The future of mining is automated. Once seen as a hazardous and challenging operational environment, the tech revolution is set to dramatically shift our perceptions of the mining industry.
A major driver of this change is a need to be more efficient and productive, safe and resourceful, particularly in light of harsher climates and rising energy costs faced by the industry every day.
To help address these challenges, Ericsson has collaborated with Boliden, ABB, SICS Swedish ICT, and Volvo Construction Equipment to evaluate new mobile communication infrastructures in an industrial context, and to validate new mining technology, applications and business models.
We are enabling innovations that create a safer, securer and more comfortable working environment for the miners; this includes process automation capabilities, which will make mines safer by removing human miners from danger zones, and advances in reliable communication that will allow miners to securely connect with colleagues on the other side of the site – or even on the other side of the world.
Driving mining digitalization
Here, Peter du Bruin, Master Researcher at Ericsson, explains how the team is investigating the benefits of 5G mining technology.
The remote control of machines and smart ventilation are perhaps the two most crucial use cases in improving safety and efficiency in the mines. With low latency and ultra-high speed connectivity, remote control applications with multiple feedback sources (video, audio, haptic) are enabled; helping to avoid having people in the most dangerous areas, and at the most dangerous times. This, in turn, improves productivity because it shortens the time between a blast and when the miners can enter the area. Additionally, numerous sensors in the mine can be connected, together creating huge amounts of data, to be analyzed in near real-time. Using this data, the steering of ventilation can be optimized, providing better air supply as well as improved efficiency, which enables full control of the mining environment.
We have also implemented a connected rock bolt solution, in which rock bolts have sensors providing information about vibrations, i.e. whether the rock or ground is moving, to make sure the environment is secure. Eventually, a large fraction of the large number of long metal rods in the walls and ceilings of the cavity can be connected. Rock bolts stabilize the tunnel by distributing the stress evenly along the length of the bolt, or in other words, transferring the load from the unstable surface to the stable interior of the rock mass.
There are a wide range of other use cases that we are exploring, including video surveillance; man-down detection; and localization of machines, vehicles, things and people – highlighting the immense potential for innovation and productivity improvement within the mining industry.
In an industry where reliability and low latency are critical for daily operations and safety, mining is ready for transformation. Ericsson and Boliden have partnered to drill down into the business value of using 5G technology in the mine.
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