CSIRO has signed a licensing agreement with Eickhoff Australia Pty Ltd under which the research company has access to a leading longwall mining automation technology.
Eickhoff Australia is a supplier of longwall shearers to the Australian mining industry.
Underground longwall mining involves large machines that move from side to side as they cut into a coal face. Automation of some of the processes involved increases mine productivity and moves miners away from hazardous, noisy and dusty environments.
With funding from the Australian Coal Association Research Program (ACARP), CSIRO has developed new automation technologies that locate and guide coal cutting equipment in longwall mines.
ACARP executive director, Mark Bennetts, says this is the third signing of a non-exclusive license for CSIRO’s longwall automation technology, known as LASC automation.
“As the technology is incorporated in more mines, it will make a large contribution to increased productivity and a safer working environment,” he said.
“LASC automation will help to position Australia for the long-term, maintaining or improving our international competitiveness.”
Eickhoff Australia managing director, John Smallwood, says the company expects the first automation system to be incorporated into an Eickhoff shearer in New South Wales by the second quarter this year. “More will follow very quickly,” he says.
CSIRO Exploration & Mining’s chief, Dr Mike McWilliams, says an ACARP study of LASC automation suggested that apart from the obvious safety advantage, the reduced downtime realised by incorporating the system into a typical longwall operation would result in production of an additional 435,000 saleable tonnes per year.
“Other benefits include a conservative five per cent increase in cutting rate, scaling up to perhaps 10-15 per cent. These increases go directly to the bottom line, so they are good for exports and good for Australia,” Dr McWilliams says.
The principal components of the LASC automation system include; face alignment, horizon control, communications and operator interface, and information systems.