A common theme for most mining operations today is productivity, productivity, productivity. While this is certainly the ultimate outcome when one uses Guidance technology, the motivation for three Australian mines, for the implementation of their Guidance Solution, was quite different.
At a major copper and gold mine located in Central West NSW the tunnel boring system used required operators to reverse the haul trucks for an extended distance along the tunnel, which had a narrower floor width due to the boring system, to the loading point. Here efficiency was paramount, the amount of rock requiring loading from the highly efficient boring system was significant, while the shape of the tunnel demanded accurate operation to avoid the walls, all to be achieved while reversing. The operators needed assistance; they needed Guidance.
What the operator assist Guidance Solution allowed them to do, was to successfully navigate down the tunnel in reverse, with limited operator input which simplified operation and reduced stress on the operator. The haul truck, through the use of laser technology, was able to achieve higher speeds in reverse and also detect the correct loading point. The operator assist Guidance Technology was then also used to assist the operator with driving the haul truck in a forward direction along the narrower floor space of the tunnel, significantly increasing the speed of tramming cycles.
Another Australian operation located in North West Queensland, one of the world's largest silver and lead mines, was focussed on removing their operators from the hazards associated with being underground, and providing the solution to control their loaders from the surface. RCT's Guidance Solution was implemented to further increase productivity and consistency of operation when operating the machine on Teleremote.
The Guidance Solution allows for the loader to "see" its own way along the optimal path of the tramway. Higher tramming speeds could be targeted depending on the risk profile of the client and programmed into the system accordingly. This meant that very little stress was placed on the operator, safely located at the surface, in an ergonomically designed and comfortable control centre.
The operator was removed from contact with hazardous substances, noise and dust. Time was saved with the faster tramming cycles as well as the shift changes with no underground travel required.
For another Australian base metals and exploration company, a reduction in risk as well as an increase in productivity at their zinc, lead and silver mine in New South Wales, were their primary objectives.
In order to get greater serviceability of their machines, RCT's Guidance System was installed. This resulted in a significant reduction of machine downtime with less damage to the machine due to a reduced likelihood of any impact with the walls. The solution allows for the steering, braking and the throttle of the loader to be automatically controlled with required intersection inputs via a joystick control unit. The laser technology provides real time assessments of current mine conditions and keeps the machine at a safe distance from the walls, running along the optimal tramming path.
Risks to the health and safety of the operators was significantly reduced with the installation of a Surface Control Station at the mine. Here operators could simply and comfortably control the machines underground, allowing for more efficient hours of working, with the "hot seat" shift changes ensuring virtually uninterrupted operation, and significant increases in production.
RCT's Control Master Guidance System is a semi-autonomous control system designed to assist the operator during the tramming cycle of Teleremote control operations. It consists of a transmitter and receiver and can utilise existing Teleremote hardware equipment installed to provide immediate visual feedback to the operator. A "Guidance in Operation" alert appears on a Text-on-Video display to ensure the operator is aware of the current Guidance mode. When the Guidance System is enabled, steering, braking, and speed are automatically controlled via the joystick position, together with the minimum width of the drive and the look-ahead distance. The system is real time responsive to the current mine conditions.
The outcomes for all three mines included a reduction in the health and safety risks for the operators, a reduction in costly machine downtime and machine damage and an increase in the speed of tramming cycles. What these and a number of other benefits and improvements add up to, are significant improvements in efficiency and almost uninterrupted mining, resulting in productivity, productivity, productivity.