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By K. Warner
For Metal Tech News 

Japan automates top-producing gold mine

Sumitomo's Hishikari gold mine automates with Sandvik tech Metal Tech News - February 1, 2023


Last updated 1/31/2023 at 2:44pm

The Sandvik Toro LH307 is designed to operate in underground environments.

Sandvik AB

The Sandvik Toro LH307 is specifically designed for challenging underground narrow-vein mining environments. Paired with Sandvik's AutoMine software, the vehicle streamlines safe project management at Japan's highest-producing gold mine.

Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions' AutoMine loading technology is the latest advancement in Sumitomo Metal Mining's long-term vision of leading the world in the non-ferrous metals industry. The Japanese company's philosophical focus on social consciousness and sustainability in business has gained a practical supporter in Sandvik, bringing Sumitomo closer to the ideal of full digitization and automation of the mine.

With machine learning, remote operation software, and cutting-edge vehicles and equipment, Sandvik provides a holistic technological application to modern mining. The AutoMine system is designed to help increase efficiency and productivity while optimizing operational transparency.

As is paramount to all mine management, automation improves personnel safety and facilitates a reduced human presence in riskier mining environments.

Based in Sweden, Sandvik is a world leader in automation whose offerings include equipment, tools, services and digital solutions for machining, mining, rock excavation and processing.

Sandvik's AutoMine product group is an integrated system supporting autonomous and remotely operated mobile equipment with intelligent functionalities for a wide range of Sandvik machinery as well as other equipment brands. This allows companies to scale up automation at their own pace without needing to retire their current assets to repurchase proprietary technology.

Automation at Hishikari

Located on the extreme opposite side of the continent in northern Kagoshima Prefecture, Sumitomo Metal Mining's Hishikari mine is the first Japanese underground mine to utilize Sandvik's automated loading technology.

Hishikari's impressive mining history begins with the discovery of a major gold deposit in 1981, sending the mine straight into the exclusive Japanese mineral resources business. This was quickly followed up with steady production in 1985.

Due to government-imposed closure of all gold mines in 1943 during the Second World War, Hishikari is the last such mine in the country operating on a commercial scale, according to Sumitomo Metal. This underground mine yields high-grade ore estimated to be around 20 grams of gold per ton, making it one of the highest-producing grade Tier 1 gold mines in the world today.

Sumitomo Metal Mining integrated AutoMine Lite with a Sandvik Toro LH307 underground loader in December 2022 to operate in the small cross-section tunnels at Hishikari to great success. The Toro features superior powertrain technology, smart boom geometry for fast bucket filling and a payload capacity of seven metric tons. It boasts multiple digitalization and smart technologies, with automation and production system readiness.

As part of the integration, Sandvik also commissioned and trained engineers and operators on the AutoMine system, whose effectiveness has been praised by Hidenobu Yabu, Hishikari's mine manager.

An aerial view of Sumitomo Metal Mining's Hishikari gold mine in Japan.

SMM Media Library

Aerial view of Sumitomo Metal Mining's Hishikari gold mine in northern Kagoshima Prefecture.

"Our goal is to become a corporate enterprise that produces resources with advanced technology by 2030. By implementing advanced technology and innovation, we aim to reduce costs, increase productivity and improve safety. Our commitment to sustainability is reflected in our long-term focus on the Hishikari mine," Yabu said.

"We are excited to partner with the Hishikari mine on this project and look forward to contributing to the operation's sustainability and productivity," said Jan-Douwe Wansink, business line manager of automation, southeast Asia, at Sandvik. "AutoMine provides a safe, controlled environment that boosts productivity and profitability while helping to protect operators and other mine personnel in underground operations. This is an exciting opportunity for the Hishikari Mine and Sandvik."


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