Using real-time data to maximize underground mining efficiency
In underground mines, one of the most common areas where efficiency is lost, and by extension productivity is in the haulage process. Maximizing underground mining efficiency can only be achieved using real-time data.
It’s very difficult to load the bed of a truck or fill a bucket to its maximum capacity simply by eye. Variations in density, rock size, and the differences between development and high-grade ore make the task for loaders nearly impossible to fill a haulage truck to its maximum capacity each and every trip.
To maximize underground mining efficiency, what is required is data and transparency.
This is where Newtrax’s Mobile Equipment Telemetry (MET) solutions come into play. Available as both an LHD and a truck productivity solution, the MET gives a live view of loads to make sure equipment is being used to its full capacity by measuring the actual load in every bucket and bed. That information is available to the operators and fed through to the mine office through Newtrax’s IoT Hub.
“Mines can lose as much as 30 percent of their hauling efficiency attributable to a lack of visibility. By being able to monitor the actual mass of what’s in a bucket or a truck bed, it allows operators to better optimize each load. It also allows management and supervisory staff to keep an eye on emerging trends throughout a shift and make adjustments as necessary.”
It promotes consistency through transparency, and it allows to maximize underground mining efficiency. When trucks are loaded inconsistently, it means they’re only hauling a fraction of what they have been designed for. The real-time visibility provided by MET solutions means operators can take action to maximize the amount of material loaded into truck beds.
Not only does it allow for machinery to be used to full capacity, it can prevent damage from excessive loading. Accurate data prevent accidental overuse of equipment, preventing premature wear and excessive equipment downtime.
Newtrax’s MET systems work by collecting data in haulage trucks through vibrating wire sensors. These sensors work by attaching a wire between two fixed points on the equipment, and then vibrating it at a specific frequency. As the load changes, the length of the wire will change by minute, but measurable, amounts. This changes the frequency the string is vibrating. The sensor works in much the same way as a guitar tuner, where in this case different pitches correlate to different loads. In LHDs, the load is measured through a combination of pressure and angular sensors to monitor payload weight.
The system works right off the shelf. In addition, the sensors have the advantage of not requiring continual recalibration. This means your fleet can stay in operation longer, lowering your technology staffing and maintenance requirements when compared to other technologies.
With the high-resolution tracking Newtrax provides, a material movement can be monitored throughout a mine whenever it is loaded or unloaded. Whether that’s from an LHD filling a haulage truck, or from stope to ore pass, it’s possible to keep track of how much of what’s moving from point to point in an operation. MET also enables mines to maximize their loading cycle, ensuring they can meat productivity targets and bonuses.
Glencore’s Matagami mine makes for a prime example of the value of Newtrax’s MET systems. Matagami has haulage trips more than eight kilometres in each direction. Because each round trip is so far, maximizing every load is particularly critical.
The underground operations superintendent at Matagami, Christian Ngoma, said with MET, managers are able to see the hard data of what is going on in a shift, and act on that information.
“The Newtrax system enables us, from a managerial perspective, to make decisions based on facts that are measurable, instead of perceptions,” Ngoma said.
Because MET works with all equipment brands and models, it was easy to integrate the system into Matagami mine’s mixed fleet of trucks and LHDs. Once installed, Matagami used the system in multiple ways. It allowed them to monitor the standard production times for their equipment and calculate the utilization of the ore their fleet was hauling. It also gave them the ability to calculate their Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), and calculate the loads per cycle their fleet was able to achieve, which ultimately maximized their underground mining efficiency .
They installed a custom fit Payload Monitoring System, which interfaces directly the OEM’s existing sensor network.
Matagami also added exterior scoreboards to their haulage trucks. These are simple displays that show the tonnage that has been loaded in the bed. LHD operators are able to see whether they’ve filled the bed without. This eliminates having to have the truck operator communicate after each bucket, and lets the LHD take the initiative to fill the truck.
“We now have production trucks equipped with Newtrax scoreboards to show tonnage, and the LHD operators use this tool to load the trucks in an optimal way. We now noticed that four out of five of our trucks have an average tonnage of approximately 60 tonnes in comparison to 55 tonnes before,” Ngoma said.
“The impact of that technology has is to optimize the loading of trucks. Especially with the long haulage distance, that is our biggest challenge here,” he said.
Since implementing this, they have been able to raise their average about nine percent to 60 tonnes, increasing productivity. This is of particular importance at Matagami, as their eight kilometre haulage distance may increase to 10.4 kilometres in the coming years.
The real-time payload date is broadcasted to the Newtrax MET telemetry recorder every five seconds, with no operator intervention needed. This allows for mid-shift adjustments if the monitored movement of materials by comparing actual results to planned operations.
It also gives managers the ability to make adjustments in between shifts to optimize production. Matagami’s haulage team supervisor, Dany Lavoie-Mercier, said Newtrax’s Standard Production time report gives him the ability to give more meaningful direction every day at the start of a shift.
“The Standard Production time report is an improvement that is more representative of our daily operations. From personal experience, after having presented it to my team, I presented it again the following shift and there was a clear difference in our operations. Everything was optimized from one shift to the next,” Lavoie-Mercier said.
Not only can MET improve efficiency, but it also gives the opportunity to maximize the equipment itself. For example, because of the variations in rock density, it could be that a fleet of trucks is capable of moving more ore than its standard bed size allows for. This means a truck bed can have the sides of the bed made larger or have a tailgate added—depending on the size of the tunnels the truck operates in—to haul loads at a vehicle’s maximum capacity.
With the ability to see in real-time the load, operators are no longer filling by guessing so even with the bed size is increased the risks of overfilling are mitigated.
Plus, solutions provided by Newtrax are useable across a number of platforms and systems, allowing for easy adaptability. Any data collected by Newtrax and processed through the IoT Hub can be integrated into third-party applications. This allows managers to get reports and visualizations in the form they want.
“The Newtrax system enables us to transfer data via different networks which facilitates its adoption into different mines,” Mohammed Lamine-Lamrani, reliability engineer at Matagami, said. “The system helped us identify the different delays of activities, in terms of our machines, which allowed us to intervene, improve, and increase our Overall Equipment Efficiency.”
OEE, sometimes also called Overall Equipment Effectiveness, is a measure first developed in the world of manufacturing as a way of quantifying how well an operation performs. The measurement brings together availability, utilization, and quality—which is in this case a measure of what percentage of a truck’s capacity is being used—to put forward a simple metric to track a mine’s progress.
It’s done by measuring various aspects of an operation—the tonnes produced, loads per cycle,the number of meters drilled, vehicle uptime, and so forth—and then quantifies them, allowing to measure whether those metrics are up to spec.
A year of using the Newtrax MET the Glencore Matagami team saw their ore haulage utilization increase between five and six percent. Their Overall Equipment Effectiveness jumped four percent. And they saw a five percent increase in loads per cycle.
Collecting, monitoring, and analyzing data output through the MET system brings a new transparency in a mine. And through transparency mines are able to improve their ability to take proactive measures to improve their operations. The MET system maximizes underground mining efficiency.
Matagami mine general manager Mark Furlotte said digitalizing their operation is part of their plan for keeping their mine looking to the future.
“At Glencore and Matagami mine, we really want to continue investing on our people, our infrastructure, and our assets. And one of the areas we want to continue investing in is technology,” Furlotte said. “We want to take things that are done elsewhere in the industry, things are done in open pit mines, and really bring that underground. We really want to be considered as one the innovative mines around not only Quebec, Canada, but also the world.”