Australian Underground Mines Leading in Technology?
Australia is known to harbor and promote an expansive mining industry. Due to its vast remoteness in much of the country and its devotion to working inclusively with aboriginal groups, the country has successfully exploited its mineral resources.
Because of this booming industry in Australia, many of the leading open-pit mining software and technology companies are based in the country. Not only is it a safe jurisdiction to mine in, Australia is also known as a business-friendly place for creative disruptors of technology within the industry. Now, with the presence of Newtrax, underground mining in Australia now has specific IoT solutions available to them with a team familiar to the region.
Simon Waghorn came to Newtrax in September of 2017 as the Regional Vice President for the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region which includes the former Soviet-Union to the Pacific Islands; Australia and New Zealand. Throughout his 25-year career in mining and industry technology, Simon gained knowledge in Operational Technology based solutions.
Simon was enticed to join the Newtrax team because of the little underground technology available. He found Newtrax technology to be innovative and in high demand. On top of that, he knew the management team was vibrant enough to make technology work in underground mines.
Simon has a focus on Australia, a major mining country, who is ahead of the curve in technology across the world.
“In Australia there is a significant uptake or at least a level of interest of these types of technologies and the value that they can deliver. We are seeing that from the Tier 1 players in the market, as well as the Tier 2 players predominantly in gold and copper. They are typically the leaders of these types of technologies.” says Simon.
The foundation of underground mining technologies does have roots from its open-pit neighbours. Technology in the open-pit has been advancing and adopted for quite a significant period of time. There has been a drive to try and push as much technology coming out of other industries into the open-pit with communications such as Wifi and LTE along with production software and asset management programs.
“Generically, those have been very successful and have added another level of professionalism to the open-pit. Saying that, it has become quite crowded in terms of the technologies that are there. Some big players have taken up major shares of those markets. In the underground mining technologies, however, there was very little,” he said.
In 2016 Newtrax placed its mark in underground mining technologies with the acquisition of the mining division of ISAAC Instruments Inc. From that moment, Newtrax became the world leader in Underground Mobile Equipment Telemetry.
Currently, in Australia, the Newtrax Mobile Equipment Telemetry (MET) system is being deployed in mines where fleets include different OEMs in order for the data of these mixed fleets to be collected and analyzed in one place. This MET system makes it easier and more cost efficient for mining companies to manage diversified equipment productivity.
For example, Simon and his Newtrax team are currently conducting a trial of this technology in a large block cave Australian mine. The mine site has a fleet of Sandvik loaders and a fleet of Caterpillar loaders. With the MET data loggers, the operational requirements of these loaders are the same. Now, with Newtrax, the same data can be collected from each fleet, put into a single database, and compared. This can contribute tremendously to operational optimizations, productivity, detection of defects, and unplanned maintenance mine-wide.
Before the deployment of the MET system, the amount of data captured was limited. Operators would call into management and report where the truck was and what it was doing. Now, with the Newtrax Mobile Equipment Telemetry system, the operators are able to locate their vehicles directly on their screens, saving them a lot of time and cutting down tremendous costs.
These are only a few examples of how IoT systems can deliver value to the underground mining sector by increasing productivity and making the work environment safer.
Australia seems to be embracing this paradigm shift and is well-positioned to reap the benefits of being an early adopter of technologies that can make underground mines safer, more productive, and more environmentally friendly.