INVESTORS AND MEDIA In the news
Making use of new technology is critical to keep up in a fast-moving world. The mining industry is no exception. In the Granny Smith Mine (GSM) Australia, Gold Fields initiated an extensive modernization program in 2018 to take their mining operations to the next level.
GSM is an underground gold mine located 740 km northeast of Perth, Western Australia. In 2018, Gold Fields launched a five-year modernization program for the site. The first phase's ambition is to ensure cost-efficiency, productivity, and a safe work environment by integrating data-driven solutions into the mine.
"We have dedicated three full-time personnel to work on the modernization program. We have also employed external consultants and contractors to assist with the integration. Together, we integrate an underground LTE system to have full connectivity in the mine,"says Michael Place, Mine Manager at GSM.
Gold Fields' investment will also have environmental effects over time as their digitalization allows them to work more sustainably.
"Moving into a more digital world is going to make sure that we are sustainable long-term. For instance, we can maintain our cost profile during expansion and follow up on our environmental footprint," Michael says.
Michael Place has worked at Gold Fields for the past seven years and now holds the Mine Manager position. He is responsible for the daily mining operation, including the modernization program. He believes that operators must combine technology from different vendors since no size fits all, therefore they apply technology-agnostic approach when implementing new technology.
Reducing inactive time underground
Historically, underground blasting has been one of the biggest time thieves in the Granny Smith Mine. They are currently losing four hours of production in a 24-hour period due to the firing. With the ongoing modernization program, Michael looks to become more efficient than before.
"Integrating technology into the mine allows us to look at options to reduce the inactive time. We can increase efficiency through autonomous equipment, remote operations, and digital solutions. The expected outcome is a 5-15% increase in productivity," says Michael.
Goldfields is learning from their peers
"The Granny Smith Mine has close to 4000 different locations, and over 100 employees are underground at the same time. It already runs 1.2 kilometers deep and, but as for any mines, it is under constant development,"he added.
Michael and his team's challenge have been maintaining the productivity profile, as the mine gets more complicated by the day. In 2019, a group from Gold Fields, Granny Smith, including General Manager Andrew Bywater, visited the Swedish mining company Boliden to study the use of the Mobilaris product suite, with focus on Mobilaris Onboard and Mobilaris Situational Awareness in the Kristineberg mine. Mobilaris Onboard, working as a car navigator underground, creates traffic awareness and a safe and effective traffic flow. Based on real-time data, Mobilaris Situational Awareness enables transparency and awareness. The information makes it possible to control the operations and resources, and people can quickly act upon what is happening and make smart decisions faster.
"Gold Fields has what we call study tours to learn about new technologies available on the market. Mobilaris Onboard already existed in some mines before GSM, so we took the time trying to understand as much as possible about the product and how we could adopt it," says Michael.
Navigational accuracy can guarantee productivity
The Australian visitors learned that the Boliden's Swedish mining staff was pleased with the products from Mobilaris. Because of data and positions shared in real-time, they had seen an increase in safety and efficiency. Today, Gold Fields has implemented both Mobilaris Onboard and Mobilaris Situational Awareness to their underground operations in the GSM.
"Mobilaris Onboard allows us to navigate to all locations underground quickly and efficiently. It will improve our productivity and decrease inactive time by reducing traffic congestion and finding equipment and machines faster. We are a haulage-constrained mine, and by reducing the cycle time of our haulage fleet, we can raise our productivity. It is a significant benefit," says Michael.
Strong customer relations allow Mobilaris to develop and test all products in real environments, as well as the possibility to bring companies to customer's sites to experience the products in use.
"Our close relationship with the customer is a crucial success factor for Mobilaris. All our solutions are tested in Boliden's and other companies' underground mines. This gives us the confidence to deliver what we promise to our customers," says Pascal Hansson, Sales Director, Mobilaris Mining & Civil Engineering.
We foresee a return on investment in 12 months
As Michael mentioned earlier, combining technology from different vendors is the best way to use data. Gold Fields has plans to use Mobilaris Situational Awareness as their number one source of information and integrate it with fleet management, inventory systems, and the daily shift scheduler. Their digital investment is expected to pay off within a year.
"The location data will synchronize with daily schedules to ensure real-time data is captured from the time jobs are planned and executed. We are looking at efficiency improvements, but we are currently introducing this technology to maintain our production profile with the increasing depth and costs. We foresee a return on investment in 12 months,"Michael concludes.
Today, the Gold Fields modernization program has full support from top to bottom and is expected to be finished over the next two years. Michael believes that it would not be possible to succeed if the project were limited to one site only. But as of now, they are all reaping the benefits of innovation.
Keeping people safe while increasing the workload
As for any industry with people and large machines in movement, it can be hard to increase effi-ciency without adversely affecting safety. Especially in a limited underground environment. During the research process, Gold Fields discovered that Mobilaris Onboard addresses specific safety issues. By sharing positional data and navigation in 3D, drivers can avoid traffic congestion and find shelter during emergencies.
"We have installed tablets in all our heavy vehicles. With Onboard''s traffic awareness fea-ture, we can minimize the vehicle-vehicle interaction and the vehicle-personnel interaction. The application also tells us where to find the three nearest refuge chambers to our location. So, if there is an emergency, we can get the quickest path to safety," says Michael.
The transition to digital solutions has worked out smoothly at the Grany Smith Mine. But it is not something they have taken for granted at the start of the implementation. Michael explains that the mining industry is not always open for change since it is a very traditional industry. So, at the GSM, there is a very elaborate plan behind the success.
"You need a well-thought-out communication strategy for what you are trying to achieve with the modernization program. At Gold Fields, we use external communication companies for marketing our modernization program to our people. It will ensure that the program's real value is understood – making it better for our people," Michael concluded.