Sandvik AutoMine for Trucks surfaces in underground mining

The Swedish original equipment manufacturer has released AutoMine for Trucks, a first for autonomous ramp haulage applications in underground mining. How will the system benefit the industry in Australia?

Sandvik has taken the next step with the AutoMine system by extending its autonomous truck haulage capabilities from underground mining environments to the surface.

The Swedish original equipment manufacturer (OEM) has offered AutoMine systems for autonomous and unmanned truck fleet haulage for many years.

Safe and efficient transition of underground-to-surface navigation has remained a challenge for the industry – until now.

To make this breakthrough, Sandvik has designed an autonomous ramp haulage application that enables AutoMine to operate the vehicles at the surface, as well as underground.

With AutoMine for Trucks, the OEM has achieved this by developing a smart handover technology that switches from underground to surface navigation mode in real-time.

Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology business line manager, APAC, Ville Svensberg says the handover technology allows the trucks to continue through a ramp portal seamlessly to the surface to complete the dumping cycle.

“We’ve had the ramp haulage technology for more than 15 years, but technology for surface navigation where the truck automatically switches to GPS without stopping is what required development,” Svensberg tells Australian Mining.

“However, Sandvik has utilised accurate differential GPS on surface drills for many years, so that technology wasn’t that new for us either.

“We just had to adapt that technology to our navigation system and develop the algorithms for a robust production system that is also safe.”

Sandvik introduced AutoMine for Trucks in December 2019 with a sneak peek of the new product at its Digitalization in Mining event in Brisbane.

AutoMine for Trucks bolsters the OEM’s ever-expanding AutoMine platform, which has proven to reduce equipment damage, repair work, and add the highest levels of efficiency and fleet utilisation.

The solution, including the new AutoMine for Trucks system, is scalable for different mining applications and can be supervised from remote locations.

Sandvik’s expectations for AutoMine for Trucks are high, with vice president, BU automation, Riku Pulli saying it has the potential to revolutionise the mining industry, bringing significant productivity and safety improvements.

“At Sandvik, we’ve pioneered and delivered autonomous trucks for many years,” Pulli says.

“Continuously setting the industry standard, we have now developed the industry-first, fully autonomous underground trucks that can operate in mining levels and mine declines including both underground and surface sections.”

But before AutoMine for Trucks can have this impact on underground mining in Australia, operators will need to establish the infrastructure that supports a next generation technology with this capability at their mines.

Svensberg believes Australia’s mining industry is rapidly moving in this direction and a technology like AutoMine for Trucks will be a viable opportunity in the years ahead.

“Digitalisation in Australian mining, and in general, is changing and making it easier to adapt to all sorts of technologies,” Svensberg says.

“It will be easier to utilise robotics and autonomous platforms like this when you already have the infrastructure ready on the network side of things.

“The mines (in Australia) haven’t necessarily had wide coverage of broadband networks underground yet, but that’s changing, and I have been happy to see that change quickly.”

Sandvik has made significant progress with its automated loader systems in Australia, particularly through long-term partnerships with the likes of Northparkes Mines in New South Wales.

The equipment manufacturer now has over 40 autonomous loader systems in Australia, according to Svensberg.

He believes there is potential for AutoMine for Trucks to follow in the footsteps of the loader platform in Australia, once the infrastructure at mines reaches the required level.

“We can already operate multiple types of our machines from the one chair. The same operators could also operate trucks, or an entire fleet of trucks, as well as loaders,” Svensberg says.

“We are, of course, looking at larger greenfield projects with a dedicated decline for trucking for a fleet of our trucks – that would be ideal, but it is a bit further down the road.”

AutoMine for Trucks connects directly to the Sandvik OptiMine solution, which enables production planning and automatic dispatching of tasks for production execution.

The progress of production tasks is reported to OptiMine, giving mining companies real-time visibility of their automated and manual operations, and enabling them to make informed decisions.

Sandvik’s launch of AutoMine for Trucks offers an insight into the future of underground mining, and the OEM is looking to join mining companies on this journey.

This article also appears in the May edition of Australian Mining. 

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