Tag Archives: teleremote

Barminco turns Perth head office into remote operations centre

Leading underground mining services provider Barminco, a subsidiary of Perenti, says it has successfully piloted a new operations centre that allows it to remotely operate underground equipment on a client’s mine site anywhere around the world.

In what the company believes to be a world first, Barminco operated a machine, working underground, from its head office in Perth at a client mine site in the Goldfields of Western Australia.

“The innovation was made more impressive given the remote operation occurred via the internet, instead of through a fibre-optic cable, which is the method that mine owner-operators have historically used,” the company said.

Barminco Chief Executive Officer, Paul Muller, announced the achievement at the third annual Sandvik Digitalization in Mining Event, in Brisbane, Australia, this week.

Muller said: “Barminco has cemented its place as one of the world’s leading underground mining service providers through the use of technology and automation.

“A key strategic initiative under our parent company, Perenti’s, 2025 strategy is to deliver a ‘technology driven future’, and our ability to remotely operate underground machinery from our head office is a significant achievement in delivering on that strategy.”

The Barminco Remote Operating Centre, or BROC, was successfully trialled in collaboration with Sandvik and Independence Group (IGO) back in July. It was trialled in the early morning at Barminco’s Head Office in Hazlemere for a machine located at IGO’s Nova nickel-copper-cobalt mine site, almost 1,000 km away.

Barminco General Manager Technology and Innovation, Darren Kwok, said the trial was a great success.

“Whilst many mine sites have operators remotely operating equipment from the mine’s surface, we are one of the first, if not the first service provider, to operate underground equipment on a client’s site from a much greater distance,” Kwok said.

“BROC enables us to connect multiple sites and operators at the same time, meaning if there is an issue at any point, we have contingencies in place.”

Barminco’s first trial involved the remote operation of a Sandvik LH517 LHD being operated in Perth by Barminco employee, Guy Gilbert, and Kwok said Barminco was now working with IGO to make BROC a permanent fixture at its Nova mine site.

“The advantages in improving the safety of our workplace and the efficiencies for our clients are enormous,” Kwok said.

Independence Group Chief Operating Officer, Matt Dusci, said the company was thrilled to be part of the successful trial, which is all part of the company’s ‘IGO – Smart Solutions’ initiatives.

“At IGO, we continually look for ways to improve how we do business and deliver operational excellence. By integrating innovative Smart Solutions at our operations, such as working with Barminco on BROC, we improve the safety and wellbeing of our people, realise step change opportunities, and optimise efficiencies and productivity,” Dusci said.

Kwok added: “Our future plan is to have a dedicated remote operating centre manned 24/7 where our team and our client’s people can work collaboratively side by side to deliver a world-class mine site.

“Clients who work with Barminco should expect more from our business along with the broader Perenti group of companies and BROC is one such example of how we are delivering on this promise.”

The Sandvik event concludes on December 4 and showcases best practice examples of industry leaders integrating digitalisation into their operations across the mining, construction and quarrying industries.

The announcement comes just over a week after Barminco was awarded Large Employer of the Year 2019 at the National Australian Training Awards in Brisbane.

Costerfield gold-antimony mine firing on all cylinders thanks to RCT solution

Removing personnel from underground loading operations at Mandalay Resources’ Costerfield gold-antimony mine in Victoria, Australia, through RCT’s ControlMaster® Teleremote and Guidance Automation, has led to time and cost savings, as well as maintenance and safety benefits, according to a recent case study from the automation specialist.

Costerfield produces ore via a single portal underground mine with narrow vein mining carried out to extract vertical veins of ore. The mine produces up to 80,000 gold-antimony-equivalent ounces per year in a concentrate comprising around 54% antimony and 60 g/t gold.

The nature of narrow vein mining dictates that ore drives are quite thin to reduce the amount of waste material that is captured, with Costerfield’s drilling and blasting program designed to maximise ore recovery by throwing the ore towards the draw point. Historically, however, the site could only recover 75% of the ore, according to RCT, due to the remaining ore sitting in the stope void out of reach of the underground LHD as manually operated loaders could not exceed the stope brow.

Looking to increase productivity, Mandalay investigated implementing a loader that could be managed remotely to extract additional ore and to safeguard equipment operators from hazardous situations at the mine face. This led to it, in 2015, engaging RCT to implement its ControlMaster Teleremote and Guidance Automation product on a Sandvik LH203 LHD.

The automated loader enabled Mandalay Resources to retrieve significant amounts of ore that were previously unreachable, RCT said.

In recent years RCT has increased the autonomous fleet at Costerfield by commissioning ControlMaster Teleremote and Guidance Automation on a second Sandvik LH203 as well as a Sandvik LH151D.

The machines are managed from Fibre Optic Control Stations at secure locations in the underground mine protected by Laser Guard Containment Units as well as stations on the mine’s surface.

Jayson Guzzo, Major Projects and Innovation Manager – Costerfield, Mandalay Resources, said removing operators from the machine is the “best outcome” as it eliminates their exposure from one of the highest risk jobs, which is working at a stope brow.

“The small loaders we use are very rigid which has the potential for repetitive strain injuries,” he said. “They also have open cabs and, in this environment, dust, machine exhaust and debris can be an added safety concern.”

In mid-2019, Mandalay made the decision to implement a digital mine communications network to accommodate future technological growth.

Guzzo said: “Given that we are a narrow vein operation we may have to access ore a significant distance from the mine access point so we are looking at going to a digital platform so we can run a fibre backbone and autonomously operate machines over a vast distance.

“In a traditional mine, you might spend a whole week bogging a single stope before moving, but at Costerfield we might bog three or four headings in one shift, so the number of sites that we have to have set up at any one time are multiple, hence a digital system will significantly speed up the process of commissioning new drives.”

Mandalay has reported that ControlMaster Guidance Automation enabled them to carry out bogging and firing operations simultaneously, saving them substantial time which was previously spent clearing personnel to a safe distance, RCT said.

Guzzo said the solution has enabled the company to reduce shift changeover time by two thirds – which is a significant cost saving – and the site has also experienced less unplanned machine downtime.

“At Costerfield, the drives are roughly 2 m wide so Guidance Automation keeps the machines off the walls and stops them bouncing around the tunnels, so the damage to the machines is a lot less and results in significantly reduced unplanned maintenance time,” he said.

Guzzo concluded: “Relocating operators from the cab of our loaders to safer environments on the mine’s surface is essential and being able to continue bogging during firing as well as significantly reducing shift changeover time is critical to improving site productivity.

“Plant automation is definitely the way of the future in the mining industry and RCT are the leaders in that area, which is why they are our preferred supplier with this equipment.”

RCT on the importance of autonomous technology training

As an OEM-agnostic facilitator of autonomous solutions, RCT has vast experience in training up personnel and companies on how to best use this technology. Training Coordinator, Sunil Kumar, shares his thoughts on the subject.

Across the global mining industry there is an ever increasing take-up of smart technology. Gone are the days where miners worked in isolation, digging up earth and hoping to strike pay dirt. Now every stage of the mining process is jam-packed with technology designed to improve the mining process and safeguard mining personnel.

With the inevitable uptake of smart technology, advanced communication infrastructure and autonomous machinery, comes the need to ensure employees are suitably trained and confident in utilising this technology. At RCT, we categorise employee training needs into two streams; equipment operators and maintenance personnel.

Our comprehensive operator training is focused on functionality and designed to impart all necessary knowledge to get the most out of mining equipment. Our maintenance training goes a little bit deeper into the underlying technology of RCT’s proprietary products. We offer a regular maintenance package which teaches mine site personnel to replace components and conduct other minor maintenance works.

We also have an advanced maintenance package for select customers, which teaches suitably qualified mine employees to service individual components and carry out the type of activities that RCT’s specialised Field Service Technicians would carry out on a site visit.

Personal safety has been one of the key drivers behind an uptake of training programs in the global mining industry. Most countries that RCT works in have stringent laws governing people working in hazardous environments. Further to this is a cultural shift inside mining companies, which want to protect their workers and safeguard their operations.

Use of autonomous technology in this sort of hazardous environment is a no-brainer because a lot of the work involves people coming into contact with dust, smoke, extreme weather, chemical particles and long working hours often in confined working spaces such as underground operations.

Therefore, in order to use autonomous technology properly, they need to be informed about the standard operating procedure otherwise it can result in serious incidents involving machines and people. Properly trained personnel contribute significantly to operational efficiency and productivity because technology is only as good as how it is used. Most people underutilise the technology that they possess.

The most common example is the smart phone which can improve personal productivity multi-fold if used optimally, however most people only use about 10-15% of the features and capabilities. The same principle applies to autonomous technology in the mining industry, which, if properly used, will enable the mine site to increase productivity multi-fold, which in turn increases profits.

Training is equally essential for both younger workers who are traditionally more technologically savvy and older workers who are adapting to new technologies in the mining industry.

Autonomous technology is going into every mine so the technology is becoming part and parcel of new mine infrastructure. Therefore, it is important that the entire workforce be upskilled so they have some level of understanding of autonomous technology.

Going forward, RCT will continue to offer face-to-face training packages delivered on mine sites or in our offices. This will be complemented by an online training portal which will enable us to reach very remote mine sites that are difficult to access physically and will focus more on repeat trainings and refresher modules.

RCT brings automation to MATSA underground operations in Spain

RCT says it has finalised a major automation project at MATSA’s Aguas Teñidas and Magdalena mines in the Huelva province of Spain.

The project involved installing ControlMaster® Guidance Automation on four CAT R2900G underground LHDs and one Automation Centre Surface Control Station at MATSA’s Aguas Teñidas copper-lead-zinc mine.

MATSA is a jointly-owned company by Mubadala Investment Co and Trafigura. It owns and operates three mines in the Huelva, including Aguas Teñidas, Magdalena and Sotiel, on top of a 4.4 Mt/y copper and polymetallic processing plant.

RCT’s automation centre at Aguas Teñidas is fitted out with RCT’s Multiple Machine Control feature enabling a single operator to remotely control multiple machines at the same time via the mine’s digital communications network.

RCT also commissioned two Sandvik LH621 underground LHDs with ControlMaster Guidance Automation at the nearby Magdalena copper mine. These Sandvik LHDs can operate on a digital network via RCT’s Area Access Cabinets which act as an extension of the automation centre and interfaces between the work areas and the machines.

This instalment builds on a previous project to mount ControlMaster Teleremote and Guidance Automation solutions on three of the site’s CAT R2900G LHDs, which operated on an analogue network via two surface control stations, according to RCT.

Guidance Automation allows machines to tram between two predetermined points on a mine site with the push of a button by operators who also receive real-time information including machine speed, rpm, direction, pitch and roll, RCT said.

“The automation centre consists of an ergonomically designed operators chair facing up from screens, which feed real-time information from sensors and machine-mounted cameras to the operator,” the company added. Teleremote, meanwhile, enables the operator to remotely manage the machine from a control station in real time.

A MATSA spokesperson said: “This system not only allows us to operate in hazardous conditions safely from the surface, but also increases productivity by permitting us to operate during shift change and smoke clearing. We also have the capability to simultaneously operate more than one piece of equipment with the same teleremote operator.”

RCT Account Manager, Shane Smith, said the Guidance Automation products would provide solid benefits for MATSA. “ControlMaster Guidance Automation has a proven track record of improving operator safety in a traditionally hazardous working environment by removing them from the mine face,” he said.

“The faster tramming speeds will also help to boost site productivity on site and limit unplanned machine downtime due to repairs from machinery accidents while the new automation centre will reduce operator fatigue due to improved comfort and ease-of-access on the mine’s surface.”

Hard-Line’s Teleop system receives LTE certification with Redline partnership

Redline Communications Group and HLS Hard-Line Solutions have successfully integrated the operation of Hard-Line’s Teleop Teleremote Control System with Redline’s industrial Private LTE solution, enabling tele-operation of heavy mining machinery from a remote-control station.

This integration will allow machinery such as rock breakers, drills, excavators, wheel loaders and dozers to be operated by operators totally out of the proximity of danger, in addition to “more easily expand a mine’s progression”, Redline said.

“The system saves time, heightens operator safety, improves comfort, and allows a greater percentage of the workforce to operate equipment,” the company said. “Together, the companies demonstrated they could deliver safe, reliable and cost-effective remote operations, on a fit-for-purpose, secure private LTE infrastructure designed for the mining environment.”

Hard-Line is certified for installation of Redline Private LTE networks and is partnering with Redline to deliver communications infrastructure solutions to the mining industry. Its latest Teleop Auto system delivers 2D and 3D views, with ‘real-time’ operator control achievable when the system is coupled to robust communication networks.

Louis Lambert, Senior Vice President, Business Development for Redline Communications, said: “As the mining industry progresses through digital transformation to enable ‘smart mining’, private LTE is surfacing as the wireless technology of choice to deliver robust, reliable and secure mobile communications.”

Hard-Line’s, Scott Whelan, Vice President of Sales, said: “As a result of our collaboration with Redline, Hard-Line is now certified in both Wi-Fi and LTE solutions to satisfy our customers’ needs. This enables our customers to have the flexibility to operate our products on the solution and infrastructure of their choice.”

In addition to the collaboration with Hard-Line, Redline continues to invest to further develop communication solutions that are fit-for-purpose for mining companies to deliver on smart mining initiatives globally, it said.

RCT committed to developing fully-autonomous technology options, CEO says

RCT CEO and Executive Director, Brett White (pictured), thinks interoperability will, in the future, prove crucial in allowing mining companies to yield the full benefits of autonomy in their operations.

Speaking in an opinion piece that looked back at the company’s history to chart just how far the company has come in its own automation journey, he said RCT continues to differentiate itself from its peers by offering these vendor-agnostic solutions.

He said: “‘What benefit can Automation technology deliver for us?’ That is the type of question being posed in boardrooms and among senior management in mining companies these days. There is a strong focus on identifying productivity constraints and inefficiency and finding ways to overcome them, which is where RCT differs in the market.

“RCT’s automation technology is built to be scalable and agnostic to any machine make or model that you may find on a mine site anywhere and based on the data and feedback from customers our technology provides them the quickest benefit.”

The company’s automation journey started many decades ago at a time when serious injury and even fatalities occurred regularly throughout the mining industry, according to White.

“During the 1980s the company’s founder Bob Muirhead worked with the CSIRO to pioneer remote control technology for the Australian mining industry as a way to protect mine workers from very hazardous situations,” he said.

“Over the years, the company has seen many major milestones including being the first company to install its ControlMaster® Line-of-Sight solution on a bulldozer for a mining company in 1988 and the first company to deliver an off-the-shelf Teleremote solution.

“The technological packages were in keeping with Bob’s ethos that if an activity is inherently unsafe it should be remote controlled and if it is repetitive then the activity should be automated. The health and safety benefit to having workers removed from the hazardous mining areas is extremely significant. Furthermore, a lot of processes in an underground load/haul/dump sequence are repeatable so being able to automate such a cycle offers many benefits such as increased and consistent tramming speeds, reduced machine damage and component wear, resulting in less unplanned machine downtime and maximising operational productivity.”

Many years of work at RCT culminated in the commercial release of ControlMaster Guidance Automation solution in Perth, Western Australia, in 2009. This was the first Australia-designed-and-built automated system delivered to the domestic market and had a significant impact on mine design to support and maximise the benefits the technology offered and drive further productivity efficiencies including surface operation during shift change and mine re-entries, according to White.

White said: “At present Guidance Automation is proving to be the product that best meets the demand of mining industry executives who are interested in how they can get the most value out of their fleet and personnel by leveraging technology.”

Based on the company’s data and customer feedback, Guidance Automation can alleviate production bottlenecks and provide a quick return on investment, which, in terms of the latter, is in some cases a matter of weeks.

More recent product developments include Guidance Expand or Multiple Machine Control enabling a single operator to control multiple machines, including mixed machine types at the same time from one operator station.
White said: “A major key to RCT’s success has been our ability to provide an agnostic solution and deliver meaningful technology suitable for today’s mining operations but with roadmaps that will take them to the next horizon. This means our clients have the freedom and flexibility to choose mining equipment from a diverse range of original equipment manufacturers to suit their mining operational needs, safe in the knowledge that RCT’s industry leading solutions will interface to provide operational excellence.”

The RCT Bridge solution highlights the company’s reputation as an innovative and adaptable technology manufacturer, allowing clients to use existing teleremote communication (analogue) infrastructure to provide a cost-effective pathway to mine digitisation, White said.

White estimates that, over nearly half a century, RCT has worked with 90% of the Australia market. The company has also made significant investments in international markets with branches in Utah, US, and Sudbury, Canada.

“We have also worked for mining companies and contractors in 68 different countries installing various different automation products including Line-of-Sight, Teleremote and Guidance Automation as well as delivering large-scale complex customised automation and integrated solutions,” White said.

In 2019, RCT will be “solidifying its presence in South America” with the opening of a new branch in Santiago, Chile, White said. This will better enable its regional staff to support customers, he added. “We are also planning to open an office in Russia to better support clients in the region and bolster our existing support team throughout Africa. These offices will underpin our strategy to have greater on-ground support for all clients,” he said.

White concluded: “Our in-house engineers are currently testing RCT’s surface autonomous solutions as part of the company’s long-term development strategy. While the company has always been active in surface applications for individual pieces of mine equipment through remotes and teleremote options, we are committed to developing our fully-autonomous technology options for fleets of surface equipment utilising technology which has a proven record in the underground mining environment.

“RCT is committed to developing its autonomous technology for application on all mobile equipment from heavy mobile production equipment to ancillary type fleet equipment. This will ensure interoperability and allow autonomous mobile equipment to seamlessly integrate to all mine operational platforms including dispatch, management systems and fully autonomous traffic management.”

Teck goes for RCT teleremote solution at Coal Mountain in British Columbia

RCT’s ControlMaster® Teleremote solution has been selected by Canada’s largest diversified mining company, Teck Resources, for use at one of its steelmaking coal operations in British Columbia’s Elk Valley region.

The ControlMaster Teleremote solutions were installed on a Cat D11T dozer and a Cat 390D hydraulic excavator, operating at the open-pit steelmaking coal truck and shovel operation at Teck’s Coal Mountain Operations.

The technology supports safe production at the operation, as equipment can be operated remotely in areas that are deemed unsafe for human operators, RCT says. The solutions also help increase productivity and profitability on site.

RCT, which recently announced a broadening of its automation offering, integrated a communication network into the Teck’s existing wireless network to facilitate the remote functions of the machines. In addition, the RCT Custom department played a part in the project as it was the first excavator of this model the company has completed an install on.

RCT’s VP of Business Development for Canada, Vern Deveau, said the solution provided to Teck met the client’s requirements and operators were impressed with the custom teleremote solutions.

In addition, RCT’s solutions “effortlessly connected” to Coal Mountain’s network infrastructure, making the remote features seamless, he said.

The project and training were delivered ahead of schedule with positive feedback received from Teck staff on site, RCT added. Customer support will be provided locally by RCT’s Ontario branch, which will carry out servicing and any support required by Teck going forward.

RCT says Teck is also assessing the viability of implementing the same technology at other operations.

Teck’s Coal Mountain Operations produces metallurgical coal, which it exports by sea to the Asia-Pacific region and elsewhere. The current annual production capacities of the mine and preparation plant are approximately 2.7-3.5 Mt of clean coal, respectively, Teck says.

Panoramic looks to RCT teleremote solution for quick wins at Savannah North

Panoramic Resources has looked to RCT’s Guidance Automation system to increase productivity at its soon-to-be-producing Savannah North nickel project in Western Australia.

Already familiar with RCT’s Smart Technology – having implemented the company’s teleremote function on its machines at the previously-operating Savannah mine – Panoramic is aware of the safety aspects of the technology and looked towards an upgrade to further drive productivity and profitability, according to RCT.

RCT’s ControlMaster® Guidance Automation, Point-to-Point and G-Dash will soon be installed on the site’s existing CAT R2900 LHDs; allowing operators to safely control the machines from the comfort of an Automation Centre on the site’s surface.

In this instance, RCT will be retrofitting the site’s existing Telecabins, to make use of existing infrastructure.

These cabins will undergo a full refurbishment and be fitted out with the latest control chairs, Laser Guard containment and communication hardware features.

“Guidance Automation and Point-to-Point features will increase productivity by allowing for ‘hot-seat’ during shift changes, significantly reduce unexpected downtime associated with machine damage, and increase overall machine utilisation which will in turn increase profitability,” RCT says.

RCT will also provide specialised training for operators, to make them more self-sufficient on site to further reduce downtime.

Delivery of this project is underway, while Panoramic is due to start mining at Savannah North this quarter.

The project is expected to ramp up to full production over 15 months to a forecast life of mine average annual production rate of 10,800 t of nickel, 6,100 t of copper and 800 t of cobalt metal contained in concentrate.