With the mining market growing, digitalisation, autonomous production and more are critical for mining operations.

By Mark S. Kuhar

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The global surface mining market is anticipated to expand through 2027, according to Research Nester. Expansion in the mining industry across the globe coupled with technical advancement is anticipated to increase the market size of the global surface mining market during the forecast period. 

Factors such as low injury rates, better grade control, and increased flexibility and durability are anticipated to be growth drivers for the global surface mining market during the forecast period. Other growth drivers such as increasing demand for metallic and non-metallic minerals, low investment and increasing consumption of energy are leading to an expansion of the global surface mining market. 

Increasing marine activity in different regions of world is also a growth driver for the global surface mining market. Increasing demand for coal for power generation is anticipated to increase coal mining activities. 

Rising population across the globe is anticipated increase the demand for the electricity. Increasing demand for the electricity is anticipated to increase mining activities. 

The Asia Pacific mining equipment market is anticipated to register a CAGR of about 6%, during the forecast period (2020–2025). 

  • The major driver for demand of mining equipment markets in Asia-Pacific is depleting surface mineral reserves in the region due to high demand of these minerals all around the world. After depletion of these minerals from the surface, deep mining activities are growing in the region, which has increased the demand for mining equipment in the region. 
  • According to United Nations’ Environment program (UNEP), China is the world’s leader in consumption of minerals and metals, but at the same time China is also the world’s leading producer of more than 20 metals and minerals.
  • Asia-Pacific is the largest coal mining market with almost 75% of it being done within the region. China, Australia and India are one of the global leaders in production of coal which is used for many essential activities like power generation and steel production. Hence these require high mining activities in the region which drives the demand for mining equipment in the region. 

 

COAL MARKET STILL VIABLE

In a report from the World Coal Association, the group found that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is projected to rely on coalfired generation to ensure regional energy security for decades to come.

In 2005, coal contributed 27% of total electricity generation, rising to 41% in 2020. By 2040, it is projected that coal capacity will reach 295 GW, accounting for 49% of power generation capacity in the region.

Although all fuel sources will be needed to meet ASEAN energy demand, as one of the most affordable options in ASEAN, the role of coal will be vital. Clean coal technologies have a role to play in delivering on SDG 7 – to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.


Clean Coal Technologies decouples pollution levels from economic activity and comprises three main methods as per indicated in the report:

  • Pollution control technology used in coal-fired energy production to reduce emissions by up to 99.9%.
  • High-efficiency, low-emission (HELE) coal-generation, including supercritical (SC), ultra-supercritical (USC), and integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC), which emit up to 33% less carbon than older subcritical technologies.
  • Carbon capture and storage (CCS), which involves storing captured carbon dioxide deep into a rock formation or for use in industrial applications.

Today, coal-fueled power is the least costly way for thermal capacity expansion in ASEAN from total system cost perspective. Through VALCOE analysis for the ASEAN, we find that current VALCOE costs for both renewable and thermal energy-generating technologies, suggest that hydroelectric power and solar PV are currently competitive against coal.

However, hydropower energy has limited deployment potential beyond certain jurisdictions, therefore limiting its credibility as a baseload source of electricity.

Moreover, despite their relative future competitiveness on a VALCOE basis, due to their intermittent nature, solar PV and onshore wind simply cannot provide the same level of security of power supply as coal.

Looking ahead to 2040, coal-based technologies are largely unaffected by the value adjustments, with more advanced coal technologies having a slightly higher VALCOE compared to subcritical coal, due to the higher initial capital costs.

Through the development of the study, we took note that investment in HELE technologies can reduce ASEAN emissions by up to half a billion tons of CO2.

However, the widescale deployment of clean coal technology is being hampered by restrictive financing policies recently adopted by some banks. Rather than reducing emissions, these policies may in fact lead to design and deployment of technologies that lead to greater pollution. Moreover, restrictive financing regimes can limit potential economic growth by up to half a per cent.

Analysis indicates an additional investment of 6.2% (US$8.7 billion) would be required to incentivise all coal combustion capacity to be built using ultra-supercritical technology, which is projected to reduce CO2 emissions by 500 million tonnes cumulatively by 2040 (approximately 25 million tonnes of CO2 per year), compared to a “business-as-usual” scenario.

Upgrading the existing pipeline of less-efficient coal power plants to use Ultra Super-Critical technology would reduce annual emissions by 60 million tCO2, from 531 million to 471 million tCO2, and would require a $26 billion increase in investment to ensure the same level of supply.


The report recommends:

  • Encourage the international community to recognise an inclusive “all fuels and all technologies” of energy generation toward energy transition and energy resilience. Encourage AMS to be committed in rapidly scaling up advanced HELE technologies and establish pathway toward CCUS.
  • Call on international finance and investment community to ensure and diverse financial support for cleaner coal projects and CCUS deployment in the ASEAN region.
  • Encourage stronger partnership and collaboration with dialogue partners, international organisations and relevant stakeholders through AFOC and ACE as the main focal energy bodies to advance ASEAN sustainability in coal utilization. 

 

DIGITAL SOLUTIONS FOR THE MINING INDUSTRY

The best way for the mining companies to confront the major challenges such as declining ore grades, safety concerns and volatile commodity prices is to improve operational excellence and embrace technological advances and innovations. Cutting-edge solutions are the way forward and that means to define sustainable enterprise digital architecture, select appropriate technologies and ensure seamless integration, according to Siemens.

Although individual systems are expected to generate gains by themselves, only a proper integration of those technologies can unleash the full potential of digital transformation. 

Based on this principle, Siemens has developed a holistic architecture concept to support mining customers to implement digital solutions, with a strong focus on eliminating data silos and increasing collaboration across different departments such as engineering, operations, planning and maintenance. 

The ultimate target is to create a fully integrated ecosystem, based on the following pillars:

  • Vertical Integration from field level to enterprise management level. 
  • Horizontal Integration from engineering to operations.
  • Continuous improvement process enhanced by digital applications.


Decades of experience in electrification and automation in the mining and cement industries, and a deep understanding of state-of-art digital technologies, equip Siemens to be a reliable partner to accompany mining and cement customers throughout the digital transformation, starting from consultancy of approaches and architecture to implementation of customised projects.

To optimise throughput times and guarantee requested quality output, storage and transport systems are an important part of advanced facilities for the transfer of bulk materials. 

Also, with an unmanned operation of stackers, reclaimers, and combined machines, you can achieve higher performance, increased accuracy, full utilisation of the stockpile area, and optimised energy consumption compared to manned operation.

Advanced automation solutions secure autonomous operation of stackers and reclaimers. Thus, they help to reduce your operational costs and achieve a smoother and safer operation with less wear and tear of the mechanical parts of the equipment. 

The core element of the management system is the stockpiles 3D model with a record of both quantity and quality of materials. The model is updated regularly with data delivered by stackers and reclaimers.

You also benefit from higher safety as all staff work is performed remotely. After work area and parameters for each job are specified, the details are calculated automatically and approved by the operator – then the job is transferred to the equipment. The rest is automatic. To prevent collisions and therefore equipment outages, the stockpile equipment comes with a protection system that uses data delivered by sensors.

 

OPTIMISE OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE

Mining MarketTumbling commodity prices, declining global demand, rising safety and security risks: The global mining industry faces major challenges while needing to meet mounting stakeholder expectations. 

In order to stay competitive, companies have to become leaner, stronger, and more innovative. In this context, digitalisation plays a crucial role by offering new possibilities to increase productivity – and operational excellence.

In the past, enhancing operational excellence in the mining industry often meant cutting costs. Today, modern technology opens up new ways to set new benchmarks in productivity. 

Leading mining companies all over the world rely on state-of-the-art automation, energy, and drilling systems to increase mining intensity with reduced personnel and energy costs. Some of them are able to achieve energy savings of 10% to 40% through renewable energy installations, innovative energy technologies, and highly automated mining processes.

As another step toward improving the management of tailings across industry, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) published training material based on the ICMM “Tailings Management: Good Practice Guide,” designed to be used by tailings professionals in educating wider site-based staff and executives to improve awareness of the importance of integrated tailings management at the site level across sustainability disciplines.

The training material aims to build capacity across the industry by providing a practical, interactive resource to illustrate the Guide’s key concepts of good governance and engineering practices and can be customised to an individual site or company to make it more relevant for the audience.

Aidan Davy, COO, ICMM said, “ICMM is committed to continual improvement in the safe and transparent management of tailings facilities. The training material we have developed from ICMM’s ‘Tailings Management Good Practice Guide’ is a vital tool to help build capacity on tailings management across the industry – particularly as companies focus on implementing the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management across their sites.

“Our Training Material can be customised to an individual site or company to make it more relevant for the audience, and we encourage the participation of staff from multiple disciplines such as closure, processing, water and community support in the planning and delivery of the training sessions to enhance the material and enable better integrated outcomes,” Davy said.

The Guide provides comprehensive guidance on tailings management, covering a broad range of technical and engineering elements, including improved engineering practices across the whole tailings lifecycle: from project conception and design to construction and operation, closure and post-closure. It integrates stronger governance around four key areas:

1. Corporate policy, accountability and responsibility.

2. Operation, maintenance and surveillance activities.

3. Information management.

4. Oversight and emergency preparedness. 

The Guide reinforces the importance of engaging with local communities and regulators and is the first guidance that clearly details the roles of board directors and executives relating to tailings management.

 

NEW SAMPLING SYSTEM

McLanahan Horizontal Carriage Bottom Dump Sampler SecondaryMcLanahan recently tailored one of their Falling Stream Sampler designs to meet the needs of a gold mining application in Western Australia. 

The mine is processing 1,000 metric tons an hour of gold ore through high pressure grinding rolls, which tend to create a flaky product. To achieve a more cubical product, the mine approached McLanahan about adding a DDC-Sizer to their process, along with a Sampling System for collecting samples of the DDC-Sizer discharge being sent to the agglomerator.

“Overhead clearances were pretty tight for the project, so we had to stay within a certain vertical clearance that so we could fit within the project envelope,” explained Adam Orner, product manager for Sampling Systems at McLanahan. 

In addition to height limitations, the primary sampler also had to fit the outlet of the DDC-Sizer. Following these specifications, McLanahan designed a Two-Stage Sampling System consisting of a primary and a secondary Horizontal Carriage Bottom Dump Sampler. 

“The horizontal carriage arrangement gives you the best low-profile setup that you could possibly achieve with a Falling Stream machine,” said Orner.

A secondary Horizontal Carriage Bottom Dump Sampler will take a sample of the increment collected by the primary sampler. 

Horizontal Carriage Bottom Dump Samplers are a type of Falling Stream Sampling System. They collect sample increments by passing a cutter through a material stream as it falls from a machine or conveyor belt to another machine or conveyor belt.

With the horizontal carriage arrangement, the cutter is oriented to the side of the drive carriage. As the chain drive moves the carriage from one end of the machine to the other and back, the cutter moves back and forth through the falling material flow to collect the sample. When the cutter reaches the discharge end, the door located on the bottom of the cutter opens to release the sample material. 

“Horizontal Carriage Bottom Dump Samplers can handle pretty much any type of material,” Orner said. “They are very adaptable and very well-suited for a variety of materials.” 

For this application, the primary sampler extracts sample increments from the DDC-Sizer product stream and discharges them onto a Vibratory Feeder. The sample material is then delivered to the secondary sampler with a controlled feed. Final samples are removed from the Vibratory Feeder flow by the secondary sampler and delivered to a four-station Rotary Sampler Collector. The reject material from the secondary sampler is discharged into the agglomerator feed chute and reintroduced into the process flow. 

“Ultimately, we’re going to help them collect representative primary samples and secondary samples so that they can take those samples back to the lab to process them to develop good data for making decisions with their process,” Orner said. 

This project is only one example of how McLanahan tailors its equipment to meet the specific needs of its customers.

“We always start with an understanding of the application – what the customer is trying to do and how they’re going to do it,” Orner explained. “We try to gather as much information as we can from the customer to put together a sampling solution that best meets the requirements of the application.” 

 

AUTONOMOUS AND INTEROPERABLE MINING FLEET 

Redpath Australia is utilising an autonomous and interoperable mining fleet rolled out at the Rothsay Gold Mine in Western Australia in partnership with smart technology specialist RCT.

Redpath Australia selected RCT’s adaptive solutions in line with its technology roadmap which prioritises implementing innovative technology that enables mining companies to consistently improve their operations.

RCT has worked closely with Redpath Australia to implement its ControlMaster Guidance solutions at the new narrow-vein gold mine in line with the ramp up of development works.

The underground mine is utilising three Sandvik LH203’s commissioned with ControlMaster Guidance equipped with the latest AutoDump capabilities.

Site personnel are managing the loader fleet from two ControlMaster Automation Centres equipped with Multiple Machine Control (MMC) functions enabling the operators to manage multiple loaders at once.

Operators can manage the loader fleet from either the Automation Centre on the surface of the mine or the second Automation Centre located in a secure underground work zone.

Redpath General Manager Rory Burke said that the successful implementation of automating the narrow vein loader fleet at the Rothsay Gold Mine is integral for the success of the mine.

“Being able to operate multiple loaders from the surface greatly improves safety and productivity and especially provides operators with a more ergonomic and comfortable position from which to operate the loaders,” Burke said. “The ease of set up has been very impressive and we look forward to continuously improving output in production and development loading.”

RCT Account Manager Scott Phillips said the proven autonomous technology will enable highly efficient production activities going forward. “Managing the loader fleet from the mine’s surface enables site to continue production through firing times while also relocating operators to a safer work environment. RCT’s technology is demonstrating fast autonomous tramming cycles providing consistently high bucket counts over the entire shift with clear, instantaneous communications between the loader and the surface at all times.

“In addition, RCT’s ControlMaster technology has eliminated damage to the loaders when the machines are operating in the Rothsay Gold Mine’s tight drives,” Phillips said. “RCT’s technology will also maintain machine availability across the fleet which is essential to sustain high production rates.”

RCT has provided comprehensive training packages to Redpath Australia’s machine operators and maintenance personnel and will continue to provide ongoing technical assistance over the life of the project.