Underground safety and productivity challenges in mining are growing more complex. While the industry has made strides in safety innovations to keep underground mining workers safe, by far the most effective way to protect operators is remote-operated machinery.

Remote-controlled systems enable operators to control machinery from a safe distance, reducing the risk of accidents and exposure to life-threatening risks. This technology is already being used around the world for tasks such as drilling, excavation, inspection, and material retrieval. Now Normet is leading the charge with regard to using robotics in explosives charging, the first company to introduce a commercially available battery-powered charging device for use in mining operations. 

David Kurtz, director of research and analysis for construction, mining and energy at GlobalData, says: “The two core challenges in mining relate to safety and productivity. For the former, robotics can remove personnel from hazardous situations through use of line-of-sight, teleremote or autonomous equipment. ” He says miners and OEMs have suggested that autonomous equipment can reduce accidents by 50% or more.

The use of such equipment at both underground and surface mines is increasing. GlobalData estimates that more than 1,000 underground mining trucks and load-haul-dump (LHD) machines that operate autonomously or are tele-remote controlled are currently in use.

“Explosives charging is one of the most hazardous work processes in modern underground mining,” explains Anssi Mykkänen, director of the charging product line at Normet.

“To improve operational safety without loss of productivity, we developed a servo-robotic boom arm with groundbreaking technology for use in our latest charging system, the Charmec Revo®, a revolution in underground explosives charging.”  Mykkänen explains the development journey of the new system.

“In 2018, we developed digital twins for two different technological solutions before we manufactured anything,” Mykkänen explains. “We then went to one of the biggest Finnish mines with these two digital twins and simulators for testing, and professional miners selected the design that we have now.

“Our automation team’s office is in a different city than our main factory, so because of this digital twin, we were able to continue the development despite the corona pandemic and started to build the prototype in 2022. This year we were testing in the Agnico-Eagle Kittilä gold mine in Finland, and 2024 starts with extensive underground testing in another big underground mine.”

The Charmec Revo® system is developed for tunnels from 4 x 4 metres up to 6 x 6 metres, which covers most underground mining tunnels. Drilled borehole maps from the drill rigs can be uploaded to the Revo system to show boreholes in the face wall, and a machine vision system guides the charging hose to the correct spot. If a map is not available, the machine vision can aid the operator in locating the boreholes.

Normet’s development process focused on delivering unparalleled mechanical and automated accuracy. The system uses automatic movements from borehole to home position and back​ to define the safest route for the arm during the operation, as well as safety systems that slow down or stop the arm from moving should an obstacle get in the way.

The Charmec Revo® is available with Normet SmartDrive® battery-electric platform with zero local emissions or with the latest diesel platform with either Stage IIIA or Stage V emission class. In 2024, Normet continues to improve worker safety in underground mining by innovating in remote-operated machinery to mitigate risk.

To find out more about Normet’s capabilities, download the whitepaper below.