North American Palladium – NAP (www.napalladium.com – Toronto, Ontario) is the only pure palladium producer in the world. NAP has a mandate to turn its Lac des Iles mine into an innovation center; the mission is to create the most automated, efficient, and technically advanced mine in North America. NAP seeks to become a leader in technology enabled mining and are committed to investing in infrastructure to support the mine of the future.
The current project has been divided into 3 phases.
Phase 1 – COMPLETE – Vehicle Tracking – Haul Truck Cycle / Idle Monitoring
Phase 1’s objective was to install infrastructure to monitor the movement of ore/waste from the working sections to the ore passes. The goal was to provide mine management with a real-time understanding of the efficiencies and effectiveness of the mines underground activities.This required the provisioning of Wi-Fi access points on most levels, monitoring the activity of haul trucks, at ore pickup and dump points. Wi-Fi tracking tags, installed on the haul trucks, are monitored using NLT’s Digital Mine Software’s Tracking Module. Digital Mine custom pages, have been developed to monitor the time it takes for a haul truck to cycle between pick up and dump as well as where and when trucks are idle.
The implementation of Phase 1 provided valuable insight into employee behaviour, as well as the locations of “choke points” or inefficiencies in the mine’s current processes. The resulting corrective measures have significantly improved productivity.
Phase 1 also included the implementation of the following application peripherals:
- The installation of Symboticware’s vehicle telemetry solution, on the mine’s haul trucks. Symoticware allows the mine to monitor in real-time, key performance indicators such as vehicle runtime, engine, RPM’s, oil pressure and tire pressure.
- Monitoring of ore pass levels, enabled by Accutron laser range-finding technology.
- Gas (CO, O2, Methane) and ventilation airflow monitoring provided by Accutron FLOWTRAX & CLIMATRAX
The infrastructure installed during Phase 1 will provide the technology foundation for future phases as the mine expands its underground network.
Phase 2 – ON-GOING-Technology & Application Investment
Phase 2’s objective involved the expansion of the mines underground Wi-Fi coverage on the working levels, and ramps, to allow for more granular tracking of additional vehicles and personnel. Wi-Fi tracking tags were installed on the mine’s scoops, and in the miner’s cap lamps. The expanded tracking of miners and additional assets, will allow a more effective deployment of tradespeople and other key personnel. The system will also enable management to make tactical business decisions mid-shift, to meet operational demands on a real-time basis.
In support of Phase 2, the following additions were made to NLT’s Digital Mine Software; an API allowing Centrix Mine Management software, access to various data tables, an Emergency Evacuation module, designed to monitor the mustering of miners in the event of an emergency, and the addition of NLTV sreens that will chart in real-time the cycle times of up to 6 haul trucks per screen.
Phase 2 will also see the installation of additional Accutron Gas and Airflow monitoring stations, as well as laser levels for their ore passes.
Phase 3 – Remote Tele-operations & Mine Automation
Phase 3’s objective is to expand the mines Wi-Fi network to allow remote operation and automation of vehicles, with the purpose of minimizing the number of staff required underground during hazardous operations, and improve operational efficiency. This will be achieved through two projects that involve installing control electronics that enable operators to control equipment from the surface through remote operation or automation:
- Automation of post-blast mucking to optimize muck time window while personnel shift changes occur. This is achieved through automation and wireless remote control of scoops and other heavy equipment.
- Automation of haul trucks to transport ore and waste between zones of interest.
Northern Light Technologies has provided:
- N-Connex Edge
- NLT Bolt – Single Radio PoE Access Points with tracking firmware.
- NLT Wireless Personnel & Vehicle Tracking tags
- Pre-terminated 100m lengths of Ethernet CAT6 cable
- NLT Digital Mine tracking, management, evacuation and environmental monitoring software suite.
- NLT Wireless Personnel & Vehicle Tracking tags
- Systems Engineering and Integration of third party equipment – Accutron FLOWTRAX CLIMATRAX, Accutron laser range-finder, Symboticware Symbot Vehicle Telemetry.
- Network systems integration, system commissioning.
- The introduction of remote operated and autonomous vehicles face a number of challenges:The installation of a Wi-Fi network that can support the operational demands of the system. NLT’s network is robust and can meet the system requirements for teleoperations.
- Ministry approval. Legislation currently prohibits the operation of autonomous vehicles in any area in which personnel are present. The mine is operating according to legislation and only operates autonomous vehicles between shifts, when personnel are not present.