An underground nickel mine in Western Australia has deployed the Digital Drift System to remotely operate their underground loaders from the surface. The loaders are fitted with RCT’s ControlMaster Guidance System and work across ore drives on multiple levels. Digital Drift connected eleven levels to the surface at a fraction of the cost of the fibre alternative, and was installed by the mine’s own tradespeople.
The Challenge This nickel mine, as with any underground mining operation, comes with numerous challenges for communication networks. In this case, the mine moves between stopes often so the remote control cabins are fitted in the rear of Landcruiser personnel carriers, allowing them to be driven to the required level for each shift. This mining approach means there are a large number of levels with operational stopes at any time, and until now it had not been economical to connect them to the surface with fibre. As a result, remote control operations could only be performed from the underground mobile cabins and had to be suspended across shift changes (twice a day) as all personnel left the mine for blasting and re-entry procedures. Across this window, several hours of potential loading time was being lost.
The Solutions The mine deployed the Digital Drift System to connect eleven working levels to the surface at a fraction of the cost of the fibre alternative. Digital Drift was chosen because:
- There was no need to install additional fibre.
- The mine’s own tradespeople could install, commission and support it.
- The native Ethernet capability of Digital Drift allows Wi-Fi access points and IP cameras to be added to the system.
- The system was installed by the mine’s own trades, including cables, network devices, UPS’ and connectors.
- In seven days the entire system was installed and commissioned.
- The cost was less than a third of the fibre alternative and external contractors were not required to install and maintain it.
- Surface operation is just as responsive as underground.