Vale’s technologically advanced S11D iron ore mine in Brazil has called on the likes of Germany sensing expert LASE to complement the truckless mine design.
Vale has set the bar high at its $US14.3 billion ($19.4 million) S11D iron ore project in Pará, Brazil, when it comes to innovation.
Not only is it the largest mining complex in the company’s history – capable of increasing the Brazilian state’s production to 230 million tonnes a year – it is also set up to be a truckless mine.
The autonomous system integrates sensing solutions with process automation, replacing traditional off-highway trucks with mobile conveyor belts.
Instead of the 100 off-highway trucks that would be required, Vale has designed a structure comprised of shovels and movable crushers, which will extract the iron ore and feed about 30 kilometres of conveyor belts towards the processing plant.
The S11D mine’s technologies will reduce the amount of waste coming from tyres, filters and lubricants, as well as diesel consumption by around 70 per cent.
It will also cut water consumption by 93 per cent and greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent.
Vale’s ambitious achievement has involved a working partnership between sensing solutions experts, LASE and C + Tecnologia Group.
LASE provided Bulkscan systems (LaseBVC) that were designed to measure Vale’s transported iron ore on conveyor belts remotely, accurately and in real time.
The Bulkscan systems, installed and commissioned between 2016 and 2017, are based on a 2D laser scanner mounted above the conveyor belt.
They are able to generate a profile out of the transported iron ore without any interference to accuracy from moisture and rain.
“Conveyor belts normally have belt scales on which they measure the weight of the material. But the weight of material can change due to rain or weather. You can’t really trust the weight,” LASE group sales director Lars Mohr says.
“Instead, volume measurement is much more reliable as it is unaffected by wetness or other factors.”
The LASE technology is also unfazed by the high speeds on the conveyor belt. The high resolution 2D laser scanner has a scanning rate of up to 100 measurements per second, meaning it can ensure a high degree of accuracy even on high speeds.
Its benefits extend beyond material measurement as information about the usage rate of conveyor belts is captured, allowing monitoring of material overload and generating greater efficiency in load distribution.
“The Bulkscan has got a belt and material alignment measurement system that determines whether the material on the belt is still properly aligned,” Mohr says.
“It means the pint of measurement for the material is balanced towards the middle of the belt, and not too far off to the left or right which could cause belt misalignment.”
Mining operators can also remotely access the measured data via their mobile or tablet via a local area network (LAN) or Wi-Fi connection, and virtually from anywhere in the world.
“You can track your belt remotely when you have low availability of employees, such that the COVID-19 situation can present,” Mohr says.
“You can also keep track of mining processes in your central room 2000 kilometres away. The Bulkscan system gives end users a piece of mind.”
Volume measurement data is transferred to an existing programmable logic controller system where operators can monitor processes and material movement.
The Bulkscan software is responsible for data processing obtained from the scanner, filtering and evaluating process to show how it compares with benchmark levels.
While belt scales may fail, require regular servicing and are labour intensive, Mohr says the Bulkscan system is the exact opposite as it has no direct contact with the conveyor belts.
The low maintenance technology measures volume via a laser light, which virtually requires no maintenance, the Germany-based director explains.
To further optimise the process of automation, Vale uses the LASE laserscanner measurement systems for its stackers and reclaimers at the S11D mine.
There are six machines operating in the regularisation yard (in stackers and reclaimers), and another eight in the product yard (stackers and bucket wheel reclaimers).
They were designed to scan the existing stacks in each yard during the stacking and reclaiming process.
A 3D laser scanner is installed on top of each reclaimer machine in the product yard to measure and generate a 3D profile of the stacked material.
When asked about LASE’s measurement capability, Mohr says: “We turned 30 this year, so that’s 30 years of measurement experience, particularly in the mining and steel industry.
“A lot of companies had requested us to make laser measurement systems, so we made the best version of those and made it available to global users.”