Norilsk Nickel has recently launched a new operational control centre at its Oktyabrsky mine in Russia, leveraging the underground infrastructure investments the company has made in the past five years across its Polar Division operations as a way to increase its operational efficiency.
The Oktyabrsky centre, which cost around $1.6 million to install, monitors mining operations on a continuous basis, using communications infrastructure and positioning systems to locate equipment and people underground. It is part of the company’s Technology Breakthrough program, a project launched in 2014 to digitise and automate most processes at the company’s extensive mining and processing facilities by 2020.
By the end of 2019, similar operational centres will be built at all Norilsk Nickel Polar Division mines (Skalisty, Komsomolsk, Taimyrsky and Mayak, according to the company, with the five centres set to cost the company around $6.3 million in total.
Norilsk said: “The launch of the operational centre at the Oktyabrsky mine was possible due to long-term work on the creation of underground infrastructure, which was carried out at all of the company’s mines in the Polar Division as part of the ‘Technology Breakthrough’ project.
“The project installed radio communications and positioning systems to locate mining equipment, it also installed fibre-optic communication as well as Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is now available in every mine. Every mine is also equipped with cameras.”
This infrastructure has enabled personnel at these mines to receive real-time data on shift targets without human intervention, according to Norilsk.
In addition to this, the company has developed a “Ten-day shift schedule” software, which helps schedule the work of miners over this period, Norilsk said, explaining: “The planning system’s algorithm distributes the amount of work and equipment per production and shifts, taking into account the cyclical nature of the process and the initial data.”
The use of this software has allowed Norilsk Nickel, in certain cases, to abandon a non-centralised and manual approach to mine planning. “The software functions from a database, which contains information on the performance of all the equipment, mining operations, distances from loading sites to ore chutes and skip shafts, etc,” the company said.
Mining operation plans from different phases and areas at the Oktyabrsky mine are now integrated into a centralised planning system, with the “Ten-day shift schedule” leveraging data from MICROMINE’s exploration and mine design solution, Micromine. This creates a 3D program of the ore being developed, helping optimise the mining methods and sequence of processing reserves.
In reference to the new operational centre, Norilsk said: “Transferring mine operation monitoring, management and planning functions to the operational centre, together with the installation of new technologies, will contribute to a 10% increase in labour productivity.” This will also make it possible to improve both the quality and consistency of the ore mined and shipped to the Talnakh concentrator.