Automation increases efficiency and safety

Boliden Mines is currently implementing a number of major initiatives in order to increase automation levels. Increased automation in our mines is a vital part of the Boliden strategy, and it may have major effects on the following areas:

Safer access control procedures using positioning makes life easier in many ways, and if an accident does happen it’ll be possible to communicate with staff and guide them to the nearest rescue chamber. It’ll be possible to control machines remotely, which means in the longer term that it could conceivably be possible to move staff away from the stopes to safer work environments. Another safety enhancing option would be to use constant machine monitoring to control maintenance, ensuring it takes place at the mines workshops instead of out at the face, so resulting in a safe work environment.

Air quality in the mine is constantly monitored. With the technical solutions we’re starting to put in place in the majority of our mines, we have the option of developing requirement controlled ventilation even more than is the case at present. This will save money and be good for the environment as this will reduce energy consumption while also improving the work environment down in the mine. In the event of a fire, it will also be possible to control the ventilation in order to shorten the duration of the fire and reduce the risk of it spreading. Above all, we can improve the work environment by quite simply allowing operators to do their jobs in locations other than just at the face, where we’ll have other opportunities to create a good work environment.

The technical solutions that have provided us with tools such as better communication channels, automated reporting from machines and real-time position updates provide us with good opportunities for even more efficient planning. Increased use of remote control and autonomous machines will allow us to utilise our time more effectively as well. When shifts overlap at shift changeovers, we can utilise the entire shift time as overlapping staff won’t need to wait underground. Furthermore, machines which are autonomous or controlled remotely from above ground won’t need to remain stationary during the purging time following firing.

Efficient maintenance work is required with higher machine utilisation levels. This can also be improved using modern technology. One option involves automatically collecting operating information from the machines. Working on the basis of this information, it’s possible to implement more well-planned preventive maintenance on the basis of actual wear and precise operating times. Coordinating maintenance with the production plan allows servicing to be carried out when the machines are least needed. The aim of this is to reduce disruptions and unplanned stoppages in production.

Boliden Mines