Mining, Minerals & Exploration Category: Zenith Award Finalists
Sponsored by Schneider Electric
Company: Apex Optimisation
Project: Dynamic real-time optimiser for precipitation solid controls
Location: Western Australia
The project objective was to find a solution to closed loop control, where optimisation of processes caused significant lags and dead times.
A large Australian Alumina refinery approached Apex Optimisation (Apex) in mid 2009, to propose and implement control and optimisation.
The issue was around the control of the solids content in a precipitation circuit. Maintaining the correct amount of solids in the precipitation circuit is paramount to optimal yield, and is effectively controlled by removing the product and recycling the rest.
The target amount of solids to be removed was traditionally estimated by reviewing trends of data and forecasting future process changes.
Apex deconstructed the control problem, implementing a Dynamic Real-Time Optimisation application, using Apex’s patent pending Generic Dynamic Optimisation Technology (GDOT).
This technology is based on a ‘grey box’ approach to the modeling of the often non-liner process relationships, implementing a Wiener-Hammerstein model structure.
The new approach to controlling the solids content took a few months for all the operations groups to master, as it was a significant paradigm shift from the approach previously used.
In April 2010, an enhancement was implemented to assist the operators by providing a simplified measurement of their ‘adherence to target’ KPI.
As a result the Dynamic Real-Time Optimiser Application provided tighter process control, which in turn facilitated optimisation of solids target at delivering a tangible production increase.
Company: Coal Services Pty Ltd
Project: Virtual Reality Training
Location: New South Wales
Virtual Reality Training (VRT) is a business unit of Coal Services Pty Ltd (CSPL), the VRT works in conjunction with Mines Rescue Pty providing virtual learning environments for trainers to use as part of their mining training course.
It is an advanced training for mine workers and operators who are required to perform potentially dangerous tasks often in hazardous environments, without the risks of injuries.
Through the use of Virtual Reality in industry training, Mines Rescue together with VRT have been able to make a positive contribution to the NSW mining industry’s emergency preparedness and emergency response training.
Trainers are ensured a quick and easy transfer of trainees from the ‘real’ learning environment to a virtual work site minimal set up required.
Scenarios can be repeated with the press of a button with flexibility to vary their location within the mine which ensures ongoing relevance of the VR training tool for refresher training.
The system has been used to create simulated hazardous situations for mines rescue teams to identify and manage during rescue competitions.
The company has received an overwhelming response from the US and China for tours of its facilities and guidance regarding the implementation of equivalent hi-tech training systems.
Project: Optalert Fatigue Management
Location: BHP Billiton’s Mt Whaleback Mine, Western Australia
Optalert’s fatigue monitoring technology allows drivers n mines to take safety into their own hands. It is the only fatigue monitoring system in the world that empowers drivers with real-time information about their level of alertness and its risk of a drowsy incident.
The Optalert Driver Glasses use patent technology to measure the driver’s physiological state of alertness 500 times per second.
The light that is omitted is tiny and harmless to the human eye. The glasses then warn the driver of the early onset of fatigue, before the driver is aware they are tired.
The introduction of Optalert Fatigue Risk Profiler shares information from drivers to fleet managers. This system is responsible for safety of others to be monitored with quick access via the internet; it can track information from medium to high risk drowsiness.
Over a period of weeks, the real-time data captured during a driver’s shift forms part of the OPTALERT Fatigue Risk Profile to help managers locate and address any safety risks in the driving profile of their fleet.
The glasses have been used in the Spence mine in Chile, and the Optalert Driver Glasses have been implemented to workers of BHP Billiton’s 180 drivers, all of which drive 12-hour shifts and seven days on/off.
Company: Automation IT & Queensland Mines Rescue Service
Project: QLD Mines Rescue – GAG Inertisation Unit Automation
Location: Dysart, Queensland
When a fire starts in the mine, it is crucial for workers to know there is safety equipment that can eliminate the fire.
The project involves the Queensland Mines Rescue Service using Automation IT’s GAG Inertisation Unit, which is designed to generate inert gases and transfer them to a section of a mine that is on fire with the use of a jet engine in order to extinguish the flames.
The system works by sucking air through a cloth filter, where it is injected with keroscene fuel and this fuel and air mixture is ignited by spark plugs reducing the oxygen content to approximately 17%.
Additional fuel is then injected under a high pressure into the afterburner. It then operates at a high temperature that the injected fuel evaporates and burns instantly, further reducing the oxygen level to approximately.
The solution consisted of an Allen Bradley PLC that is mounted in a separate enclosure at the front of the trailer. A separate enclosure houses a touch panel human to machine interface (HMI).
The engine and additional equipment can be controlled from this HMI, or monitored via remote laptop that communicates via Ethernet.
Automation IT was able to increase the accuracy and reliability of the Jet Inertisation Control Unit in addition to ensuring the safety of the volunteers that operate the machine.
Company: Hawk Measurement Systems
Project: Gladiator Self Cleaning Acoustic Level Switch
Location: Melbourne, Victoria
Process in the mining industry uses automation to gain efficiency and minimise downtime of the process.
Down time can cause great financial loss with operators relying on sensors that run the plant smoothly and without interruption. There is a big problem for these level sensors to work in the mining environment due to maintenance.
Hawk Measurement Systems designed an Acoustic Switch for continuous operation in dusty, wet environments where other level measurement technologies fail.
A large export coal mine had problems with microwave and admittance probes on blocked chute applications due to high dielectric magnetite build-up and coal fines.
The company used an automatic cleaning acoustic Gladiator switch that removed build-up and was not affected by the high dielectric environment.
The acoustic switch is a dual transducer system unaffected by vibration, dust, water and high dielectric atmospheres. The system uses high power and low frequency which is how the self cleaning can occur.
The power of each pulse (pressure wave) blows the water, moisture and build-up off the face of the diagram. The company looked at the limitations of traditional Ultrasonic and Radar technologies when it came to granules, powders, dusty environments, condensation, foam & swirling.
Company: Alcoa Australia
Project: Residue Reuse
Location: Booragoon, Western Australia
Residue or railings remains are often left after extract are made from an ore body in minerals processing.
As every six tonnes of bauxite makes two tonnes of alumina, there is a significant generation of residue in the process of converting bauxite ore into alumina. The residue is made up of two components, mud and sand.
In Western Australia the low grade of the bauxite ore, compared with bauxite from other locations around the world, makes sustainable residue management an even bigger challenge. The lower the alumina content in the ore, the larger the amount of residue produced.
Through extensive research, Alcoa has developed a number of bauxite residues by-products which will allow the company to put the residue to sustainable use.
Red Sand is literally crushed rock that is red in colour, testing has shown Red Sand can be used as a general fill material, as construction backfill or as a material suitable for road base construction.
Alcoa’s carbonation process reduces the alkalinity of the residue and a wash process removes most of the remaining carbonate salts making the end product (Red Sand) environmentally kindly.
Company: CST Wastewater Solutions & Newcrest Cadia Valley
Project: Cadia Valley uses FAST technology to conserve precious water
Location: Orange, New South Wales
Newcrest introduced a high efficiency and low maintenance waste water treatment system at its Cadia Valley Operations (CVO) to purify human water and other waste water, in addition to enabling it to be recycled on-site.
The Fixed Activated Sludge Treatment (FAST) was implemented by CST Wastewater Solutions in New South Wales where the Government approved $2 billion (AU) plans that will extend the lifespan of CVO for at least 20 years.
FAST utilises a fixed-film media combined with activated sludge treatment technology so that bacteria clinging to the media would digest wastewater, producing a remarkably clear effluent.
The system’s process involves bacteria growing on the submerged media, and the mixed liquor circulating through the bacteria-laden media which is essentially clear and free of suspended solids.
This reduces the mixed liquid suspended solids level (MLSS) flow to the clarifier to approximately 100-400 mg/L and greatly reduces the amount of solid flux, which means less stress on the clarifier.
The FAST system is applicable to companies that don’t have sewerage situations including mine and resource developments. It can be built into shipping containers and is designed to handle 40-120 cubic metres a day of sewage and other effluent from mines.
Company: Boulder Buster Australia
Project: Boulder Buster System
The Boulder Buster System has been used as an alternative rock breaking tool and problem solver for underground mining (excluding coal) and open cut mining.
It can be used in different applications including; clearing draw points, shuts, crushers, grizzlies and dealing with oversized rocks.
The Boulder Buster System is currently being used at various mine sites around Australia such as Ridgeway Deeps and North Parkes in NSW, Xstrata lead in Mt Isa Qld and Boddington in Western Australia.
The Boulder Buster is a non-detonation rock breaking tool utilising propellant technology.
The process works by a pressure impulse which is generated in the tool by a cartridge filled with black powder, the pressure impulse is directed via a barrel into an incompressible fluid column (water) placed in a pre-drilled hole in the rock.
The unique characteristics of the propellant and cartridge design results in a rapidly developing pressure wave. The static pressure developed by the propellant cause’s further mechanical stress on the rock, resulting in the tensile fracturing of the rock. The direction of breaking can be controlled by the drilling pattern.
Company: J. Smith & Sons Pty Ltd
Project: Smith Mk4 Hydrapede Dolly
Location: West Turner Syncline Mine, Western Australia
The project objective was to fill a noticeable gap in the mine haulage equipment market.
The increasing incidence of satellite mines across Australia increases the necessity for vehicles that are capable of hauling large amounts of resource over long distances.
It was noted that few alternatives to standard rear dump mining trucks existed. According to the company, the mining industry was limited to vehicles with wide bodies and short distance haulage capabilities.
The Smith Hydrapede has been designed to provide a solution to the noted limitations and additionally, to provide increased payload and faster average haulage speeds.
It is a powered dolly which enables mining road trains to haul large amounts of mineral over long distances from the mine to the R.O.M. or product endpoint.
A CANbus network and a custom-built software program are used to fuse communications between Hydrapede components.
This technology is complimented by a remote diagnostics unit which gives service technicians at J. Smith & Sons access to the data and programming of any Hydrapede machine within the range of a satellite.
This ensures equipment is always up and running in the most efficient timeframe possible.
The Mk4 Hydrapede Dolly units have been successfully commissioned at the West Turner Syncline Mine in Western Australia.
Company: Proof Engineers
Project: Real Time Monitoring Solutions for Total Dust Management, Rolling Resistance and Road Deterioration
Proof Engineers worked with Reynolds Soil Technologies in validating its dust suppression applications on road structures across mines globally.
The company pioneered the development of real time onboard haul truck systems to measure and monitor road deterioration and rolling resistance.
With this information, management can make decisions for maintenance procedures before road quality is badly affected, and can save companies millions of dollars in maintenance procedures, fuel burn, and tyre wear, also having a significant impact on carbon emission reduction.
Proof Engineers can directly correspond with companies who provide dust suppression services in order to exercise independence. Alerts for dust management are provided in the form of SMS/email or phone call from Proof Engineers.
This development has lead to an innovative technology which acts as an early warning system for maintenance procedures before rolling resistance reaches its worst state.
The technology used is a high-tech GPS monitoring equipment; sensors; mathematical functions for problem solving; web innovation and notifications through SMS and email.
A rating system has been developed to monitor the condition of the road. This system takes into account road defects, cycle times and torque differentials.
After this is done, the decision making can happen to bring a road back to a high rating, with recommendations made which include; change in maintenance procedures, including grading watering and possible recommendation of liquid soil stabilisers.
Company: Xstrata Copper
Project: Copper Refinery Cathode Nodule Catcher
Location: Townsville Copper Refinery, Townsville. Queensland
The copper refinery was in dire need of a solution to cut hard labour, time and health and safety issues when cleaning a cathode stripping machine. Cathodes are washed in the wash station of Cathode Stripping Machine prior to being stripped.
This process removes electrolyte and wax remaining from the refining process and often causes nodules of copper to fall on the floor of the chamber.
Many of the tasks preformed during the cleaning process involve hard labour in cramped areas. The solution was to implement a system that cleans itself by gravity, the false floor plates have been removed and a nodule catcher has been installed.
The copper waste ends up in the nodule catcher, which is then emptied bi-weekly without any issues.
The innovation provided a cleaner system and has reduced the requirement to enter the wash station from weekly for up to an hour and a half, to once every two months for approximately five minutes.
The system can be easily installed in other refineries, or the concept installed in processing plants where similar cleaning and maintenance issues exist.
Company: EdanSafe Pty Ltd
Project: SmartCap Operator Fatigue Management System
Location: Pinjarra Hills, Queensland
EdanSafe has developed a product SmartCap, to alert driver/operator fatigue in the mining industry, in a bid to reduce injuries and accidents.
The SmartCap System consists of three parts; the main component is the SmartCap, a lightweight, non restrictive, non-intrusive EEG recording system that resembles a typical baseball cap.
The cap contains a number of sensors which measures high-fidelity brain wave activity and determines the level of drowsiness of the wearer.
Docked under the brim of the cap is an 8cm x 5cm processor card, that houses all the critical electronics, including Bluetooth communications software.
The SmartCap is paired with a device called the SmartCap Remote Display, which acts as the main user interface.
The cap relays data wirelessly using a secure Bluetooth connection to the Remote Display (permanently fitted inside the operator’s cab).
The fatigue level is displayed as a single digit number, allowing the operator to be warned by either a flashing display or audible alarm. Data can also be sent using existing infrastructure to a central computer at the site office.
Centralised monitoring of the entire fleet allows mine management to intervene if operators continue to drive with dangerously high fatigue levels.
The third component is the SmartCap Base Unit, an in-cab dock which stores and recharges the SmartCap Fatigue Processors.
Company: Nyrstar & Schneider Electric Australia
Project: Nyrstar Port Pirie Smelter
Location: Port Pirie, South Australia
Schneider Electric proposed an upgrade to the process control system that would enable Nyrstar to progressively modernise its PLCs with minimum disruption and downtime.
Nyrstar required the migration to proceed in the shortest possible timeframe, making the availability of spare parts a critical component of the project.
Partnering with Schneider Electric to implement new Modicon Quantum PLCs, meant that migrating the automation systems on-site was straightforward and Nystar was able to choose between a complete, phased or partial migration on a case by case basis.
In conjunction with system integrator GPA Engineering Pty Ltd, one of Schneider Electric’s Gold Alliance Partners, the PLC migration was completed in 12 month timeframe with minimum downtime.
At the same time the PLC migration strategy was implemented, Nyrstar chose Schneider Electric to provide a preventative maintenance program for approximately 350 variable speed drives on the Port Pirie site.
The implementation of Schneider Electric’s drives maintenance program has seen Nyrstar’s failure or problem rate reduced from at least one major event per month to one per year.
This has resulted in significant cost savings as there has been little need to replace drives due to failure.
Sponsored by Schneider Electric
As a global specialist in energy management with operations in more than 100 countries, Schneider Electric offers integrated solutions across multiple market segments, including leadership positions in Utilities & Infrastructures, Industries & Machine manufacturers, Non-residential buildings, Data centers & Networks, and in Residential. Focused on making energy safe, reliable, efficient, productive and green, the Group’s 110,000 plus employees achieved sales of 19.6 billion euros in 2010, through an active commitment to help individuals and organizations make the most of their energy.