Engineering & Mining Journal

JAN 2019

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Page 41 of 59

AUTONOMOUS HAULAGE 40 E&MJ • JANUARY 2019 portunities for people in safer, more com- fortable and more creative roles." The vision of man using machine for a net improvement of his lot has been the bread and butter of futurists, and the bane of Luddites, for decades. It is a vi- sion shared by others in the sector. Partnerships to Set New Standards "Our goal is autonomous production with the highest conceivable level of safety where people and machines work side by side." Ten years ago, this statement could have been attributed to a star-eyed futurist, aging in boardroom meetings when not on speak- ing tours. Today, it is how Vladimir Sysoev, product manager, automation, Epiroc, de- scribes the mission of the company's new Sustainable Underground Mining (SUM) testbed in Norrbotten, Sweden. "We have ambitions to set new standards for sustain- able mining at great depths, which means carbon dioxide-free mining, digitalized, with high utilization of autonomous machines." The testbed, announced in June 2018, is the baby of a partnership between Epi- roc, LKAB, ABB, Combitech, AB Volvo and the Swedish state. It "will be created in LKAB's underground mines in Kiruna and Malmberget, and will also take the form of a virtual mine," Epiroc reported. According to Epiroc, the testbed will represent "a new type of collaboration, a digital ecosystem in which the part- ners' digital systems and operations are linked." The partnership is also described as "one of the biggest collaborative ven- tures in Sweden today." The testbed is tasked with ensuring "the Swedish mining industry remains competitive," with creating jobs and growth, and with cranking out products for the global market, specifically equip- ment that will enable LKAB "to mine at greater depth," Epiroc reported. Sysoev said "right now we are in the first phase" of launching the testbed. "We are mapping out prerequisites, allo- cating the resources and deciding on the future setup of the application," he said. "It will be followed by the construction of the test mine in 2019." The testbed "reflects the need of keeping pace with technology development," Sysoev said. "It will shorten the cycle of bringing new technology to the market as every part- ner is responsible for their dedicated area of the project, which means different tasks can be addressed simultaneously." An example of the type of technology to be developed and perfected includes an underground truck automation system, successor technology to that which can now be leveraged by Epiroc's MT42 mine truck. The first generation of the truck hit the market in 2011 after two years of tri- als in Canada and Sweden. It comes with the company's Rig Control System (RCS), allowing for varying degrees of automation. The high-capacity truck is described by Epiroc as "powerful," with a "low pro- file" and a "compact footprint," and ca- pable of "high speed on the ramp." RCS "enables mining equipment to assist the operator and the functions to become semi- or fully automated," Sys- oev said. "It simplifies the operation and achieves more productive results." The truck enables a miner to wade into automation at their own pace and as circumstances allow, Sysoev said. RCS facilitates data capture and monitoring, and remote control. "The truck is adopt- ed to be an integral part of the mine's in- formation management system," he said. "All the vitals, including the utilization calendar or production data and alarms can be sent in real time wirelessly." Comprehensive digitalization, as en- abled by RCS, is a crucial phase in a "journey to be taken in a step-by-step manner," Sysoev said. "You start with monitoring and analyzing the fleet perfor- mances, defining where the bottlenecks and the main process constraints are." The automation solutions considered would then "address the challenges of a particular site," he said. Epiroc can "customize the automa- tion solutions based on the mine's and the customer's needs," Clint Byington, business line manager, underground rock excavation, United States, Epiroc, said. "It is not an all-or-nothing choice," he said. "There are several different options or steps in between, from fully automated to more of an operator-assist." The MT42, via RCS, offers a range of automation capabilities, "without any substantial changes in the design," Sys- oev said. "It can be automated by install- ing the retrofit automation kit in the field when the time comes." Another example of the type of technol- ogy that will likely be developed, perfect- ed and trialed at SUM is an underground loader automation system. Predecessor solutions would include the Scooptram Automation Regular package, released by Epiroc in June 2018. The package allows for remote control that can "quickly and easily transition from manual to automatic mode," the company reported. The package includes cameras, sensors and safety modules that are mounted onto the Scooptram as well as a safety system that can be easily installed in the mine, Epiroc reported. "If a person or another ma- chine should enter the Scooptram's work vicinity while the safety system is enabled, the Scooptram will automatically shut down to avoid causing potential harm." Leveraging a mine's Wi-Fi, the pack- age will enable "loaders to be operated remotely all the way from the stope to the ore pass," Sysoev said. "And according to our records, up to 80% more cycles can be done if the mine eliminates the need of line-of-sight remote control. And, also, by having the operator station on the sur- face, the mine can continue the mucking operations throughout the shift changes when no one is allowed to be in the mine, and by doing that increasing the loader's utilization rate." The Scooptram automation package enables upgrading to remote control and features automation capabilities. (Photo: Epiroc)

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