Tag Archives: Wi-Fi

Telstra LTE solution improving communications at Newcrest’s Lihir gold mine

Telstra Mining Services says it has implemented Papua New Guinea’s first private 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) mobile network at Newcrest’s Lihir gold mine.

The next generation wireless communications platform will allow for greater levels of safety, remote operation and automation, according to Telstra, which worked with Newcrest to provide design, staging, site deployment and testing of the network.

Every kind of production vehicle asset, including trucks, drills, excavators, dozers, shovels and barges have now been connected and operationally proven over LTE. This process has revealed significant performance improvements in terms of reliability, speed and latency, according to Telstra. “The network has been able to resolve challenges with existing Wi-Fi connectivity and is making Newcrest’s safety and productivity systems more effective,” Telstra said, adding that fleet efficiency and real-time visibility have benefited from an 80% improvement in communications reliability on LTE-enabled assets.

The gold deposit at Lihir is within the Luise Caldera, an extinct volcanic crater that is geothermally active, and is one of the largest known gold deposits in the world, according to Newcrest. Most of the ore is refractory and is treated using pressure oxidation before the gold is recovered by a conventional leach process.

In the financial year ending June 30, 2018, Lihir produced 955,156 oz of gold. Since production commenced in 1997, the site has produced more than 10 Moz of the yellow metal.

Dr Jeannette McGill, Head of Telstra Mining Services, said Newcrest’s decision to invest in Private LTE technology further validates it as a dependable and scalable networking platform for the mining industry and one that enables mining houses to digitally transform.

“We’ve provided Newcrest with a tailored platform that will underpin its safety and digital mining ambitions and will help improve productivity and deliver new value and efficiencies to the business,” she said. “They’ll be using it to further modernise the mine site to enable the use of current and future mining applications, including tele-remote and autonomous systems, more extensively.”

The platform is completely independent from public mobile networks, according to Telstra, with Newcrest having been provided with its own dual-frequency base stations, LTE core and SIM cards, with the network’s configuration and coverage designed and implemented to meet the Lihir mine’s safety strategy and long-term mine plan.

Telstra Mining Services’ solution also includes ‘HetNet’ functionality that allows the Newcrest vehicle fleet to seamlessly switch between LTE and existing Wi-Fi networks without impacting critical mining applications.

Newcrest complemented the LTE technology solution by implementing new towers, data centres and redundant power systems across the site, according to Telstra.

McGill added: “Newcrest and Telstra Mining Services took what has become a best-in-class preliminary deployment approach with the network. Designing it for full production but initially deploying at two sites allowed Newcrest to validate the design principles, implementation techniques and practical capabilities of LTE before scaling their investment.”

Newcrest’s pragmatic approach, combined with flexibilities in the solution from Telstra Mining Services, enabled the desired outcomes and learning to be achieved within a relatively short timeframe, despite the remoteness of the Lihir operation, according to Telstra. Future phases of the project will further enhance coverage in-line with Lihir’s 20-year mine plan, and provide for expansion of coverage and capacity across the mine, processing plant, port and camp.

Chris Jordaan, General Manager, Newcrest Lihir, said: “The Lihir mine extends 300 m into a volcanic crater and our workers can often be exposed to elevated temperatures. Tele-remote and autonomous mining technologies are fundamental to working the hot work areas that will become more dominant features of our operation in the future.

“The Private LTE network will be a great enabler for these technologies and, coupled with the existing in-pit Wi-Fi network, we have been able to create a heterogeneous network that covers the whole mining lease.”

Gavin Wood, Chief Information & Digital Officer at Newcrest, said: “Safety is Newcrest’s number-one priority and the network Telstra Mining Services has built with us at Lihir will enable safer and more efficient mining using new technologies. The success of this project was 100% driven by leadership and personal commitment of the Lihir’s OT/IT team working together with Telstra Mining Services.”

LTE is a future-ready platform for wireless communications in mining, providing dependable and scalable communications that the next generation of machines, systems and workforce applications will require. Having been proven in carrier networks, it’s now seen as the mining industry’s next step for connectivity.

Plan Nord backs Newmont Goldcorp’s 4.0 mine vision at Éléonore gold operation

The Government of Québec, through the Société du Plan Nord, says it will invest C$1.75 million ($1.28 million) to connect Newmont Goldcorp’s Éléonore mine facilities to the existing regional fibre optic network.

“This project will enable one of Quebec’s most innovative mining companies to continue advancing its vision to create mine 4.0, an interconnected mine of the future,” the government said, adding that the connection, which will help optimise the company’s operations, will also increase the quality of life of workers on site and encourage employee retention.

Jonatan Julien, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Côte-Nord region, made the announcement this week while visiting Éléonore.

As part of this project, 124 km of fibre optic cable will be laid from the Eastmain 1A link to the Éléonore mine. This project, valued at C$3.5 million, will be delivered by the non-profit organisation Eeyou Communications Network (ECN), with the new high-speed connection expected to be operational in 2020.

Julien said: “The mining sector is entering a new era with mine 4.0. Today’s funding will contribute to the Éléonore mine’s competitiveness in the future: access to a reliable and high-performance telecommunications network is fundamental for the industry to modernise. The realisation of this project is excellent news for the Eeyou Istchee James Bay region, but also for the Quebec economy.”

Sophie Bergeron, General Manager, Éléonore Mine, Newmont Goldcorp, said: “This joint investment from our Cree partner, Eeyou Communications Network, and the Société du Plan Nord will connect the mine to a fibre optic network, providing far more bandwidth than we have today, and will support our vision of creating the first 4.0 mine in Quebec.

“With this technology backbone in place, new sustainable and responsible mining developments can consolidate the leadership role Quebec plays in Canada’s mining sector and beyond.”

Éléonore was expected to produce some 360,000 oz of gold in 2018 from the underground Roberto deposit. Ore is mined from four horizons using sill and stope techniques, then processed onsite using a conventional circuit that includes crushing, grinding, gravity, flotation and cyanidation.

The operation has begun to develop a fifth mining horizon and build a production shaft, both of which will bring Éléonore closer to its full production capacity, a key part of the company’s plan to increase production by 20% by 2021.

At Éléonore, all underground workers, vehicles and other heavy equipment are outfitted with radio frequency identification tags that transmit a unique ID number via a Wi-Fi connection to the Cisco access point throughout the mine. Telemetry units integrated into vehicles also monitor the functions and systems in the vehicle’s engine, and issue an alert to mine managers when something needs attention, the company said.

The Société du Plan Nord contributes, from a sustainable development perspective, to the planning and integrated and coherent development of northern Quebec, it says. It does so in consultation with representatives of the regions and indigenous peoples, as well as the private sector.

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.

Rajant and Extronics team up to improve underground mine safety

Rajant, the exclusive provider of Kinetic Mesh wireless networks, has entered into a strategic partnership with UK-based Extronics to help track workers and personnel underground.

Extronics provides a wide range of Wi-Fi tags for personnel and assets tracking and, combined with Rajant’s latest firmware, 11.19.1, its AeroScout tags are now intrinsically safe and certified for use in hazardous work areas, according to the company.

“Extronics AeroScout’s Wi-Fi-based active RFID tags enable the wireless network infrastructure to accurately track the location and condition of valuable assets or people,” Rajant said. “The small battery-powered, rugged, programmable tags send short 802.11 messages at a predefined interval. The main features include long battery life, flexible mounting options, call button and tamper-proof options, on-board sensor capabilities, the ability to store and receive data messages, and a clear channel assessment that avoids Wi-Fi data traffic interference.”

Geoff Smith, Rajant’s Executive VP of Sales & Marketing, said: “Rajant’s latest firmware release, 11.19.1, provides Extronics Wi-Fi tags with intrinsically safe support when using Rajant’s LX5, ME4 or KM3 network. This is especially relevant to personnel tracking, which is a requirement for underground mines, and other industries, such as oil and gas, petrochemical and ports.

“Given Rajant’s fully mobile private wireless network never breaks for handoff and always seeks the most efficient data path, customers using Rajant technology will not only be able to track personnel, but also identify productivity bottlenecks to improve operational efficiency.”

Chris Sadler, Extronics Business Development Manager for the Americas, said: “Extronics is focused on helping industrial customers improve safety and efficiency through communication and situational awareness, so it’s great to partner with Rajant. With their Kinetic Mesh wireless network now certified as compatible with AeroScout technology, we’re looking forward to providing robust solutions that suit our customers’ requirements.”

Robotics and automation projects among latest METS Ignited funding recipients

Australia’s Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, has announced seven mining supply businesses as the recipients of A$4.1 million ($2.9 million) in innovation funding under the METS Ignited Collaborative Project Funds.

The recipients of the funding will now be able to launch eight collaborative industry projects delivering highly-advanced solutions to a variety of mining challenges and contribute to the growth and capability of the METS sector, according to METS Ignited.

This funding is part of a four-year, A$15.6 million commitment made by the Australian Government to incentivise collaboration and address METS sector priorities. The funding established the METS Ignited Collaborative Project Funds, which support industry-led projects to improve the productivity, competitiveness and innovative capacity in the METS sector.

Today’s announcement at Mineral Technologies, on the Gold Coast of Australia, is the third tranche of funding. METS Ignited received 26 grant applications and has awarded the funds to businesses specialising largely in robotics and automation, data analytics, data platforms, Internet of Things and business and professional services. The recipients are: Mineral Technologies, Premron, Austmine, Roobuck, Process IQ, AMOG (x2) and Magotteaux.

Acting CEO of METS Ignited, Ian Dover, said: “Active collaboration across the ecosystem is core to accelerating commercialisation of innovation and has been lacking in the METS and mining sector, where historically relationships have been in the main transactional.”

“Facilitating such innovation is part of the mandate for METS Ignited. It’s vital we support the application of influential future technologies across the METS sector and maintain Australia’s competitiveness.”

Recipients of the Collaborative Project Funds are required to secure equal or greater investment from an industry partner. As a result, the total value of the eight projects is A$11 million.

The largest fund recipients were Queensland-based Mineral Technologies and Premron, awarded A$1 million each. Mineral Technologies’ automation of the Roy Hill Iron Ore beneficiation plant project automates the gravity separation spiral process used in the mine to optimise the concentration of lower-grade ore into higher value ore for export, METS Ignited said.

Roy Hill CEO, Barry Fitzgerald, said: “I am delighted the government is supporting our partnership with Mineral Technologies – a project that seeks to enhance the operational efficiency of our mine, delivering more high-grade product while reducing waste for the same operational cost.”

The automation of spiral control in the Roy Hill beneficiation plant will materially improve the concentration of ore into high value product for export, according to Roy Hill. More high-grade product and less waste will be produced for the same feed and processing cost, delivering value to both the environment and Roy Hill’s bottom line, the company said. Once proven effective at Roy Hill, the technology can be commercialised and rolled out at similar operations across the world.

“This innovation project will deliver a step-change improvement through real time control of our 720 spirals, enabling our processing plant to dynamically respond to the natural variability of the material it is treating,” Fitzgerald said.

Premron’s Continuous Haulage System (CHS) project, meanwhile, will revolutionise coal mining in underground mines, according to METS Ignited. It eliminates the use of shuttle cars, used to take the coal cut from the wall of the mine to a transfer point further away in the mine (dead time). CHS will see the coal go straight to a conveyor belt and out of the mine.

Other projects that received funding in this round include: sensor technology to monitor the location of people and equipment underground; artificial intelligence technology to emulate the role of a grinding expert; automated sensor detection for oversized rocks; a predictive analytics tool that pinpoints the best time for equipment descaling; a METS career pathway programme; and a device to give more detailed information on the chemistry inside the grinding mill while it is operating.

METS Ignited said: “Collectively, the projects will benefit the mining sector by optimising the value chain, increasing productivity for mining and mineral processing, supporting and enhancing environmental management, and improving operational safety.”

The project fund recipients include:

Automation of the Roy Hill Iron Ore beneficiation plant

  • Recipient: Mineral Technologies
  • Partners: Roy Hill
  • Collaborative project funds: A$1 million
  • Industry investment: A$1 million
  • This project automates the gravity separation spiral process used in the mine to optimise the concentration of lower-grade ore into higher value ore for export.

CHS

  • Recipient: Premron
  • Partners: Gauley Robertson Australia, Kestrel coal mine
  • Collaborative project funds: A$1 million
  • Industry investment: A$1.13 million
  • Continuous haulage will revolutionise coal mining in underground mines. It eliminates the use of shuttle cars, which are used to take the coal cut from the wall of the mine to a transfer point further away in the mine. CHS will see the coal go straight onto a conveyor belt and out of the mine.

Austmine METS career Pathway Program

  • Recipient: Austmine
  • Collaborative Project Funds: A$240,000
  • Industry investment: A$1.76 million
  • This project places university students as interns in METS companies around Australia, increasing the interest level and uptake of graduates into the METS sector

The OVERwatch Platform

  • Recipient: Roobuck
  • Partners: Redpine Signals, Northparkes Mines, University of Wollongong
  • Collaborative project funds: A$600,000
  • Industry investment: A$1.5 million
  • This project develops sensors and software to track the location of people and machinery working in underground mines and ensure that collisions are avoided. This is a complex project as there is limited communication options underground (eg no Wi-Fi).

Remote grinding optimisation and support centre

  • Recipient: ProcessIQ
  • Partners: Orway Mineral Consultants, Jamieson Consulting, Curtin University
  • Collaborative Project Funds: A$620,000
  • Industry investment: A$780,000
  • This project enables grinding experts to interact directly and in real time with grinding circuits on remote mine sites to ensure they are operating at their most productive levels. The project will develop automated artificial intelligence software to emulate the experts as there is very limited supply of this specialist expertise, leading to increased processing efficiency globally.

Automated Oversize Detection

  • Recipient: AMOG
  • Partners: Omniflex
  • Collaborative Project Funds: A$150,000
  • Industry investment: A$220,000
  • This project involves developing sensor equipment that alerts the mine when rocks are too big to process through the crushing and grinding equipment. Blockages in the crushing and grinding circuits are costly and time consuming. Haulage trucks with oversized rocks will be diverted to a separate location in the mine, which avoids stoppages.

Smooth Operator leach circuit process optimisation

  • Recipient: AMOG
  • Partners: Lithium Consultants
  • Collaborative Project Funds: A$220,000
  • Industry investment: A$220,000
  • This project involves developing a predictive analytics tool that allows copper and nickel mines to pinpoint when they should close equipment for descaling. Closing equipment too late or early is very costly. There is a very large global market for this product.

Commercialisation of pulp chemistry monitor for the mining industry

  • Recipient: Magotteaux
  • Partners: Hydrix, Manta Controls, Newcrest Mining
  • Collaborative Project Funds: A$250,000
  • Industry investment: A$310,000
  • This project involves developing a device to give more detailed information on the chemistry inside the grinding mill while it is operating. Grinding and flotation circuits use many chemical inputs in order to extract minerals from the ore. Getting the chemical balance right in the mill and the next stage of floatation is critical to removing as much of the valuable mineral as possible. The percentages of the yield vary between 85% and 95% and a 1% improvement in yield will deliver a very large financial benefit to the mine.

Aitik gets connected to LTE network as Boliden looks at 5G future

Boliden has, for the past few years, been testing out 4G and 5G networks at its mines in the Nordic region and recently went live with 4G (LTE) network services at its Aitik open-pit copper mine in Sweden, Fredrik Kauma, Project Manager, told attendees at the recent Mines and Technology conference in London.

The company, one of the mining sector’s leaders when it comes to employing innovative technology, installed its first underground Wi-Fi network in 2013 and has since come a long way on this connectivity journey.

Today, all of Boliden’s mines have complete Wi-Fi coverage, with the network consisting of some 3,000 installed access points and additional hardware, Kauma said. The company uses this for voice communication and positioning, but also other services such as remote control, machine-to-machine interactions and general data or information access.

In 2016, the company installed a small 4G network in one of its underground mines. Now, multiple upgrades later, the network includes the latest 4G features, in addition to elements considered “borderline” 5G, Kauma said. He credited a close co-operation with Ericsson and its research organisation for this installation as well as the Swedish mobile network operator Telia.

The 4G/5G network covers about 1.8 km of tunnels plus 10,000 m² of other areas (production/workshop/offices/canteen) with relatively few pieces of radio equipment, according to Kauma.

Coverage of a similar area with Wi-Fi would require about three times as many access points, he pointed out.

Kauma said: “We use our 4G/5G network to:

  • “Test and compare connectivity-related capabilities – network speed, coverage, quality, etc;
  • “Learn about operation and maintenance; how to roll systems out, what to monitor, key performance indicators, etc;
  • “Understand more of the business side – what work to do in-house/outsource, what should be part of a service level agreement, etc.”

A direct outcome of this test network has been the recently addition of 4G network services at Aitik, one of Europe’s largest and most efficient open-pit copper mines.

This will allow the company to, primarily, carry out accurate remote control of its fleet of Epiroc Pit Viper blasthole drill rigs.

“But, long-term we believe it will replace our existing production Wi-Fi network,” Kauma said.

The future in 5G

While Wi-Fi does offer Boliden much in terms of connectivity, it cannot match 4G/5G when it comes to robustness and coverage. This is part of the reason the company is pursuing developments with 5G technology.

Equipment tracking is one area that could potentially be improved with 5G, Kauma said.

Today Boliden currently uses “passive” Wi-Fi tags for this task, with active antennas mounted on mining vehicles. The signal reflection is only picked up if the tags face the direction of the active antenna and the vehicle with antenna passes close by. While this system adds a lot of value, it does not currently offer the reliability Boliden would like to see, he said.

With 5G, Boliden expects to have “active”, as opposed to passive, tags, which transmit information on a pre-determined basis.

What Kauma termed “advanced remote control” operation is another area set to benefit from 5G connectivity.

The company already has remote control operations today, but it is either line-of-sight or a pre-determined, repetitive type of remote operation; not advanced.

In advanced remote operations, the performance of the wireless communications network has a direct impact on how well the operator can handle the machine, with control responsiveness and picture quality the main factors here.

According to Kauma, low latency will greatly improve the real-time aspects required for secure and efficient handling of vehicles, machinery and other equipment such as drills, hammers, shovels, etc.

In addition, the Quality of Service concept, where priority of connection is given to certain customers, will guarantee bandwidth needs for a detailed enough video stream to the remote operator – even on a heavily loaded network, he said.

“Higher data rates and increased network capacity will enable remote control on a larger scale than what’s possible on today’s 4G technology,” Kauma said.

The improved connectivity expected to come with employing 5G will also be beneficial for wearable technologies, which Boliden has been trialling to help improve the safety and well-being of employees.

The company recently tested out use of a prototype “smart vest” at one of its underground mines for, primarily, proximity detection, but also to “gain a better understanding of other possibilities that comes with this technology”, Kauma said.

The prototype vest was the result of research cooperation between Boliden, Ericsson, clothing company Helly Hansen and technology firm LightFlex Sweden AB.

In addition to the standard proximity detection functions, lights or reflectors warn the wearer as well as surrounding personnel of potential dangers through different flashing/blinking patterns.

Together with advance camera technology, the lights also aid autonomous machinery to automatically detect humans in dark environments.

Boliden would like to, in the near-future, use wearable technology for the monitoring of employees in physically-demanding environments; for analysis of the immediate environment surrounding employees (extreme temperatures, dangerous air quality, strong vibrations or sounds); and for positioning and situational awareness (ie warnings for approaching vehicles).

Key ingredients to make this a reality include a reduction in power consumption – low power means smaller and longer lasting batteries – a fall in cost, enabling the company to equip its entire workforce, and better network coverage and reliability – hence the use of 5G.

“If 5G delivers on its promise, it will be a critical component enabling wearable technology in an industrial environment like ours,” Kauma concluded.