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Mining robots move people away from unsafe areas and towards the autonomous mine vision

A successful test of the game-changing technology will make mines both safer and more efficient by automating one of few manual processes left in mining: charging the blasting holes with explosives. ABB’s autonomous remote charger robot automatically detects boreholes and fills them with explosives and detonators without the presence of humans.

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In November 2019 the mining, robotics, automation and software experts did something out of the ordinary. They travelled 1 km below ground into the mine of Boliden Garpenbeg to demonstrate an autonomous mining robotics solution built by ABB in collaboration with partners like Universes. It is part of the Sustainable Intelligent Mining Systems (SIMS) project aspiring to create a long lasting impact on the way we test and demonstrate new technology and solutions for the mining industry. Watch the demo and get further explanations from the experts involved.

Jan Nyqvist (ABB)

We’re here today in Boliden, Garpenberg mines, and today we’ll be seeing the first complete automated working cycle of charging process.

This is a new technology that has been developed for the last seven years and this is the first test of the operation on site.

This project started as a pre-study seven years ago. The aim of that pre-study was to increase safety. What can we do to improve safety in different working environments? How can we move people from unsafe areas? That was the starting point.

The way it worked, we did a field study, went to one of the mines to see how they do it today.

Based on the field study we could do a problem description, break everything down to see how to automate this. Based on that we developed a concept design, and the concept design gave us the answer, “can we do this?”. The answer was yes.

We built up a full-scale prototype in the lab to really test the fully-automated cycle and now we are here to do the proof of concept in operation.

Roger Agren (ABB)

The robot needs to find the drilled holes on the face. It does that with the vision system and identifies all the drilled holes within the scanning area. System finally calculates how many of them are possible to reach and charge.

Next step is to start the charging operation of the first hole by getting a detonator cassette from the detonator magazine.

Detonator is joined to the primer, flipped around and attached to the end of the charging hose.

The charging head is then moved to the position of the first hole and the charging hose is pushed inside the bottom of the drilled hole. Explosives are pumped through the hose while retracted.

After that we basically have to start the same procedure all over again.

Caroline Kuiper, mining manager, Garpenberg (Boliden)

We’re so happy to hear about the SIMS project for testing this ABB robotics charger. With this robotic charger we can make the already safe environment that we have even safer. We look forward to see where this will take us.

It’s very good to have partnerships with strong partners in the market even to test new technologies. It gives us possibilities to give our input to the developer and have solutions tailor-made to meet fit purposes.

And by having a safer working environment we also become more attractive employer for people that would like to come and work here.

If you think of a mine, you think of this heavy industry and dirty and dangerous and that’s not how it is anymore. Projects like this will make this become even more attractive.

We hope that we will get a bigger diversity of people who look for jobs in mines.

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