Mine automation improves safety
Boliden is introducing industry-leading automated technical solutions to further improve health and safety, energy efficiency and overall mine productivity.
Boliden's mine automation work is one of the prioritised R&D areas to ensure that our production is efficient and profitable, safe and environmentally responsible even as our mines get deeper. Mine automation is a driver to further develop and improve Boliden's mining business.
"Within our Mine Automation programme, we are currently implementing and trialling a number of major mine automation projects and initiatives in parallel that are intended to improve safety, and drive efficiency and productivity," explains Peter Burman, Program Manager, System Technology, Boliden Mines.
Wireless network technology that allows the use of IP telephones and data traffic underground, advanced positioning technology and monitoring systems have been installed in several mines. Such solutions allow communication and access to information throughout the mines, and can quickly establish where workers and equipment are located at any time. Collective control systems and demand controlled ventilation systems are other examples of mine automation technologies that Boliden has installed.
Enhanced health and safety
In order to make the working environment safer and further improve the production capacity, Boliden is using a remote loading system at Boliden's Garpenberg mine. The system is one of only a handful of such systems in the world and Boliden is investigating the potential to roll out the system to other mines. An Auto drilling system, which allows the operator to focus on a difficult drilling area whilst another boom can automatically drill another area, is also being trialled at the Garpenberg and Kankberg mines.
Mine automation uses enhanced communications and monitoring systems, which makes it easy to locate, communicate and support workers during normal mine operation or in the event of an emergency. "One of the focus areas is to improve safety and working conditions for operators as they can work in a safe and comfortable environment while operating the mine," says Arne Renström, Senior Project Manager, Mining Technology. Demand control ventilation systems also improve the working environment by automatically regulating and optimising the mine air supply to ensure ample ventilation when workers are present.
Mine automation can make significant energy savings by optimising mine processes. Boliden is still gathering data to quantify these benefits, but demand ventilation systems are thought to achieve up to 25 percent energy savings by using smart ventilation based on actual demand. "With automated machines and traffic management, energy consumption and the need for long-term maintenance can be reduced due to optimised driving cycles," explains Renström.
Improved communication, automatic reporting from machinery and positioning systems provide opportunities for better planning and increased mine productivity. For example, with access to real-time information, positioning and centralised control via Mine Operation Centres it is possible to fine tune shift planning with well-defined algorithms that optimise production planning.
Maintenance monitoring systems can also extend service intervals and avoid serious breakdown at the production face, which can ensure productivity targets are met. Monitoring systems can further optimise equipment maintenance planning to ensure that equipment is kept operational and to minimise time in the workshop.
With regard to drilling, both remote and autonomous drilling can yield more drill meters per working hour. Autonomous loading solutions improve mine efficiency and productivity by allowing loaders to be automated and remotely supervised by operators in real-time.
"No accurate figures are available yet, but the system reduces the time needed to travel through the mine during shift changes, which increases the number of productive hours per shift and tonnes produced per month," concludes Renström.