Increasing mine safety and productivity in China


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White Mountain's remote control station was housed in a converted delivery truck on site. Image: Eldorado Gold.

Canadian-miner Eldorado Gold’s decision to deploy RCT’s Smart Technology at its White Mountain gold mine in north-eastern China saw the site strengthen its safety culture as well as increase mine productivity at the same time.

Prior to implementing the new technology, White Mountain utilised handheld Line-of-Sight equipment which required two workers (one to remote the machine and the other to manually control the bucket) to operate the one machine in order to adhere to regulatory requirements.

The site wanted to utilise proven technology to increase both safety and productivity on site and it was decided that installing RCT’s ControlMaster® Teleremote system onto its Caterpillar R1700 loader was the best way to do achieve these outcomes.

“White Mountain struggled to maintain optimum productivity due to the continual changing between manual and LOS remoting, said White Mountain’s General Manager, Warren Uyen.

“[In addition] LOS always had the potential for one operator to enter the remoting area if procedures weren’t strictly followed,” he said.

RCT co-created the design of the remote control station which was housed in a converted delivery truck complete with RCT station chair, dual monitors, and a laser protection barrier system. This unique solution allows operators to Teleremote from a station with climate control, high tech video equipment and a red light to protect operators’ eyes. In addition to improving operator’s comfort levels, the portable station allows operators to control the loader from a safe area, within the security of a laser barrier system ensuring no other personnel can enter the remoting area which further increases workers’ safety.

The ControlMaster® Teleremote system was not only the first system of its kind to be used in China; it was also a huge success improving productivity as well as safety at White Mountain.

“White Mountain was the first Chinese mine to embrace the available hardware and technology and integrate it into the primary ore extraction tool,” Mr Uyen said.

By utilising RCT’s ControlMaster® Teleremote system at the site, productivity increased substantially with the site achieving a record of nearly 6,300 buckets in one month, which is equivalent to more than 60,000 tonnes of ore.

“The perceived benefits in productivity were estimated between 25-30 per cent, meaning the system would pay for itself in less than six months,” he said.

“However, actual data shows productivity gains of more than 35 per cent.”

Loader operator safety also increased significantly as miners now conduct bogging operations from within a custom-built cabin located about 500 metres from the potentially hazardous stope area.

“The added and most important benefit was the removal and control of personnel from the work area,” Mr Uyen said.

Fitting the loader with semi automation, further improved the operators’ working environment.

“[It] reduces operator fatigue and virtually eliminates impact damage to the machine hitting the walls,” Mr Uyen said.

“Meanwhile machine data is transmitted back to the remote control station, so if any critical faults are detected, an alarm sounds and a message appears on the operator’s screen – just as if they were in the cabin.”

Mr Uyen said the Teleremote system continues to improve as operator and maintenance skills improve.

"This successful model can be transferred to any site,” he said.

Due to the remote location of the mine White Mountain wanted to be completely self-sufficient in terms of servicing and maintaining the RCT system. As a result RCT delivered a two-week comprehensive training package for operators and technicians however; RCT still provides offsite technical and troubleshooting advice if and when required.

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