Tag Archives: undeground mining

Japan’s Terra Drone invests in underground aerial robotics startup Inkonova

Terra Drone, a leading global commercial drone technology company, has acquired a significant stake in Inkonova AB, a Swedish startup developing aerial robotics for underground mining.

The deal, comprised of a cash injection, will see changes to the management team, as well as technical, business development, and operational collaborations, Inkonova said.

Terra Drone’s UAV inspection, survey, and other service provisions cover various industries globally including mining, which just happens to be Inkonova’s main market.

Ahmed AlNomany, Inkonova AB Co-Founder and CEO, said: “Terra Drone’s global network of clients, post-processing domain, service-based business model, customer experience, technical personnel, and human and financial resources, will help us dramatically ramp up our business development and commercial-readiness efforts, taking our technology to the next level.”

Under the deal, Inkonova will supply Terra Drone with its UAV core technology, including anti-dust and waterproof platforms (as in the TILT Ranger, pictured) and infrastructure-denied autonomous navigation (as in the Batonomous technology), while Terra Drone – apart from providing finance – will employ its global clients, local offices, pilots, post-processing capacity, and broader commercial and technical domain expertise.

Toru Tokushige, Founder and CEO of Terra Motors Corp and Terra Drone Corp, who will be appointed as an Inkonova board member, said the company had been looking to partner with other companies in the mining field in order to expand.

“Underground mining still has huge issues. According to the statistics from The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the number of lost-time injuries in 2015 was 4,517 in America, and those of other developing counties were incomparably high.

“So, I hope the cooperation between Terra Drone, with its broad network and innovative technologies, and Inkonova, the eminent company for mining drone services, contributes to the rapid and further technical improvements for underground safety and productivity.”

In line with the partnership, Inkonova’s products will undergo rebranding to streamline with Terra Drone products, details of which will be announced later this month.

Inkonova’s products include aerial platforms, and aerial autonomous navigation/mapping solutions customised to the constraints of underground mines, and subterranean or constricted industrial spaces.

Earlier this year, Inkonova demoed the Batonomous navigation system for its TILT Ranger and TILT Scout underground drones in Gällivare with LKAB. It has since also worked with Barrick Gold on the Golden Sunlight mine in Nevada.

MacLean sees big future for LR3 utility vehicle in Australia

A fifth LR3 Boom Lift unit is soon to be delivered into Freemantle port in Western Australia, and MacLean Engineering is banking on there being plenty more of its heavy load/high reach utility vehicles reaching Australia’s underground mines soon.

The LR3 has been manufactured by MacLean to solve a number of elevated work platform needs at high-back mines across the world.

In addition to the heavy load/high reach features – which sees the LR3 able to provide lifting capacity of up to 10,000 pounds (4.5 tonnes) from the ground up to 8 m – the utility vehicle has articulated steering for tight cornering, a radio remote drive system and is equipped with a Mercedes 906 engine with 150 kW rated output. It also has +\-15 degree boom swing and +/- 30 degree deck swing ranges, providing flexibility in tunnel headings of 5 m or more.

The machines are also equipped with an auxiliary hydrostatic drive system that, when working in parallel with the regular drive system, allows the unit to advance or retreat while the basket is in the air, increasing productivity.

George Fisher, part of the Mount Isa Mines complex, received one of the units back in February and has been using it to access heavy-weight ventilation fans at height underground at the mine. Such a task previously carried extra risk, according to Stephen Thomas, Account Manager for MacLean in eastern Australia.

“[Australian underground operators] were using an IT (integrated tool) unit to put the D Shackle or daisy chain on, and were standing on the handrail as they needed the extra height,” he told IM. Another option was to fill an LHD bucket with sand, ask a worker to climb in and get the LHD operator to lift them up to access these fans.

Neither sounds safe, but John Botelho, Product Manager for Utility Vehicles at MacLean, said these practices were accepted because no other option existed.

That is, until recently.

The LR3 is fully compliant with the new elevated work platform standards across Australia and is certified to lift and access the weighty ventilation fans that previously caused problems for underground operators.

The vehicle is built for more than this, with the LR3 able to carry out water pipe installation, drilling, and electrical services underground thanks to the ability to interchange cassettes with other MacLean vehicles. This means existing customers can get the most out of the unit’s heavy load/high reach capabilities by detaching cassettes from, say, a scissor truck and reattaching it to the LR3.

“It’s a multi-purpose unit with the main target being the twin fan installation and that reach just provides us with all sorts of other flexibility to do so all sorts of smaller jobs,” Botelho told IM.

Even though it is early days for the LR3 – MacLean only announced the launch of the LR3 in February last year – it has already had an interesting start to life.

The first unit ever manufactured is working at Glencore’s Bracemac zinc-copper-silver operation in northern Quebec (pictured in operation), the second is with contractor Barminco – and is now operating at AngloGold Ashanti’s Sunrise Dam operation – while the third and fourth are operating in northern Manitoba and southern Mongolia (Oyu Tolgoi), respectively.

A fifth is due to be delivered to Freemantle port next month and Thomas is confident of soon confirming a buyer.

Such is the company’s confidence in the product and the market demand for it – especially from Australia’s underground mining sector – that MacLean is building the units ahead of orders.

“The units are being built to an Australia specification and shipped to accommodate shipping times over that distance,” Botelho said, explaining the units spend a month on the water being transported from Canada to Australia.

Some of North America’s larger heading underground mines, plus some operations in Europe, are also registering an interest in the LR3, the company said.