Last week saw one of the largest global mining conferences play out in Las Vegas, Nevada. MinExpo is a melting pot of mining businesses congregating to showcase their existing and new products lines to prospective customers from across the world. This was one of the first major face to face events to occur since the COVID lockdowns. There were companies from across the world, including Australia, Europe, and South Africa – a stellar effort given recent travel limitations!
The amount of noise and news these events generate can be hard to digest, so I wanted to share with you some of the most interesting announcements that crossed my desk during the event.
See this as a bite sized summary for those interested in new ideas specifically for underground mining:
The Boltec rig is a new proposition down under and one that I have covered previously on this website. Having seen one in use first hand they are a great option for projects that require intensive ground support standards due to depth or geotechnical complexity. Epiroc announced their new releases within the Boltec range the E10 and M10, which offer slightly different scales of a similar concept:
The key takeaway from this video for me was the ability to utilise the rigs via teleremote (semi-autonomous) when not being utilised by an operator. This has dual value for a project, in that an operator can be totally removed from a potentially high stress and dangerous working front and/or a project can utilise the rig over shift change. This would allow an additional 2-3 hours per 24-hour cycle of utilisation, which come the end of the month could contribute to significantly more developed meters.
The New Zealand based payload scanning manufacture launched its latest system at MinExpo. This was following feedback from its existing customer base on outputs that would improve the value proposition of the solution. The new MPS (Mine Payload Scanner) builds on the success of the original scanner but offers direct feedback to dump truck operators following the scanning process. This should allow better informed decisions and an easier feedback loop for operators utilising the solution. One such valuable piece of information would be regarding carry back, with the new alerting system being able to highlight this costly issue as it passes a pre-set threshold. This would improve efficiency and reduce double/triple handling of material during the trucking cycle.
SANDVIK ROCK TECHNOLOGY:
Sandvik cemented its amalgamation of the Newtrax brand into the business at the conference. It shared videos and products lines as well as outlining the Newtrax brand as the single point of deliver for all IoT and digitalisation products from the business. This is a rapid transformation for the originally Canadian based business which was swallowed whole by Sandvik back in 2019. The most exciting and potentially industry changing solutions that I saw from Sandvik was the DrillConnect mobile app:
This application really appears to break down the barriers between the design office and the drilling operator. It leads the way with improved data for the driller at the mining front, whilst looking to facilitate a constant feedback loop to a mine control centre via near live information stream. This kind of app should allow for better understanding of the required work at an operator level but also improve visibility and accountability for those planning things back on the surface. It is interesting, and seemingly a natural progression, for the large drill rig OEMs to step into the data management space as the industry pushes toward digitalisation. It will be interesting to envisage this system interfacing with existing mine CAD packages such as Surpac and Deswik in the medium term.
MOSS (Miner Operated Survey Software) is a system that I have been aware of for a couple of years and it relates directly to my main knowledge base of mine surveying. The system, which has been developed in Canada, utilises industry leading Leica Geosystems total stations with a user-friendly interface allowing miners the ability to mark up their next jumbo advance by themselves. This has many bonuses for the miner and the operation alike, removing the guesswork out of the horizontal development cycle using lasers and plans. This has seen good success in the Americas, and they have developed a new addition to their solution – a Virtual Reality component! The headset offers the miner the ability to view the proposed design at the existing mining front for improved visibility. This is very much the cutting edge of mining and something that I would love to see in action once commercially available!
The future of mining is looking significantly more automated and digitised if these releases are anything to go by! It is amazing to see those with the operational experience, coupled with the ability to build impressive hardware solutions are now delivering new ideas for our industry. It is yet to be seen how the automation and heavily digitised underground mine will look but there is certainly a growing fleet of machines that will assist when the industry commits to “the digital mine”.
MinExpo looks to a be miners dream with huge machines, big ideas and no doubt lots of free merch! I will happily take a free ticket from any willing vendor for the next event in four years’ time!
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