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ABB secures integrated automation, power system order for Gold Fields' Salares Norte mine - Mining Weekly

Monday, 27 September 2021

Industrial technologies multinational ABB will provide six electrical rooms and an integrated digital system solution based on the ABB Ability 800xA distributed control system (DCS) to gold miner Gold Fields' Salares Norte operation, in a remote region of northern Chile.

The digital solution helps to overcome remote location and climatic instability challenges at the $834-million Salares Norte mining project in the Atacama desert.

The openpit gold/silver mine project is located in the Atacama desert among the highest peaks of the Andes mountain range. It is 1 300 km from the Chilean capital Santiago and has elevations between 4 200 m and 4 900 m.

"The digital aspect is critical to this project due to its remote location, with the nearest town being Diego de Almagro, 180 km away, the altitude of the project and adverse weather conditions, which make site access and fieldwork difficult especially during the winter," says Gold Fields Salares Norte project director Max Combes.

"Gold Fields has developed digital infrastructure through initiatives at operations around the world. ABB's complete solution, integrated engineering and remote operations technology will enable us to build on this digital capability and overcome the particular challenges at Salares Norte," he notes.

As a common platform for the monitoring of productive, operation and support areas, ABB's system will reduce technical risks and the number of interfaces to enable Gold Fields to unify processes at the highest level. The electrical system is fully integrated via the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standard 61850, which ensures total control and visibility for the plant operations. ABB is also providing engineering and project management, ABB reports.

Further, the scope of the order also includes a dynamic process simulator to allow checks on all control logics and for operator training purposes and will enable realistic operator training.

"The simulator will allow for shorter and more efficient start-ups on site. It will also support the training requirements, meaning Gold Fields will have several accredited operators with the right skills for high-quality operations," says ABB in Chile solutions manager Iván Villegas.

"Together with Gold Fields, we can demonstrate over the long term that ABB's control systems connect and perform their functions in totally isolated areas within satellite range and with minimal latency. It is an opportunity to modernise mining and showcase the benefits that digital transformation brings by controlling and supporting the mining plant and equipment at Salares Norte from 1 300 km away," notes ABB in Chile mining account manager Cristian Gallegos.

Meanwhile, in parallel with this project, ABB proposed and was part of an initiative together with Gold Fields to successfully connect different ABB technologies between Santiago and the Salares Norte project. Using satellite telematics, the team carried out remote control and monitoring of smart electric motors and a simulation of telemedicine care between the two locations.

The tests were carried out in isolated areas, but within reach of the satellite and through a connection controlled by ABB Ability System 800xA and conventional mobile equipment with minimal latency.

Salares Norte is expected to produce 3.7-million ounces of gold over an initial mine life of 11 years and is estimated to be a $834-million expenditure project. 

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