Tag Archives: Volvo

Olitek on a mechanisation mission to provide mine safety step change

IM’s Teams call with Olitek Mining Robotics’ (OMR) James Oliver and Newcrest’s Tony Sprague starts like many other meetings, with a safety share.

Centred on the experiences of a drill and blast expert, Barry Crowdey, owner of Blastcon Australia Pty Ltd, this ‘share’ goes some way to highlighting mining’s hidden safety problem.

“So often we hear about safety shares that are almost instantaneous: rock failures, rock bursts, collapses, vehicle incidents, energy releases, ground collapses, or somebody getting pinned against something,” Oliver, OMR’s Managing Director, told IM. “You have this instantaneous safety hazard you are always trying to protect against.

“The ones that don’t get reported – and are possibly creating a big stigma in the mining industry – is the ongoing wear and tear on the human body.”

Crowdey, a blasting consultant, offers direct experience here.

As a charge-up operator, he was recently side-lined for six months after major shoulder surgery. A whole host of repetitive tasks – such as push and pull activities during blasthole preparation and charge-up – conducted over the last two decades had proven too much for his body.

“A charge-up operator is a highly sought-after job,” Oliver said. “The perception is: you have to be tough to do it well. Barry never complained about this – which probably speaks to awareness around men’s mental health to a degree – and would often use his time off to recover from body soreness likely caused by these repetitive tasks.”

The injuries that don’t get reported – and are possibly creating a big stigma in the mining industry – are the ongoing wear and tear on the human body, James Oliver says

He added: “After stories like this, it is no wonder the mining industry has a stigma for wearing people out and, essentially, taking away more than it is providing – personally and from an environmental perspective.”

Sprague, Group Manager, Directional Studies and Innovation at Newcrest, has experienced some of the strains placed on the human body by carrying out similar manual tasks on mine sites, reflecting on a three-month stint on a blast crew in Kalgoorlie at the height of summer.

He, Newcrest and the wider mining industry are responding to these issues.

For the past three-or-so-years, Newcrest has been collaborating closely with OMR to develop a range of smart, safe and robust robotic systems enabling open-pit mechanised charge-up, blasthole measurement and geological blasthole sampling, as well as underground remote charge-up for tunnel development.

This suite of solutions is tackling a major industry problem that most mining OEMs focused on automating load and haul, or drilling operations, are not looking at.

OMR is addressing this market gap.

“Apart from a small number of mines and in specific applications, the mining industry is generally not ready for automation,” Oliver said. “Effective mechanisation of the hazardous mining tasks is what is needed first. This is where design thinking is crucial – process review, deletion, modification and optimisation to enable robotic mechanisation.”

Sprague added: “Most processes in mining have been designed for fingers and have taken hundreds of years to be optimised around them. We now need to mechanise these processes before we can start thinking about automating.”

The metric for momentum

The injuries that OMR and many others are looking to alleviate with mechanisation of these manual processes are not generally captured by lost time injuries or other similar safety metrics.

Most processes in mining have been designed for fingers and have taken hundreds of years to be optimised around them, Tony Sprague says

This has historically made it hard to invest in such technology – the numbers don’t typically show up in the WH&S reporting.

Yet, the risk of not confronting this issue is starting to have more sway over operational decision making at the same time as technology is reaching a suitably mature level.

“The image of Barry at home recovering from surgery to address career-induced injuries is not the image the mining industry wants to portray any longer,” Oliver said.

And with mining companies competing with other industries for skilled talent, they can no longer afford to put such stress on their people.

The idea, as OMR says, is to maintain process performance with well executed mechanised equipment. “Strain the machinery, not the people” is one of the company’s mottos.

And it will only take a few more frontrunners adopting such technology to affect real change across the industry, according to Oliver.

“Socially, people will speak,” he said. “If the mine down the road has someone in the comfort of an air-conditioned cabin carrying out remote charge-up operations, that news will soon spread. Operators will no longer tolerate being exposed to rock bursts, injuries and the like, and will leave positions where they are put in such a situation.”

It is such momentum that has, arguably, led to the industry backing innovators like OMR.

One of the company’s products, the Remote Charge-up Unit (RCU), is now the subject of a major collaborative project managed by the Canada Mining Innovation Council (CMIC).

Seeking to alleviate the issues associated with loading and priming explosives at the development face, the RCU’s core enabling technology is OMR’s innovative “Trigger Assembly” (pictured below), which enables lower cost conventional detonators to be mechanically installed safely and efficiently. This system is fitted to a modified Volvo wheeled excavator, with its hydraulic robotic boom, and is the key to moving people away from harm’s way in the underground mining setting.

The project is being delivered in a series of development phases through to Technology Readiness Level 7. This functioning prototype machine will enable personnel to move at least 4-5 m away from the underground development face and carry out efficient and effective face charge-up.

This project is moving into the procurement and build phase of the first prototype, according to Oliver.

Newcrest is also one of the major miners steering developments of the RCU, alongside Agnico Eagle, Glencore and Vale within the CMIC collaboration.

While Sprague says his company has injected early seed funding to get some of the OMR work moving, he thinks industry collaboration is key to bringing the products to market.

“What got me into wanting to do these sorts of projects is the belief that the mining industry can be so much better than it currently is,” Sprague said. “We can change this faster by finding smart, agile companies like Olitek and support them with groups of like-minded mining companies to accelerate projects. We are showing that when the industry works together, we can make solutions to our problems appear.

He added: “I’m a true believer that momentum breeds momentum. In these types of projects, I use my finite seed funds and stretch them as far as possible. I might not know how to get to the end of a project in terms of funding it, but if I can get it to a point where we have some TRL3 designs and lab testing to prove the concept, you can go out to the market and find ways to progress up through the technology readiness levels.

“It is about chipping away and progressing up through the TRLs as opposed to asking the industry to blindly invest in R&D.”

Moving up a level

And this is where most of OMR’s technology suite is at: TR5 to TRL6 level.

Oliver explained: “If we look at the RCU unit at the moment, we have a robotic excavator platform that was developed on a sister project. This modular approach we are taking has allowed us to go into new applications seamlessly because of the base technology building blocks we have created.”

Alongside the RCU, the company is working on an “Anako” suite of products, namely: Anako Sense, Anako Sample and Anako Prime.

Anako Sense is a borehole probe sensing machine allowing operators to remotely measure the depth, temperature and presence of water within blastholes. It has been designed to mechanise this quality monitoring process in the open pit, removing operators from danger and putting them in the safety of an air-conditioned cabin. The Mark 2 machine – which is now commercially available – provides faster than manual cycle times, while eliminating fatigue, repetitive strain injury and exposure risks, according to OMR. It also provides real-time data capture of borehole quality measurements.

Anako Sample provides a mechanised sampling process to collect blasthole data. It, again, removes personnel from harm’s way, while providing fast cycle times and repeatable sample quality. It also provides automated data recording. This technology is currently going through Factory Acceptance Testing, with plans to deploy to a customer site shortly.

Anako Prime – for mechanised open-pit charge-up – provides all the benefits of the other Anako products while being compatible with multiple types of explosives. It is leveraging the developments made in the underground environment with the RCU and has a Mark 1 machine completed. Progress is also being made on a Mark 2 version to achieve high productivity, fully mechanised priming and bulk emulsion placement, according to Oliver.

While more products could be added to the OMR portfolio in time, the company is focused on leveraging the proven Volvo wheeled and excavator platform that can scale up from 6 t to 60 t capacities and can move quickly around the mine.

Given the strong collaborative relationship OMR has fostered with Volvo over the years, there is also potential down the line for the Volvo network to support these machines across the globe, providing the machine uptime safety net that many remote mine operators would like if they were to take up the OMR technology option.

The inspiration

Crowdey’s role in this story does not end with the safety share. He is also now training operators on this new equipment, providing a real-life example of the reason to adopt such mechanisation as well as how easy that adoption process is.

Sprague said: “You might think you need to be an expert excavator operator to work these technologies, yet the smart controls, vision and positioning systems for hole location, for instance, means the machines do the hard work for you.”

Oliver added to this: “We say a trainable operator can be sat in that machine and, after a matter of days, be as efficient as a manual operator.”

There is an impending deadline for mine operators to confront these issues, with mechanisation of the most dangerous processes the first port of call, according to Oliver.

“The only way to stop this mining impact is about enabling machinery to do the work and going through a mechanisation process to ensure the Barrys of this world don’t have to conduct these manual processes,” he said. “A good example of that over the last decade is the installation of hose feeders on emulsion pumping units in blasthole charging. That represents a ‘step’ in the right direction, but what we need now is ‘step change’.

“Eventually there will be places in a mine that people simply cannot go, so we better start perfecting mechanisation now as automation will be needed one day. It might be 10 years from now, but, if we’re not mechanised by that point, we will simply not be able to mine these more challenging ore deposits.”

Indo Muro Kencana looks to improve machine uptime with Volvo ACTIVE CARE

Through proactive monitoring and preventative maintenance, Volvo ACTIVE CARE is supporting Indonesian gold miner, Indo Muro Kencana (IMK), in achieving greater uptime and, therefore, greater productivity and profitability from its fleet of haulers and excavators.

IMK now has Indonesia’s largest fleet of machines connected to Volvo ACTIVE CARE, including 52 A40G articulated haulers and seven crawler excavators (five EC480DL and two EC750DL models).

The company, based in Central Kalimantan, recently took the decision to connect its machines to the new proactive monitoring service in a bid to boost machine availability and production.

Although still early days, IMK anticipates Volvo ACTIVE CARE will increase machine availability to 92% and productivity by 32% as a result.

“Our machines work long hours to meet production targets and we cannot afford to lose production due to unscheduled downtime. Volvo ACTIVE CARE will take us from reactive maintenance and repair behaviours to being proactive about the uptime of our fleet,” Mr Julianto, Maintenance Superintendent at IMK, said.

Maintenance Manager, Mr Karsono, added: “We are also excited to see how we can use the ACTIVE CARE reports to improve operator behaviour, reduce fuel consumption and improve productivity. For example, we can improve productivity and lower costs just by knowing the idling status of the fleet and setting targets to reduce it.”

Using Volvo CareTrack telematics data, staff at the Volvo Uptime Center in Singapore will remotely monitor the performance of IMK’s machines as well as any error codes or alarms that appear. If there is a severe error that might lead to breakdown, the Uptime Center will create a case and contact the local dealer, Indotruck Utama, to suggest an action to IMK.

This takes the hassle out of fleet management and IMK can rest assured any potential problems will be noticed and addressed before they lead to costly unplanned downtime.

Alkane boosts Tomingley UG mining fleet with Sandvik, Epiroc, Cat and Volvo equipment

Alkane Resources is rolling out a A$16 million ($11.8 million) upgrade of its underground mining equipment fleet to support the development of the Tomingley Gold Extension project in New South Wales, Australia.

Alkane’s Tomingley Gold Operations (TGO) recently received a new Sandvik DL432i production drill, a fully-mechanised, highly versatile and compact electro-hydraulic top hammer longhole drill, to replace an older model drill, it said.

TGO, which recently replaced three of its Cat 2900 loaders, will also soon be receiving four new Epiroc MT65 trucks (65 t payload), four Volvo integrated tool carriers, as well as a Cat 140M grader and a new development jumbo drill.

TGO General Manager, Jason Hughes, said: “Our original underground second hand fleet has done a great job getting the project started with a very low capital outlay for what was a planned three-year mine life. Now, with an extended underground mine life out until at least 2026, it’s time to replace it with a new modern fleet.

“By committing A$16 million to a new fleet, we will be ensuring TGO will be an efficient and productive mining operation well into the future.”

The mine produced 56,958 oz of gold in the 12 months to June 30, 2021, with plans for it to produce 55,000-60,000 oz in the 12 months to June 30, 2022.

Volvo CE R100E rigid haul truck set for Q4 North America launch

Volvo Construction Equipment says it is readying a launch of its 95 t R100E rigid haul truck into the North America market, more than 18 months after customers and dealers at the company’s Motherwell facility in Scotland got a first glance of the machine.

With a size and capacity that make it the largest hauler in the company’s line-up, the R100E rigid hauler promises to drive down operating costs for customers by boosting productivity, uptime and operator comfort, the company said.

It is powered by a 783 kW Tier 4 Final engine, with a combined drivetrain to provide high torque capabilities, “unparalleled pulling performance” and class-leading rimpull for optimum travel times, according to Volvo CE.

Drivetrain control and machine movement are supplied by the new Volvo Dynamic Shift Control, which automatically tailors the transmission shift-points depending on the worksite and operational inputs.

Customers can expect to spend less per haul with the R100E, featuring a 60.4 m3 capacity V-shaped body for optimum load retention and minimal material carry-back.

It said: “The load profile policy enables the operator to meet a consistent average target payload, while the body-tipping system ensures fast cycle times for an all-round efficient performance.”

The Tier 4 Final R100E includes a manually-activated ECO mode for long distance hauls and high-speed applications, meanwhile.

It comes equipped with intelligent monitoring systems such as an On-Board Weighing (OBW) option to ensure the machine moves the maximum safe payload to further optimise production and minimise operational costs. “It does this by using exterior-mounted pressure sensors to monitor and relay machine statistics to the operator’s on-board display,” the company said.

It is also configured with the Volvo CareTrack telematics system to monitor operational data including fuel consumption, machine utilisation and excessive idling reports.

Customers interested in increasing the productivity of existing and future projects have access to Volvo Site Simulation with the help of their local Volvo dealer.

“Site Simulation recommends the most profitable fleet of equipment and project results based on customer needs,” the company says. “By using the simulation, customers and dealers can work together to put an equipment plan in place before a project begins.”

It also has a truck body manufactured from high impact and high abrasion-resistant 400-HBW-hard steel and a ROPS/FOPS-certified operator cab for greater operator productivity and safety. The cab is also fitted onto viscous-type isolation mounts for greater ride quality.

From the operator seat, the operator can observe the job site and surrounding areas through the large glass area and a low rake windscreen. Good visibility is complemented by a 360° surround view system provided by Volvo Smart View. This uses multiple ultra-wide angle exterior-mounted cameras to produce a bird’s-eye-view of the vehicle and surrounding work area via the on-board display.

In addition, the transmission retarder and neutral coast inhibitor secure safe machine control in downhill conditions, while the engine overspeed protection automatically slows the machine down to safe operating limits.

The R100E makes accessing daily service checks and routine maintenance quick and easy with anti-slip steps and secure walkways. All service points are strategically grouped and located within reach from the ground and service platform, while the direct rim-mounted wheel design promotes safe and quick installation and removal, the company said.

The machine features a high degree of filtration for better performance and to prolong component life. “Each functional system on the hydraulics has magnetic suction filters, as well as a pressure filtration on the steering, brake actuation pump and rear brake cooling units,” the company said. “The engine-mounted primary and secondary fuel filters combine with the advanced two stage oil filtration to remove harmful contaminates.”

Volvo will display a Tier 2 version of the R100E at CONEXPO-CON/AGG on March 10-14, with the Tier 4 Final model commercially available in North America in the December quarter of 2020.

Volvo builds out automation offering on industry demand

Volvo is stepping up its automation efforts across multiple industry segments, including mining, with the addition of a new autonomous solutions business area from the start of 2020.

The Volvo Autonomous Solutions business area will accelerate the development, commercialisation and sales of autonomous transport solutions, the company says.

This will enable the Volvo Group to meet a growing demand and to offer the best possible solutions to customers in segments such as mining, ports and transport between logistics centres, it added.

“With global developments that are characterised by higher demand for transportation, increasingly congested roads and major environmental challenges, the industry needs to provide transport solutions that are safer, have a lower environmental impact and are more efficient,” the company said.

“Autonomous transport solutions, based on self-driving and connectivity technologies are well-suited for applications where there is a need to move large volumes of goods and material on pre-defined routes, in repetitive flows. In such situations, autonomous transport solutions can create value for customers by contributing to improved flexibility, delivery precision and productivity.”

Martin Lundstedt, President and CEO of Volvo Group, said the company has experienced a significant increase in enquiries from customers on automation projects.

“With the Volvo Group’s wide range of offerings and broad experience of different applications, we have a unique opportunity to offer solutions that meet their specific needs,” he said. “It is a logical next step for us to gather expertise and resources in a new business area with profit and loss responsibility to take autonomous transport solutions to the next level.”

The Volvo Group has already demonstrated a number of different autonomous transport solutions.

In the Electric Site project, material handling in Skanska’s Vikan Kross quarry, near Gothenburg, Sweden, was automated and electrified. The result was a safer working environment and a reduction of operator costs by 40% and of carbon dioxide emissions by 98%, according to the company.

Since then, the company has announced investments at its Eskilstuna site in Sweden, including an arena for customer demonstrations of electric and autonomous machines, a new R&D test track and an energy recovery system for the factory.

At the Brønnøy Kalk mine in Norway, autonomous Volvo FH trucks (pictured) will be used in commercial operation to transport limestone along a 5 km stretch, the company added.

Another pioneering initiative is the self-driving, connected and electric vehicle Vera. In its first assignment Vera will form part of an integrated solution to transport goods from a logistics centre to a port terminal in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Volvo Autonomous Solutions will constitute a new business area as of January 1, 2020, with its financial results reported as part of the Truck segment, it said.

Demand for OEM simulators, conversion kits high, Immersive Tech says

Immersive Technologies says it has engaged in an “unprecedented level” of mining machine simulator development for a diverse range of original equipment manufacturers (OEM) over the past year.

This trend is set to continue with projects underway for new and existing customers to build simulators for heavy machinery manufactured by BELAZ, Caterpillar, Epiroc, Hitachi, Iveco, Komatsu, Liebherr, MACK and Volvo, the company said.

In the last 12 months, Immersive Technologies has released new simulator modules (Conversion Kits®), for Cat Line of Sight Remote Control, Cat 777E Truck, Komatsu 930E-5 Truck, Liebherr R9200 Excavator, Sandvik DD311-40C Jumbo, Volvo FH16 Light Truck and many more, it said.

Investment in Conversion Kits for multiple OEM machines is continuing unabated with projects in development within the next months for: BELAZ 75131 Truck, Cat 994K Wheel Loader, Hitachi EX5600-7 Shovel, Komatsu 730E-8 Truck, Letourneau L-2350 Gen 2 Wheel Loader, Liebherr R9800 Excavator, Mack GU813E Light Truck and others.

Projects are underway to produce simulators for machines manufactured by BELAZ, Caterpillar, Epiroc (formerly Atlas Copco), Hitachi, Iveco, Komatsu, Liebherr, MACK and Volvo.

Wayde Salfinger, Executive Director – Marketing at Immersive Technologies, said: “Our investment in simulators for a diverse range of OEM’s machines is increasing, driven by demand from our customers. Immersive has always and will continue to be focused foremost on the needs of our customers, most of whom operate mixed OEM fleets.”

Salfinger added: “Immersive Technologies’ acquisition by Komatsu will not change our strategy, we will continue to support machines from all OEMs; that’s what our customers expect.” Komatsu announced, just last month, that it would acquire the mining simulation and training specialist.

Immersive Technologies credits its ongoing growth in demand on its proven and verifiable success in increasing mine profitability by optimising the safety and productivity of equipment operators. “These results are driven by a clear focus on integrating people, process, and technology to reduce risk, quantify training impact and effectively managing the training process,” the company said.

Newcrest, Epiroc and Volvo weigh up new underground mining system

Newcrest Mining, in collaboration with Epiroc and Volvo, is working on a potential new system of mining to improve the safety and efficiency of underground load and haul involving the use of a Häggloader, haul truck and LHD.

The proof of concept trial with Newcrest Mining has already seen testing in Sweden at the Epiroc Kvarntorp mine and at SweRock’s Atle quarry, which saw Newcrest, Epiroc and Volvo contributing equipment and personnel, Epiroc said. This saw an Epiroc Häggloader and Scooptram ST18 interact with a Volvo truck.

Tony Sprague, Group Manager Technology & Innovation, Newcrest Mining, Australia, said: “As mines are getting deeper, and with escalating energy and haulage costs, mining companies must be constantly on the lookout for better ways to work.

“The goal with this proof of concept trial was about setting a baseline on what can be achieved with Häggloader, Volvo trucks and Scooptram ST18.”

The team came together to observe the Häggloader, Volvo trucks and Scooptram ST18 in action both underground (Kvarntorp) and on surface (Atle). Data was collected and improvements were identified by the team, according to Epiroc.

Sprague continued: “We will now move onto the next phase which involves working with Epiroc and Volvo to progress the system to higher productivities and efficiencies.

“Newcrest is setting a rapid pace of technology and innovation change to improve our mining operations. Without the collaborative support from our selected partners, we will not move fast enough, or be as successful. And we select our partners based on their attitude and culture towards innovation. In Epiroc and Volvo, both two great Swedish success stories, we see like-minded companies willing to work together to achieve great outcomes for our people, companies and the environment.”

He concluded: “We are looking for win-win outcomes where all parties involved stand to gain – that’s the best way to drive effective collaborations. With the Häggloader, Epiroc has a unique system of loading that has not been widely utilised into the global mining industry, and Newcrest is keen to help change this.”

LKAB plans for live SUM project testing at Konsuln in 2020

LKAB, one of five companies invested in the Sustainable Underground Mining project (SUM), says it is hoping to move into test mode in 2020 with a number of projects aimed at making future mines carbon dioxide-free, digitalised and autonomous.

SUM has four sub-projects that are closely interconnected. In one of the sub-projects, autonomous, smart and carbon-free vehicles will be tested in LKAB’s test mine, Konsuln, in Kiruna. This will see humans and machines work together safely, according to the company.

The Swedish miner, which is looking to set a new world standard for sustainable mining at great depths, will be helped by ABB, Epiroc, Combitech and the Volvo group in its efforts.

LKAB said: “The strength of a major partnership such as SUM is that each company can contribute with its unique expertise. Epiroc has extensive experience of machinery developed for use underground and the Volvo group of vehicles used above ground. Combitech contributes with knowledge of how different systems can be integrated with each other and ABB with management systems, ie how the communication can work.”

In sub-project 2, DP2, the focus is currently on knowledge sharing and finding a common level to start with, LKAB said. The goal is to test electrically-driven, both manual and self-steering loaders, drilling rigs and forklifts that will interact with each other, people and other vehicles operating in the mine.

Hans Engberg (pictured), LKAB’s Project Manager for DP2, said: “There are several challenges, but one of the biggest is to find smart, simple and above all safe systems for underground transport in mixed traffic. We know that autonomous machines must work together with driver-controlled vehicles in the mine. Many people think that the technology already exists, but it does not. We will be the first with this.”

Mariana Forsberg, Project Manager for the Volvo group, said the company started with a survey of LKAB’s mining operations. “Volvo needs to know what vehicles are in the mine, how and where people will move and how everything works together. From that, we will then look at what autonomous solutions can work in the rather special environment that is, after all, an underground mine.”

With autonomous machines, loading operations can be carried out done for longer periods of time without breaks, which among other things would help LKAB reach its goal of increased productivity.

LKAB is also striving for a carbon-free operation, and this is where electric vehicles with batteries are deemed to be an option in the mine. How and where batteries should be charged in a production environment is one of the many questions that sub-project 2 should provide answers to.

Niklas Fors, Epiroc’s Project Manager, said: “Based on the overall objectives of the project, we will set milestones so that we can perform real test situations in Konsuln. It is a case of making use of the knowledge that exists in our various companies in SUM and bringing some fresh thinking together, with safety as a guiding light. SUM is bigger than the sum of its parts.”

Another important issue is finding answers to how data should be communicated, so that the right information reaches the right recipients at the right time.

“For a safe and accessible working environment, vehicles should also be smart, ie able to exchange information by being connected in real time,” LKAB said. “This requires precise positioning of machines and people. How the data is to be collected and reach the right person or vehicle must be tested and evaluated.”

The ambition is that live testing will begin in the test mine in about a year. All test results should then be used as a basis for LKAB in the mid-2020s to decide how mining should look after the year 2030, when the current main levels in the mines in Malmberget and Kiruna are deemed to be mined out.

Engberg said: “Autonomous and smart machines are absolutely part of the solution to become carbon-free and increase productivity, but we will always need people in the mine. However, today’s miners will not do the same things as tomorrow’s. New technology brings new tasks, just as it always has in all development, whether it be in the mining industry or in society at large. What we are facing requires knowledge, fresh thinking and hard work. SUM is about our future.”