The transformation of underground mining operations through the adoption of digital and electric technologies continues…

Both digitalization (along with automation) and electrification already play an important role in underground mining, as they do in construction, mainly driven by the need for greater safety, better environmental conditions and higher productivity. Since jobs are tough and dangerous, mines try to perform as many tasks as possible remotely to safeguard workers.

The increasing shortage of skilled labor, especially in remote operations adds to the necessity to automate processes. As mines head deeper and drives become longer, it becomes harder to provide safe working conditions and this is fueling the switch away from diesel-powered equipment to electrically driven vehicles, whether tethered or battery powered.

“Although all this is needed, it will still take some time until these technologies become commonplace in mines, because there are a lot of technological challenges to address,” said Franz-Josef Paus, managing director at PAUS.

The new UNI 50-5 with spring-mounted front axle, part of UNI 50 carrier vehicle series. (Photo: PAUS)

New PAUS Machines and Subsidiary

PAUS is ready for this change and can offer battery-electric versions of most of its products, using the latest technology developed with its partners. Also (if not explicitly specified), all PAUS underground mining vehicles are now “intelligent” and can be connected to the PAUS Cloud and/or to mine networks. Remote operation makes sense for applications such as scaling. For example, PAUS can offer remote controls for operation both underground and from aboveground offices.

Paus explained: “We work closely with German universities to develop our digital solutions. One exciting project is ScaleSense. The ScaleSense system monitors the condition of the rock in front of the scaling hammer and inform the operator where to scale and where not. Another interesting project is Bauen 4.0. This joint research project aims to connect different kinds and brands of machines on one site and let them talk to each other.”

PAUS announced a number of new products in 2021, as well as the expansion of its business in North America. PAUS North America Inc. is now headquartered in Walton Hills, Ohio, taking over the role of NPK Mining. The subsidiary will support all existing and future U.S. and Canadian customers and distributors on behalf of H. Paus GmbH Germany. Kirk Reineke, who has worked with the PAUS underground equipment line for years, is heading up the team as president.

In terms of new products, the PMKM 8030 truck, launched in April 2021, was designed especially for narrow-vein underground mining applications. The compact design, high payload, state-of-the-art and high-performance components, along with short cycle times and easy maintenance make the PMKM 8030 one of the best performing trucks in its class.

The truck features a broader, shorter and narrower design than its well-known sister machine, the PMKM 8010. These dimensions, combined with an increase in length and height, enable better driving characteristics due to the lowered center of gravity, bigger tires and new axles with integrated oscillation. With a payload of 16 kg, the machine is equipped with an 8-m3 dump box.

The PMKM 8030 truck, launched in April 2021, is designed especially for narrow-vein underground mining applications. (Photo: PAUS)

The PMKM 8030 can be fitted with a choice of different Cummins and Caterpillar diesel engines at different exhaust stages, powered with up to 190 kW. The machine is also available with the latest exhaust stage EU Stage V/Tier 4f for use as a CE-certified machine within the EU.

With the more powerful driveline and the increased performance including reduced lifting and tipping times, the overall cycle time has been reduced significantly. The standard configuration and improved cooling concept are ready for operation at ambient temperatures from -20°C to +50°C.

A new variant has also been added to the PAUS UNI 50 carrier vehicle series. The UNI 50-5 with spring-mounted front axle is designed for high productivity underground and is especially comfortable for drivers who are exposed to rough underground conditions.

The UNI 50-5 BM-TM is a concrete mixer optimized for underground mining operations, based on the proven UNI 50. The UNI 50-5 with a 7.5-m3 drum is ideal for small- to medium-sized tunnel diameters in mining and tunneling. The standard use in this class is the concrete mixer but, as with the UNI 50-2 to -4 series, the UNI 50 offers many configuration options: as a fixed superstructure or with a hydraulic interchangeable system, a large number of different cassettes can be set up. A range of solutions is available for roadway maintenance, personnel transport, explosives loading (ANFO and emulsion), scissor lift, service unit or liquid transport (water, oils and/or diesel) applications. The spacious driver’s cab offers room for three passengers.

Rounding out the announcements was the launch of the PScale 8-T with the first machine put into operation in the Peruvian market. The scaler enables high performance rates, more sensitive handling and a safer work environment underground. It is available with two engine variants: EU Stage V/Tier 4f. The 20° tiltable cabin gives the operator excellent visibility of the working tool and ensures fast and efficient gallery protection. The small envelope size in combination with a high boom reach ensures a fast operation without frequent position changes.

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Becker Mining: Helping Mines Get Connected

Becker Mining Systems is the leading supplier of complete energy, automation, communication, transportation and infrastructure systems for the mining industry.

With 1,500 employees and a global footprint, Becker Mining Systems has been well prepared to provide prompt and reliable service to all of its customers, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. All service centers offer comprehensive on-site engineering, product support and emergency services.

The main drivers for product development in mining are clearly digitalization, electrification and automation/autonomy. The Becker Mining product offering is continuously integrated, allowing it to share any data across the platform and gain intelligence on the process behavior.

Today, it is important that every device and machine has the ability to forward its available data to any connected installation, be it a wireless device, a PLC controller, an electrical motor, a vehicle or a primary SCADA system. Therefore, Becker has long been a stakeholder in different initiatives aimed at the cross integration of machines, in particular the OPC UA mining roundtable, the EMERST initiative and a number of committees and groups aiming to improve health and safety in mining.

Jonas Maximilian Becker, engineering manager for Becker Mining Europe, explained: “As a result, our integrated software solutions MineView and Smartflow provide real-time information to enable our customers to achieve optimized operations management.”

Electrifying the Underground

Electrification has been a buzzword in mining for some time, and mining houses are increasingly putting electrical machines into operation. Not only for the purpose of environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards, but because battery-powered drives provide some striking advantages in mining.

Becker introduced its first battery-powered transport solution in 2011 and has since advanced the battery technology and energy management system significantly. The new Volter system features modular battery packs that have been reduced in size and weight, are available in different sizes/capacities and come with ATEX certification if required.

Also, part of the Becker Mining electrical product offering is the ENDIS4.0 range of modular compact stations that are safer and easier to operate from anywhere in the world. ENDIS4.0 is the world’s most controllable underground power-distribution solution available, covering 1 kV to 4,16 kV installations.

Taking advantage of a wider range of connected and electrified products, the next step is to further automate all kinds of machines and processes, including third-party products. This will enable full or partial autonomy, in particular for processes that could pose danger to miners. This requires a fast and reliable network backbone that is able to handle the increasing amount of data transferred. With the Smartcom product range, Becker offers just this for various environments — be it for hard rock or hazardous areas — but always designed from miners for miners.

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SIEMAG TECBERG Supplies Hoist to EuroChem-Usolskiy

In July and August 2021, SIEMAG TECBERG and LLC EuroChem-Usolskiy Potash Complex signed agreements for the delivery of two shaft-hoisting systems.

Situated in Russia’s Perm region, Verkhnekamskoe hosts one of the world’s largest potash deposits. One expansion phase of the Usolskiy mining complex includes the construction of a third production shaft (Usolskiy Shaft No. 3) with a depth of 511.7 m as well as a further treatment system.

The agreement requires SIEMAG TECBERG to undertake the engineering, production, delivery, supervision of assembly, and commissioning of the shaft-hoisting system for raw material extraction. This includes a 6-meter diameter double-drum winding machine for skip-skip extraction with a drive capacity of 4.55 MW. This is designed for an annual hoisting capacity of up to 4.2 million tons. Sliding bearings will also be supplied with a type-SB1 hydraulic braking system, rope sheaves for deflection, as well as automation and signaling equipment. Hoisting equipment in the form of raw-material containers for shaft hoisting will also be included, along with loading stations on two levels underground and two rope deflection sheaves, each 6 m in diameter.

The shaft-hoisting system for personnel and equipment comprises a rope drum hoisting machine (3.6 m diameter), for cage hoisting with one gearbox and an overall drive capacity of 1.5 MW (2 x 750 KW), including rolling bearings and a type-SB1 hydraulic braking system together with automation and signaling equipment and a rope sheave for deflection. A one-stage cage with 10-t payload will also be included with two cage arresting devices, equipment for rope changing, and a reeling winch with accessories.

Assembly, installation and final commissioning on-site at the mine will ensure the complete functional assembly of the equipment together with extensive system tests on drive test stands as well as pre-commissioning with all pre-settings. After commissioning, the mine will benefit from on-site support, as well as spare parts and maintenance from SIEMAG TECBERG’s local service branch and storage facility at Berezniki.

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