Tag Archives: zinc

XRT ore sorting shows promise at Vendetta Mining’s Pegmont project

Following positive X-ray Transmission (XRT) ore sorting test work on the Pegmont asset, in Queensland, Australia, Vendetta Mining is looking to apply this technology in its next mining study at the lead-zinc project.

The test work, conducted at TOMRA’s testing facility in Sydney, Australia, concluded that the XRT sorters could distinguish between high-density/high-grade feed and lower-density waste material at Pegmont, the company said.

Vendetta said: “At Pegmont, the potential advantages of XRT material sorters is that they could allow plant feed material to be screened prior to grinding and flotation, removing lower density external dilution (waste) and lower-grade internal dilution (material below cutoff).”

Potential capital cost savings occur through the reduced mill throughput while potential operating costs savings occur through reduced water and reagent usage, less pumped tails and lower energy requirements, it said.

The test work envisages that sorted waste product would be ejected and stacked for dry disposal (dry stack tailings).

Vendetta said: “Flotation recovery often improves with increasing head grade. Such a relationship exists in the metallurgical test work performed at Pegmont to date. The higher head grades obtained from the ore sorted product are anticipated to result in enhanced flotation recovery.”

The testing involved material from two drill hole intersections from Zone 5 and one from Zone 2 at Pegmont. The sulphide intersections were selected in order to test different lead to zinc ratios (Zone 5 vs Zone 2) and internal grade distributions, it said. All samples included diluting quartzite material from the hangingwall and footwall.

The conclusions of the XRT ore sorting preliminary test work on the three drill intervals are it can successfully remove the external dilution from the samples; and successfully remove internal diluting material from within the higher-grade intervals.

The total mass tested amounted to 139.2 kg, with the mass pull (weight % of feed recovered) ranging from 44.3% to 70.6% (a weighted average of 62.3%).

The lead grade improved from 18% to 88%, a weighted average of 42%; zinc grade improved from 21% to 72%, a weighted average of 38%; lead recoveries ranged from 83.2% to 90.2%, a weighted average of 88.5%; and zinc recoveries ranged from 76.4% to 92.2%, a weighted average of 85.9%.

Vendetta said that while these results were highly encouraging, they are preliminary. “In order to apply material sorting results in an updated preliminary economic assessment (PEA) study, pilot scale test work is necessary,” the company said.

TOMRA recommends 600 kg of material is required for each ore type at Pegmont. Vendetta plans to pursue this test work and expects these samples will be obtained from the next drilling program. Samples will be obtained from Zone 1 transition, Zone 2-3 sulphide and Zone 5 sulphide.

Michael Williams, President and CEO, said: “At Pegmont, the XRT sorter can clearly differentiate between high density/high grade feed from lower density waste material at Pegmont. We are excited by the prospects of advancing to pilot scale test work and applying this commercially available technology to the next mining study.”

The existing Pegmont PEA contemplated a production rate of 1.1 Mt/y, which corresponds to two TOMRA COM XTR 1200 – generation one ore sorters, Vendetta noted.

GR Engineering awarded with Abra EPC contract

GR Engineering Services has been awarded a conditional engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract to deliver a 1.2 Mt/y lead sulphide flotation process plant and ancillary infrastructure for Galena Mining’s Abra Base Metals project in Western Australia.

The award, worth some A$74 million ($50 million), follows work carried out by the ASX-listed engineering company on the feasibility study and at the preliminary design stage of Abra.

The work will be undertaken on a guaranteed maximum price basis, according to GR Engineering, which confirmed that the contract remained subject to GR Engineering being issued with a full notice to proceed. This is dependent on Abra Mining Pty, Galena’s operating subsidiary, achieving financial close on its proposed project financing facilities. Galena, which owns 86.16% of the project through Abra, has said it will require A$170 million of pre-development capex to get the mine up and running.

GR Engineering has already commenced early engineering works up to an agreed capped amount, it said.

Geoff Jones, Managing Director of GR Engineering, said: “We are pleased to have been awarded the contract for the delivery of the Abra Base Metals project, which has followed GR Engineering’s involvement to date in the project’s feasibility study and preliminary design work.”

Galena completed a definitive feasibility study on Abra last year for development of a mine and processing facility with a 16-year life producing a high-value, high-grade lead-silver concentrate containing around 95,000 t/y of lead and 805,000 oz/y of silver after ramp-up.

Earlier this month, the construction of the Abra box cut commenced (pictured).

Heron starts processing underground ore at Woodlawn zinc-copper mine

Heron Resources says it has started crushing and processing the first underground ore from the high-grade G2 lens at its Woodlawn zinc-copper mine in New South Wales, Australia.

The ore from the G2 lens was mined 135 m below surface and was discovered during Heron’s on-mine exploration drilling programs during 2017.

Since the commencement of the underground campaign, around 10,000 t of G2 stoped ore was delivered to the plant at 3.9% Zn, 1.3% Pb, 0.3% Cu, 31 g/t Ag and 0.6 g/t Au. This was in addition to 6,000 t of G “hangingwall” ore at 4.7% Zn, 2.6% Pb, 0.7% Cu, 268 g/t Ag, 2 g/t Au; plus 2,000 t of high-grade development ore at 7.3% Zn, 3.7% Pb, 4.9% Cu, 30 g/t Ag and 0.9 g/t Au.

The first stages of commissioning were completed using tailings reclaim feed material, with some preliminary commissioning of the crushing and ball mill plant during August and September.

Heron says the plant is now receiving run of mine underground ore and will complete a campaign solely on this feed source. This will facilitate the next phase of commissioning for the crusher and ball mill and marks the start of the ramp-up phase for this part of the circuit.

In steady state, the plant will alternate between campaigns of tailings reclaim feed and underground ore.

With stope ore now being mined and processed, paste fill activities have also been progressed, with the final commissioning of the paste plant and a number of placements underground of paste fill now complete.

Heron’s Chairman, Stephen Dennis, said: “The first ore mined and now processed from the G2 lens is a significant achievement for the operations at Woodlawn. The high-grade G2 lens was planned to be the first underground ore through the plant and will generate early revenue in these first stages of underground mining.”

The forecast development includes access to the G3 (north) area that contains stopes that are in an independent sequence from the current G2, G3 (south) and GH stoping area.

Processing of reclaimed tailings is ongoing and underground ore campaigns are being scheduled in line with the current production plan. Ramp-up of the processing plant continues and the plant is scheduled to achieve rated capacity on a sustainable basis from mid-2020.

MinePortal offers up an integrated view of mine site data

DataCloud’s MinePortal solution has links to the ‘artificial intelligence’, ‘big data’ and ‘digitalisation’ buzzwords that are heard throughout the conference halls at any global technology conference today, but, unlike some of its competitors, the concept is very easy to understand.

Simply put, MinePortal collects existing datasets from within a mining company’s operation and aggregates that data into a model that shows the entire process – from drilling through to processing in the plant.

Technology-agnostic, it uses cloud computing to ingest and process this data in near real-time, applying the company’s proprietary geostatistical and machine learning algorithms to continually update models.

The fact it can look at the entire mining process – from end-to-end – makes it almost unique in the industry, according to DataCloud Chief Technology Officer, Krishna Srinivasan.

“Data is no longer the problem in mining,” he told IM on the side lines of the Mines and Technology conference in London last week. “What mines haven’t got is a place where all of this data is displayed together for analysis. This is what MinePortal brings.”

In addition to leveraging off a mine’s existing fleet management and condition monitoring platforms, it also uses its own RHINO blast hole measurement package on production drills to enhance geology data right from the source.

RHINO (below) uses vibration signatures in the drill steel, acquired via IoT-enabled sensor devices, to calculate blast-critical subsurface information such as compressional and shear moduli, compressive strength, density, velocity, and more. This can help detect waste boundaries, faults, fractures, and many grade indicators, according to the company. Once this data is recorded, it is streamed to MinePortal and analysed to characterise the orebody.

Srinivasan says the integrated visualisation capabilities MinePortal offers allows companies to find out where the obvious opportunities are to improve performance in their operations.

Such analysis could, for example, highlight that drill and blast patterns need to be amended to improve rock fragmentation for improved recoveries at the milling stage, or, conversely, milling needs to be tweaked to account for the increased hardness of ore coming into the plant.

It connects the dots between the various processes in mining and “provides the context” mining companies need to increase production and productivity, according to Srinivasan.

In addition to being able to visualise the mining process in an integrated fashion from anywhere in the world through the cloud, DataCloud’s geostatistical and machine learning algorithms can predict the processing outcomes should a site, for example, amend their drill spacing at the drill and blast stage.

Srinivasan was keen to stress these algorithms do not ‘take over’ a mine’s processing procedures, instead offering up estimates based on previous operating data and existing industry data MinePortal has analysed.

MinePortal has, until now, mostly been used as a visualisation tool at open-pit mines, but DataCloud recently signed an agreement with Trevali Mining to use the software on its Caribou underground zinc mine in New Brunswick, Canada.

DataCloud said of this agreement: “Unleashing MinePortal will provide vast feedback applications across the value chain empowering their teams to make geology data-driven decisions.”

This is part of the mining company’s wider plan to digitalise its operations through its T90 business improvement program. T90 is targeting $50 million in pre-tax annual sustainable efficiencies by the beginning of 2022 through “operational improvements, standardisation, and the deployment of technology”.

Outside of its work with Trevali, DataCloud is encouraging miners to get in touch for a customised demonstration of MinePortal’s capabilities to a mine site’s specific data, workflow and goals.

“Give us a year’s worth of data and we’ll display this in MinePortal for you,” Srinivasan said, explaining that the company is confident miners will be able to see areas for improvement through this visualisation and that it will lead to them engaging with DataCloud over a longer timeframe.

Glencore Tech draws McArthur River parallels at Ozernoye polymetallic project

Glencore Technology says it and Hatch are helping the Ozernoye project in Buryatia, Russia, come up with a process flowsheet suited to the complex composition of ore at the polymetallic asset.
The mining and processing operation would produce zinc and lead concentrates.

Ozernoye’s Grigory Koldunov said the company is currently preparing the area for the Ozernoye polymetallic mine and concentrator in the Yeravninsky region, 60 km away from the Sosnovo-Ozerskoye regional centre.

“We’ll start mining works and stripping waste by November. Expected stripping volume by the end of the year will exceed 350 000 m3 of waste,” Koldunov said. In November, the company will begin the construction of temporary roads and a tailings storage facility.

Glencore Technology’s Adam Price said the ore mineralogy at the site was remarkably similar to Glencore’s McArthur River zinc-lead-silver mine, which originally brought about the need to create the IsaMill ultrafine grinding technology (an example pictured) – an innovation that turns 25 this year.

“Ozernoye’s mineralogy is complex, and it’s going to need the right flowsheet to improve the recovery and concentrate quality and therefore ensure the economic viability of the project,” Price said. The fine-grained lead-zinc ore at the Australia operation made for an obvious benchmark, he said.

This year, Ozernoye has been embarking on mining, capital works and construction of infrastructure facilities. Major construction of the plant’s facilities is planned for 2020-2022 and the company plans to reach design capacity of 8 Mt/y in 2024.

In September, Glencore Technology worked with Hatch, AMC and Ozernoye to finish a geotechnical drilling program, test work and analysis. The camp was recommissioned and the company began clearing the site for construction. Capital mine development and drill and blast works have started to provide contractors with structural materials and to begin stripping, according to Glencore Technology.

“But the main challenge with the Ozernoye deposit is the complex composition of the ore,” Glencore Technology said. “The task of the current geotechnical and test work program is to design and develop the flowsheet.”

Glencore’s McArthur River Mine in northern Australia contains a complex ore that remained uneconomical until the IsaMill was created to produce a steep particle size distribution without needing internal screens or closed circuit cyclones, according to Glencore Technology. The horizontal plug-flow design prevented short circuiting and provided for a reliable and easy to operate technology.

The original 1994 IsaMills are still operating at McArthur River Mine, but the IsaMill technology has been refined to occupy a small footprint, very high availability and significant energy efficiency, Glencore Technology says.

FLSmidth FerroCer wear panels increase uptime at Hindustan Zinc operation

FLSmidth’s FerroCer® Impact wear panels have proven their worth in the mineral processing circuit at Hindustan Zinc’s Rampura Agucha operations in Rajasthan, India, having significantly outlasted the previous manganese liners the lead-zinc mine was using.

By the end of 2018, the mine couldn’t say exactly just how good FerroCer wear panels were as they were still in place over a year since installation.

However, by March 2019, it was confirmed the FerroCer liners had completed about 480 days (16 months approximately) in operation and had withstood some 2.45 Mt of lead-zinc ore conveyed through the U-13 tripper chute, located after the primary crusher at the mine.

This is a significant improvement on the previous 40 mm-thick manganese steel liners, which had a life span of only 23-25 days, according to FLSmidth.

The constant wear on these liners meant the material handling system needed to be frequently shutdown so the worn-out liners could be replaced with new manganese steel liners, which weighed about 50 kg each.

“Because of the elevated location of several chutes, replacement of the liners required safety preparations (such as scaffolding and other access and handling arrangements), with five to six workers required to get inside the chutes to handle the liners,” FLSmidth said.

FLSmidth visited officials at the Rampura Agucha mines in June 2017 and recommended FerroCer wear panels to address the high wear issues in the material handling chutes.

“Each panel comprises a set of abrasion-resistant ceramic inserts enclosed in a matrix of malleable steel, which ensures only the top surface of the insert is exposed to material impact,” FLSmidth said. “The sides of the inserts are tapered within the matrix, keeping them in place and preventing material particles and fluids from damaging the panels.”

Some in-situ results from the 220-day mark showed the wear on the panels measured only 8-10 mm and had withstood around 1.5 Mt of lead-zinc ore conveyed through the U-13 tripper chute.

“This means FerroCer outlasted the previous panels by over 10 times, meaning a much longer replacement cycle,” FLSmidth said.

Clearly delighted with this outcome, Hindustan Zinc is now looking to use FerroCer impact wear panels across its high-impact wear locations, according to FLSmidth.

Praveen Bhardwaj, Assistant General Manager (Mechanical), HZL – RA Mines, Rajasthan, said: “FerroCer has reduced maintenance time due to the much longer replacement cycle, eliminated possible damage to the mother plate and spillage of material due to the highly abrasive nature of ore, and significantly reduced safety hazards. HZL intends to install FerroCer impact wear panels in all the high impact wear locations.”

The results at the Hindustan Zinc site follow on from results from two mines in Australia. One mine operated for more than a year without replacing its wear liners and the other site is on the same track, approaching its first year without the need for liner replacement.

Meanwhile, in a Peruvian copper mine, 24 smaller and lighter FerroCer panels, each made of steel plates with ceramic inserts, replaced six generic liners. After a total of 12.6 Mt passed, with a feed of 7,500 t/h, wear was no more than 3%, FLSmidth said.

“At that rate, FerroCer lasts at least 10 times longer than the most expensive and recognised wear liner on the market.”

PYBAR to trial autonomous loading at Dargues underground gold mine

PYBAR Mining Services says it is applying new technology to several automation projects it is currently working on, including Diversified Minerals’ Dargues underground gold asset and the Heron Resources-owned Woodlawn zinc-copper operation, both of which are in New South Wales, Australia.

Chief Technology Officer, Andrew Rouse, says the company’s approach has always been to get the basics right using traditional means and then adding technology to enhance its capabilities. “This guiding principle is being applied to several current automation projects,” he said.

New Cat R1700 underground loaders being deployed at the Dargues gold mine are undergoing staged testing that will result in them moving towards improved automation in early 2020, according to PYBAR.

Dargues is owned by Diversified Minerals, an associated company of PYBAR Mining Services. The mine is expected to have a 355,000 t/y capacity gold processing facility comprising crushing, milling, flotation and filtration circuits and produce a sulphide concentrate for export. Dargues is expected to produce an average of 50,000 oz/y of gold in the first six years of production.

Testing of the LHDs has featured the use of Cat’s next generation MXZ technology, which includes traction control and Autodig, where the machine digs the load instead of the operator, PYBAR said. “Both technologies have made an impact with full buckets consistently being achieved,” the company added.

The next step in the process will involve setting up tele-remote operation from the surface in time for stoping in early 2020, according to the contractor.

PYBAR was part of the team at Ramelius Resources’ Vivien gold mine in Western Australia where the first global underground trial of the Cat R1700 loader took place in October 2017. This followed a global launch of the machine at MINExpo 2016.

Another project has seen PYBAR collaborate with Emesent to test automated drones at the Dargues and Woodlawn operations.

LiDAR and SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping) technology is used to track the drones underground and keep them away from obstacles, according to PYBAR, with the trials having delivered some favourable outcomes; among them the swift processing of information gathered by the drones.

“The technology has great potential and PYBAR is investigating how best it can be applied to our business,” it said.

RCT brings teleremote options to Hindustan Zinc’s Rampura Agucha mine

Autonomous solutions specialist RCT has entered into its first automation project in India, commissioning its technology on machinery at Hindustan Zinc’s Rampura Agucha zinc-lead mine in Rajasthan province.

The agreement with Hindustan Zinc Limited and its mining services provider Barminco will see ControlMaster® Guidance Automation installed on two Cat R2900 underground LHDs at the mine. These loaders will now undertake teleremote mining in open stopes developed by Barminco.

Barminco, in February, was awarded a three-and-a-half-year underground mining services contract at Rampura Agucha. The mine, meanwhile, is currently undergoing an expansion to boost production to 5 Mt/y of ore.

RCT will install two underground ControlMaster Automation Centres, as well as four ControlMaster Area Access Cabinets into mine stopes, as part of this package. These will collectively enable machine operators to safely manage the machines away from the mine face, according to RCT.

The Automation Centres will also be equipped with Multiple Machine Selection and Multiple Machine Control options, enabling a single operator to manage both machines at one time, according to RCT.

The project represents the first time RCT has deployed its proprietary digital communications network RCT Connect into a mine site anywhere in the world, the company said, adding that RCT will carry out training programs to empower local operators and maintenance personnel then machine servicing works on an ongoing basis.

Orica turns wireless blasting dream into a reality at Europe’s deepest mine

In Europe’s first demonstration of wireless blasting, Orica has enabled First Quantum Minerals’ (FQM) Pyhäsalmi underground mine in Finland to recover ore it previously thought inaccessible.

Orica’s WebGen™ 100, the first truly wireless rock blasting system, has been used in trials at the zinc-copper-pyrite mine since September 2018, with FQM, to date, carrying out five blasts.

Since the invention of the safety fuse by William Bickford in 1831, there has been three revolutions in blast initiation methods – electric detonators (1930s), shock tube (1980s) and electronics (~2000s). Every new initiation method development has increased the safety, precision and possibilities of initiating blasts.

The new Safety Integrity Level 3 certified WebGen system could end up being the fourth revolution in this line-up, Orica believes.

Still in its infancy with, as of August, more than 250 blasts fired using wireless initiation, the WebGen technology has already led to the development of several new mining techniques such as Temporary Rib Pillar (TRP), Temporary Uppers Retreat Pillar, Reverse Throw Retreat, Longitudinal Transverse Retreat and Pre-Loaded Retreat that would not be viable or possible without wireless blasting technology.

WebGen comprises the following components:

  • WebGen primer and accessories – including the high explosive Pentex™ W booster, i-kon™ plugin electronic detonator, the Disposable Receiver (DRX) and the encoder controller;
  • Transmission system – including transmitter, antenna and transmitter controller; and
  • Code Management Computer (CMC) – including the unique global blast and arm codes.

The system achieves wireless blasting through very low frequency magnetic induction (MI) signals communicated to the in-hole primer, with the special site-specific group ID, arm and firing codes embedded in the MI signals. The system eliminates the lead wires of conventional initiation systems, thereby also eliminating the ‘hook-up’ process at the blastholes.

The operation works as follows: The i-kon plugin detonator plugs into the DRX, energising the device and initiating a self-test. After passing the self-test, the device can be encoded with the blast code and the delay timing. The booster is attached after encoding the device. At this stage the WebGen primer is ready to be placed into the blasthole.

The transmitter controller – a magnetic induction system connected to an antenna – sends the arming signal to the transmitter. Once the arming process is successful the firing window is presented to the blaster.

The CMC is the data hub of the system and supplies the identification and firing codes as well as the mine specific codes. Orica explained: “It culminates in the ready to fire file for transmission.”

Game changer

With the elimination of lead wires, it is possible to pre-charge a full stope (eg sub-level caving mining method) and fire every ring when required without sending personnel back to the dangerous brow area to connect lead lines, Orica says. “Misfires related to damaged wires are eliminated and primers can be fired regardless of any dislocations of blasthole and/or charge.”

The Ernest Henry mine, in north-eastern Australia, engaged Orica in 2016 to perform a demonstration of sub-level caving using WebGen. The mine wanted to reduce the time spent by personnel at the brow of the cave. With the use of WebGen they were successful in pre-loading the stope production rings and eliminating the need to return to the brow for hooking up.

At Newmont Goldcorp’s Musselwhite mine, productivity and ore recovery were the main drivers for looking into wireless blasting. Together with Orica, Musselwhite developed the TRP mining method where a temporary pillar is used to withhold backfill while the second mass blast (i-kon electronic detonators) of the stope is mucked out.

Orica explained: “Once the stope is mucked out, the TRP is fired remotely and the ore can be recovered.”

With this method the mine established a 93% reduction in dilution, increase in mucking of 27% and a two-week saving in time per stope, the company said.

FQM – Pyhäsalmi

In March 2018, a team of Orica Technical Services Engineers commenced preparations and planning for the first wireless demonstration in Europe with the FQM Pyhäsalmi mine, in Finland, the deepest mine in the continent.

At the time, the mine was scheduled to close in September 2019; most of the stopes had been mined out and the remaining stopes and pillars were becoming increasingly challenging to mine. Orica said: “Pyhäsalmi had developed a system to mine the stranded pillars, but this was incurring considerable time and costs. Pyhäsalmi mine acknowledged that WebGen 100 could be a solution for the problems in retrieving remaining ore in difficult areas.”

As a first stop, the Orica team of blasting specialists had to assess if the WebGen system would successfully function in Pyhäsalmi mine. “Before firing the WebGen shot it was important to investigate if the system would work in the mine and what the maximum signal reach would be for both the quad loop and cable loop antenna,” the company said.

Signal strength testing provides positive confirmation of coded signals being received through the mine and also validates if there are any parts of the mine where the system has a reduced range.

A smaller antenna and a larger antenna were tested.

Pyhäsalmi experiences occasional sulphur dust explosions and, therefore, personnel are not allowed to be underground while blasting, Orica said. As a result, blasting takes place at the end of the shift after the shift explosives supervisor checks everyone has vacated the mine.

Initial signal testing with the smaller antenna validated the system was working with a range of at least 200 m. Further signal testing was performed using the larger antenna.

It was validated the system could send and receive signals from the production level to the furthest stope, which was 450 m away, Orica said.

After assessing the MI signal test results, it was decided it would be more convenient to use the smaller antenna.

In September 2018, the EMEA WebGen team returned to Pyhäsalmi mine for the first wireless blast in Europe. The final three rings of stope 18b10-11 on Level 1,175 were selected for the demonstration blast.

On September 4, 2018, at 22:00, the first wireless blast in Europe was fired without any issue.

Since the introduction of wireless blasting, Pyhäsalmi mine has fired a total of five blasts in challenging areas.

For one of the wireless blasts, a stope would not be accessible after the first blast, but, as the stope could be pre-loaded with wireless detonators, the mine could blast and produce 4,000 t of extra ore that otherwise would have been sterilised.

Katja Sahala, Mine Planning Engineer, FQM Pyhäsalmi mine, said she saw the WebGen wireless system as helping operations in several applications such as when ore needs to be left behind to support pillars, or where there is weak rock, or fill and selective mining is required.

She said: “In uphole charging, you need to work close or even below an open face during drilling and blasting. If it’s possible to drill and charge an entire stope before the first hole is fired, then safety will surely be improved.”

Orica said wireless blasting is a new and exciting technology that eliminates the use of cumbersome and complex wiring hook-ups while having the accuracy of an electronic detonator. It has already enabled safer work methods and mining techniques that increase recovery, productivity and efficiency, according to the company.

It concluded: “Many technical and regulatory challenges will be faced by wireless blasting, but it is a fundamental step in the automation of the explosives charging and blasting process. With the first WebGen blasts at FQM Pyhäsalmi mine, wireless blasting is no longer a dream in Europe, but a reality.”

Telstra lays the groundwork for major underground LTE network at Cannington mine

Telstra Mining Services has announced a new partnership with South32 for a private 4G LTE network at its Cannington underground silver-lead-zinc mine in northwest Queensland, Australia.

Telstra is now in the pre-deployment stage at Cannington, with the network set to “drive improved safety, automation and mechanisation” at the site and connect staff to vehicles and sensors around the mine at all times, it said.

The underground mine produces about 3 Mt/y and the Cannington team is made up of about 550 full-time employees and up to 300 contractors.

Jeannette McGill, Head of Telstra Mining Services, said: “The high throughput and low latency offered by the system means that staff will be able to control critical equipment without interruption, and South32’s digitalisation strategy will be achievable throughout the mine.”

By adopting 4G LTE underground, the Cannington mine will be able to achieve better operating transparency, condition monitoring and production improvements for staff, machines and other mining systems, driving safety, productivity and efficiency, she added.

Telstra will be building an initial underground network 6.5 km in length using a “private, virtualised core” and LTE radio technologies distributed over leaky feeder cable using LTE-capable bi-directional amplifiers.

McGill said: “Our analysis indicates this to be the most effective solution for underground miners and is capable of adapting to the unique geology and composition of the Cannington mine. It enables access to the latest advances in 4G LTE and NB-IoT, and is also upgradeable to 5G in the future.”

The network being private means it will be a completely standalone mobile network, independent from others, like Telstra’s own public network, she explained. “South32 Cannington will have its own equipment, SIM cards and unique network codes for full autonomy and complete control.”

Providing a modern connectivity platform will allow for more flexible operations as well as scalability and choice in applying various digital solutions, according to Telstra.

“The combination of Ericsson mobile network equipment, Telstra radio spectrum, and leaky feeder solutions from specialist manufacturer METStech provides a unique capability that has made extending LTE underground a more commercially realistic and safer prospect,” McGill explained.

At its full deployment, the Cannington installation will become one of the largest underground mining LTE networks in the world using leaky feeder, according to Telstra.

“We’re excited to help drive South32’s Cannington mine further with this new private network, as it looks to pay dividends to safety, productivity and more,” McGill concluded.