Epiroc on underground digitalisation

Mining Magazine and Australia's Mining Monthly speaks with Andreas Prill, Business Line Manager - Digitalisation at Epiroc Australia, about Epiroc's view on underground digitalisation, how digital solutions can contribute to safer underground mining and what the future looks like.


We all know that digitalisation is changing the world as organisations seek to virtualise, automate, add machine intelligence and create efficiency at every turn. Mining is no different, but for Epiroc that means underground as well as on the surface. Its mission: to bring all the productivity, sustainability and safety measures that computers and telecoms have provided above ground to the subterranean sphere in mining.  

The mining technology leader's chief executive Helena Hedblom recently said she sees three major shifts: automation, digitisation and electrification. These shifts help miners to connect, protect, automate, direct, decide and sustain, according to Andreas Prill, Epiroc Australia business line manager for digitalisation. 

While placing faith in technology to make mines safer and smarter is far from unique, a major distinguishing factor is Epiroc's willingness to work collaboratively.

"We truly believe that our openness to other solutions and systems and being agnostic in our willingness to enter deep partnerships with our customers and also the vendors to our customers, builds a force for the transformation of underground mining," Prill said.

Back to the tech though, as a seasoned technologist, Prill argues that basing decisions in data is core to modern mining success.

"It always goes back to having granular information to help measure processes and procedures against KPIs to understand strengths and weaknesses and, based on that, implement continuous business improvements," he said.

Going underground, Prill added that making mines safer by planning well is critical, whether that be for a long-term mine lifecycle plan, a single day or a specific shift.

"We have very sophisticated solutions for planning," he said. "Not everybody would relate good planning to safer mining but if you think about it as an orchestrated flow of activities where materials, people and machines all come together, a good plan can contribute to safer mining."


Using tools that improve situational awareness is also key and Digital Twin-type models enable augmented visibility.

"If you can get your eyes underground in real time while you're above ground, [that] is another way to contribute to safer mining," Prill suggested. "An example: accidents are often caused by congestion leading to collisions, so the ability to see every machine or other mine asset, locate it and schedule its movements enables miners to protect themselves from harm. You can make daily blasting safer by knowing where everyone is, accounting for everyone, knowing that someone is in a safe zone, a refuge chamber, during an emergency situation."

Another major safety measure is environmental monitoring, for example using gas sensors then adjusting airflow accordingly or examining rock stress and movement via sensors. These all go towards building "a single pane of glass to make better decisions in a shorter period of time".

"We believe that collision avoidance is a massive contributor to safer mining and will play a bigger role in the future," Prill said. Epiroc supports line-of-sight tele-remote autonomous operations across its product line and Prill stresses that its portfolio of tools can supply miners with alerts, advice and scope for intervention such as shutting down a machine to prevent accidents.


Asked to bring out his crystal ball and ponder the future, Prill expects more penetration of automation, digitalisation and electrification in the industry "to the level where if you don't have solutions in place in those areas, the mine will either not comply with regulations or the mine will become inefficient to run and uncompetitive".

Automation applied in key areas such as shift changes and blasting already lead to up to 20% increases in productivity from time savings that instantly add to bottom-line results, he stated.

"If you tried to run a mine with no way to communicate with your people underground, you would probably struggle [but] yesterday, today and tomorrow is the time of digitalisation. We can have high-speed digital communications and bring literally all the tools that are being used on the surface on a daily basis underground to work in a more efficient and collaborative way and to make mining safer, more productive and sustainable. Digital solutions will be the standard of tomorrow."



Epiroc is a leading productivity partner for the resources and infrastructure sectors. With cutting-edge technology, we produce innovative drill rigs, rock excavation and construction equipment, and world-class service and consumables.




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