Automation a winner for three Aussie longwalls

PRODUCTIVITY improvements of about 130 tonnes per hour are being reported out of Beltana as it operates 24/7 the shearer position measurement and automatic face alignment systems developed under the Landmark Longwall Automation project.

Angie Tomlinson

The face alignment system is also operating at Broadmeadow but the mine is yet to release production information. The system is in the process of being installed and commissioned at Grasstree.

In a December update, the CSIRO Exploration and Mining team said the shearer position measurement system; automatic face alignment; automatic creep management; and INS-based horizon control systems were all being demonstrated in pre-production form at the three participating mines.

One of the major objectives of the ACARP-funded Landmark project has been to develop automation sensors and software that add value to existing OEM products and that will allow different equipment from different manufacturers to communicate and work together.

That objective will come to fruition next year with the commercial offering and pricing information of the shearer position measurement system; automatic face alignment; automatic creep management; and INS-based horizon control expected from OEMs.

A second release of products is expected in the next two years and will include:

  • Thermal infra-red horizon sensing – This will enable real-time horizon control to seam features. It utilises a shearer-mounted thermal infra-red sensor to detect face features and is compatible with the INS-based horizon control product.
  • Controlled traversing cut – A robust horizon control system for traversing faulted conditions and thick seam horizon control is based on software that executes accurate pre-planned shearer drum paths which are accurately verified by the SPMS.
  • Optical marker band detection – A system that automates the current steering method commonly used by shearer drivers by detecting marker bands and then deriving roof and floor horizons. This employs an array of lightweight cameras and lights deployed along the face. It is also compatible with the INS-based system.

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