Mining Site Automation

Mining automation may soon become the norm for this industry known for its hesitancy to adopt new technologies. The industry has traditionally lagged behind others when it comes to embracing the latest technological capabilities of the day. That’s starting to change, though.

Mining automation may soon become the norm for this industry known for its hesitancy to adopt new technologies. The industry has traditionally lagged behind others when it comes to embracing the latest technological capabilities of the day. That’s starting to change, though.

Faced with complex staffing challenges exacerbated by the pandemic, market volatility, and increasing scrutiny of their environmental impact, firms are giving a closer look at automation in the mining industry. With mining automation, companies can use emerging technologies to safely and efficiently mine and transport ores and other resources. Read on to learn why so many firms are joining the ranks of industry-leading mining automation companies like FMC Group, Rio Tinto, and BHP Billiton.

What Is Mining Site Automation?

Increasingly, mining companies are taking advantage of automated mining technologies. Like many industries, the mining industry uses these new technologies to increase efficiency, improve worker safety, and harness other benefits.

There are a variety of tools for achieving automation in the mining industry. Mining companies can implement mining automation software to improve operational efficiencies and autonomous mining equipment that increases productivity and ensures worker safety. These tools put the Internet of Things to use to give miners an edge. There are four different types of mining equipment automation:

  • Remote Control: Mobile equipment like bulldozers and excavators can be controlled remotely. The operator loses some productivity when using the remote control, but it helps operate in dangerous conditions.
  • Driver Assist: This tool allows drivers to operate the vehicle but avoids collisions and spotting.
  • Teleoperation: Sensors, cameras, and positioning software can allow operators to drive equipment from remote locations. Teleoperation can reduce productivity but not as much as remote control operation.
  • Full Automation: This applies to mining vehicles that enable fully autonomous control of essential vehicle functions.

A mining site that uses autonomous mining equipment and mining automation software can provide the most significant gains in productivity.

With relatively few firms operating, this longstanding industry has been slow to harness these emerging technologies, providing smaller, more agile companies with an opportunity to gain an advantage over their competitors and enjoy all the benefits of these technologies. These tools can help companies ensure responsible sourcing of resources and reassure the general public that the environment and miners alike are being treated appropriately.

However, firms also have to be mindful of their relationships with governments in developing countries. These countries often allow companies to mine resources because they create jobs. Mining companies must proceed cautiously with automation in countries that rely heavily on the mining industry to support the labor force. If automation results in significant layoffs, firms may harm these crucial governmental relationships and jeopardize their long-term growth.

The benefits can vary depending on the equipment that mining firms use. Automated mining technology can improve vehicle utilization, better working conditions, less unscheduled maintenance, greater productivity, improved safety, superior fuel efficiency, and less driver fatigue. Companies that operate without these emerging tools risk being left behind.

Mobile Equipment at Mining Sites

Manufacturers can outfit many types of mobile equipment employed at mining sites with IoT technology, and automation software can integrate trucks and other mining vehicles. Some of these technologies are still in the early phases, but mining firms have already implemented several of these autonomous solutions at sites across the globe. The most prominent makers of autonomous mining equipment are Caterpillar, Rockwell Automation, Komatsu, Hitachi, Hexagon, Atlas Copco, and Sandvik. Many automated mining vehicles can monitor their own vehicle condition, including brake tracking, and they can be integrated with automated spraying systems for dust management.

Haul Trucks

These dump trucks are engineered for mining environments and work safely and efficiently as part of an autonomous haul fleet. They are already used in mines of all sizes and various settings.

Features & Benefits

  • Vehicle controllers
  • Wireless network system
  • Obstacle detection
  • Global positioning system (GPS)
  • Collision avoidance systems
  • Near-continuous operation
  • Reduce operational costs
  • Improve productivity
  • Fewer safety incidents
  • Reduced downtime

Mining Excavators/Hydraulic Mining Shovels

Manufacturers are developing autonomous hydraulic mining shovels, a foundational piece of equipment for any mining operation. Some manufacturers offer robotic components that can be retrofitted onto existing excavators and add autonomous operation features to these manual vehicles. That means that firms may not have to replace existing equipment to benefit from this new technology. Experts predict that autonomous excavators will be a gamechanger in the coming years, allowing companies to expand their operations to unsafe and unstable areas.

Features & Benefits

  • Remote control operation
  • LiDAR
  • Cameras
  • Proprioceptive sensors
  • Monitor vehicle health indicators
  • Improved efficiency and productivity
  • Minimized work hazards and accidents

Large Dozers

Mining dozers are rugged vehicles that allow mining operations to move the earth out of the way and play a supporting role in day-to-day activities. Industry insiders view them as the next frontier in automated mining vehicles.

Some manufacturers are developing tools to retrofit existing dozers with automation features, allowing miners the option of manual or driverless control. Current dozers are fully autonomous, teleoperated, or operated via remote control.

Features & Benefits

  • Improved safety for dangerous mining tasks
  • Monitors vehicle health indicators
  • More efficient operations

Large Wheel Loaders

Automated loaders can load, carry, and unload resources by themselves with remarkable precision. Equipped with built-in lasers, this automated equipment can map out a mine and determine the most viable paths the first time they enter. Operators can work from the safety of a control room and may operate more than one vehicle at a time with remarkable effectiveness.

Features & Benefits

  • Laser scanners
  • Angle sensors
  • Odometers
  • Gyroscopes
  • GPS network
  • Improved safety
  • Increased productivity

Water Cart

Water carts are important mining vehicles that spray water to manage dust at mining sites. Dust poses a safety threat to everyone who inhales it. Mining operations cut down on dust by spraying water. Automated water carts can use AI tools to measure dust and determine the best locations for spraying. These vehicles can consider environmental factors like the temperature and evaporation rate. Only a few mining sites have implemented automated water trucks, but this innovative technology shows promise.

Features & Benefits

  • Dust sensors
  • LiDAR
  • GPS
  • Reduces waste
  • Increased productivity
  • Improved road conditions
  • Enhanced safety

Rotary Drill Rigs

Poor attendance can lead to bottlenecks in the drilling process. Fully autonomous or remote-controlled drill rigs ensure that mining operations aren’t delayed due to personnel problems. Without human error in the drilling process, you can reduce the wear and tear on this expensive equipment and lengthen its life.

Features & Benefits

  • Adaptive motion control
  • GPS
  • Fast, accurate drill rig monitoring
  • Continuous operation
  • Improved accuracy
  • Reduced maintenance costs
  • Increased productivity
  • Lower operating expenses
  • Boosted production

Benefits of MiX Telematics Solutions for Mining Sites

If you’re interested in safer, more efficient operations, MiX Telematics can help with fleet management for the mining industry. We offer a range of cutting-edge telematics products that can integrate your manual or autonomous fleet of mobile mining equipment. Our fleet management software gives you actionable insights that can help you supercharge your operations. Mining vehicle telematics can deliver so many benefits.

  • Increase Operation Efficiency: Fleet telematics can reduce your costs for maintenance, repairs, insurance, and fuel. With our solutions, drivers are more accountable for their performance and can view the data to drive efficiently and safely.
  • Improve Safety: On average, our clients see a 30% reduction in collisions. Our telematics tools monitor inefficient or unsafe driving behaviors and send alerts to drivers and fleet managers. MiX Vision AI provides even more tools for driver monitoring, featuring a driver coaching device and means for detecting fatigue and distraction.
  • Reduce CO2 Emissions: Our technology products alert you to excessive fuel consumption and are responsible for saving 540,000 tons of CO2 annually. That’s great news for firms with sustainability targets.
  • Facilitate Reliable Communications: Mining firms must operate wherever the resources are, and communication can be challenging in remote areas. From harsh environments to isolated locations, our customers rely on our products to communicate no matter where they are.
  • Achieve Compliance Targets: Mining operators face unique compliance challenges, and our products make it easy to ensure that you comply with regulatory targets.

These are just some of the many ways our telematics solutions can improve functionalities for mining operations. Agile, savvy mining firms can harness innovative technologies like fleet management software and automated mining to get an edge on the competition.

A fully-implemented and supported MiX Telematics solution is guaranteed to improve driver safety and reduce accident rates while also lowering risk, liability and cost.

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