Autonomy makes block cave mining safer
Newcrest integrates autonomous truck into underground fleet Metal Tech News – Nov. 18, 2020
Last updated 11/24/2020 at 7:03pm
Newcrest Mining Ltd.'s Cadia East gold-copper-molybdenum mine in Australia is a bit safer with the integration of a remote operated MacLean water cannon into the fleet of automated equipment there.
Mining water cannons, essentially water hauling trucks with a high-pressure water jet, are used to blast out wedged rocks that get lodged in underground block cave mining drawpoints.
Block caving is a relatively new underground hard rock mining technique that involves mining under an orebody – allowing the deposit to progressively collapse under its own weight and the ore to fall through designated drawpoints.
Newcrest employs this highly efficient bulk tonnage mining method at Cadia.
In 2018, Newcrest's innovation team at Cadia worked with mining equipment manufacturer, Epiroc, to test the use of automated loaders that would remove operators from the block caving areas while maintaining productivity and performance.
With this trial proven to be a success, the next phase was to integrate non-Epiroc equipment into the autonomous underground mining fleet.
This work resulted in the integration of a MacLean water cannon with Epiroc's traffic management system and safety hardware, so that it could be introduced into the automation safety system.
By integrating the MacLean IQ Series tele-operation system with Cadia's automation safety system, the water cannon can be safely operated from the surface, allowing it to work alongside Cadia's semiautonomous loaders.
Cadia General Manager Aaron Brannigan said the integration of the remote operated water cannon has improved the efficiency of the production level and removed human exposure from drawpoints.
"We are constantly pushing the envelope of change in the innovation and technology space," he said. "Automated machinery allows for shift in technical capabilities of our workforce, while ensuring we continue to eliminate safety risks from our operation."
The success of this milestone paves the way for further integration of other key pieces of secondary break equipment into the automation system.
In addition to allowing water cannon operators to work from the surface, this achievement marks a world first in the interoperability of remote operated and autonomous equipment from multiple companies.
This project is part of Newcrest's ongoing drive to increase its automation and innovation focus at Cadia.