With the advent of innovation in technology and new safety measures in mining, there is increased rationale for integrating automation in mining. Not only does it result in higher productivity, it also provides increased safety in overall operations. “ Automated mining solutions includes driverless vehicles which provides safety in underground operations and sometimes far away locations and our solutions reduce OPEX which makes the mine more profitable” says Marcus de Paz Global Sales, Commercial and Business Development Manager at Bombardier Inc. In Canada, Bombardier operates in partnership with Nordic Minesteel Technologies (NMT), a Canadian company and Schalke (Schalker Eisenhütte Maschinenfabrik GmbH) which provides locomotives and Bombardier provides the train signalling solutions. Crownsmen Partners believes mining companies and associated authorities are already recognizing and preparing for a wave of automation in the mining industry across the world.
The Global Mining Standards and Guidelines Group (GMSG) is watching the rising adoption of automation and created an Autonomous Mining Working Group (AMWG) in 2016. The groups is primarily tasked to develop and publish a globally relevant Implementation of Autonomous Systems (IAS) Guidelines by September of 2018.
AUTONOMOUS MINING WORKING GROUP
Started in 2016, the AMWG had its kick off meeting in February in Perth, Australia. The kick off meeting was attended by OEMs like Caterpillar, Leibherr & Epiroc, regulators from Western Australia Department of Mines & Energy and mining companies like BHP, Rio Tinto, Roy Hill, Goldfields and CITIC Pacific. The working group established five key task groups which will help develop the IAS guidelines:
The key stakeholders involved will bring together their expertise to contribute to the five key task groups. Their expertise will play an important role in establishing the IAS guidelines so that they are fair as well as non -disruptive to operations but most importantly, ensure safety. The IAS guidelines will focus on the following key areas:
“The implementation of autonomous machinery will fundamentally change mining and will have a profound impact on the industry as a whole,” says Dave Goddard, of the Global Mining Standards and Guidelines Group (GMSG), a facilitator of global mining collaboration on common industry issues in a discussion with Canadian Institute of Mining Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM). “Although there are a lot of mining companies currently taking a ‘wait and see’ approach to autonomous operations, the reality is that automation will be hugely disruptive in mining and will come whether they want it or not. And it’s more likely to come in a sooner and shorter time horizon than anyone is expecting.”
AUTONOMOUS MINING – DYNAMICS
Industrial giants like Rio Tinto, Suncor Energy etc. are continuously increasing automation in their operations so machinery and equipment manufacturers like Caterpillar are developing new technologies. Additionally, regulators like GMSG are developing guidelines to ensure that new technologies meet with standards and are safe to operate so all stakeholders are coming together to address the need for automation in mining.
Based on the technologies currently being used, automation in mining can be divided into two types:
Benefits of Autonomous Mining
Drawbacks of Autonomous Mining
The two biggest challenges that automation in mining faces are the high capital costs and integration. However, industry experts like de Paz feel that the industry is already moving towards integration by partnering with each other and bringing their respective expertise together. Bombardier itself is partnering with 2 different companies to leverage expertise and develop solutions which are catered for their customers’ specific needs. This will form the basis of success of automation in mining.
Watch full podcast – Ep. 6 Autonomous, VR. & Remote Mining Technology
Listen to the podcast – Ep. 6 Autonomous, VR. & Remote Mining Technology