Guidance systems on trucks have been in use at surface operations for some time. Underground mines, however, have only recently started looking at this technology.
In November 2016, underground mining contractor PYBAR Mining Services began a trial at Aurelia Metals’ Hera gold mine in New South Wales, fitting two of its new AD45 ejector trucks with the ‘Haul Truck Operator Assist’ (HTOA) guidance system provided by mining technology developer, Remote Control Technologies (RCT).
The objective was to improve production efficiency and reduce damage when reversing down long drives to backfill stopes with waste rock – an integral part of Hera’s mining cycle.
PYBAR chief operating officer Brendan Rouse said: “The introduction of guidance systems on our ejector trucks at Hera is one of a number of innovation initiatives we have launched recently as we focus on delivering ongoing value-adding benefits to our clients.
“Given the quantity of stope backfilling at the mine, the system is significantly improving our ability to safely and efficiently direct-tip waste into a stope to steer the truck down long drives. It has also eliminated the need for developing truck turn around bays near the stope tip heads.”
The system removes the need for back stripping for truck tips and for turning points in the orebody, eliminating any associated risk of stope instability. Faster backfilling of stopes has assisted in speeding up the production profile at the mine.
The technology comprises a specially-fitted joystick and monitor in the operator’s cab with cameras and lasers mounted on the front and rear of the truck, feeding information to the system controls, which in turn act to maintain optimal speed and alignment to suit the drive.
When activated by the operator, the system takes over the truck’s steering and throttle (speed) controls in both forward and reverse directions, eliminating human error when manoeuvring the truck in tight and difficult environments.
“The system works in a similar way to the current guidance systems fitted on several of PYBAR’s production loaders at a number of our other sites,” said Rouse.
“Given the success of the trial at Hera, we are evaluating its application at other sites.”
The HTOA-fitted ejector trucks will remain at Hera for the duration of PYBAR’s contract.