Why Measuring Loads Per Cycle is so Important in Underground Mining

Glencore Matagami mine has recently been able to observe some great productivity ROIs since using the Newtrax Mobile Equipment Telemetry system.  This included:

  • a 5-6%  increase in Utilization on their ore haulage
  • a 4% increase in their Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)
  • a 5% increase in their Loads per Cycle

In this blog post we will dive deeper into the topic of Loads per Cycle by sharing a Q&A with one of our experts on the subject, Craig Banks, VP Canada-USA at Newtrax.

Q: What are loads per cycle?

A: Put plainly, loads per cycle is a measure of haul truck efficiency. Or at least that’s how it’s used in underground mines. In terms of recent Newtrax client engagement such as Matagami, loads per cycle is average payload, literally the weight of the rock carried in a haul truck during one trip from the active mining area to a stockpile, or to a waste dump. This is most often measured in tonnes, and it has a variant which can be either represented by actual tonnes or a percentage.

Q: At a mine, how do you measure loads per cycle?

A: There are several ways to do it. One method that’s commonly used in surface mines is to have a truck scale at static locations in the mine, somewhat like a truck scale on the side of a highway that measures the weight of a loaded truck. In mining, principally in surface mine where a loaded truck would drive up onto a scale, you would weigh the entire thing. Knowing the approximate weight of a truck, you can actually figure out what the resulting payload is. So that’s kind of the way it’s been done for a long time, there’s a few limitations with that type of system.

Q: What are those limitations, is there a better time to measure the load?

A: Traditionally, systems give you a payload per cycle, or a load per cycle, but it’s measured during the cycle. So a truck that has a 45-tonne capacity might have 42 tonnes in its bed. Knowing that is great, but you can’t do anything about it. Because it’s measured halfway through the cycle, you can’t add material to the truck. Having the measurement at the loading stage, which is what Newtrax has done at Matagami, enables the operators to do something about it.

Q: What can be done with all this data?

A: Having all these rich sets of data allows companies like Newtrax to apply machine learning algorithms to build intelligence down the road. So, your mine planning engineers would look at that information and say, “Well, in the future, we need to plan better” or “In the future, this operator needs to be trained to do it differently.” That’s kind of the historical and the analytical end of it. But by recording data the way we do it, not only do you make it available for a rich data set for analysis, but you also make it available to operators, even real or near real time so that they can actually do something about it. And in underground mines, the supervisor isn’t sitting there watching. You’re lucky if the supervisor sees the operator once a day. So the decisions need to happen with the operator, where they can see what’s going on and intervene. It’s both an analytics tool so you can do your planning better and it’s a production tool.

Q: At Matagami, Newtrax has installed scoreboards on the trucks. What are the benefits of these scoreboards?

A: It’s funny in that we get either lovers or haters immediately and we always convert them over because scoreboards are awesome. But the truth is, payload systems have had in-dash scoreboards for quite some time on surface mines but they’re not always used well. If you just have it shown to the truck driver, you kind of have to go back to who’s in charge of the loading event: is it the truck driver or is it the loader operator? Frequently most of the time it’s the loader operator. And so if the information is visible only to the truck driver, probably nobody’s going to do anything about it. The idea of putting the scoreboard on the side of the truck is it facilitates communication between the two operators; it makes it so that as a loader operator is putting the payload in the back of the truck, you’re seeing in real time what that payload looks like. And so if you get the third bucket in the back of the truck and you happen to load lower density material than usual, you might have a little bit more space, maybe there’s an opportunity to do something about it. The loader operator and the truck driver looking at the same information are forced to have a conversation. So the first thing they do is they get on the radio and say “Hey, look, hang on a sec, I might be able to squeeze a little bit more in there.” And they do.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this Q&A coming out shortly!