JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Autonomous production systems and projects are being advanced across Barrick Gold as the group focuses on boosting mining efficiency, new Barrick president and CEO Dr Mark Bristow tells Mining Weekly Online.
This is part of an all-out drive by Bristow to ensure that Barrick, into which Randgold Resources has been merged, achieves its goal of being the world’s most valued gold company.
Barrick needs to advance within a rapidly evolving Fourth Industrial Revolution environment, where the shift of gold mining to developing countries will continue.
Deploying leading edge automation is the company's ambition and, interestingly, Africa is currently leading the way, with the former Randgold Kibali gold mine, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, at the forefront.
Kibali, which churned out better-than-guidance record production of 807 000 oz in the latest reporting period, has a mission control system that manages underground ore-handling logistics from surface without human intervention.
Being unified across Barrick are many other automated operations and developments, including underground drills run from surface during shift changes.
There are also automated underground and opencast haulage trucks, autonomous backfill systems, remotely controlled opencast drills as well as autonomous drilling of development and production blast holes by multiple units controlled by a single remote operator.
Senior VP mining Glenn Heard says ongoing projects currently cover underground development and production drilling, production and haulage and opencast haulage and production.
“At present all our systems have barriers which prevent human access to the autonomous operating zones. Our next big step will be to create a situation where autonomous and manned units can work together seamlessly within the same active areas, and we’re working with Sandvik and other providers to achieve this,” Heard adds.