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 technology developed to improve mine management is the Bosch Integrated Solution (BIS), which has been installed at Chilean State-owned copper mining company Codelco’s opencast operation in the Atacama desert, in South America. He explains BIS uses a lot of the technology that has been made available through Mining 4.0.
The BIS system is being installed because of the low oxygen levels at the mine, which is 3 000 m above sea level, which causes difficulty in breathing and, combined with high-speed winds, makes mining dangerous, therefore the BIS system is required to help keep operators and miners safe.
The installation of BIS took place last year and is constantly being updated meaning that the system will never be entirely complete. The surveillance equipment being supplied to the copper mine involves the integration of most of Bosch’s solutions from access control, closed-circuit television that forms part of the thermal imaging system, an intrusion system and a public address system.
Thermal imaging enables the geotechnical team to monitor the thermal levels inside the mine and gather more information regarding the winds outside the mine, with the cameras located inside and outside of the mine.
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 largest manufacturers of sensors in the world, with this equipment being used to collect 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 BIS system offered by Bosch, 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 reduce the downtime of their systems, we are in a joint venture with information technology solutions provider Itech Solutions, whereby the company’s staff are deployed at some of the mines supplied by Bosch to ensure a faster response to our clients’ needs. We also hold stock at some of these mines,” Meya notes, adding that these mines are in Mokopane, Limpopo, Mozambique and other South African neighbouring countries.
He says the on-site presence of either Itech or Bosch makes it easier for machine operators and drivers to interact with Bosch or Itech 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 engine 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 lithium-ion battery-powered cordless and 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.