In the operation of underground mines, all the steps of the production cycle are equally important, as they depend on one another for development as well as production. The sequencing and prioritization of the activities are fundamental just like the progress and follow up of every task.
Due to that complexity, until recently the solutions that existed for the management of underground mines were mere adaptations of systems designed for open-pit mines, that are more focused on loading and ore haulage related activities thus giving higher priority to that type of operation.
The scenario only started to change in 2011, through the partnership between Devex and AngloGold Ashanti for the development of a Dispatch system especially focused on underground operation. That was how SmartMine|UG was born. “The product was designed considering the specificities and challenges of that kind of operation which combine process control logic, data communication, safety norms, environmental hardships, among other factors”, says Underground Product Director Julio Alves.
According to him, the objective with SmartMine|UG is being able to plan and control all the tasks done in underground operation, regardless of the type of assets, mobile or fixed. “ That way, it is a solution that goes way beyond a Fleet Management System and thanks to its open platform, it allows integration with other systems. One example is the specific set of modules for the monitoring of the timeline on the mining faces, which makes it possible to control KPIs such as availability and utilization – for that type of asset” reports Julio Alves.
Mine assesses the performance of SmartMine|UG
Mining Company: Anglo Gold Ashanti
Location: Sabará, state of Minas Gerais – Brazil
Devex signed a partnership with AngloGold Ashanti to start the development of SmartMine|UG in the mine of Lamego in 2011, and currently the whole fleet of the mine is monitored by the system.
Córrego do Sítio Mine Manager, Renato Queiroz de Castro, who initiated and followed the Project until the end of 2013 as Mine Manager at Lamego, explains that the transformation of the scenario within the unit of the mine started four years earlier. “We start to work by acquiring the communication system, since we did not have any radios in the mine. Then we created the OCC (Operational Control Center) while the tasks were still manually input into an Excel spreadsheet, until we signed the partnership with Devex for the development of the dispatch system and the platform for the automation of the all the other mining processes.”
Renato also says that operators started to use the Tracker UG (onboard computer) to input data into the system and send the information online to the system. “It is now possible to know the availability, utilization, productivity and lack of productivity in real time, which guarantees an assertive decision making process at the OCC”, he concluded.
Truck operator, Alisson Magalhães, reminds us that with SmartMine|UG, controllers send all the operational information via the system, so that they are spoken through synthetic voice to the operators underground. “This was a real breakthrough in safety, since it allows us to remain focused on executing the task while we listen to the incoming message, that is also registered into the Tracker UG so it can be read at a later stage. Not long ago, we were wandering without knowing exactly how many pieces of equipment were in each area, now the data are made available in real-time for the OCC and in case of an emergency, we can be warned and safely leave the underground mine”, says the operator.
Decrease of rework
Lamego mine controller, Elmo Franco Júnior, says that with SmartMine|UG the data started to be sent to the OCC with more accuracy. “The system reads every activity that the operators execute at all the different mine levels. I believe that this communication efficiency which is already effective in all the areas of the mine, accounted for the rework rate to have decreased by 80 to 90%” he says.
According to mine engineer Luiz Fernando Zanotti, SmartMine|UG made the operation more dynamic. “The change was significant as we now get the daily data in a much faster way than we used to before. Today we have almost all the data online and centralized. Fleet control is more assertive, people have more information regarding location, productivity and the mine’s logistics got simpler than it was not so long ago”.
According to the mining engineer, centralizing the information of the underground mine bring many advantages. “The first one is safety, since any piece of information that we lose underground translates into a risk. We will be able to reach a level of data management that will considerably reduce rework in all processes. Consequently, we will have more benefits in complying with planning, productivity and grade control” he says.
Luiz Fernando Zannoti explains that in underground mine operation, uncontrolled interferences cause changes in planning, however with SmartMine|UG they are managed in a more efficient way, which makes it possible to accomplish working activities according to planning an consequently improve the adherence “ it is hard to measure precisely, but within a few weeks, we managed to reach 100% of the adherence with development and more than 80% of the adherence with excavation. These are milestones that we would never reach before implementing SmartMine|UG” he concluded.
Let’s emphasize that at Lamego, the use of EControl, the Devex system for the control and monitoring of electrical equipment, already works and is fully integrated to SmartMine|UG in controlling segundary ventilation. The open platform also allows the integration with other third-party system, such as people tracking, MES, ERP etc.
The partnership between Lamego and Devex will be effective until December of 2014 and until then new features will be added to SmartMine|UG, such as Telemetry, Optimization and Maintenance Control.