Tag Archives: teleremote

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.

Newcrest, Epiroc and MacLean achieve interoperability first at Cadia East

Newcrest Mining’s Cadia Valley Operations has achieved a world first in mobile equipment interoperability – integrating a remotely operated MacLean water cannon into its Epiroc automation fleet at Cadia East, in New South Wales, Australia.

In 2018, Cadia commenced a loader (LHD) automation trial with Epiroc, with the aim of removing operators from the Cadia East underground environment, while maintaining productivity and performance. The loader trial proved successful and the next phase involved integrating non-Epiroc machinery into the existing automation fleet, Epiroc said.

Cadia’s Mining Innovation & Automation team worked with Epiroc and MacLean to integrate a MacLean water cannon capable of localisation with Epiroc’s traffic management system and safety hardware, so that it could be introduced into the automation safety system.

Water cannons are used for secondary break operations, using high pressure water to release wedged rocks in underground drawpoints.

By integrating the MacLean IQ Series tele-operation system with Cadia’s automation safety system, the water cannon could be safely operated from the surface in a tele-remote capacity, allowing it to work alongside Cadia’s semi-automated loaders, Epiroc said.

The water cannon was trialled and commissioned during July and August and is now in use at Cadia East, according to Epiroc.

Cadia General Manager, Aaron Brannigan, said that integrating the water cannon into Cadia’s automation system has improved the efficiency of the production level and removed human exposure from drawpoints.

“We are constantly pushing the envelope of change in the innovation and technology space,” Brannigan said. “Automated machinery allows for shift in technical capabilities of our workforce, while ensuring we continue to eliminate safety risks from our operation.”

The success of this milestone paves the way for further integration of other key pieces of secondary break equipment into the automation system, according to Epiroc, which added: “This project is part of Newcrest’s ongoing drive to increase its automation and innovation focus on site.”

RCT collaborates with Russian Cat dealer on rockbreaker project

RCT says it has completed a tele-remote project for Russian Caterpillar dealer Vostochnaya Technica (VT) on a fixed position rockbreaker in Siberia.

The pilot project involved commissioning ControlMaster® Teleremote on a fixed position BTI rockbreaker for a large Russia-based mining company at one of its operations in Siberia.

RCT also provided a Digital Vision Kit consisting of two fixed cameras and audio capability and a Fibre Optic Control Station (FOCS) located in site offices on the mine’s surface, it said.

RCT’s Moscow-based CIS Business Development Manager, Stephen Macarow, said the tele-remote rockbreaker was the latest RCT project to be completed at mines in the region.

“RCT was selected to carry out this project due to its experience in integrating automation technology in mining equipment of all makes and models,” he said.

“Operating the rockbreaker from the mine’s surface will safeguard machine operators while also giving them the chance to better utilise the machine’s capabilities.”

As well as installing its Teleremote technology on the rockbreaker, RCT’s bespoke solutions division custom tailored the tele-remote package to the mining company’s specific requirement, RCT said.

“RCT developed a unique auto-stow function at the request of VT and the mining company,” Macarow explained. This function means operators can push a button and retract the rockbreaker arm from the grizzly or steel grate over the ore pass and bring the machine to a parked position.

VT Technology Enabled Solutions Manager, Alexander Voroshilov, said the rockbreaker project was of significant benefit to the customer.

“In order to complete this turnkey project, the VT Technology team has done a big amount of work from equipment delivery from Australia to the mine site, customs clearance, manuals translation and certification, to on-site installation and commissioning under supervision of an RCT engineer,” he said.

“The key factor of the project success is the customer support and good collaboration with a partner, so we really appreciate our partnership with RCT and the customer assistance.”

RCT says it is continuing to provide ongoing technical and after-sales support to the mine site

Tailings, waste management automation solutions up next for RCT in South America

Having made a name for itself in South America innovating on projects for Codelco, Antofagasta Minerals, Anglo American, BHP, and many others, RCT says it is now delivering solutions for miners in the region in tailings and waste management situations.

The Australia-based company is working with various customers in the region to safeguard their operations in this field with the ControlMaster® range of automation and control solutions, it said.

RCT’s experience in South America dates back two decades.

It all began with the company’s foundation solution, Muirhead® protection systems. These were requested by a client wanting to get more longevity from their bulldozers and loaders which were machine re-builds, according to the company.

Since this initial project, the company has helped deliver fit-for-purpose solutions, encompassing all its brands, to big name clients.

“The South American mining region, in general, is well-known for its copper and gold mines, all of which are located in areas exposed to extreme weather conditions (the heat and the cold) in addition to some being positioned in high altitude locations, making for some precarious working conditions for miners,” RCT said.

“Therefore, RCT’s premier automation and control solutions – ControlMaster have and continue to be in demand in both surface and underground mining operations in the region. While RCT’s Line-of-Sight and Teleremote options dominate the surface mining market, the full automation range is in strong demand for underground mining operations.”

This journey for these solutions began in the early 2000s after RCT completed an audit for ControlMaster Line-of-Sight controllers at BHP’s Escondida mine, in Chile. The company wanted a proven solution to safeguard bulldozer operators manning the run of mine pad feeders and crushers. RCT was able to retrofit the mobile machines with the technology that removed the operators from the cab of the machine and allowed them to operate it from a safe location – ultimately solving the issue for the client, the company said.

By 2008, RCT collaborated with Hexagon Mining to engineer and deliver a bespoke solution to Codelco’s Andina mine that allowed the miner to operate safer and for longer in the lead up to the winter shut down, reducing the number of days they had to stop work. This R&D project saw the delivery of a ControlMaster Teleremote solution, paired with a Muirhead Speed Limiter and combined with Hexagon Mining’s MineOps Geofencing systems installed on a Komatsu WD600 wheel dozer.

It was RCT’s project at Codelco’s El Teniente in 2018 that cemented its reputation in the region, the company says.

RCT’s ControlMaster Automation solution helped El Teniente successfully and safely mine ore-rich mud in what, it says, is believed to be a world-first mining method in these conditions. This feat was facilitated by RCT’s specialised department, RCT Custom, which delivered the bespoke solution to minimise the risk involved in mining in these conditions.

This project required RCT to retrofit its ControlMaster solutions that were previously installed on Codelco’s mobile machines operating at its Andina surface mine site before integrating the refurbished equipment, installing them on working production loaders (Sandvik LH517s) into the existing mine network.

“The solution removed the operator from the cab of the loader and allowed them to control the machine from the comfort and safety of an Automation Station located in an underground control room of the mine,” RCT said. “RCT’s solution allowed El Teniente to recover mud ore reserves that were previously deemed too dangerous to access due to the mud flow into these areas. In addition to this, the loaders were able to tram faster, avoid walls and obstacles after being automated, which significantly increased productivity and reduced machined damage and unplanned downtime.”

RCT’s Commercial Executive, Phil Goode, said it was this project that earned RCT a strong technical reputation.

This project was also monumental for the company as it further reiterated the need for RCT to have more of a local presence and compelled the company to open an office in Santiago, Chile, last year. The team, comprised of five multilingual staff, are working hard to support our existing and new clients in the region.

“Having a team working locally helps RCT to better function in Chile and other South American, Spanish speaking countries,” Goode said. “Technically we have always been very good, but the office allows us to understand the business culture and provide that next level of support to our clients.

“Most importantly, it allows us to provide the first rate level of customer service and after sales support we have built a solid reputation on delivering to all of our clients around the world.”

Currently RCT’s solutions are being delivered in tailings and waste management situations with the company working with various customers in the region to safeguard their operations in this field with the ControlMaster range of solutions, RCT said.

Gold Fields looks for South Deep productivity boost with teleremote loading project

As part of plans to establish a sustainable footing for its South Deep mine in South Africa, Gold Fields is trialling teleremote loading in a project with automation specialist RCT.

Gold Fields’ problems at South Deep have been well documented, with the company, in 2018, launching a restructuring plan involving the reduction of mining areas, the lowering of overhead costs and an aim to use fewer machines more productively. This followed significant amounts of investment and continued underperformance at the mine.

It is the latter productivity goal that has led the company down the teleremote loading path.

In the June quarter of 2019, Gold Fields commenced non-line of site remote loading training at South Deep. Phase one of the project was to locate the operator control station in close proximity to the underground loading site, according to the company.

Martin Preece, Executive Vice-President Gold Fields South Africa, said soon after this training started, operators suggested an almost immediate move to “Phase 2” with an operator control station located in a recently built surface control centre in the main building at South Deep.

A surface automation chair was ordered from RCT, installed and commissioned in the centre and the company started the process of training up operators.

RCT’s ControlMaster® Automation and Control solutions enable companies to automate a single machine, to a fully autonomous fleet, while also offering step changes with teleremote solutions that allow operators to take control of machines from control centres, trailer cabins or mobile stations.

The interoperability of these systems allows for the seamless integration into any mine’s ecosystem, according to RCT.

Preece said Gold Fields’ approach with all technology is to trial with limited application, to develop and prove the technology, followed by rapid roll out.

“We are still in the first phase of the project and are learning and adapting our approach as we progress to perfect the system before broader application,” he said.

This first phase already has the company using one Sandvik LH514 LHD for teleremote loading operations in the long-hole stope loading areas of South Deep during shift changes. As Preece explained, the RCT technology allows for the LHD to tram between loading and dumping locations, and back autonomously with operator intervention only required when loading and tipping the LHD.

RCT has provided the on-board sensor technology, the network infrastructure in the working areas, the safety application and the surface operating chair – the Operation Automation Centre – located in the surface control centre, he said.

The control centre (pictured, left) was designed and established by South Deep and hosts the teleremote LHD operator automation centre, a teleremote rock breaker station, the operations control room, maintenance and production scheduling as well as business reporting functions.

This teleremote loading technology is, essentially, adding loaded tonnes to the operation where there previously was none, coming close to ticking off the ‘use of fewer machines more productively’ criteria Gold Fields previously set out in its turnaround plan. While not explicitly stated by the company, one would expect it helped South Deep achieve a 36% year-on-year boost in long hole stoping volumes mined, to 631,000 t, in 2019. Overall, Gold Fields said the mine produced 222,000 oz of attributable gold last year.

Teleremote rollout?

Preece said the technology it is trialling has been de-risked in the respect that it has been proven in many applications globally, and the company had very clear safety and commercial imperatives for it.

“The success of any change intervention is to ensure that the application becomes an enabler rather than a distraction for our frontline teams,” he said.

“We would like to believe we are close to operational deployment. Most of the initial challenges experienced with the technology itself have been addressed; the underground mining team is taking ownership by addressing the operating conditions. Furthermore, a second round of operator and maintenance training has been conducted.”

While the trial is currently limited to long-hole stope loading in between shift changes, in time, teleremote loading in development and destress areas of the mine could also be possible, Preece said. With plans to equip more machines in 2020, the results could get even better.

“The project business case is based on being able to continue loading over shift changes, so there is further upside when we add in the in-shift productivity gains as well as improvements to the development and destress mining cycles,” he said. “Our approach to expanding the rollout is that it must be self-funding – the value generated by the first deployment must fund the rollout of subsequent deployments.”

The company’s ultimate goal is to be able to operate LHDs continuously for 22 hours a day (the limit the machine can safely operate between refuelling, safety inspections and pre-start inspections, according to Preece), but there is more to achieving this aim than just rolling out teleremote LHDs.

“A pre-requisite for loading during shift changes is to be able to break big rocks in the tipping bins,” Preece said. This is where the successful deployment of teleremote rock breaking, operated from the same surface control centre as the remote LHDs, comes in.

Then there are the interactions with other equipment and, most importantly, people to consider.

“When operating the teleremote machine, the whole area has to be barricaded, isolated and protected by laser barriers, which, if breached, force the machine to stop automatically,” he said. “This will limit the application to areas which we can isolate.”

In areas where personnel are required to perform drilling, supporting, backfilling and other activities, the area cannot be completely isolated and the LHD cannot function optimally, according to Preece.

This might not be the case indefinitely.

“South Deep is exploring opportunities to schedule activities separately to enable broader application,” Preece said.

Similar technology deployed for trucks would be another future area of focus, according to Preece, while he said the mine was also in the early stages of trialling automated long-hole drilling in stopes over shift changes.

South Deep is one of the deepest mines in the world, going to depths close to 3,000 m below surface. Even so, depth is not one of the main business drivers for the increased take up of teleremote operations, according to Preece.

“Safety benefits and the time a machine can effectively be utilised make up for the bulk of the return on investment,” he said. “The challenge with deeper mines are on the support side; if the network infrastructure is in place, it should be the same for shallow or deep mines. For deeper mines, it will take longer to get maintenance and instrumentation support to the machine if something goes wrong.”

Still, could full automation be on the cards?

“Yes! Loading activity remains the most challenging given the variable fragmentation of material,” Preece said. “Operators still need to perform the loading and tipping activities.”

These teleremote and automation projects, on top of personnel and mobile equipment tracking systems previously mentioned in the company’s 2019 annual report, bode well for future automation take up at South Deep, as well as the success of Gold Fields’ turnaround plan for the asset.

Byrnecut, OZ Minerals and Sandvik achieve teleremote drilling first

Contract miner Byrnecut Australia has become the first underground operator in the world to successfully use a new automation and teleremote package for Sandvik development drills.

Byrnecut introduced a Sandvik DD422i development drill featuring the package to OZ Minerals’ Prominent Hill gold-copper mine, southeast of Coober Pedy, South Australia, in March.

With COVID-19 travel restrictions preventing Sandvik staff from attending site, Byrnecut, OZ Minerals and Sandvik experts collaborated via phone, teleconference and email to complete remote commissioning of the rig.

The two-boom rig, which can be monitored and controlled from the surface and features a sophisticated boom-collision-avoidance system, has now been in operation for three weeks, according to the companies.

Byrnecut Australia Managing Director, Pat Boniwell, says the new automation features allow for enhanced drill operation across shift changes – a period when, historically, development drilling has stopped or been significantly reduced.

“We’re conservatively looking at a 10% increase in productivity with this machine through being able to drill extra holes and the machine being used more consistently,” he said. “It picks up on the deadtime, and if it does stop for any reason we’re able to remotely reset it.”

The new boom collision avoidance system means both of the rig’s drill booms can be left in operation during shift change – something that was previously not possible. In the first few weeks of operation, the drill has been able to drill 60-70 holes while being operated autonomously and remotely from surface, the companies said.

General Manager of OZ Minerals Prominent Hill operations, Gabrielle Iwanow, says when Byrnecut approached her about trialling the upgraded development drill, she was immediately interested.

“OZ Minerals is a modern mining company,” she said. “We’re interested in innovation and looking for safer, faster, and more efficient ways of doing our work.”

Iwanow said the commissioning of the drill in such trying times is a true credit to all those involved and the positive working relationship between OZ Minerals, Byrnecut and Sandvik.

Byrnecut Drill Master, Noah Wilkinson, says a solid working relationship with Sandvik and good communication contributed to the success of the commissioning.

“People from the Sandvik factory in Finland were able to remote into the machine over the internet and adjust settings that were stopping some of the functions from working,” he explained.

Sandvik’s Global Account Manager for Byrnecut, Andrew Atkinson, paid credit to Byrnecut’s openness to adopting autonomous technologies in areas including development drilling, loader operation, production drilling and ore trucks, which are all engineered for compatibility with Sandvik’s AutoMine® and OptiMine® products.

In addition to the collision avoidance and teleremote capabilities of the DD422i, the new automation package allows for semi-autonomous bit changing.

Another handy feature of the setup during the current period of social distancing has been the virtual network computing capability that allows the control panel of the drill to be viewed remotely on a tablet. This means that during operator training, the instructor need not be in the cabin with the operator.

RCT OEM-agnostic teleremote solution favoured at Kazzinc UG mine

RCT says its ControlMaster® Teleremote solution has bested a competitive offering from a global original equipment manufacturer (OEM) on a project for an underground mine in Kazakhstan.

The company said ControlMaster was selected over the OEM’s technology option as it could be tailored to the Tishinsky mine’s specific requirements.

RCT worked with local Cat dealer Borusan Kazakhstan to install and commission the automation technology on two Cat R1700G underground loaders and associated Automation Centres located within the underground mine.

The ControlMaster Teleremote solution is now being used at the Tishinsky copper mine, in north-eastern Kazakhstan, part of the Ridder underground complex, owned by Kazzinc (majority owned by Glencore).

Going forward, RCT says it will manufacture the teleremote technology for an additional 12 Cat R1700G and Cat R1300G underground loaders, while Borusan Kazakhstan will install this equipment at the Tishinsky and Dolinnoye (also part of Ridder) mines.

“The teleremote solution enables machine operators to control the machine from a secure station in the underground mine with the help of strategically placed cameras and sensors,” RCT said. “Teleremote technology enables machine operators to access the machine’s full range of functions that they would normally have if they were sitting in the machine’s cab.”

The company has also supplied its new digital communications network, RCT Connect, and integrated it with the underground loaders.

RCT Connect, launched earlier this year, is designed specifically for autonomous and teleremote machine operations in underground mining environments and can provide low latency, consistent communications between command inputs from the mine’s surface and subsequent machine activities, according to RCT.

RCT’s Moscow-based Business Development Manager – CIS, Stephen Macarow, said he is pleased to have completed the project in partnership with Borusan Kazakhstan.

“Our teleremote solution means the operators will control the loaders from inside the Automation Centre and they will be protected from the hazardous conditions often found at the mine face including geotechnical risks, dust, exhaust fumes and temperatures as low as -27⁰C,” he said.

“The mining company will also experience improved site productivity through reduced shift handover times and less unplanned maintenance downtime from machine operator errors.”

He added: “RCT has been supplying proven technological solutions to the mining industry in Kazakhstan and the broader CIS region for over 25 years and we look forward to providing more autonomous solutions in the future.”

A spokesperson for Borusan Kazakhstan said the company has been working with RCT since 2008 and in that time has delivered multiple automation projects for the Kazakhstan mining industry, including at the Tishinsky mine.

“Borusan Kazakhstan has been actively watching the regional mining market, and in cooperation with RCT has developed teleremote technology that is suitable for the CIS market,” the spokesperson said.

“In collaboration with RCT, Borusan Kazakhstan currently provides remote control and teleremote solution implementation, standard and adapted-for-the-customer equipment delivery, maintenance services and employee technology training.”

Sandvik slots new DU412i automated drill into ITH longhole range

Sandvik says it has launched its first automation-ready underground ITH longhole drill for production drilling, service support and mechanised slot raising.

The DU412i is a “truly versatile automated ITH longhole drill for a wide range of ITH applications”, it said.

For the first time in the global market, the DU412i introduces mechanised pipe handling in V–30 slot raising applications, according to Sandvik.

Its first fully automated ITH longhole drill, the DU412i has a drilling module for fan or parallel Ø90-216 mm longhole drilling, using 3-8 in ITH hammers. Equipped with the V-30 head, the drill provides mechanised reaming of Ø30 in slot raises, it says.

The DU412i is available with high capacity on-board boosters and hammer pressure up to 28 bar. “This ensures higher penetration rates, drilling capacity and supports hammers up to 8 in at 24 bar pressure,” it said. “The increased boom offset of parallel holes to 3,000 mm allows more holes to be drilled each set-up.”

The DU412i has automation packages for repeating drilling cycles with speed and precision, Sandvik says. Unmanned drilling through breaks and shift changes increases fleet utilisation; one operator can supervise multiple units, improving product safety and productivity.

The drill is also equipped with a new, improved user interface on the drill or in the remote-controlled location.

The standard Silver drilling automation package features single-hole automation (including uncoupling of pipes), while the optional Platinum package delivers fan automation, drill plan management and as-drilled data download.

Teleremote drilling operation on the DU412i improves productivity and product safety, according to the company. “Radio-remote tramming gives the operator excellent visibility of the work area to safely tram the unit between fans and set it up very precisely without being in the operation area.” The tramming is possible on either diesel power or using the electric power pack, it said.

The FOPS/ROPS cabin on the DU412i is the safest and the most comfortable working environment in underground drilling, Sandvik claims. It offers a more open and spacious environment for the operator with increased visibility and low sound pressure level during drilling of <75 dBA.

An adjustable drilling control panel and seat improve operating comfort during operation, while tramming teleremote cameras are available, it said.

In the V-30 slot raising configuration, the unit is delivered with blind bore feed and split centraliser, spaced out RH6250 rotation head and PC225 carousel. The storing capacity of the carousel allows up to 40 m of continuous drilling and slot raising.

The unit is fitted with KSU34 on-board booster (34 m³/min at 28 bar) and single-hole automation for Ø6.5 in pilot hole drilling, while, for reaming, the pilot to Ø10 in can be used. Pipe handling during reaming the raise to Ø30 in with the V–30 head is mechanised, meanwhile.

The layout of the carrier allows ground access to all service points, while swing-out frames offer ease of access to other components and safety in service, Sandvik concludes.

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.”