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Automation in Mining

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 Automation in Mining - IoT ONE Case Study
Technology Category
  • Networks & Connectivity - 5G
Applicable Industries
  • Mining
Applicable Functions
  • Field Services
The Challenge

Aitik's current annual production of 36 million metric tons of ore is to be increased to 45 million metric tons, and the rock removed will increase by just as much, if not more. However, given that a mine is a busy place, it is not a straightforward task to increase the number of huge machines required for rock removal, and maintaining the same equipment utilization only adds to the challenge. In addition, every blast creates toxic gases that need to dissipate before humans can enter the area and begin excavation. 

The Customer
About The Customer

The Aitik copper mine is owned by Boliden AB and situated outside the town of Gällivare in northern Sweden. It is one of Europe's largest open-pit copper mines. Associated with the copper, some quantities of gold, and silver are produced alongside the main production.

The mine was put into production in 1968, and the production was set at two million tonnes of ore. Since then, the production has gradually increased to the current 18 million tonnes per year. In 2010 when the new Aitik mine expansion is completed production will double to 36 million tonnes.

In 2014 it was expected that production reaches 36 million tons of ore, but this was surpassed with over 3 million tons at year's end.

The Solution

Automated and remotely controlled machines provide a solution. Automated drill rigs (known as "Pit Vipers") can move from one drill hole to the next along a predefined path and perform repetitive tasks autonomously, in contrast to having a drill rig operator on-site carrying them out manually. If the task or movement is not predefined, the drill rig is equipped with cameras that enable an operator to control it remotely. Much of the time autonomy is sufficient; however, sometimes only humans can make a proper assessment (for example, during the evaluation of rock conditions), and remote or even local assessment is then required. 

Operational Impact
  • [Efficiency Improvement - Installation]

    Automating a drill rig could increase operating hours from 5,000 to 7,000 hours per year, in effect enabling Boliden to perform the same amount of blast operations with these 5 modified rigs as they could with 7 or more traditional rigs. 

Quantitative Benefit
  • 7,000 hours per year of drill rig operation could be achieved through automation, an increase of 2,000 hours or 40 percent.

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