to extract material from its K01 and K02 orebodies. Initially the ore will be hauled to surface using a combination of underground and surface haul trucks. As the operation matures, the hauling systems will transition to an automated truck loop in combination with vertical shafts for steady state production.

Sandvik’s Andrews said: “As important as the equipment itself is, De Beers Group was looking to partner with a company who would support them through the VUP journey. Taking a mine from surface to underground has many challenges, including the change in operational philosophy.”

Andrews highlighted that change management processes are as crucial to success as the capacity and performance of the mining equipment. The implementation of the new technology is seldom a straightforward process, and always requires a collaborative effort.

“The expectation of the customer is for a strong relationship with a technology partner who will help them to apply, develop and fine-tune the systems they need, over a period of time,” he says. “This way, the technology is assured to deliver the safety, efficiency and other positive results that the new mine will demand.”

Andrews believes Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology leads the pack from a technology point of view, having introduced its intelligent i-Series machines to enhance remote operation capability. This advanced range combines automation with data management capacity, aligning with the philosophy that De Beers Group has applied to this world-class operation, which prioritises the safety of its people.

Also included in the package for VUP is the Sandvik OptiMine® control system which enables continuous process management and optimisation, focusing on key areas such as face utilisation and visualisation of the operation in near real time. Using data generated by the i Series machines, OptiMine helps mining operations to achieve the lowest operating costs and highest levels of productivity.

Andrews noted that Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology is not new to the Venetia site, having worked with Venetia’s surface operations for some years, providing tools for drilling as part of a performance contract.

“We’ve been following the VUP with great interest and were ideally placed to contribute as we have extensive South African experience with mining customers in transitioning from opencast to underground,” he said. “This has involved providing equipment, implementing the systems and getting a full operation running with the latest equipment.”

He added: “Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology has successfully completed numerous large and ambitious projects, and it reflects our experience in applying automation technologies from first principles. The learnings from these projects will be seen in the VUP as the mining systems are rolled out. We will take the very latest technology and assist the mine to implement it in an underground environment through a collaborative approach using local skills and supporting it from a local base of expertise.”

He emphasises that the automation will be applied through a phased approach, beginning with manual operation and closely monitoring performance through data analytics. Automation can be gradually introduced with the necessary training and experience, ensuring consistency of operation which is the key to success.

“This will allow costs to be driven steadily lower, using the data from the operation of the fleet to guide the transition to automation,” he says. “We will work with the mine to introduce automation and further data management as work progresses deeper into the mine, and as mine employees become more comfortable with this way of working.”

Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology (soon to be Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions) is geared to support the trackless systems implemented at the mine through the full lifecycle of the machines by supplying spare parts, tooling and components from an on-site Vendor Managed Inventory stockroom and its other South African based facilities.

Sandvik overcomes COVID-19 challenges to continue machine, solutions commissioning

Despite the travel restriction difficulties associated with COVID-19, Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology says it has found novel and innovative solutions to overcoming these challenges, ensuring the company maintains its leading positions in the automation and digitalisation fields.

Considering the company first introduced automation solutions into its product offering some 15 years ago and digital technologies 10 years ago, it has been leading the way in helping the mining industry adopt and embrace the modernisation revolution.

“The African mining industry has traditionally shied away from embracing new technologies, but COVID-19 has been the push factor in accelerating the necessity to adopt change, and this has happened rapidly as mines have had to learn to operate remotely and with limited resources owing to COVID-19,” Simon Andrews, Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology Vice President for Sales in Southern Africa, says.

The adoption of new technologies, however, is no longer the primary objective. Finding ways to implement them remotely has now become the focus, Andrews says.

With the philosophy of working towards finding a solution for any challenge, Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology has  introduced a headset to enable personnel to walk and talk anyone through the process of commissioning a machine and associated software without having ever seen it before.

Niel McCoy, Automation Business Development Manager for Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology, said: “This offering removes all barriers associated with the inability to connect physically on the ground and is a mechanism of training in itself.”

Coupled with this new skillset and offering is Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology’s ability to utilise its highly skilled personnel.

“Our top-level experts within the business are no longer time restricted by travel and are able to utilise their skillset across multiple mines on a more frequent basis, something we had never considered in the past but is an exercise already reaping great success,” McCoy says.

As a result of the company’s efforts in ensuring digital technologies, and the implementation thereof, remain a top agenda for clients – regardless of remote working conditions, lockdown restrictions, etc – Sandvik has established a new communication process with its clients that, it says, is paying off.

“Never before have we communicated so effectively or as frequently with our clients as we do now,” Andrews says. “We know more about our sites now than we ever did before, which naturally provides us with the ability to better assist our clients in any areas that we can contribute towards and give input on.”