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Embracing the future: 6 innovative mining projects

Innovation and technology are natural bed fellows. They simply go together. And to celebrate our work in these areas, we’ve provided a round-up of some recent FutureSmartTM projects that have changed our business for the better.

1. Monitoring slope movement at Landau Colliery

At the Landau Colliery in Mpumalanga, South Africa, the movement and surveying radar (MSR) fleet has recently been upgraded with the acquisition of two Reutech MSR 060V systems, built to provide precise, real-time surveying and slope movement observations in highly demanding mining conditions. They can operate in temperatures ranging between -30°C and 55°C, making them ideal for the region’s extreme variations in temperature.

These units have been developed so that they are inherently mobile through easy mounting onto a light duty vehicle (LDV) and transported to site.

2. Automated drilling at Kolomela

At Kumba’s Kolomela mine, located in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, the lives of four drill operators have, through technology, been transformed. Since the implementation of a new automated drill, these drill operators now get to work in a clean, safe and comfortable command centre as opposed to a dusty, noisy and unpredictable iron ore pit. 

Their equipment now consists of state-of-the-art computers and screens and they are able to remotely operate the drill. The autonomous drilling project is one of the first in South Africa.

3. Managing subsidence at Grasstree

Our Capcoal team has achieved substantial cost saving by managing subsidence via a new longwall mining method at the Grasstree mine, located in Queensland, Australia.

Normally, longwall mining can gradually cause the surface above to subside as the mine progresses and extracts the coal seam, which can be three to four metres in height.

Six panels of the Grasstree longwall mine were located beneath Anglo American’s Lake Lindsay Overland Conveyor, which transports coal from Lake Lindsay to the Coal Handling Processing Plant (CHPP) at Capcoal.

Usual practice to manage longwall subsidence is to relocate the above ground asset, resulting in time delays, and substantial additional cost while the conveyor is stood down. Anglo American adopted a new approach - keeping the conveyor in operation and to make real time adjustments as underground mining progressed and subsidence occurred. 

4. Rapid mine rehabilitation with Fungcoal

For the past nine years, Coal South Africa has been working in partnership with Rhodes University’s Institute for Environmental Biotechnology (EBRU) to develop Fungcoal. 

The Fungcoal system involves identifying a suitable weathered coal that can serve as a carbon source to support microbial growth and be readily broken down and converted into the natural soil organic fertilisers by these micro-organisms. 

A mixture of this weathered coal material as well as grass seeds and fertilisers are then applied to rehabilitated soil, or directly onto our opencast spoils or discard dumps. The fungi and bacteria then gets to work allowing natural root growth to establish and populate poorly rehabilitated soil.

5. Real-time mining information with OID screens

Zibulo Colliery’s business improvement (BI) department in collaboration with Coal Information Management (IM) has introduced an innovative operational information delivery (OID) platform that gives surface personnel a near real-time representation of the performance of production sections underground.

Now surface personnel just have to visit their personal computers or turn to strategically placed screens to provide them with everything they need to know, when they need to know it.

As a result, production personnel at the site in Mpumalanga, South Africa, are given a live picture of vital data, including tonnages cut and declared against daily forecasts, belt performance and critical ventilation information.

6. Minas-Rio uses echo-bathometer to monitor lake levels

To monitor the main reservoirs of the Minas-Rio System dams in the states of Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro, our Iron Ore Brazil Business Unit has started to use the echo-bathometer. This device is attached to a remote-controlled boat when in operation and has been part of the water-depth monitoring routine since April. There is only one more device with the same specifications being used in Brazil. 

It works through emitting sound waves that reach the bottom of the reservoir, which are recorded in real time with a GPS. By recording the interval for the propagation of the wave, we can calculate the depth of the lake and, consequently, the volume of material deposited in the reservoirs. 

What do you think about our innovation projects? Comment below.

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