“If you build a machine for teleoperation, you don’t need to provide for the comfort and protection of an operator,” said Hard-Line president Walter Siggelkow. “There’s no seat, no air conditioning, no padding. You don’t have to worry about how the operator gets into the machine. You don’t need rollover protection.
“One of the problems with remote control equipment is not being able to see over the cab. That’s not a problem with this machine because there is no cab.”
The new design reduces the height, weight and the cost of the machine, said Siggelkow.
“We put remote control systems on LHDs, bulldozers, different types of drills, and excavators – everything from MP50 Bobcats to D11s – and the problem we’re continually faced with is the hurdle of the operator. There are applications now where you cannot do the job with an operator on the machine, so why use a machine that’s built for an operator?”
Breaking with convention, Hard-Line decided to equip the machine with an excavator to assist in the mucking operation.
“I’m a student of life,” said Siggelkow. “Everywhere I go, I look at how people do things. I look at how processes are handled. If you look at road construction anywhere in the world, no one uses a front-end loader to move blasted rock. It’s always done with an excavator, but when you go into an underground mine, they use a loader.
“In a long hole blast situation, they blast down this block of material that has the weight of the material sitting on it.
Then, they have a loader at the bottom attempting to pick up the material. They’re trying to get the bucket into the pile with all that weight sitting on it and then pull the muck out. To do that, you need a huge machine with huge amounts of power, whereas in an open pit operation or a gravel pit, you’re using an excavator.
“With an excavator, you can select the material you’re picking up and pull the material towards you. All the bucket is for is to collect the material.”
Rather than sell the machine, Hard-Line Solutions intends to enter the contracting business.
“It’s a highly customized application that requires a communication system and expertise to operate and maintain it,” said Siggelkow. “It would be operated from surface. The only person who goes underground is the maintenance person.”
The technology is ideal for narrow vein gold mines in Timmins, Kirkland Lake and Quebec’s Abitibi region, he said.
Discussions with several mines are in progress for trial runs.
Established in 1996, Hard-Line Solutions has equipped between 600 and 700 machines around the world with radio remote control systems, and has been particularly successful in South and Central America.
Exports to Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil account for more than 40 per cent of its sales. Most of the remote control systems it sells are for loaders in underground block hole caving operations, but it also won a contract to supply radio remote control systems for bulldozers and surface drills at Codelco’s Chuquicamata open pit in Chile.
“We give our customers really good service and when they look to buy new systems, they just come back to us,” said Siggelkow.
The company has agents and trained technicians in Chile, Peru, Brazil and Argentina and is in the process of establishing a relationship in Mexico.
Being able to provide support within the region eliminates delays caused by shipping and customs clearance, and speeds up parts replacement and repairs.
Hard-Line Solutions also boasts solid relationships closer to home. Xstrata, for example, has standardized on the company’s radio remote control systems for underground equipment at Sudbury operations, Kidd Creek and Raglan.
By insisting on Hard-Line Solutions radio-remote control systems for underground equipment, mining companies don’t have to stock as many spare parts and safety is enhanced, said Siggelkow, because “Everyone understands exactly how it works.
“When you get a new machine in, the remote control is going to be exactly the same as the one you had before.
“In the 15 years I’ve been in this business, the major equipment manufacturers have changed the remote control systems they supply six or seven times. You buy a bunch of spare parts, you put them on your shelf, you send your people out to get trained and then, all of a sudden it’s a different system. With our system, everyone gets trained once.”
Hard-Line Solutions can be found at Booth 8485 at MINExpo.