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Friday, October 19, 2012

The Role of Automation in the Mining Industry

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PICTURE: Helge V. Keitel, KK-Net, Finland (18.10.2012)

I was yesterday participating in a regional mining seminar in Kajaani, Finland, and became curious about “Mine Automation?” and googled Andy Stokes, Rio Tinto.  I had a look at Andy Stokes, Rio Tinto, presentation “Future of mine automation in surface mining”.

Definitions

  • Mechanized – equipped with machines
  • Automatic – follows well defined rules – does not make decisions
  • Automation – replacing human workers by machines
  • Automated system – requires human supervision to handle actions not defined in design
  • Autonomous – independent of human supervision

Rio Tinto’s Surface Mine Automation Program – progressive automation of mining roles leading to an integrated automated system able to share and use information interchangeably between functions and processes.

Rio Tinto Centre for Mine Automation

  • Based at University of Sydney
  • Initial 5 year term
  • Annual funding of $5 Million
  • 38 Staff

andystokes

PICTURE: Andy Stokes, Sydney, Australia (2009)

Conclusions

  • Surface mine automation is a long term endeavor
  • There are many technical challenges
  • There are paybacks along the way
    – Islands of automation
    – Mining control loops
  • The need for open industry standards will be vital
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