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Wireless infrastructure, location systems beneficial for mines

13th August 2021

By: Cameron Mackay

Creamer Media Senior Online Writer

     

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Real-time data access for underground mines has traditionally been a challenge in South Africa, with the lack of broadband networks and the nature of mining contributing to this challenge.

The implementation of wireless networks in underground mines by mining equipment supplier Ya Batho is continually proving to be beneficial for local mines in terms of personnel safety, helping them to remain competitive through production optimisation and maintenance cost reduction, states Ya Batho sales manager Craig Franck.

“Ya Batho sees opportunities in the deployment of its wireless infrastructure and real-time location system. Underground wireless connectivity is particularly critical at the mine face, and Ya Batho prides itself on being able to provide connectivity at the face.”

He contends that rapid advances in technological innovation – including digitalisation, autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles, and electrification – are having a significant impact on the local mining sector.

This is evident in the effect of digital advances, as they have significantly impacted on the quality and quantity of data that miners can access, which, in turn, supports the deployment of automation.

Franck enthuses that, in terms of digitalisation and electric mine vehicles, South Africa is “on par with its counterparts in North America and Australasia”.

The challenge of adopting semi- and fully-autonomous vehicles, however, is that a scalable and reliable wireless infrastructure is required 24/7, he comments.

Ya Batho works with mines in developing a solution that is scalable and reliable, with ease of use and the smallest form factor the most important considerations.

“Finding space on mining equipment to install additional technology is challenging and Ya Batho is continually looking at the smallest form factor for our wireless access points, without compromising on their functionality, while adopting new technologies into the mining enclosures.”

He stresses that mines are installing more sensors throughout the mining areas and on their equipment, in order to acquire more data to make informed decisions.

Ya Batho makes use of global technology organisation the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) open standards so that original-equipment manufacturers can connect seamlessly and use the company's wireless network to get data from the sensors to the surface.

Using virtual local area networks also enables miners to prioritise data flow, says Franck.

“The biggest motivating factor in implementing wireless technology is employee safety, optimised production and reduced downtime. A reliable communication system will mean that equipment can be used safely and efficiently. Data pertaining to a vehicle's location, engine temperature, speed and current activity can be transmitted quickly from the vehicle's telemetry module, through the wireless network, to the office on the surface.”

Real-Time Locating

Franck emphasises that a reliable and scalable real-time location system is highly actionable and helps managers to make informed decisions that improve efficiency, increase safety and decrease costs.

“RTLS assists in tracking cycle times and tip counts, and managers can boost the efficiency of haulage operations by determining the optimum load time and frequency. This can help maximise fuel consumption, as well as reduce vehicle maintenance and haul distance.”

Franck notes that Ya Batho’s RTLS technology provider Quuppa was founded in 2012 by the team responsible for the invention of the High Accuracy Indoor Positioning at the Nokia Research Center in Finland.

The Quuppa team has seen first-hand how the superiority of the Angle-of-Arrival method and groundbreaking algorithms can be beneficial to many enterprises.

Franck points out the Quuppa Intelligent Locating System, a technology platform for location-based services and applications, is a versatile, highly customisable and cost-effective RTLS solution.

He confirms that Ya Batho, in partnership with Quuppa, strives to give mine employees and management high-quality and accurate data in real time.

“For mines to overcome the challenge of increasing production and reducing costs while safeguarding the health and safety of workers, people and machinery need to be in the right place at the right time, and doing the right work. With Quuppa, mine management will have visibility of where the assets are,” he concludes.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor

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