The trend in underground mining is towards mechanisation & automation

October 2019
The trend in underground mining is towards mechanisation & automation

Epiroc covers a wide range of underground equipment needs with production and face drill rigs, loaders and trucks. Having production plants located at Sweden, China and India, Epiroc helps to maximise customers' output with safe, cost-effective and sustainable solutions. Anirban Sen, Business Line Manager - Underground Rock Excavation, Epiroc Mining India, elaborates more.

What is the current scenario of underground mining in India? Which are the minerals mined by underground mining?
The Indian mining sector contributes around 3 per cent of the GDP. All major underground metal mining companies are bracing for challenges such as rapid increase in production with mechanisation and cost reduction. Exploration is being carried out at various locations in the country to identify new mineral reserves. The projected demand of copper due to electric vehicles is expected to increase by 1.7 mt by 2027. With 0.66 mt of refined copper consumption in 2017-18 and the current consumption growth rate at 6-8 per cent and the additional demand of 1.7 mt from copper-intensive electric vehicles - the total demand for copper is projected at 2.6-2.7 mt by 2023-24.

The industry estimates suggest at 5-6 per cent annual growth of zinc demand in the coming years. For lead, growth in automobile sector is the major driving factor. Around 75 per cent of the lead consumed in India is accounted by the lead battery segment. According to the second Automotive Mission Plan 2016-26 (AMP 20126), the Indian automotive industry is expected to grow to $300 billion by 2026, thus driving the demand for lead in the country.

Major minerals mined in underground mining in India are zinc, silver, copper, gold, manganese, chromite and uranium.

Which are the major equipment used in underground mining applications?
Epiroc has been a leading supplier of mining and rock excavation equipment. Our dedication to keeping work productive and safe is shown in our development and manufacture of quality rock drills, face drilling and production drilling rigs, underground loaders and trucks, electric/battery haul loaders and trucks, ventilation systems and digging arm loaders.

Could you elaborate on your range of equipment for underground mining? Who are your major customers?
We have the complete range of equipment for underground mining. Boomers for face drilling: Our face drilling rigs, Boomers, are used for blast hole drilling in underground mining applications. The small and medium rigs are equipped with up to two booms covering cross sections from 6 sq m to 104 sq m. We offer with our reliable Direct Control System (DCS) or with the computerised Rig Control System (RCS) to which different levels of automated may be added. Our extensive range of rock drills is available from 16 kW to 30 kW of impact power.

Simbas for production drilling: Our long-hole production drilling rigs, Simbas, are used for production drilling in underground mining applications. With a variety of feed lengths, positioning configurations, rock drills and an extensive options program, we offer the optimum long-hole drilling rig for every application. The computerised RCS offers different levels of automation. You can add options such as bit changer, a collar pipe installer, or even multi-hole automatic drilling. The tele-remote function provides an edge in safety when drilling and utilising the machine.

Boltecs for rock reinforcement: Our rock bolting rigs, Boltecs, are used for rock bolting in mining applications. Our range includes models suitable for roof heights from 1.6 to 13 m. Features include a screen handling arm for installation of wire mesh, the computerised RCS for positioning, drilling and bolting and our hydraulic rock drills which are specially designed for bolt hole drilling. Other features are: automatic resin injection, automatic cement system, both plan navigation and lift and tilt cabin.

Cabletecs for rock reinforcement: Our cable bolting rigs, Cabletecs, are fully mechanised for long-hole drilling and cable bolting in underground mining operations. Its unique two-boom concept makes it possible for single operator to drill and install cable simultaneously. The rig is capable if installing cable bolts up to 25 m.

Raise boring machines: Our range of raise boring machines includes models for both conventional raise and box-hole boring as well as down reaming and covers diameter 0.5 m to 6 m. The raise boring machines are used for mining applications for drilling shafts for ventilation, drainage, ore passes, back fills, hoisting and slot holes.

Scooptrams and Mine Tucks for underground mucking: We provide a comprehensive line of loaders (Scooptrams) and low profile dump trucks (Mine Trucks) for underground applications. Our range includes models with tramming capacities of 3.6-18 tonne for LHD and 22-65 tonne for LPDT.

A green move for lower running costs: Our new series of electric (battery) scoop loaders and trucks and boomers help to decrease emissions to a minimum and at the same time increase productivity. The new loaders and trucks consume about 40 per cent less energy compared with a diesel-equivalent loader/truck, generate less heat and have a lower noise level. The result is lower running costs, less environmental impact and better working environment.

Ventilation system: Our high-pressure ventilation system fans have been specifically designed to effectively supply tunnel and mine projects with air through very long ducts. The fans are unique as they combine high efficiency with a low noise level. Our ventilation system has been tried and tested with excellent result in hundreds of installations.

Mobile miner: The mechanical rock excavation technique that mobile miner utilises means no drill and blast, easier scheduling and safe work environment.

Our major customers include Hindustan Zinc, Hutti Gold Mines, Hindustan Copper, Uranium Corporation India and major mining contractors of Teknomin Construction, DCS, etc.

What are the new developments in equipment and technologies in underground mining? How IoT and digital technologies are evolving in underground mining?
The companies engaged with underground mining have realised the importance of automation and digitalisation for improving productivity and safety. We are also geared up with our offerings for the same with some of the solutions.

What is your take on the future trend of underground mining in India?
The trend in underground mining is towards mechanisation and automation. Companies are investing in the latest technological equipment for increasing productivity and providing utmost importance to safety. Integration of Internet of Things (IoT) in underground mining equipment for performance and remote monitoring, and investment in battery-operated equipment and tele-remote operations are key upcoming trends in underground mining.

Underground mining involves high risks, but we can see the trend to mitigate risks and also investing in modern machinery giving high importance to safety and productivity.

Outlook and opportunities: With the government's consistent efforts in the development of the mining sector as well as the underground potential that the industry offers, the mining sector is poised to make significant strides in the years to come. There is a need for increasing use of IT and automation in mining operations. This could help in better management of operations, reduction in pilferage and improvement in safety levels.

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