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Quarries to benefit from autonomous solutions

Epiroc is taking advantage of automation improvements in the mining sector by implementing them into its quarrying equipment.

As a major manufacturer of mining and infrastructure equipment, Epiroc is taking advantage of automation improvements in the mining sector by implementing them into its quarrying equipment.

The Australian mining industry has been a pioneer in the field of automation, with giants dedicating millions of dollars into research and development.

More than one billion tonnes of ore has been hauled by Rio Tinto’s autonomous trucks as part of its mine of the future challenge, and the company’s AutoHaul autonomous train is one of the world’s largest robots, carrying around 28,000 tonnes or iron ore across 280km.

How does this all relate to quarrying?

According to Epiroc Australia Business Line Manager Craig Marsh, while the major players in the mining sector are leading the way, others in the quarrying industry will soon move into the sphere and follow suit.

“At Epiroc, we are always looking for ways to improve sustainability and safety, which is all part of the automation space,” he told Quarry at the recent Institute of Quarrying Australia (IQA) National Conference.

“Moving towards automated technology will rely on original equipment manufacturers (OEMS) to drive that line of thought – and it’s their role and responsibility to do so.

“I think if we can collect enough data from within the mining industry about what the benefits are from all aspects of automation – not just reduced manpower – then it is our responsibility to transfer this over to the quarry industry.”

Epiroc currently develops machine optimisation and automation tools and technology to help improve machinery in the mining sector.

It offers a slew of solutions, including rig-control systems, auto-rod-handling systems, automated drilling technologies and enhanced rock drilling tools.

Epiroc’s SmartROC family of surface drill rigs for the quarrying industry incorporates this sophisticated intelligence to keep fuel consumption low without compromising productivity. It does this using a precise amount of power for each phase of the drilling operation.

Marsh said it was the responsibility of OEMS to get the key decision-makers in the quarrying sector to engage with the mining industry in order to improve their understanding of how automated technology works.

“Engaging with the quarry owners or major players and discussing what we have, what their vision is and how we can take the steps to get there is vital,” he said.

“When we look at automation within the Epiroc portfolio, there’s many steps involved. It’s not a matter of ‘we’re not automated, let’s flick a switch and become automated’.

“We have a system where we can go from manned drills to remote operated ones, which can then go the next level up to tele-remote and to full autonomy.

It allows customers to actually build their processes and procedures up as they go.”

A key benefit for Australian customers is the fact the country is one of the leading customer centres for automation in the mining sector.

Epiroc has been developing new products for the region, testing bench remotes and tele-remote technologies in the mining sector for the past few years.

Marsh said there were now tele-remote systems up and running in other customer centres and other divisions of Epiroc.

“We’re now about to start a project for fully autonomous operations in the mining sector,” he said.

“We are in a position to start engaging on a bench remote and tele-remote aspect within the quarrying industry.”

For more information, visit epiroc.com/en-au

This feature/product focus appeared in the May issue of Quarry.

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