Five LHDs, one locomotive and one rock breaker equipped with Hard-Line
Goldcorp’s Red Lake Complex is aggressively rolling out teleop technology from Sudbury-based Hard-Line Solutions based on early indications of significant productivity gains.
Kent Cook, superintendent of operational excellence, innovation and energy, claims the mine is achieving approximately 1,500 additional hours of mucking time and a five per cent improvement in mucking productivity with five teleop-equipped loaders.
The Red Lake Complex uses several different flavours of teleoperation, including line of sight, surface operation from a teleop control room and semi-autonomous operation depending on the environment and application.
“The inherent nature of teleoperation is that you need to isolate the zone you’re operating in to ensure the safety of personnel, so there are occasions when the only opportunity to operate using teleremote technology is between shifts,” explained Cook.
The Red Lake Complex operates on 10.5-hour shifts, leaving three to four hours of time between shifts when remote mucking is possible.
Additionally, one loader is configured to operate semi-autonomously in an area of the mine that’s designed to keep miners out of harm’s way. This loader can be teleoperated around the clock.
“The operator on surface still has to load and dump, but the loader trams independently,” said Cook.
In addition to the five loaders, the Red Lake Complex has also equipped a locomotive and a rock breaker for teleoperation.
“We have the ability to control the chutes that the ore is coming out of, the locomotive, as well as the dump into the next ore or waste pass,” noted Cook. “We also have the capability to perform these functions automatically.” This allows the operator to keep an eye on the locomotive, while also operating a loader.
Cook attributes the five per cent improvement in mucking efficiency to there being fewer distractions operating equipment from the five chairs in the teleop control room on surface.
“It’s safe to say with a reasonable level of confidence that we have overall improved productivity, including mucking rates, material handling rates, even development and overall stope cycle rates as a result of being able to move material quicker,” said Cook.
Aside from being more productive, teleoperation is also safer because operators are removed from the mining environment and work in a well-ventilated, well-lit, comfortable workspace.
“Some operators are seasoned veterans with experience operating loaders underground, while others – young males and females – have virtually no experience and are able to hop on the chairs and, with some training, operate the loaders remotely.”
According to Cook, approximately 20 per cent of the mine’s muck is currently being moved using Hard-Line Solutions’ technology, but that will increase as more of the mine’s 20 loaders are equipped with the technology.