Mines are becoming more sustainable to reduce the environmental damage they can cause. A collaborative partnership between multiple companies aims to achieve this by using smart mining technology in a sustainable underground mining project.
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Key Trends in Mining
Key trends are influencing the mining industry in the early 21st century. Automation, sustainability, digital transformation, remote capabilities, and smart collaboration between actors in the mining innovation ecosystem all look likely to play an increasing role in years to come.
By implementing improved automation, mines will increase productivity, avoid equipment downtime, and reduce labor costs, along with increased safety for mine workers. The switch to remote services has become accelerated since 2020, much like in other sectors of industry and society as a reaction to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Digitization of operations makes mines more connected by improving the use of data from assets, applications, working silos, and equipment. Data can be analyzed and uploaded to devices that help operators make informed decisions that are both rapid and smart.
Sustainability is not optional. The urgent need to reduce the environmental impact of mines has led to the development of smart mining technology that helps achieve CO2 reduction in mining. This will help the mining industry and governments to meet their carbon reduction targets by 2050.
Finally, a smart collaboration between actors in the mining innovation ecosystem brings together disparate expertise and knowledge across the entire mining industry. By working together, companies can pave the way for a mining industry that meets the challenges of the 21st century and beyond.
An Overview of the Project
Working in partnership, LKAB, ABB, Epiroc, Sandvik, and Combitech are bringing sustainable mining to the deep underground environment. The project is being carried out in a unique testbed located in northern Sweden’s ore fields. An efficient autonomous production system is being used in the project. The project will use testbeds in Malmberget and Kiruna at LKAB’s underground mines. Alongside testing in the real environment, the project will be using a virtual mine.
The Swedish Energy Agency is providing full funding to the project to the tune of 207 million kronor. The project makes use of Epiroc and Sandvik to provide smart vehicles, with battery-powered autonomous equipment a major part of it. ABB’s role in the project is to contribute their solutions and knowledge for automation, service, maintenance, and electrification. Combitech’s main experience and expertise is in connecting human operators and autonomous processes via digital ecosystems.
What the Project Aims to Achieve
The project aims to achieve zero CO2 emissions and the highest level of safety, while using full automation to achieve increases in production of 50%, including deeper mining activities. A decentralized environment will be used to demonstrate potential future workplaces for mining activities.
The partnership brings innovative and cutting-edge technological solutions to the market that will help create safer, more efficient, and sustainable mining production processes in the future. Smart collaboration from the five organizations involved in the project will pave the way to foster innovative solutions that would be difficult for individual players to develop alone.
Significant advances have already been made by the project. LOMI, which stands for LKAB Open Mine Integrator, which is an integration and collaboration platform, has been developed. This is an open systems architecture that allows the partners to work together to develop solutions.
ABB Ability System 800XA has been delivered by ABB. This system is a “collaboration table” and extended operation workplace. It allows operators to monitor and control mine equipment thanks to the visualization of key functions and figures in the mine, increasing efficiency or approval, planning, and control.
Epiroc has delivered an automated drill rig and loader and trained service personnel and operators. The models used in the test mine are Easer L (the drill rig) and Scooptram ST18 (the loader.) Easer L has already drilled 50-meter-long holes and the loader is undergoing complex testing for automation and interoperability.
Working with LKAB’s IT department, Combitech is delivering solutions to improve synchronization between new technology and existing system platforms.
How this Project Will Help the Future of Mining
By bringing together collective know-how, the future competitiveness of the individual companies in the project is more assured. However, the challenges of the 21st century present far bigger challenges than can be solved by just a few players in the mining industry.
By working in partnership on this project, the five companies are developing innovative solutions and smart mining technology for the entire industry. This sustainable underground mining project will help build the future of mines that are better digitized and connected, more automated, safer for workers, and are more efficient. Most importantly, the project aims to find ways to provide significant CO2 reduction in mining operations, making for a much more sustainable industry. These are big challenges that only big ambition can solve.
References and Further Reading
ABB.com (website) Deep Underground Mining: LKAB, ABB, Epiroc, Combitech and Sandvik collaboration. Available at: https://new.abb.com/mining/future-of-mining/partnership/lkab-abb-epiroc-combitech-sandvik
ABB.com (website) Forward thinking: key mining trends for 2021. Available at: https://new.abb.com/mining/key-mining-trends-2021
Sandvik (website) SUM industrial collaboration strengthened with the addition of Sandvik as new partner. Available at: https://www.rocktechnology.sandvik/en/news-and-media/news-archive/2020/09/SUM-industrial-collaboration/