Tag Archives: wheel loaders

Second Cat 994K wheel loader arrives at Capstone’s Pinto Valley in latest innovation push

Capstone Mining has brought a second Caterpillar 994K wheel loader to its Pinto Valley operation in Arizona, USA, as it looks to reduce its emissions and improve its operating cost base at the copper mine.

Last year, the mine added to its fleet a Cat 994K loader, which, the company says, burns circa-30 less gallons of fuel per hour (1.9 litres/min) than its current shovels. “This reduced our CO2 emissions and operational cost savings on approximately 116,000 gallons of fuel in 2020,” Capstone said.

The second 994K, added last week, will, in partnership with the first wheel loader, displace around 10,000 shovel hours a year and save approximately 410,000 gallons of fuel and millions in maintenance costs, the company claimed.

Capstone concluded: “Pinto Valley is innovating and optimising for exciting times ahead.”

This is not the only area of innovation the company is currently pursuing at Pinto Valley, an operation it acquired from BHP back in in October 2013.

In its 2020 results, released last month, Capstone said the implementation of phase one of its PV3 Optimization project at Pinto Valley had delivered a 10% sustainable throughput improvement compared with 2019.

The PV3 Optimization project has been designed to achieve safer, more reliable and higher capacity operations without major investments in new comminution equipment. It is doing this by leveraging new inexpensive technologies.

Phase one work, which included improved blast fragmentation processes, installation of a new secondary crusher and screen decks as well as a new mill shell, was completed last year. This saw the mine achieve throughput of 57,168 t/d in the December quarter, 10% higher than the annual 2019 average of 51,137 t/d. December 2020 mill throughput achieved 60,717 t/d, which represents a new monthly record in the mine’s operating history.

Phase two of the PV3 Optimization project is expected to be completed in the second half of 2021, upon completion of upgrades to a conveyor, mill auto controls, cyclone packs and retrofits to the thickeners, it said.

During the month of December, the company conducted a pilot plant test of Eriez HydroFloat coarse particle technology at Pinto Valley, with Capstone saying the results had surpassed expectations of a 6% improvement target to overall copper recovery. In fact, the tests showed a 6-8% increase in overall copper recovery was achievable, which, when combined with expected higher throughput rates, could result in an additional 9-12 MIb/y (4,082-5,443 t/y) of copper production at the operation, it said.

“Additional benefits to the technology include allowing the operation increased throughput by operating at a coarser grind size, which is expected to lower power costs, improve water consumption and lead to improved stability in the tailings storage facility,” Capstone said in its 2020 results. “The estimated $70 million expansionary capital, which includes the installation of Eriez HydroFloat and related equipment, if approved by the board of directors, is expected to be spread over half two 2021 and early 2022, with start-up expected in Q2 (June quarter) 2022.”

Capstone said it expects to release an updated NI 43-101 technical report that encompasses the PV3 Optimization Phase 1 and Phase 2 projects and improvements in the second half of 2021.

At the same time, it is also looking into a PV4 study at Pinto Valley.

Capstone explained: “Feasibility work on scenarios to take advantage of approximately one billion tonnes of mineral resource not currently in the mineral reserve mine plan, which is at similar grade to the current mineral reserves, will be conducted for Pinto Valley.”

The PV4 study is expected to be released in late 2022 and will contemplate using existing mill infrastructure rather than building new facilities, with higher mining rates, higher cutoff grades to the mill and increased tonnage available for leaching.

Extensive column leach test work in collaboration with Jetti Resources LLC will take place over 2021. Jetti’s patented catalytic technology, designed to allow for the efficient and effective heap and stockpile leach extraction of copper, has been a success at Pinto Valley’s leaching operation, where it expects to recover up to 350 million pounds of cathode copper over the next two decades from historic and new mineralised waste piles.

“Capstone is a pioneer in the application of this leach technology and we intend to use it to enhance the economics of a future expansion at Pinto Valley,” it said.

Komatsu iMC dozers, drone tech help RHT Contracting revolutionise tailings dam build

When long-time friends Joe Riccardo, Mike Heddon and Mark Tyler set up RHT Contracting in mid-2018, they knew they needed a winning edge when bidding for contracts – so they went for the most innovative and technically advanced construction equipment available, a Komatsu Australia case study reports.

That saw them choose Komatsu’s intelligent Machine Control (iMC) dozer and excavator technology when bidding for a large contract to construct tailings storage facilities (TSFs) for a major mining operation in Western Australia.

Currently RHT runs four Komatsu iMC machines: two D65PXi-18 swamp dozers, a D155AXi-8 dozer, and a PC360LCi-11, as well as Komatsu wheel loaders, dump trucks, graders, and other excavators on the one site.

Not only does using iMC technology give RHT significant safety, productivity, efficiency and accuracy advantages in TSF construction, it also provides the company’s mining clients the security and peace of mind that their critical facilities have been built to the highest and most exacting standards.

Today that is essential for any mining operation, following catastrophic failures of tailings dams in South America in the past five years, which have killed many people and caused widespread environmental devastation.

To ensure their integrity and long-term performance, it’s essential that TSFs be constructed following an established process, which involves placing the dam material in 300 mm thick layers; these are then compacted, and the top 100 mm scarified to ensure a strong lock with the subsequent 300 mm layer.

Using Komatsu iMC machines in this application, each 300 mm layer can be placed, quickly and efficiently, within tight tolerances, ready for compaction.

And unlike conventional ‘bolt-on’ machine control systems, the iMC system prevents dozer blades or excavator buckets from ‘over-digging’ into the already compacted and scarified layers, ensuring they are not compromised during placing of the next layer.

When RHT was formed, Riccardo, Heddon and Tyler (the company’s name comes from their surname initials) saw the opportunity to use Komatsu’s iMC technology as a real competitive advantage.

“These days, you’ve really got to innovate,” Heddon says. “Clients want to see that you are innovative and you’re not a dinosaur.

“I’ve been going to shows like CONEXPO and BAUMA for years, and I see all the latest stuff, and I was wondering how good it actually was. Then we spent some time with Dean Jones and Colin Brindle (from Komatsu Perth), to find out what their iMC technology could do.

“We were convinced enough to buy a D65PXi-18 swampy and a PC360LCi-11 excavator, plus a Topcon base station, which were delivered in February 2019, and took them to the site.

“We also put on Fraser Mead, a young surveyor, who’s passionate about technology, plus he’s really into drones and how they can really help with the whole mine infrastructure construction process.”

As of mid-June, Mead and RHT are trialling Komatsu’s EDD (EveryDay Drone) technology, a high precision UAV (drone) survey system providing industry-leading super-fast on-site processing using Komatsu SMARTCONSTRUCTION’s Edge technology.

“Initially the operators weren’t convinced about the iMC machines; they said ‘stuff this, I’m an operator, I don’t need that’, but then after a few days of seeing what the technology could do, they were going ‘wow!’,” Heddon says.

“On the first dam we built, we never put a grader on it, did the whole batter with just our first D65EXi dozer and the PC360LCi excavator. I have never, ever done that before; they are exceptionally good. The dams look great, the batters look great, we’re never having to do rework, we get it right – from the start to the end. It’s always spot on.”

Expanded fleet

Following the success of its first D65PXi-18, RHT bought a second D65PXi-18 in September last year, and the D155AXi-8 in February this year.

“At the moment, we’ve got all these machines working on site, building up to three dams at one time,” Heddon says.

“With the dozers, we are using them for winning material from borrow pits, while the excavator is pulling up batters.”

Building tailings dams for larger mines requires large amounts of earthworks – with dam walls up to 4-6 km around, along with haul roads, so there is a lot of earth to be moved.

RHT’s two smaller iMC machines, with their swamp tracks, are proving ideal for the precision final trim work to millimetre level accuracy, while the larger D155AXi-8 (pictured) is being used for the bulk earthworks on the dams and haul roads, according to Komatsu.

“On the newer dams we are building, we are using clay oxide materials, which are heavier to work with, which is why we brought in the D155AXi,” Heddon says. “Plus, we can also use it for building haul roads. We can just map in a haul road route and design, and the machine can go out and build it, even in rock and clay.”

One thing RHT has found is that the D155AXi-8 has not so far been giving quite the final trim accuracy of the D65PXi-18s.

“Certainly, it is extremely accurate compared with any conventional dozer next to it, but because we have seen how precise the D65s are to a few millimetres, we were expecting that with the D155. However, because it is bigger, it corrects slightly differently,” Heddon says.

“It’s still good, still within coo-ee of what we need, but we know at the moment it’s giving a slightly rougher surface, so you’ve got to take things a bit slower, use a lower gear to get there.

“On the bulk side, Komatsu’s intelligent Machine Control works really well, absolutely on this bigger dozer. You can just set it, and it does exactly what we need. It’s on the fine control, where I think we can get it going even better.

“Because this is all so new, it’s something we are working with Komatsu to perfect.”

Heddon also says iMC ensures that rework and over-excavation never occurs – eliminating overruns and field survey work.

“With Komatsu’s intelligent Machine Control acting as a rover, we know we are always building to the exact specs; we are never over-building, and everything is always exactly level and ready for rolling.

“We don’t require anyone to go out there with a dumpy level checking levels and all that stuff,” he says.

No micro managemenent

The other big advantage is having all the works designs already in the machines, ready for the operators as soon as they need them.

“That’s a big saving because the operators have everything at hand in the machines to do the work,” Heddon says.

“In the old days, we’d have two teams out there pegging the site, one for the day shift, and another for the night shift.

“Now we just put in a couple of reference pegs, then once the operator has the levels, it’s all good to go.”

And, as each part of the job is completed, it can be immediately checked and audited – and the records remain readily available at any time in the future for clients or geotechnical engineers.

“This technology means that the as-built track mapping is all there from the start. When you’re building a tailings dam, it’s essential that layers go down in 300 mm lifts, before the next one goes on top,” he says.

“We can see all this on the computer and know that it was done precisely. So, in future, if there is ever a question with a dam, we can go back in there and show that it was done exactly right. There’s no need for anyone to go in and micromanage. It is a great system.

“The other great thing about these iMC machines is that essentially they act as a mobile rover because everything is done within the machine.

“So, the surveyor can be away on another mine site, and if the operator finishes a job, the surveyor can jump in remotely, and work together with the operator to set things up for the next job. So, people are not sitting around waiting for someone to get back after lunch to start up again.”

Greatly increased site safety is another huge advantage with iMC, according to Komatsu.

“Safety is paramount for us,” Heddon says. “And not having people working on the ground around dump trucks, excavators, wheel loaders, dozers and other machines, is a major safety component. It’s just unreal.”

Heddon has also observed interesting reactions from operators using the iMC systems, and RHT’s clients.

“When these machines first came to site, people said it was just more stuff to go wrong. But then after a few days, they all agree the benefits are countless.

“And our clients have been really impressed with the quality, efficiency and technology the iMC machines offer.

“With this technology, we have the trucks deliver to the site, the dozers push it out – and it’s so level that the trucks can keep working, whereas before we’d have to call in a grader to give the trucks access.

“Everyone is stoked with it, the whole concept. We’ve since bought a second base station, and we’re putting that in our second site.”

The future

Heddon sees tremendous potential for Komatsu’s iMC technology in future projects.

“This is really moving into the future, that’s the only direction we want to go now.

“And particularly after those catastrophic dam failures in Brazil, the more you can prove the quality of your work and show that to the geotechs and the clients, the more successful we can be.

“They really need the confidence that these dams are getting built correctly at all times, not just some of the time.

“It’s giving the mining companies that security and peace of mind that their dams are built right, so they know they have their dams constructed to worlds best practice.

“We’re very committed to this technology. We want to see it on all our earthmoving machines, and we are very keen to see it on the larger excavators, at least up to PC490 size,” Heddon says.

CR’s DecaEdge cast lip for large mining wheel loaders goes live

CR has announced the public launch of its latest DecaEdge cast lip (DE2553) for large mining wheel loader buckets.

First talked about in an IM exclusive in June, the 9-station lip suits wheel loader buckets with capacities between 14-20 cu.m, the company says.

CR’s DecaEdge range has demonstrated its performance and provided maintenance savings over a number of years, with individual lips achieving more than 25,000 operating hours with no major rebuilds, resulting in an over 33% reduction in total cost of ownership of the lip and ground engaging tool system, CR says.

The DE2553 was developed in response to the popularity of CR’s DecaEdge 10 and 11 station cast lips, aiming to broaden the company’s cast lip range for large mining wheel loaders, it says.

CR Chief Executive Officer, John Barbagallo, says the range extension demonstrates the strong market appetite for this unique offering.

“CR is the only manufacturer to offer a range of cast lips for mining class wheel loaders in the world,” he said. “The company prides itself on developing innovative, market leading products to help develop and shape the future of mining.

“By building deep and trusted relationships with customers, CR is able to understand and help solve challenges in field to ensure productivity continually improves. The success and growth of the DecaEdge range is the result of world-class engineering and comprehensive collaboration with our partners.”

MineWare Argus Wheel Loader achieves North America first with CAT 992 installation

MineWare’s new Argus Wheel Loader has made its debut in North America, with the OEM-independent wheel loader monitoring system having recently been installed on a CAT 992K operating at a gold mine in Nevada, USA.

The system, purchased to improve wheel loader truck payload management and performance at the operation, was installed in July by the company’s North America team.

On top of it being the first commercial deployment of MineWare’s Argus WL monitoring system in the North America region, it is also MineWare’s first system installation on a CAT 992K wheel loader, the company told IM.

The release of Argus WL in February followed 18 months of field trials conducted across three Western Australia mine sites.

Argus WL improves wheel loader efficiency, effectiveness and payload accuracy, according to the Komatsu-owned company. “The system weighs each bucket in real time, without the need to stop and calculate payload before dumping the load,” it said.

“Often dubbed as ‘support’ equipment, the wheel loader makes it possible for the primary loading and hauling equipment to do their jobs more efficiently,” MineWare said. “When a large wheel loader has the capacity to replace a small digger, it’s vital not to forget the importance of these assets and the impact they have on mining productivity and profitability.”

The company concluded: “MineWare’s Argus Wheel Loader system is OEM independent/agnostic. Our ‘all makes, all models’ approach gives customers the best opportunity to standardise systems across mixed fleets of equipment.

“For example, on this one particular customer site, MineWare supports three different equipment makes and models: Komatsu, Hitachi and CAT.”

MineWare takes Argus to new heights at Chile copper mine

MineWare says it has recently completed its first high-altitude installation of its Argus monitoring system at one of Chile’s largest copper mines.

While technology continues to digitise and automate many mining processes – with the company recently helping a major copper mine in Chile set up its Argus and Pegasys monitoring systems on five of its electric rope shovels without stepping foot on site – there are still some tasks that need to be managed on the ground, it says.

Reflecting on a recent installation of MineWare’s Argus monitoring system on a P&H 4100XPC shovel at this large copper mine in Chile, MineWare’s Vice President for South America, Ramiro Mesina, said his team specialise in adapting and responding to clients’ environmental conditions.

“We pride ourselves on understanding the unique challenges and opportunities at each of our clients’ sites,” he said. “Our technology has been developed to support this and our team are well-versed in solving complex problems.

“Our recent work in Chile saw our team manage an installation of our Argus monitoring system at an altitude of 4,800 m above sea level in -10°C temperatures with occasional earthquakes: definitely not your every-day situation.

“While this was our first high-altitude installation, the process and care our team puts into planning this type of operation is tried and tested. Efficient project management and coordination, led by our Regional Operations Manager, Hector Mendoza, was key to ensuring a successful installation as well as the safety of all involved.”

In addition to the location of the mining site, the MineWare team also needed to manage this process during a global pandemic. Mining sites in South America have continued to operate throughout the COVID-19 situation, however for many this has been at a reduced level or with a skeleton staff.

Mesina said the strict COVID-19 regulations put in place to protect worker’s health and safety meant there was also minimal on-site assistance to support MineWare’s installation process.

“This was another factor we needed to address in our planning,” he said. “We knew we needed to reconsider logistics as there would be challenges with making resources and vehicles available.

The Argus E in-cab operator display

“We determined that the most efficient process would be to add additional time to our preparation on-site and run the installation over four night shifts. This allowed our team to identify any other issues prior to the installation while taking into consideration the potential impact of the altitude on our team.”

Mesina said the team successfully completed the installation on schedule, with only a couple of small earthquakes halting the progress on-site.

Argus is an advanced monitoring system for electric shovels, hydraulic excavators and wheel loaders.

The interoperable solution captures and shares valuable operating data to on site and remote mining personnel in real time to optimise payload performance, mine compliance and machine health, according to the company.

NQ Minerals acquires Beaconsfield mine, plots new underground decline

NQ Minerals has added the historic Beaconsfield gold mine, in Tasmania, Australia, to its growing portfolio, with the London-listed company saying it plans to recommission the processing plant and re-develop the underground mine with a new decline.

The company announced this week that it had signed all necessary agreements and made the necessary payments to purchase and take immediate possession of the Beaconsfield mine.

The mine has historic production of circa-1.8 Moz of gold averaging around 15 g/t to its name, and was closed in 2012 due to the low gold price at that time.

“The gold price has since increased by over 100% and the company plans to re-open the mine as soon as practicably possible,” NQ Minerals said.

The 350,000 t/y processing plant, which is currently under care and maintenance, will be recommissioned as part of this plan.

NQ Minerals strategy for re-opening the underground mine, meanwhile, involves developing new modern mine decline access into the existing Beaconsfield mine from surface to reconnect into the existing mine workings at the lower section of the orebody, which comprises all of the current stated gold resources, the company said.

“This new decline will be capable of running large modern mining equipment and men/materials/rock from surface to anywhere in the mine underground workings and will allow for the most efficient low-cost operations possible,” it said.

The main decline currently in the mine is a 5 m x 5 m access way (running down at an angle of 1 m for every 7 m in horizontal length, pictured) that starts 400 m from surface all the way to the bottom of the mine at 1,200 m from surface, according to a NQ Minerals spokesperson.

“The main shaft that accesses that decline is now out of use and is part of the Beaconsfield Heritage Museum,” the spokesperson clarified.

The plan is to run a new 6 m x 6 m decline from surface (popping out near the processing plant) and connect it to the old decline at 400 m depth at the bottom of the Hart Shaft, according to the spokesperson.

“This way, we can run very large diesel trucks (50 t capacity), large front-end loaders and big drill and blast equipment from surface to anywhere in the mine,” the spokesperson added.

Up until 2012, all the big mining equipment had to be dismantled and taken down the old shaft in pieces and re-assembled at the 400 m depth level before it could get used. This big equipment is still down the mine, according to the spokesperson.

“This old way of getting mining equipment down the mine was very slow and very expensive,” the spokesperson explained.

“The other good thing about a new access to surface is the mine can also have smaller-sized equipment easily moved around the mine for mining of the gold orebody, ie equipment suitably sized for the job it has to do,” the spokesperson said.

“The combination of the above is that this will enable economies of scale and economies of suitability.”

NQ, which is currently increasing production at its flagship Hellyer gold mine in Tasmania, Australia, announced a new JORC-compliant mineral resource estimate of the lower section of the Beaconsfield gold mine of 1.454 Mt grading 10.3 g/t for 483,000 oz of gold, earlier this year.

David Lenigas, NQ’s Chairman, said: “Beaconsfield is an exceptional high-grade gold asset and will provide a solid platform to bring the company’s second mine in Australia into production.

“The company is now focused on bringing the Beaconsfield gold processing plant back into operational status as soon as practicable. The mine has a long and rich history in northern Tasmania, and we understand the importance of this heritage. We are looking forward to bringing jobs and economic activity back to Beaconsfield.”

Alio Gold looks to new loading and hauling equipment for production boost

Alio Gold has signed lease agreements for the acquisition of new loading and hauling equipment at the Florida Canyon mine, in Nevada, USA.

The fleet is comprised of thirteen 90-t haul trucks and three matched wheel loaders, Alio said.

On top of this, a maintenance and services contract has been signed that provides guaranteed mechanical availability of the new fleet and encompasses all required maintenance activities over the life of the lease agreement, according to the company.

Both agreements are for approximately five years, depending on the actual hours of operation, after which the equipment can be purchased for some $2 million, Alio said, adding that the existing fleet will be retired as the new fleet becomes operational.

“Florida Canyon is well advanced on commissioning the new fleet with four trucks and one loader currently production ready; five additional trucks and one loader are currently on site in various stages of assembly; and the remaining four trucks and loader are due for delivery in October,” the company said.

Alio acquired the Florida Canyon gold mine during a business combination transaction with Rye Patch Gold in 2018. The heap leach operation produced 47,353 oz of gold and 31,993 oz of silver in 2018.

Mark Backens, President and CEO of Alio Gold, said acquiring the new loading and haulage fleet removed the primary cause for the underperformance of the mine.

“With availability now guaranteed, we will be better able to achieve our production objectives,” he said. “Once the fleet is fully operational in November, we expect to see increased ore movement leading to higher gold production and lower cash costs. We look forward to providing the market additional guidance for 2020 once the new equipment is fully operational.”

In addition, Florida Canyon has received all required permits to initiate construction of the second heap leach pad. Contractor mobilisation has commenced, and long lead-time items have been ordered. Construction is expected to take around six months and could be completed in stages to facilitate early placement and leaching of ore.

“Receipt of the construction permit for the second phase of the leach pads is a major milestone for Florida Canyon and positions the company nicely for increased profitable production in 2020,” Backens added.

LiuGong appoints Kris Kulkarni as it strives for ‘world-class’ mining product line

LiuGong Machinery has made Kris Kulkarni Vice President, Global Mining, at LiuGong North America.

Kulkarni began his professional career at Caterpillar, in 1996, in structures, and steadily progressed in engineering roles across diverse mining products including large wheel loaders, mining trucks, surface drills, and hydraulic shovels, LiuGong said.

“LiuGong has an emerging portfolio of mining products, including trucks, large tonnage wheel loaders, excavators and bulldozers,” the company said. “Kris is exceptionally well qualified to help lead the transformation of this mining product line to world-class levels.”

LiuGong Vice President of Strategy & Aftersales and Chairman of LiuGong North America, Kevin Thieneman, said: “Kris’ extensive background and knowledge of the mining industry brings an exciting new dynamic to our company. As LiuGong is committed to expanding not only product its current line-up of mining machines but its overall understanding of these highly specialised customers, Kris will be an invaluable part of that growth.”

Kulkarni said: “I am excited to have the opportunity to join an organisation so focused on customers and employees. LiuGong has a rich 60-year history, and an inspiring vision for its future. I look forward to helping write the next chapter as we broaden the portfolio by designing and manufacturing machines in a larger-size class which offer our customers the lowest total cost of ownership.”

Volvo CE staying connected to automation trend with 5G collaboration

As the application of automation in underground mines accelerates, several companies have started exploring 5G communications developments in order to handle the massive amounts of data that is being generated from autonomous equipment.

One company interested in exactly this is Volvo CE, which earlier this year, in co-operation with Telia and Ericsson, launched Sweden’s first 5G network for industrial use at its facility in Eskilstuna. The partnership could see the mining and construction equipment company become one of the first in the world to use 5G technology to test remote-controlled machines and autonomous solutions.

IM, as part of its annual focus on Nordic Suppliers (to be published in the June print issue), put some questions to Calle Skillsäter (pictured below), Volvo CE’s technical specialist for ‘Connected Machines’, to find out more about this collaboration and understand what hurdles companies are facing when trying to implement such communications solutions.

IM: What is the justification for investing in 5G technologies with Telia and Ericsson? How much of your equipment is currently controlled remotely or autonomously?

CS: Connectivity is a crucial enabler for automation, which is why this 5G project is so significant for us at Volvo CE and for the construction industry as a whole. We also believe that automation technology is at its most efficient when it is run hand in hand with electromobility – as we demonstrated through the Electric Site quarry project.

Thanks to a prior research collaboration with Telia and Ericsson, in the Pilot for Industrial Mobile Communication in Mining (PIMM) project, and now this established Telia Journey to 5G Partnership Program, we have the possibility to test future connectivity solutions for our machines in mining applications, as well as other potential applications.

Currently we are focusing on our L180H wheel loader remote-controlled prototype, but will soon test 5G on the HX2 concept (pictured above) autonomous hauler as well. There are no autonomous or tele-operated machines from Volvo CE available on the market today.

IM: Most of the 5G investment in mining has, so far, come from the Nordic region; why is this?

CS: That’s right, we do have a rather unique setup in that many Nordic companies are at the absolute forefront of their industries with this technology. Mining companies like Boliden and LKAB are driving the business to be more intelligent and automated, Ericsson & Telia bring the connectivity perspective, ABB bring their experience of automation into the process industry, and Volvo CE and Epiroc bring the machine perspective. It’s certainly the case that the Swedish engineering mindset is very open and collaborative, which is what you need to be if you are to explore the potential of new technologies and new ways of working. We are a small country and we need to collaborate and be on the edge of technology to stay competitive.

IM: Do you expect this region, in addition to Canada, to offer the most immediate potential for 5G automated and remote-controlled technologies in mining?

CS: As I’ve mentioned earlier, we have all ingredients available in the Nordics to succeed in this transformation towards more connected and automated mining solutions. Another strong reason is that we have high demands on health and safety for the people working in the mines. Automation is a key way to improve site safety and reduce the dangers and accidents associated with mining. In addition, automation is our key to staying ahead of our competitors.

IM: What testing have you so far been able to carry out at Eskilstuna? What results have been achieved?

CS: We quite recently inaugurated the new test area for automation and tele-operations, so we are still in the early phase. The initial focus is on the tele-operation of the remote-controlled wheel loader L180H, but we will very soon start testing 5G for the HX2 autonomous hauler concept machine. At the moment, it is too early to reveal any results.

IM: When do you expect to be able to test this out in a real-life underground mining environment?

CS: Tests have very recently been performed within the PIMM Digitalized Mining Arena (DMA) project in one of Boliden’s mines, using LTE wireless 4G communications, the results of which will be announced next month. Testing on a customer site with 5G is not planned yet.

IM: When comparing 5G to 4G technologies, what are the main benefits for mining companies when it comes to using this newer communication infrastructure (aside from lower latency, bandwidth, quality of service, positioning, etc)? What sort of impact could it have on operating costs considering the improved accuracy/responsiveness it brings to automated and remote-controlled operations?

CS: The main benefits are, as you say, lower latency, bandwidth and the quality of connection. But lower latency will also mean that tele-operated machines are more responsive, therefore resulting in much higher productivity. Higher bandwidth also means better video quality, which means a better work environment for the operator. Better video quality also creates a better feeling of presence, which helps to improve productivity. Quality of Service will mean machines are up and running for longer.

IM: How far is the industry away from employing these 5G solutions commercially? What are the three biggest hurdles to achieving this milestone?

CS: It’s too early to say when we think customers will be ready to see 5G solutions available commercially. But the biggest hurdles are:

  • Legislation related to the radio frequencies. There are still a number of open questions here; for example, will there be space for local industrial solutions, or will everything be dedicated to the mobile network operators?
  • Hardware availability. For example, there are not many 5G devices designed for demanding mining environments available right now on the market.
  • Business models. The new technologies will push us to review our business models. Should we continue to sell machines like we are used to?

IM: Do you expect underground mines of the future to be run solely off 5G networks? Or, do you expect a combination of 5G/Wi-Fi?

CS: There is a potential for mines to be run only on 5G in the future. But this is one of the questions that we hope to be able to answer in our coming tests and collaboration with our partners.

John Deere Power Systems electrification and engine solutions to take centre stage at Bauma

John Deere Power Systems says it will showcase its proven electrification solutions in addition to a range of new engines at the upcoming Bauma fair in Munich, Germany, on April 8-14.

The company’s 644K (pictured) and 944K hybrid wheel loaders have collectively logged more than 1 million operating hours in the field, it said. “This level of real-world experience is key as more OEMs look to John Deere Power Systems for technologies to reduce emissions, improve fuel economy, and enhance machine performance and reliability.”

This milestone follows the announcement that the John Deere family of Stage V engines recently received official certification, the company said.

John Deere said it was among the first to introduce electric drive technology in off-highway equipment, producing the 644K hybrid loader in 2013 and the 944K hybrid loader in 2015. This saw John Deere Power Systems join forces with John Deere Electronic Solutions to “successfully design and implement fully integrated electric drivetrain systems”, it said. This concept was first introduced at Bauma 2016.

While off-highway equipment manufacturers continue to explore and evaluate hybrid and electrification solutions for their respective markets, the demands of the end customer for reliability and productivity continue to increase, according to the company.

“In response to this, John Deere is developing technology to meet manufacturers at various phases of implementation and development,” it said.

Darren Almond, Drivetrain Product Planning Manager for John Deere Power Systems, said the company is working closely with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to understand their application needs in the field of electrification. 

“Exceeding 1 million operating hours shows that John Deere has an in-depth understanding of how to make hybrid drivetrain systems work in the field,” he said. “We can use our expertise to discover innovative ways to develop reliable, efficient, cost-effective alternatives to traditional drivetrain systems.”

The OEM electrification approach of John Deere seeks to offer integrated solutions that address the interfaces between the electrical generator and/or motors, power electronics, and mechanical interfaces, according to the company. 

To accompany its hybrid solutions, John Deere Power Systems will showcase new engine options at the upcoming Bauma fair. 

The new 13.6 litre engine from John Deere will be part of the Stage V line-up for industrial and generator set markets. In addition to the 13.6 litre engine, John Deere will display its 4.5 litre EWS engine for the first time. 

“The 4.5 litre EWS engine serves both the 80 kVA and the 100 kVA markets and expands the non-EGR engine generator drive lineup for Stage V from John Deere,” the company said.