Technology and automation are increasingly playing a key role in the mining landscape, and compatibility between systems and manufacturers is essential. In mining automation systems, easy integration into workflows and the ability to deliver value to customers' operations are essential features.
This interoperable approach is being met with great success by the team at RCT, a technologically agnostic mining automation specialist with a global reach.
“We look at our client’s machines in two separate ways," comments David Holman, Chief Operations Officer for RCT.
“Firstly, we deliver a system that allows for automation of the mobile fleet. We then explore additional integration layers to systems external to these machines. This can include, for example, seamless dataflows into a project’s Fleet Management or Mine Control systems.”
The philosophy of open design allows RCT’s systems to be moulded to any manufacturer’s mobile fleets and various mining-focused data software packages. Providing miners an “open-ended” service provider in automation, irrespective of fleet manufacturer or mine systems implemented onsite.
RCT is well known for its ControlMaster® automation offer however, its expertise extends beyond this, leveraging flexible data networks across the mine. Traffic Management, Data and Information, Protection Systems and Fleet Management are emerging and equally important solutions that RCT is offering its clients.
This gives RCT a competitive advantage amongst its peers via expertise in cross-platform integration, in open pit and underground mining. Delivering a malleable framework for automation that not only allows simple implementation but offers near-endless scale.
“The very start of our development process is delivered by broad enablers, these are scoped by our automation specialists and then shared with our Proof-of-Concept (PoC) team. They then look at ways to integrate these latest ideas into our existing offer,” shares Holman.
The business was originally founded in Kalgoorlie, the gold mining hub of Western Australia, and now has multiple offices across the globe. With four service branches dotted across Australia, and international offices in Salt Lake City, USA, Sudbury, Canada, Santiago, Chile and a South Africa-based team in Johannesburg.
A clear business mantra that is always utilised with clients both old and new, is only engaging in projects that deliver tangible benefits to the customer.
“We deliver to our customers across their different operations. Sometimes they will have the requirements to interconnect with multiple different OEM machines and several intermeshed software packages, across their global operations,” highlights Brendon Cullen, Head of Product Management at RCT.
“Whilst this can be challenging, one of our core focuses is to enhance production for our customers. This means that all our systems must fundamentally add value to our customer’s mining methodologies before we would even suggest a solution to them.”
The ControlMaster® system delivers a fully autonomous, proven package for load-haul-dump cycles, but this is just the beginning of the business’ capabilities. Other mobile plant beyond traditional underground loaders have been able to be semi-automated for improved operational outcomes.
An existing example of this would be the utilisation of a semi-autonomous haul truck Guidance System, which dramatically improved the clarity and speed at which haul trucks were able to operate within the underground complex.
RCT’s technology relocates machine operators to secure operations stations on the mine’s surface but they also implement the technology in major cities and eliminate the need for operators to travel to a site at all.
“We are working with one of our most technologically focused customers and deploying a Remote Operating Centre (ROC) at their Head Office in Perth, WA which is connected to their loader fleet onsite, nearly 740km away,” said Holman.
“This offers significant operational efficiencies for our client in terms of how they manage their workforce and empowers operators to switch between different mobile plants at a moment’s notice”. “Autonomous loading is now a given for our customer’s underground operations, we are experts in its delivery. However, we want to build on this knowledge and create new expectations of what automation can look like,” shared Holman.
This concept extends well beyond the mobile plant used and has started to focus on the wider project ecosystem. For instance, RCT is working with a major client in Latin America to implement its Traffic Management system which will direct autonomous fleet operations with minimal operator input.
“Our ControlMaster® technology will manage actual loader operations but Traffic Management will sit on top of that and determine which loader has right of way in the block cave mine and independently issue commands for the machines to either stop or continue tramming,” explains Holman.
RCT has built its reputation on stable, scalable mining automation systems.
The networks that these systems use is becoming more widespread and dependable in the mining environment, opening new areas to explore with customers.
“The networks used at mining projects now allow for much more data and automation across the board. Fixed infrastructure, fan shoots and more complex traffic management around automated fleets have all become focuses that we are exploring with our clients.”
RCT is also working extensively in the surface automation space, with several Vehicle Control projects underway involving both light vehicles and heavy mobile equipment.
Their experience in machine control integration positions the company as the global leader in delivering the latest Vehicle Control technologies in automation, collision avoidance and remote control technologies.
The company recently worked with a leading supplier of Collision Avoidance Systems (CAS) and deployed Level 9 intervention technology across a mixed fleet of 120 haul trucks for a major mining operation in Australia.
The team at RCT is focused on collaborating with their customers to define and execute automation and digital adoption in their mining projects. The ability to blend tailored solutions, as well as conceptualise and deliver unique projects, put RCT in a distinctive place in the mining ecosystem. Allowing for streamlined assessment, delivery, and return on investment for their customer base.