The new technologies being developed by multinational engineering and electronics company Bosch to help improve mine management are part of the Mining 4.0 trend taking place at projects worldwide.
Demand for Mining 4.0 is high in Africa, with mines implementing such technologies to keep mineworkers safe. It has also decreased the amount of labour required in remote mines where access to clean water, electricity and trained operators might be difficult.
“Mining 4.0 is a part of smart mining. It is basically a trend that leads to the automation of mines and data exchange that includes cloud computing and the Internet of things,” says Bosch Africa region key account manager Landry Meya.
Bosch employs more than 59 000 research and development (R&D) specialists globally to develop new solutions and ideas, with 21% of the R&D department’s 2016 budget of €7-billion spent in this way.
An example of how Bosch is improving mine management is its Building Integrated Solution (BIS), which is the integration of Bosch closed-circtui television, access control, public address and fire detection into one platform.
Meanwhile, a project highlighting Bosch innovation and mining solutions is the Chilean State-owned copper mining company Codelco’s opencast operation in the Atacama desert, in South America.
He explains how, 11 Bosch cameras give the geotechnical team the observational insights they need to assure the smooth and safe operation of the mine. In every type of weather and lighting condition, even in the dark, the cameras installed on cabins around the openpit mine transmit data and video images to a monitoring centre.
Six Bosch MIC 412 and MIC 612 thermal cameras provide standard pictures as well as thermal pictures. The thermal cameras allow experts to visualise the internal geological conditions such as different temperatures. The temperature of the rock walls, for example, provides information on the strength of the rocks and enables the expert team to identify in advance the rock faces which are in danger of collapsing.
Another four Bosch MIC 550 cameras and one MIC IP starlight 7000 high-definition camera with infrared illumination, provide further video imagery around the clock, even in complete darkness.
Considering that the mine is 3 000 m above sea level, which causes difficulty in breathing and, combined with high-speed winds, makes mining dangerous, which is why the Bosch safety and security solutions are required to help keep operators and miners safe.
Meya explains that Bosch has approached surface mining operations in Africa that will benefit from the technology in remote areas by decreasing the number of people needed to operate the mine, with some mines having started to upgrade their systems to BIS.
Meya highlights that the company is one of the world's largest manufacturers of sensors, which allow the colletion of data on the performance of trucks, conveyors and earthmoving equipment installed at mines. This information enables Bosch, as well as the mining company, to determine when to schedule preventive maintenance and advise mining companies on how to increase productivity.
He points out that sensors also help to improve mine safety. Earthmoving equipment and other vehicles can be equipped with a camera system, which includes ultrasonic sensors that supply data on the distance of pedestrians and other vehicles in relation to the earthmoving equipment and provides operators with a 360º view of their surroundings.
The 360º camera system is part of the Bosch mining solutions, which also comprises fire-warning, safety-monitoring and video-management systems, and has been installed at platinum, coal and diamond mines in South Africa.
“To help our customers to reduce the downtime, we are in a joint venture with Hytec, a company specialised in the design, manufacture, installation, service and repair for total mobile and industrial hydraulic solutions, which aslo Africa’s largest hydraulics specialist. The company's staff are deployed at some of the mines to ensure a faster response to clients’ needs. We also hold stock at some of these mines,” Meya notes, adding that these mines are in Mokopane, in Limpopo; in Mozambique, Zambia, Ghana and other South African neighbouring countries.
He says the on-site presence of Hytec makes it easier for machine operators and drivers to interact with technicians when a machine needs to be repaired or new equipment needs to be supplied.
“We also provide training for mining companies and are willing to travel to mines to provide training for operators and drivers. “We stay in contact with mines to support them and we try our best to respond on time to any problems,” Meya says.
Meanwhile, Bosch also offers the mining industry cylinders, radial pistons, command units, power units, gear pumps, alternators, starters and hydraulic drives for conveyor belts, feeders and reclaimers.
The company also produces power tools to maintain equipment and for use in workshops. Meya points out that the tools are available as cordless lithium-ion battery-powered, as well as corded products.
“You can use our battery-powered power tools for up to eight hours without recharging them. We have also added the Bosch diamond drilling system, which provides a complete core drilling solution,” he highlights.