Mapping the future of underground mining

Epiroc’s Mobilaris Mining Intelligence software is poised to change the way underground mines operate. Australian Mining reports.

You could call Epiroc’s Mobilaris Mining Intelligence (MMI) software ‘visionary’ and you’d be right in both the figurative and literal sense. It gives an underground mining operation the ability to see every asset – human or machine – located on the site.

“It’s basically Google Maps for the underground mine,” explains Shaiful Ali, Epiroc’s Business Line Manager for Underground Rock Excavation. “It has the ability to detect and track all machinery, personnel and equipment within the mine at all times, providing operators with real-time, 3D information. The insights from this information translate to significant safety benefits and productivity gains.”

To download the official Epiroc white paper on Mobilaris scroll down to the end of this article.

The only requirement for MMI is that wifi is in place. It is, otherwise, what is referred to as an agnostic solution and can be integrated with other software.

“The MMI system is technologically agnostic. This is important, as mining operations will have differing digital infrastructure. Also, most sites have mixed fleets of equipment,” explains Shaiful.

One of the key advantages of this software is its ability to improve the safety of an underground mine. The landscape of the subterranean mine – characterised by deep pits and tunnelling shafts – is rife with hazards. Temperatures can be extreme and conditions unstable. As a result, underground mines can be susceptible to dangerous events such as fires, flooding, explosions, poisoning and pressure from the build-up of gas.

In the event of an emergency, time is of the essence and the Mobilaris software has the ability to detect where all personnel are in the mine. Through MMI, notifications can be sent to personnel via their smart device and the software keeps track of when these messages have been received. The operations centre can then direct personnel – using the visual information provided by MMI – to the most appropriate safety chamber.

MMI gives staff in the operations centre information as to the capacity of a refuge chamber and if and when it has filled to that capacity. It also provides decision support by highlighting which personnel need attention first (for example, those who are trapped in a shaft). Moreover, it includes an evacuation support application that enables rescue leaders to direct an evacuation until everyone on-site has been saved.

Additionally, the software has a history viewer, which provides a detailed retrospective analysis of an emergency incident. This type of forensic insight can ensure that the best possible procedures are in place for future emergency events.

Besides the evident benefits for safety, giving a mining operation’s centre ‘eyes’ into their site will translate to immediate and significant productivity gains.

Those working in an underground mine will be familiar with scenarios where it can take several minutes or even hours trying to find the right resource, vehicle or machine. This is valuable time wasted.

With MMI, machinery and equipment can be located at all times. The software also gives those in the operation a visual of the vehicle routes and potential hazards or blocks that may cause a vehicle to stop. They can route more efficiently or re-route as required in the event of a problem.

Importantly, MMI provides insight into mining activity from cleaner reporting and improved analysis of the data. Being able to identify bottlenecks and make modifications faster can translate to significant output increases.

Also, when integrated with additional information from shift plans, machine status and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, MMI enables personnel to make better decisions. In Boliden mine in Sweden, a 20 per cent increase of productivity was reported when MMI was installed and integrated with their mining operations centre.

This in-depth monitoring and reporting can make a huge difference to an operation. Especially when this data is partnered with other mine development software data and automation – Shaiful refers to this as “interoperability of the data”.

“The overall aim is to ensure is that the mining cycle is as lean as possible. Understanding the data. All of this is done by visualising the mining operations,” Shaiful explained. “For example, MMI can be integrated with Epiroc’s telematics solution, Certiq. This integration will advance the benefits further – MMI can communicate Certiq’s analysis of each machine’s health and functionality.”

As Shaiful has indicated, the possibilities with this software when integrated with other technology is countless.

“Epiroc is a key driver in shaping the future of sustainable underground mining (SUM) and Mobilaris software is an essential part of this commitment.

In fact, the company has been in collaboration with a number of other Swedish companies on a project that will develop and test new technology in the context of a virtual sustainable underground mine,” Shaiful said.

“Reaching the goal of SUM will require the type of collaboration where a digital ecosystem is created from the integration of different digital systems and operations.”

Download Epiroc’s Mobilaris white paper by filling out the form below.