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Epiroc's Deep Automation delivers integrated automation for those underground

Epiroc: How Using Smart Technology Can Secure Underground Mines

Epiroc

If we consider the most advanced and integrated digital systems underground, our minds may drift to the increasingly sophisticated automation that is driving the most modern of underground fleets.

Deep Automation by Epiroc has emerged as a leading force in this integrated autonomous landscape, representing a significant leap forward in automation, offering a holistic approach that integrates planning tools, underground machinery, and auxiliary equipment.

With a rich history of supporting and developing cutting-edge digital solutions in underground mining, Ben Semple - 6th Sense Solutions Product & Sales Support Lead - AAPI at Epiroc, explained the continual evolution of this class-leading digital solution.

"We started our digital journey way back in 1998 with onboard automation of products that were being released into the market. There has then been a continual evolution towards the integrated and advanced automation functionality we have available today," Semple shared.

"Originally, we started with automation and connectivity focused on the tele-remote loaders for high-risk stope environments. However, now our capability transcends pretty much everything that we deliver to the underground work environment. Our latest trials have included tele-remote operation of both our Boltec and Cabletec rigs, which supports a move toward zero-entry mining."

The removal of operators from potentially hazardous environments is a game-changer for those embracing this advanced technology. Yet, the question arises: what provisions are being made for those now operating from clean, surface-based control centres?

"In terms of visibility for operators who are no longer in-situ, we leverage camera systems and simple user interfaces that we co-develop with our customer base. We are currently considering proof of concepts for augmented reality integrations for tele-remote operators. This will see us utilise new sensors that can deliver novel mapping and advanced visualisation techniques."

Emerging supplementary technologies which can unlock better opportunities for operator success are now being developed. This continuous improvement is a process that is being explored and delivered upon elsewhere in the Deep Automation suite.

"The traditional key drivers we have seen for the delivery of automated digital systems have always been safety and productivity. Systems such as a single remote loader moving material from a stope, would often run in isolation. This no doubt improves safety outcomes and allows for continuous material movement over shift change, which offers some improved efficiency," Semple outlines.

"However, we now see our most advanced users, within a caving setting, able to deliver fully integrated loading activities with multiple simultaneously operational machines. These loader fleets are connected and optimised to work from large numbers of draw points across an extraction level. Where the equipment is being assisted by tele-remote operators and automated sections of the tramming cycle, driving productivity and safety uplifts."

These caving operations, which often have the scale and scope to optimise material handling, can become an environment where full integration of systems can be developed and implemented. They also offer the opportunity for intermeshing of solutions for additional value add for mine operators.

"The interplay between digital systems is becoming more fluid, with scheduling, cave control systems and Epiroc machinery now all able to interface and deliver optimised and safe production," Semple outlines. 

Cross pollination between digital systems continues to grow as does the value that integrated automation systems like Deep Automation by Epiroc can offer. Digital applications once siloed and operating in solitude now join together creating a new, even more efficient way of work.

"For the future development of our digital and automation offering we are pursuing a custom customer engagement model. This is where we heavily engage with our customers and their teams who maintain and utilise our solutions.

We give these end users the ability to add improvement tickets, or engage with us on system improvements on a routine basis. This also extends to monthly system performance reviews with key operational focused stakeholders, where we can showcase our commitment to working with our customers to better improve their operational outcomes," shares Semple.

Through continuous innovation and a deep commitment to customer collaboration, Epiroc is shaping the future of mining with digital systems that are not only interconnected but also adaptable to the ever-changing demands of the industry.

A growing series of reports, each focused on a key discussion point for the mining sector, brought to you by the Mining Monthly Intelligence team.

A growing series of reports, each focused on a key discussion point for the mining sector, brought to you by the Mining Monthly Intelligence team.

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