A unique cooperation between Atlas Copco Underground Rock Excavation and ABB has led to a significant advance in underground mobile fleet integration.

A unique cooperation between Atlas Copco Underground Rock Excavation and ABB has led to a significant advance in underground mobile fleet integration.

It is widely recognised in the underground mining industry that one of the key requirements for optimising operations lies in being able to integrate and monitor all equipment and processes from a central point. The possibility to do this is now closer to reality thanks to a groundbreaking development project between Atlas Copco, a global supplier of underground mobile mining equipment, and ABB, a world leader in power, automation and process engineering.

The two companies have come up with the world’s first system designed to give underground mining companies a complete overview of their operations, thereby realising the vision of the fully integrated underground hard rock mine.

The new technology is based on integrating data from Atlas Copco’s advanced underground mobile mining equipment in real time (via a WiFi network) with ABB’s process control system 800xA. This capability gives personnel in a control room environment a complete overview of all activities, allowing them to make informed decisions regarding the production flow. Location tracking, equipment performance, production status and environmental impact are just a few of the outcomes the joint project was able to demonstrate.

Mattias Pettersson, product manager, data management and communication at
Atlas Copco, says, "This is a very exciting development that brings the future of underground mining right into the present. By installing this system, underground mines will be able to run their operation and meet their targets more effectively than ever before. In addition, they will also be able to organise fleet maintenance much more efficiently, all leading to sustained, high productivity."

Atlas Copco and ABB
The two companies started their collaboration about two years ago with a common aim to develop ‘the smart mine of the future’. Development of the integration system began in February 2011.

Patrik Westerlund, product manager mine automation at ABB says, "We all agree that the mines of the future will use fewer workers for manual jobs and more qualified operator experts for product and process optimisation, maintenance planning and environmental control. This means that operations experts will need to interact with each other to cover the complete value chain and may even be expected to work across several mines at once.

"Sensors and automated systems already provide mine operators with real time, essential information for each product and process control. The new mobile integration system is the next big step, allowing a mine to optimise the utilisation of underground mining equipment and increase productivity while reducing energy consumption."

Successful trials and further development
The system has been successfully trialed at Atlas Copco’s test mine in Kvarntorp outside Örebro, Sweden. Atlas Copco and ABB will continue to develop the technology and add more functionality to the concept, potentially via a joint customer-focused project.
David Shellhammer, president at Atlas Copco Underground Rock Excavation, concludes, "Our future mine operators want a compelling, all-in-one information center to optimise the utilisation of our machines underground. I am certain that this project will result in a big leap forward in the optimisation of underground mining."