An automated loading and hauling system for the mining industry developed by Sandvik Mining and Construction Finland Oy has won the annual Finnish Engineering Award. Sandvik has been developing automation technology for the past 15 years, along with long-term R&D programs in collaboration with international mining companies. Sandvik was the first mining supplier in the world to introduce mine automation systems for underground hard rock mine production.
“Finland has a great deal of know-how in mobile machinery. When that is combined with a top-level ICT industry, it creates know-how that is not available anywhere else,” says Riku Pulli (M.Sc. Engineering), who has been involved in developing the system from the start with engineer Janne Kallio and Hannu Mäkelä (Ph.D in Technology).
Instead of driving a single heavy-duty machine underground, AutoMine system operators work from a control room above ground, monitoring the movements of a fleet of driverless loaders or trucks hundreds of metres below the surface. A high speed, data/video communication system and laser scan technology ensure that the Sandvik loaders and trucks navigate accurately between the load and discharge points.
According to Sandvik, mine automation increases fleet utilization, improves working conditions and safety, increases production and reduces maintenance costs, as well as optimising tramming speeds and smoother equipment operation. The AutoMine technology is currently used in a production environment at El Teniente copper mine in Chile, at DeBeers’ Finsch diamond mine in South Africa, and at the Pyhäsalmi base metal mine in Finland.
Sources: Sandvik, Helsingin Sanomat