Sandvik prioritises people in tomorrow’s mines

Sandvik’s conference may have been called “digitalisation in mining”, but it focussed on ensuring that people are part of the digital journey.

Almost 300 mining, construction and quarrying leaders from Australia, Japan and Indonesia met in Brisbane for the two-day summit, showcasing some of the industry’s best examples of digitalisation.

While technology and digitalisation were the hot topics, leaders in the field emphasised the importance of truly understanding the technology that are being implemented at mine sites.

This includes Barminco chief executive Paul Muller, who shared the company’s technology ignition and vision during the first day of the event.

Muller shared the most important aspect of the company’s “mine of tomorrow”, the Barminco Remote Operating Centre, affectionately called BROC.

“At Barminco, our approach to technology is pretty simple,” Muller said. “We will invest in technology where it reduces safety risks or where it supports our quest for operational excellence.

“Our approach is certainly not just technology for technology’s sake, if a new technology doesn’t support our ability to create enduring value, then we’re not interested.”

Muller emphasised not just leaving technology to the larger mines, but also for small and medium sized mining companies to realise tech opportunities without displacing human effort.

This is what Barminco has built with BROC in partnership with company client Independence Group (IGO) and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) Sandvik.

The beginnings of BROC included successful control of the IGO’s Nova mine in Western Australia’s Fraser range, from its Hazelmere office in Perth almost 1000 kilometres away.

“During this trial, Guy Gilbert, the bogger operator at Nova, remotely bogged from Perth some 400 tonnes of ore in approximately 2 hours and 16 minutes,” Muller said.

“While this is hardly record-breaking productivity, this proof of a concept is very encouraging.”

All data during the pilot phase was encrypted from end to end to ensure safety, and if the network was interrupted for longer than 250 milliseconds, it would stop and require a manual reset.

The Perth team was also constantly connected to the site via telephone, video and extended two-way radio for optimal communication.

Muller believes remote operating centres have the safety benefits of reducing on-site personnel, while keeping people close to the operation to implement the technology.

He also noted how the centres allowed workers to use previously unproductive time for work and increase their abilities to collaborate and share knowledge with the company, as Barminco did with Sandvik and IGO.

“We see technology augmenting the experience and capability of our people,” Muller said.

Sandvik also provided delegates with virtual visits to the sites on day two, showcasing its clients that include Barminco, and others such as the Northparkes and Tritton mines in New South Wales, Resolute Mining and RedBull Powder Company.

The OEM showed its latest innovations such as the OptiMine digital information management system, AutoMine surface drilling for remote operation of drill rigs, CH800i cone crusher and other automation-ready underground loaders.

Delegates had the opportunity to not only view, but have a go at crushing, drilling and controlling mock operations digitally, giving them insight into the mine of tomorrow.

“An amazing two days at the Sandvik Digitalisation in Mining 2019 conference,” Cement and Aggregate Consulting chief executive and attendee Steve Franklin said.

“There was an incredible range of world class speakers who basically all had the same message; innovate or lose to someone else who will.”

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