How 5G can boost safety and productivity in mining

In the mining industry, the focus on new technology largely centers on mine automation and autonomous vehicles. With this development, the human workers’ interplay with automated systems are often disregarded. Yet it will be a long time, if ever, before mines can function without any (or with minimal) human involvement.


So for the near future we think it’s important to also focus on (semi-)manual skill based work and the people involved. How can technology assist people in their work, and what is the interplay between the automated systems and the humans?

We wanted to take the mine workers’ perspective to make their work safer, increase their well-being and to help increase the productivity. We built a virtual replica of the entire mine and used augmented and virtual reality to increase the transparency and present information to help within these three areas.

A 3D virtual model of a mine

This 3D virtual model includes data from all the mine activities, and in reality it should be updated in real-time. The model could be generated from point cloud data from LIDAR scans from self-driving vehicles, and there are huge amounts of data that need to be continually sent to the model. With such big amounts of data and requirements on low latency, we need 5G networks.

This virtual replica can be used for remote operations, traffic control, automation, productivity aids, visual alterations, safety measures, and so on. For example, in the case of an emergency, you can have augmented lines in the floor to find the nearest rescue chamber or for the fire brigade to find the people in the rescue chamber. Or it could allow for “time travelling” for the geologists, by exploring a “tomography” of a rock face over time.

To dig deeper into what 5G and autonomous vehicles, among other things, means to the mining industry, check out our collaborations driving mining digitization, or watch an interview about our specific collaboration with Boliden.

Then you can watch an interview I did on this topic after a recent Ericsson Research Open Day:

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