As more mining operations, both new and established, head deeper underground, the need for safe, proven and digitally enabled technologies continues to grow

Underground mining requires specialized equipment. Beyond being robust enough to handle the difficult day-to-day working conditions, the equipment needs to operate safely, sometimes in a gaseous environment. Today, more underground operations are moving toward remote operations and that requires digitally enabled equipment. For many years, the VDMA Mining members have supplied specialized equipment and services for underground miners, so it should come as no surprise they are leading the way now in some of these areas.

Paus’ MRV 9000 mine rescue vehicle developed with Dräger. (Photo: Paus)

PAUS: New Year, New Solutions

Last year was challenging for all in the mining sector. However, family-owned, Emsbüren-based manufacturer Hermann Paus Maschinenfabrik GmbH (PAUS) has weathered the storm and emerged even stronger with a host of new projects and solutions on the cards for 2021.

“2020 started off normal, until COVID-19 hit,” managing director, Franz-Josef Paus, said. “But still, we managed well. While in some regions, activities were delayed, in others, we were more active than anticipated and we have not experienced any order cancellations. Our highlight truly was the introduction of our new Scaler PScale 8-T, although we could not launch it at MINExpo in Las Vegas as planned.”

The PScale 8-T is the successor to the well-known Scaler 853 S8. It’s a compact model specifically designed for work in tight tunnels and galleries, and the first units have already proven themselves at high-altitude mines in Peru and Chile.

The PScale 8-T is 8-m long, 2-m wide and 2.5 m high with a reach of 8 m. It has an internal turning radius of 2.5 m, and an external radius of 4.6 m; dimensions that allow it to operate in galleries less than 3 m in width.

It is also a precision scaler and features technology that minimizes energy transfer from the pick into the sidewalls and roof. This helps to preserve the rock’s natural structure and integrity while removing only the loose fragments.

Paus continued: “We had to cancel our annual dealer meeting in March, but we quickly shifted it to an online format and, as a result, we saw more participants from different parts of the world than would have been here during a live event. Although no personal visits were possible during 2020, we still met many customers virtually, offered virtual factory visits and, in many cases, the exchange was probably even more intense and regular — which we enjoyed as “the people who care.”

“Internally, we have used the time (and presence) of everybody to enhance our processes and productivity, and definitely prepare for new developments to be launched later this year.”

Heading into 2021, mining companies are still, understandably, keeping a close eye on their capital expenditure. “On the technology side, we clearly see demand for anything that saves costs,” Paus said. “Mines are therefore looking for good quality machines and smart solutions that increase productivity, which fit perfectly with the machines we offer.

“With no traveling possible, demand for remote services has grown significantly and we have really benefitted from our digital platforms that we installed pre-COVID. For instance, our individual online parts catalogue, PAUS Connect Cloud and of course online communication platforms. The new situation gave a real boost to these features.”

In 2016, the team at PAUS launched a mine rescue vehicle in collaboration with fellow German supplier, Dräger. The MRV 9000 mine rescue vehicle was specifically developed to deliver rescue teams to and from emergency incidents in a self-contained, mine-proven vehicle. It combines the basic-chassis type MinCa 18A from PAUS with life support systems and safety technologies from Dräger to provide safe, clean breathable air in a controlled environment.

The first unit was designed for use at a Goldcorp operation, although the model is now available to all PAUS customers.

Franz-Josef Paus said collaborative projects like this are vital in solving some of the bigger challenges that the mining industry now faces.

“If you want smart new ideas, then sometimes we have to join forces to create the optimum solution,” he said. “Projects like these are always beneficial for all parties. In the case of the MRV, we took the best of two worlds: Dräger for life saving equipment and PAUS for the heavy-duty carrier. The result is unmatched.

“We are a relatively small, but very flexible company that can quickly adapt to new challenges and ideas. Besides other industry partners, we also cooperate closely with universities. Currently, we are working with academic partners in the fields of autonomous operation, electrification and hydrogen drives. With RWTH Aachen, we are working on a sensor-based detection system for loose rock while scaling.”

Following the success of the MRV 9000, PAUS is now working on a new mine rescue solution that is due to be released later this year.

“There will also be a couple of new and updated machines, such as a new 16-ton dump truck and a new 7-m3 concrete mixer that features full-suspension on the front axle for better comfort,” according to Paus. “And there will be more announcements within the next couple of months.”

“For markets, we are currently taking a closer look at Australia, and we established PAUS North America to increase our footprint in this important market.”

The team recently commissioned a new 10-ton underground railway crane at a Norilsk Nickel operation in Russia.

“Also, we are working on a rubber-tired ditch cleaner to complement our famous KRF 40 tracked dewatering ditch cleaner,” Paus added. “A permanent challenge besides developing battery-electric vehicles, like our MinCa 5.1E, is the implementation of the latest diesel emission technologies, and EU stage V/TIER 4f is now available on all PAUS units.”

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An Eickhoff continuous miner in action underground. (Photo: Eickhoff)

Eickhoff Flexes Global Supply Chain

Despite the trials and tribulations of the past 12 months, Eickhoff Bergbautechnik has successfully manufactured and delivered yet another fleet of underground mining machines across the world for coal and potash extraction.

Eickhoff has a large stable of quality solutions, from the Eickhoff SL 1000 — designed to mine seams 8-meter in height — to the Eickhoff SL 300 L for seams 1-m in height, and the midseam range comprising the SL 300, SL 500, SL 750 and SL 900 in between. The company also offers continuous miners for room-and-pillar operations and has enhanced developments in the field of autonomous operation, which it said have generated a healthy demand for the 2021 year ahead.

The Eickhoff SL 900, which helped SUEK’s Yalevsky mine in Russia to achieve three world records with 1.627 million metric tons (mt) produced in August 2018 alone, cemented the machine’s global reputation, and the model has proven to be the machine of choice during 2020 with new deliveries into Russia, China and Australia.

Several of the Eickhoff SL 900s that were delivered to Australia and China incorporate high-tech solutions such as anti-collision radar as well as infrared seam detection and acoustic monitoring. These elements will be incorporated into the mine’s autonomous technologies employed on the shearers to collate and analyze the data.

Another new application for Eickhoff is a collaborative project to install LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensor technology on longwall shearers. LiDAR will be used to locate, steer and navigate equipment to the richest part of the coal seam with the highest accuracy, while avoiding potential danger hotspots.

The first of the new 130-mt Eickhoff SL 900 shearer loaders delivered to Australia in 2020 has now been put through its paces at the Eickhoff Australia Life Cycle Management Centre located in New South Wales, where a repeat of the German-based design and manufacturing acceptance testing was completed prior to forwarding the machine on to the mine’s compatibility site.

Another first for the Eickhoff continuous miner as a result of its continued success in South Africa, was a delivery into India during 2020.

The machine, on receipt at the Singareni PVK5 site, was reassembled and “no-load” commissioned on the surface by Eickhoff Bochum technicians and the owner operators. The work was completed shortly before COVID-19 travel restrictions came into force, and the machine is now installed and ramping up to full production underground in the PVK5 coal mine.

Eickhoff said the step-by-step approach that leading longwall coal miners around the world are using to get them closer to the point of fully autonomous operations is delivering results in the form of consistent operation and production.

While the company is not yet offering all of the sophisticated technologies realized in Australia and China to its clients in the Balkan, eastern European, or Russian markets, there is no doubt that these markets will follow shortly. And, in the meantime, it offers plenty of easy-to-implement safety technologies that lead to better performance monitoring, more consistent production and safer operations.

Additionally, the continued investments made within Eickhoff’s Bochum headquarters and its global subsidiaries allow the company to offer the highest level of life cycle management support for its installed base.

Eickhoff subsidiaries with their purpose-built load and function testing equipment provide the chance to put new and overhauled equipment through its paces ahead of installation. This allows mining customers to be confident that their choice of machine is fit for purpose for the full life of the product, and Eickhoff said this is one of the major pillars of its quality and reputation.

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Becker Embraces Industry 4.0

Becker Mining Systems is a worldwide supplier of complete energy, automation, communication, transportation and infrastructure technology for the mining industry. In 2020, the company’s most important product launches were ENDIS4.0, Promos4.0 and the WRAP260 — the latest additions to Becker Mining’s 4.0 series of digital solutions.

“The ‘4.0’ series is essentially the evolution of our long-standing product lines with the idea of interconnecting them altogether, as defined by the term Industry 4.0,” explained Jonas Maximilian Becker, engineering manager for Becker Mining Europe. “The goal is to be able to transfer and integrate data from different systems into the central database of a mining operation. Mines can then visualize the data and, if desired, analyze it to provide projections, to optimize processes and, ultimately, raise their productivity.”

In modern operations, the requirements for reliable high-speed data communication underground are becoming ever more demanding. Powerful communication solutions enable operations not only to raise safety standards but also to simplify and accelerate processes. All of these applications require a fast, reliable data network infrastructure at the core to avoid bottlenecks.

The WRAP260 product series consists of intrinsically safe fibre optic network switches and wireless LAN routers that support the Gigabit bandwidth standard. These allow mining operations to adopt the 1 Gigabit per second standard for fibre-optic networks, even in explosive areas. All products have been ATEX and IECEx certified for category M1 and level of protection “ia,” respectively.

“The switches and routers fulfill the highest standards for operation in explosive atmospheres,” Becker said. “They can also be combined with a battery backup power supply for continued network support even if the mine power network fails or is shut down due to gas detection.”

Collecting data underground to enhance process visualization in mining operations requires a capable communication backbone. WRAP260 Switches are designed to allow a fast data connection to and from production areas. They are certified for operation in gaseous atmospheres and designed with robustness in mind: IP65 or IP67 ingress protection guarantees no dust or water ingress.

Inside, all electronics are securely positioned and the devices have been vibration tested. In addition, Becker Mining has made sure that devices can operate normally under specified temperatures.

WRAP260 Switches include three different models: the WRAP260.3 Single Switch; the WRAP260.4 Double Switch; and the WRAP260.5 Gateway Switch.

The WRAP260.3 Single Switch comes with 5 x 1 Gbit/s ethernet ports for regular applications. The WRAP260.4 Double Switch accommodates 10 x 1 Gbit/s ethernet ports and is designed for larger networks with many branches. The WRAP260.5 Gateway Switch has been engineered for older data networks with a 100-Mbit/s bandwidth to be able to transition to 1 Gbit/s networks.

The WRAP260 Routers come in two variants: the WRAP260.1 Double Router is Becker’s entry level product with two WLAN modules, two available fibre ethernet ports and four available antenna connections. The WRAP260.2 Triple Router comes with three WLAN modules. It features four available fibre ethernet ports and six antenna connections.

Both routers come with an optional tagging and tracking function for real-time location applications. This allows them to act as tag readers for ultra-high frequency (UHF) or RFID personnel and vehicle tags. This function can also be integrated into Becker Mining’s CAS (Collision Awareness) and PDS (Proximity Detection) system solutions.

Also new in 2020 was the Promos4.0 fieldbus automation system.

“We have taken the time to listen closely to our customers, to integrate new technologies and to develop unique solutions in order to come up with a state-of-the-art automation system for underground mining applications,” according to Becker.

Becker Mining’s Mincos Automation systems Promos and Betacontrol have been deployed in underground mines around the world for many decades. Promos4.0 incorporates all the advantages of PromosPlus and Betacontrol into one comprehensive fieldbus system. It adds new connectivity features and enhanced overall performance for growing data requirements.

Becker explained: “We’ve internalized the idea of Industry 4.0 and added superior connectivity to our Promos4.0 automation system.”

With Promos4.0, data is transferred more than 20 times faster than before. With a data rate of 500 kBit/s, more automation tasks can be fulfilled with one system. The Mining Master Smart 4.0 controller can handle two separate fieldbus lines with lengths of up to 4,000 m and up to 96 devices each.

“We’ve also added Bluetooth connectivity to every intercom station, so diagnostics and parametrization can be executed underground via an intuitive interface with a mobile device,” Becker added.

Digital inputs and outputs are now easer to connect. Every emergency stop and intercom station can optionally be equipped with two M12 digital I/O connections. With a patent-pending cable pull switch design, operators can reliably switch off conveyors and machines when required. The system also has a number of in-built safety features, including cable break detection and self diagnostics.

“With specifically designed speakers, we’ve managed to increase the sound pressure level on our intercom stations by 14 dB compared to the PromosPlus speakers to generate the much-requested sound levels of 110 dB,” Becker said. “That is enough for even the toughest and loudest environments. One can also communicate from one bus line to another or call the dispatcher on surface via the phone button.

“Likewise, the dispatcher can communicate into any fieldbus line underground. The speakers are protected from dust and water and have been IP66 certified. As speakers on the outside tend to be a weak point for many operators, we made them easily exchangeable.”

The PF1010 and PF1020 human-machine interface (HMI) panels present two solutions for controlling the fieldbus connections away from the head unit. The PF1010 is a small HMI panel with ten configurable illuminated buttons and an emergency stop, whereas the PF1020 is a full-control HMI panel with a 7-in. touchscreen display, 20 configurable illuminated buttons, an integrated intercom and emergency stop.

The third product new in 2020 was, what Becker Mining terms, “the world’s most controllable underground power distribution solution” — the ENDIS-Compact Station series CS40**. This is a switching device that can be used at different voltage levels. ENDIS4.0 compact stations feature a modular design and can be configured according to customer requirements and adapted to future needs.

The contactors are installed in a configurable frame and can be electrically retracted and extended. Other key features include automatic separation of the contactors; automatic recognition of the plug-in unit with no coding; power contacts for 1000 A; a circuit-breaker for up to 1000 A can be integrated; embedded arc protection; universal slots for single contactors; double contactors or a lighting plug-in unit; interchangeable energy contacts; and an integrated reversing switch for the contactor.

As an optional extra, a PLC unit can be integrated into the switching device to allow for external sensors/actuators to be processed via fieldbus interfaces like Promos4.0.

Scheduled for release in 2021 is the updated version of the Becker Underground Collision Avoidance System (UCAS), which will be named PDS4.0.

“PDS4.0, as with all other ‘4.0’ products, will be able to share its data in a wireless LAN network and integrate into our SCADA software, MineView,” Becker said. “The PDS4.0 will also satisfy the requirements of the EMESRT Level 9 standard and thus automatically prevent collisions between any moving assets inside an underground operation. It has been developed to comply with ISO 21815 and our goal was to make it as intuitive and easy to use as possible.”

The PDS4.0 is scheduled for release in the third quarter of 2021, and Becker hinted that there are other 4.0 products under development, too.

“We have conducted an in-depth analysis of our entire product range and there are a number of other systems that will follow suit,” he said. “Also, we have identified niches in this new system environment where we don’t currently have any product offering.”

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KAMAT announces its new family of safety valves in November 2020. (Photo: KAMAT)

KAMAT Keeps Mines Productive and Safe With New Pumps and Valves

KAMAT GmbH & Co. KG is active in high-pressure cleaning for a variety of applications, including the steel industry with descaling installations for hot rolling mills and also installations for hydrostatic bearings.

“We supply process pumps to oil and gas operators and to the chemical industry and, besides these business areas, we are a proud supplier of reliable hydraulic power to longwall mining systems all over the world,” Andreas Wahl, KAMAT’s managing director, explained.

“Our main longwall mining markets are Australia, China, Russia and the U.S. All these markets were strong and reliable during 2020 despite all the uncertainty.”

KAMAT is supported in the U.S. by its partner Morgantown Machine & Hydraulics (part of Swanson Industries) and, and in Australia by Longwall Hydraulics. Having a local presence in those markets has proven invaluable as pandemic-related travel restrictions have tightened, and the highlight of 2020 for KAMAT was the delivery of 21 units of 800 kW pumps on base frames for a descaling installation in the U.S.

Overall, despite the onset of COVID and the global economic slowdown, which postponed many key investments in the mining sector, Wahl said KAMAT’s 2020 sales figures turned out better than expected.

“We are satisfied with the outcome, and the outlook into 2021 is moderate but confident,” he said. “Given the situation, a number of internal projects, which were on our to-do-list for a while, became possible, resulting in a variety of technical developments, improvements and modernizations.”

Wahl said China and Russia remained key markets during 2020 as well.

“In both countries, we see the trend for bigger units and wider usage of variable speed driven (VSD) pumps, especially as they are standard in the U.S.,” he explained. “Many Chinese clients are also asking for systems with higher hydraulic power installed and larger flows per pump, so this is the main market for our biggest units.”

Opting for fewer, larger pumps leads to less complexity and, when combined with VSDs, can lead to an unparalleled level of control.

“We at KAMAT are pleased with this development and we have been successfully operating such systems for many years,” Wahl explained. “The power density (ratio of power input to the weight) of our pumps and systems is unique. Nevertheless, new engineering possibilities and new materials allow for an even increased power density and results in pumps that give even more power, pressure, and flow at the same size and weight.”

With this in mind, KAMAT launched a range of new safety valves for its plunger pumps in November. These feature modern spring technology for precise setting and release of the response pressure. The new valves are also more secure, as setting and adjustment is now only possible with special tools.

Wahl explained: “First of all, there was nothing wrong with our previous generation of safety valves. They were available in different sizes for different pressures and flows and they still are reliable and safe.

“However, with another next step ahead toward higher flows and pressures, it became evident that we needed to extend our range. During this project, we decided to re-engineer the whole range of safety valves and include new possibilities in terms of design and materials used.

“The result is a whole new line of safety valves in different sizes and configurations, covering any possible pressure and flow configuration.

“The new valves are equipped with internal parts made from a high-tech material. They offer improved sensitivity as well as a smart solution for comfortable liquid release when they do their job.

“They can be set more precisely and allow for a smaller hysteresis. And they are just as safe as the old ones are.”

KAMAT is currently undertaking the final optimization steps for the new valve family.

“We did also extensive pump performance tests during 2020 after re-engineering of some key components,” Wahl said. “The pumps performed very well and even beat our expectations as we intentionally overpowered them.

“The result is that we are able to further improve the power-density of our pumps. As a consequence, the market can expect a familiar looking range of pumps in the near future but with improved power inputs as there will be 450 kW, 550 kW, 1,000 kW and 1,500 kW models available soon. The new pumps will be able to work harder, but their physical shape remains the same.

“Further improvements are in the pipeline and these focus on the pumps heads with the aim to reduce complexity and improve the liquid’s flow dynamics through valves and head. It is still too early to present the final results, but we expect to be able to share more details later in the year.”

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The axial fans produced by Korfmann Lufttechnik have impellers measuring 300 to more than 3,700 mm in diameter. (Photo: CFH Group)

The CFH Group: Strength in Numbers

Based in Gladbeck in northwest Germany, the CFH Group supplies a range of ventilation equipment for clients in the mining and tunneling industries and in other sectors. The COVID-19 crisis posed a major challenge for the group, as it has done for many globally active midsized companies. But despite everything, the group remains active and continues to develop its operations and business activities in all aspects of air technology, focusing in particular on dust extraction, gas purification, ventilation, and air heating and cooling.

And already there are new developments in the pipeline.

The supply and circulation of ventilating air plays a key role in mining and redevelopment work, and is essential for carrying out mechanized road heading, drilling and blasting, and tunnel stabilization. For projects of this kind, the CFH Group can provide ventilation equipment such as radial and axial fans, along with silencers and other accessories.

The axial fans produced by CFH portfolio company Korfmann Lufttechnik have impellers measuring 300 to more than 3,700 mm in diameter. All fans undergo careful inspection prior to dispatch and each unit is fully approved for use in the national and international mining and tunneling sector.

On October 1, 2020, the CFH Group increased its stake in Korfmann Lufttechnik to 100%. As of January 1, 2021, all sales and marketing activities relating to ventilation equipment are to be handled by CFT Compact Filter Technic, thereby further strengthening the partnership that already existed between the two companies.

CFT, which celebrated it’s 20th anniversary in 2019, has been exclusively producing fans and silencers for Korfmann since 2001, and both companies have been successfully involved in a number of joint projects, with a special focus on main ventilation equipment for the mining industry.

Another key focus of the CFH Group has been strengthening its presence in China, Australia and Russia and, in doing so, the group has consolidated its existing position in the market.

The newly created CFH (Shanxi) Technology Co. Ltd., with its head office in Taiyuan, China, began trading at the beginning of the year, while CFH Airtechnic Australia Pty Ltd., which started up in early 2020, operates out of Sydney, Australia; a country where the CFH Group has successfully completed many projects.

Finally, with CFT Sibir already established in Novokuznetsk, Russian operations have now been expanded with the launch of the new Moscow-based 000 CFH RUS company, which has now begun trading in the Russian and Belarusian markets for mining and tunneling equipment as well as for general industry. These three subsidiaries can each supply the entire product portfolio of the CFH Group and fully support the group’s service commitments. Additionally, CFH Australia can provide local repair facilities and, for example, can refurbish dust extraction equipment and fan systems.

Given the unforeseen restrictions that have been imposed on international travel recently, these new subsidiary companies are making an important contribution to the group’s ability to continue to serve its various markets.

CST Customer Savings Technology, a subsidiary of the CFH Group, specializes in field-tested, reconditioned plant and equipment for companies and suppliers operating in the mining and tunneling sectors. CST carries out complete overhauls on pre-used, high-quality dust extraction units, fans, cooling plant, road headers, dinter loaders and others.

An online catalogue was established in mid-2020 to provide interested parties with an update on plant and machinery availability. The company’s fully refurbished equipment is basically equivalent in performance to new items of the same type. As well as requiring a much lower capital outlay, pre-used equipment also offers another important advantage: it is available at much shorter notice than its brand-new equivalent.

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