Remote control and automation used increasingly in caving mines

first_imgRemote control and automation are a focus of International Mining, January 2011. They are playing an increasingly important role in caving operations. Automated ore chute control and remote controlled machines to bring down hang ups are just two examples. Truck drivers at Newcrest Mining’s Telfer underground gold mine can now activate block cave chute doors from a safe location after the company adopted an innovative infrared remote control system from Remote Control Technologies (RCT).Instead of chute operators standing on an overhead gantry near the trucks and activating the chutes via adjacent hard wired umbilical controls, they now tele-operate the chutes from the safety of their cabs. Control is through an infrared TX/RX system that obviated the need for radio signals and licences. The short-range system suffers no interference from mine radio or other signals.RCT also incorporated a vision solution in the form of a Maxi Vision camera system featuring its 5555 underground Control Master® specification camera, mounted above the chutes for the truck operator vision.“Infrared was seen as the only solution due to the relatively short-distance operating range,” said RCT Mining Area Sales Manager in Western Australia, Phil Dean. There is no risk of false signals and interference from neighbouring chute systems. “The system has proved to be of great benefit. There is no need for operators to be exposed to heat, dust, fumes, poor ventilation, the possibility of mechanical failure of the chute system or complete a very repetitive process pressing a button to open and close the chute lip raise lower operation.”RCT has a similar system installed at Freeport Indonesia on four chutes. That system is also using radar to monitor the ore levels inside the ore passes.Another development at Freeport Indonesia is a customised remote control solution developed for the giant Deep Ore Zone (DOZ) underground block cave (IM January 2010), helping to solve safety and productivity issues that have long been associated with rock blockages in cave draw points.RCT has helped develop a reliable remote controlled version of the Sandvik DC300 Commando drill. The hydraulic, self-propelled unit is also configured to deliver explosives into rock crevices to bring down hang ups. Optimally placed cameras are the eyes of an operator remote controlling the machine from a safe location. The Commando’s functions are totally remote controlled.RCT Area Sales Manager Nic Stone described the project as a “world first. It’s a very important piece of gear because it does a high risk job – the machine goes into a large draw bell full of loose rock and places explosives – and takes a person out of that high-risk area,” he explained. “There is no machine made to do that specifically, so we’ve modified and remote controlled a machine developed to do the job.”Stone said the hybrid drill/explosive delivery unit was not designed to be remote controlled and “we had to modify a lot of hydraulics. We re-engineered the hydraulics and modified a lot of the pilot systems … to suit our remote control system and enable the machine to achieve the degree of movement the customer requires, under remote control.”RCT is also being successful in getting the safety benefits of remote control and automation accepted in countries not always thought of as leaders in technology. In Mali for example it has supplied and installed line-of-sight remote control systems for two Caterpillar LHDs in use at Randgold Resources’ Loulo mine. More recently it has started breaking into China with its first installation going on to a Caterpillar R1700G loader at Sino Gold’s White Mountain gold mine (IM, January 2011).Phil Goode, Senior Business Development Manager comments: “these are our first remote control systems in China. Once customers see the safety benefits we are confident they will take many more.”last_img

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