Celeste Piercey details how innovative technologies conquer the challenges of the modern mine
Over the course of a mine’s life, its operational needs will never be a static list. Furthermore, these needs will vary as much between different sites as they do across the various tasks being performed at a single site each day. From a mine’s infancy through to maturity, operational growth brings with it expanding and changing requirements for equipment and personnel, and for technological solutions to address planned landmarks as much as any unplanned obstacles. Without adaptability, a solution to an operational requirement could become obsolete to a mine almost as quickly as it is purchased and implemented.
Designed precisely to be adaptable from one project to the next, Hard-Line’s TeleOp and RRC (radio remote control) technology rises to the challenge at every turn. Brand-agnostic and user-friendly, the RRC and TeleOp systems allow for any make or model of machine to be remotely controlled from safe distances. Whether with the handheld RRC joystick unit (which has a range of hundreds of feet, above and below ground) or with the TeleOp operator’s station (which can be situated below or above ground on-site, or even in an office hundreds of kilometres away from a remote site), these systems allow users to operate machines efficiently and safely, no matter the setting or task. Through TeleOp, users can also operate several machines at once, with varying levels of automation. And as these systems are built off an operation’s existing infrastructure and to perfectly match required specifications, they allow for efficient, budget-conscious installation with minimal interruption to daily operations and easy integration into a user’s assigned work.
Even following initial implementation of the base TeleOp system, it is designed in a way that allows for further adaptability, keeping the future development of the mine in mind. With minimal additions to a teleoperated machine, basic teleoperation can easily be upgraded to a semi or fully autonomous system. Once the system has been installed at a site, it may in fact only require a simple software update for the system to be adapted to an entirely different application. The ability to adapt the system without needing access to the machine or drift once again results in cost benefits and reduction in downtime.
This technology’s inherent adaptability has allowed its uses to expand even beyond the typical mining industry applications. For an aluminium processing facility in Quebec, Canada, low clearance under and between processing stations as well as hazardous fumes throughout made clearing away the debris of excess material from its floors difficult and dangerous. Additionally, a Montreal-based construction company executing a subway tunnel excavation project was brought to a halt when crews came upon unexploded ordinances. In each case, remotely operated Hard-Line LP401s (low profile, low clearance mini loaders) and excavators, respectively, allowed personnel to safely and efficiently clear the necessary areas, allowing work to continue as required.
A USA-based marine salvage company also remotely operated LP401s in the aftermath of a fire aboard a cargo ship transporting vehicles. Once the fire had been extinguished, repairs could not commence with what remained of the cargo obstructing the damage. Using LP401s, the company was able to remove the vehicles safely from the hazardous conditions, minimizing further hazard to equipment and personnel and allowing repairs to proceed.
Increasingly adaptive technology
Amidst adapting to fulfil the specifications required for such an array of additional applications outside their core industry, these systems have consequently continued to achieve even greater adaptability to meet the mining industry’s needs.
Mining applications have ranged from remote operation of the more compact LP301s and LP401s, through to larger machines such as water cannons, mechanically complex double boom drills, and more recently, a double boom shaft drill. Further applications have included the clean-up required for a USA-based copper mine when its furnace shut down following a malfunction, spilling molten ore and rendering the facility unusable. Remotely controlled LP401s were able to remove the hardened slag from the processing facility, completing clean-up far ahead of the projected schedule. Elsewhere, Hitachi EX5600 excavator operators at a gold mine faced constant risk to themselves and their machines due to working in an open pit setting. Enabling TeleOp control of the excavator with RRC redundancy removed the operators from such a hazardous environment, simultaneously increasing the safety and efficiency of their work in the elimination of that risk to personnel.
Continuous customisation of adaptive technology
The modern mine is a steadily growing and changing operation. As such, it thrives on the versatility of resources, both in personnel and technology. Through continuous customisation for each new project, the inherently adaptable TeleOp and RRC systems are perfectly tailored to supply and support that versatility. Like the mines that implement them, these systems thrive on the variety of their applications, and continuously adapt with the industry for profitable growth in safety and productivity.
Celeste Piercey is with Hard-Line