MINExpo 2016 – Top 5 Technologies on Show
Alan Broome AM, Chairman Emeritus of Austmine and Phil McCarthy, Chairman of Mine Site Technologies recently attended MINExpo in Las Vegas, the world's largest mining conference and exhibition. With the sector's current focus on productivity-enhancing and cost-saving technologies, plenty of innovations were on show in the exhibition space. Alan and Phil provide a review of the real game-changing technologies below.
The optimism reflected at MINExpo 2016 in USA is being validated by steep rises in many commodity prices and increasing enthusiasm that the worst is behind us in the mining world. Over 3000 exhibitors were on show this year, a record number that was 1000 more than the previous conference in 2012. The attendance was also very strong over the 3 days, easily surpassing previous years, with an amazing 43,000 visitors browsing the exhibition on day 2.
With the focus of the global mining industry now directly on productivity and innovation, it was certainly appropriate to look for the technologies and products on display that will form part of the “new age of mining” over the coming years.
The following are some of the standouts that were seen during the event:
Komatsu Autonomous Surface Mining Platform
For sheer size, the 400 tonne Komatsu rock truck tray on wheels certainly stood out as the next stage development of totally autonomous mine truck evolution.
It looks like a tray rather than a truck with 4-wheel drive and steer, no truck chassis and no driver’s cabin. It may not look like a truck but it carries a lot of rock with no need to turn under the shovel to load and rapid tipping at discharge. A very cost effective innovation and a significant progression on automation on mine sites. This is the next step past the Komatsu Autonomous truck fleet currently operating in the Pilbara.
Joy hard rock miner
Brad Neilson, President Joy Hard Rock Mining who based in Australia, gave presentations on this very innovative rock cutting machine that has a cutting head design originally conceptualised in CRC Mining Queensland about 15 years ago. The cutting head oscillates and impacts the face of the rock to break it out in tension and produces little dust. This technology enables continuous development in underground hard rock and is a leap ahead of the traditional drill and blast approach. This is a huge advancement in underground mine productivity, enabled through Australian R&D.
MST Global wireless underground communication
A long-standing member of Austmine, MST released the world’s first portable wireless repeater node WRN (basically a portable wireless router). This allows connectivity underground without cables and provides the missing link between the machine and the fixed wireless router. The WRN is an IoT enabler to transmit voice and data underground in working areas. The innovation includes a very smart way of changing batteries whilst still have connectivity. The technology package allows for data transfer between people and machines and brings IoT /Big Data capability in underground mines to a practical reality.
Hedweld semi-autonomous Wheel Nut removal tool
Hedweld is well known for collaborating with global OEM’s such as Komatsu, Caterpillar and Atlas Copco, whose production drill rigs on show were equipped with Hedweld access ladders. These connections to global OEMs led Hedweld to design an innovation in the Trilift semi-autonomous Universal Wheel Nut Tool. This means the task of removing wheel nuts and replacing wheel units can be done in half the time and, as it is performed remotely, the task can be completed without the hazards and safety issues involved with changing wheels. Another Australian world first invention that has thus far eluded the surface mining equipment produces and users.
Caterpillar Rock Straight System
The Cat Rock Straight System is a fully mechanised longwall system designed for continuous mining of flat and tabular deposits in hard rock conditions. It comprises a hard rock shearer, a hard rock conveyor, and hydraulic roof supports similar in many ways to those used in longwall coal. It features a unique undercutting technology, designed for the extraction of bedded hard rock deposits, eg copper gold and platinum. It represents the first continuous hard rock mining platform that can be operated in a fully automatic mode to fully optimise mineral extraction. This is a real breakthrough in continuous underground hard rock mining technology.