Engineering & Mining Journal

JAN 2019

Engineering and Mining Journal - Whether the market is copper, gold, nickel, iron ore, lead/zinc, PGM, diamonds or other commodities, E&MJ takes the lead in projecting trends, following development and reporting on the most efficient operating pr

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AUTONOMOUS HAULAGE 36 E&MJ • JANUARY 2019 www.e-mj.com In late October, the mainstream press ran stories quoting Rio Tinto's CEO, Jean-Se- bastien Jacques, on the state of mining. Jacques, a futurist, said the way forward will feature innovative "new partnerships" for breakthroughs in digitalization and au- tomation, such as Tinto's work with Apple or its driverless trains in the Pilbara. If recent developments in under- ground haulage automation are any indi- cation, those partnerships will be innova- tive in what each party brings to the table. One example would be an underground gold mine in Mali that is partnering for what is described as full automation. "Our story is a historical turning point," min- ing automation expert Riku Pull, Sandvik, said. In the partnership, the miner taps the equipment supplier not just for automated machines, some supporting systems and data management, but for mine design work. "We have combined teams from Fin- land and Australia in various workshops throughout the mine development phases to ensure good brainstorming and a cohe- sive partnership for this futuristic mine." Future partnerships targeting auto- mation solutions will also require the parties to be more transparent, receptive and flexible. "It is impossible to create a standard automation product that will fit each and every mine," mining automation expert Vladimir Sysoev, Epiroc, said. "We need to look at the particular site and conditions on the site and then collabo- rate on decisions on which way to adopt machines, platforms or technologies." Thus, partners collaborating on auto- mation solutions must "be very honest with each other to understand where inef- ficiencies lie on both sides," underground hard rock mining business expert Clint Byington, Epiroc, said. "It must truly be a partnership in order for the technology and the automation to be adopted and de- ployed efficiently." In a way, Jacques's statements were a shot across the bow of an industry long reputed to be conservative. That industry, however, is witness- ing the rapid proliferation of automation solutions that reportedly offer mind-bog- gling increases in productivity, efficiency, safety and cost-savings. And as Boomer miners retire, those taking their place are decidedly friendlier to automation. One effect has been a recent uptick in demand. "A few years back, no one was even talking about automation," Sysoev said. "Something has changed." Before that, we were pushing the technology from our company, while today, the cus- tomers are pulling it from us." Demand hasn't been uniform, as bar- riers remain. Implementation is typically incremental, requiring process change management to handle more than simply the technical aspects of adopting, de- ploying and managing machines. "There has to be a culture shift," Byington said. "Mine management has to embrace and also push down toward the operators that this is the direction that they are moving, which is sometimes tough for some oper- ators to embrace." As the numbers come in, the compet- itive advantage realized by those com- panies able to make the shift will be- come palpable. According to Jacques, that will prompt next-generation partner- ships and solutions. "That means that soon we will have an- other industry," Sysoev said. "New areas will be opened, new businesses, whatever they might be. It is quite an exciting time that we are living through." Indeed, recent headlines on some of the latest partnerships, projects and inno- vations indicate that, industry-wide, the culture is shifting. Partnering to Map Unified Route "Imagine a mine where a few surface op- erators can control a fleet of machines, mobilizing ore from underground directly to surface with the world's-first fully auton- omous truck fleet. The fleet travels auton- omously from underground directly to the New Age Partners Dig Open Relationships The framework of many corporate partnerships hatched today smash boundaries of traditional roles in the race to automate underground mining By Jesse Morton, Technical Writer Innovative partnerships for automation solutions underground will ultimately lead to the creation of new markets, according to Vladimir Sysoev, product manager, automation, Epiroc. Above, an Epiroc control tower. (Photo: Epiroc)

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