Solving the safety challenge in a mining environment has long been a priority of mine managers and site engineers. By adopting teleoperation solutions, mining companies can save human lives, provide enhanced efficiency in operations, and save money by having autonomous robotic solutions that can work round-the-clock to explore dangerous and challenging areas.
The mining industry is a crucial part of the global economy, providing valuable minerals and resources that are used in a wide range of industries. However, mining can be dangerous and challenging, particularly in remote or harsh environments. Remote operation robotics (ROR) or teleoperated robots have emerged as a promising solution to many of the challenges faced by the mining industry. ROR involves using robots operated remotely by human operators, typically from a control room located some distance from the mine site. These robots can perform a wide range of tasks, from drilling and blasting to loading and hauling, without exposing human workers to the dangers and difficulties of working in a mining environment.
Improved safety and efficiency
One of the key benefits of ROR in the mining industry is improved safety. Mining has risks such as rock falls, explosions, high altitudes, deep underground environments, toxic gases, etc. By using ROR, mining companies can reduce the risks to human workers by removing them from the hazardous environment and allowing robots to perform tasks that would otherwise be too dangerous or difficult for human workers.
ROR also has the potential to improve the efficiency and productivity of mining operations. Unlike humans, robots can work 24/7 without a decrease in productivity or accuracy. This can result in faster and more efficient mining operations, with lower costs and higher yields and allow work to be done in difficult-to-reach or remote locations. By using ROR, mining companies can operate in these locations with greater ease and efficiency to:
- Run safe operations
- Execute plans effectively
- Make reliable and consistent decisions
- Improve productivity and operational efficiency
- Find the simplest, most cost-effective way to market
- Innovate and overcome challenges
- Develop a new mindset for the future
Attracting talent from around the world
The mining industry faces a global talent shortage. A retiring workforce, the realities of a high-risk worksite, skills gaps, and the incorrect perception of mining as a low-tech industry all contribute to fewer young people considering the mining industry as a viable career option. Using ROR and teleoperation centres offers young new talent from around the world a more attractive career in mining. The ability to work remotely, have enhanced training opportunities, be emersed in leading-edge tech, and work in a safer environment mining companies the ability to attract and retain top talent.
Decreasing environmental impact
Mining has a reputation for being bad for the environment. But that is not necessarily a true reflection of the industry when managed responsibly. RORs enable miners to lower the impact on the environment by reducing land disturbance, reducing waste, lowing emissions, decreasing the need for human workers and heavy machinery, and increasing efficiency through RORs; mining companies can minimize environmental impacts of their operations, reducing emissions, noise pollution, and other forms of pollution. These benefits can help to make mining operations more sustainable and environmentally responsible.
How we’re transforming mining with teleoperated solutions
A case study:
Teleoperation of Large Machines: Stacker and Bucket Wheel, Chuquicamata, Codelco, Chile
Codelco is a state-owned Chilean conglomerate. It is the world’s single biggest copper producer, controlling about 20 percent of total global reserves. Codelco’s Chuquicamata Division, by 2012, still operated an open pit, mainly copper mine, one of the largest in the world of its kind. It is currently undergoing a relevant process of transformation. Since 2019, a new phase has started aiming to move the operation to underground output entirely.
The Stacked Mineral Treatment Plant (PTMP) area consists of two leaching grounds measuring 1,200 meters by 400 meters. The mineral stacker operates by assembling the new stack with the ore from the post-crushing stage. Simultaneously, the bucket wheel that extracts the material from the leached pile sends it through conveyor belts to the gravel area, to be finally deposited by the gravel stacker or spreader. The presence of people in the heap leach vicinity poses a significant risk to employees’ health. There are direct effects of the acid, such as burns and irritation on the respiratory tract caused by acid vapours, and indirect effects through accidents caused by moving structures.
Codelco’s goal was to reduce the risks to personnel’s health and safety while handling both the spreader and the bucket wheel of Chuquicamata and improve productivity.
Design and implement a turnkey solution to make remote stacker and bucket wheel operations viable. The project had to be carried out while the machines were in operation. Therefore, the time restrictions for intervention were very significant.
Design and deploy an innovative solution for the stacker’s teleoperation and the bucket wheel excavator of the Stacked Mineral Treatment Plant (PTMP), taking out workers from the machines’ direct operation. The entire system would be operated from the teleoperation centre, which had to be designed and built to relocate workers.
Development of a customized teleoperated operations centre to provide safety and quality of life to the personnel, taking out the operators from the stacker and bucket wheel excavator. The project includes:
- Remote operation consoles.
- Multiple cameras, a high-definition video system
- Wireless network for data transport that used both mobile machine structures to define topology and redundancy.
- Development and integration of remote control and security routines into the native control devices (PLC) of the machines.
- The turnkey project redefined the control logic of the device. It involved constructing telecommunications networks with low latency, high availability, and a bandwidth capable of transporting multiple high-definition video signals. The hardware choice was consistent with demanding conditions like high solar radiation, gusts of wind and dust, considerable thermal oscillation and an acid atmosphere.
Furthermore, the stacker structure suffers significant vibrations during its operation, so devices had to include vibration-resistant features and connectors. Finally, a special resistant corrosion epoxy paint was applied to mounting supports, and all connections had to be sealed.
When the project was completed by November 2012, these Chuquicamata systems became the first teleoperated machines of their kind in the world: a milestone in the global mining industry.
The customized project of the teleoperated bucket wheel and stacker helped to change many operational and cultural paradigms. It radically improved both safety and productivity, gaining rapid adoption and praise from all the people directly involved.
Create customized robotics solutions for your business with SK Godelius
At SK Godelius, we see an extensive opportunity to implement remote-operated robotic solutions in mines. To keep up with the pace of innovation, mine owners must be prepared to implement AI and robotic solutions as part of the monumental changes the industry is set to undertake in the coming years.
Our team is ready to help you solve your teleoperation challenges. As an industry leader, we conceive, develop, manufacture, integrate, implant, and operate engineering solutions related to automation, teleoperation, robotization and the connectivity of large machines, vehicles, robots and processes in open-pit and underground mining. No matter which environment and operational framework we are at, our priority is to work with you to develop individual projects that bring value to your business.
Contact us to learn more about our process and how we can help your business innovate with robotics in unstructured environments.