Historic Siberian mine to become automated

Tugnuysky coal mine. Photo by SUEK.

The Siberian Coal Energy Company (SUEK ) has partnered with Zyfra Group’s subsidiary VIST Group, to develop an unmanned drilling technology at the Tugnuysky coal mine, located on the border between the Buryatia and Chita regions in south-central Siberia.

Officially created in 1989, the open-pit operation has an annual output of approximately 12.5 million tonnes of low-nitrogen hard coal, which is mainly exported to China and Japan.

SUEK, however, has said it has plans to increase the total capacity of Tugnuysky and the neighbouring Nikolsky mine to reach about 13.6 million tonnes a year with the idea of raising deliveries to Asian markets by 50% by 2021.

The system incorporates an on-board computer with independent control software which contains the basic logic of the drill control, I / O controllers for controlling analogue and discrete signals, and a set of environmental scanning sensors

In the miner’s view, these growth plans require modernizing the way work is done. Management engaged VIST to develop a custom, unmanned drilling technology that only requires direct human interaction once, when the drill operator moves the equipment to the required stack in manual mode. Once this is done, another employee remotely sets a drilling plan for the drill rig and starts the independent operation mode.

According to VIST, the system’s built-in safety algorithms will be responsive to equipment and employees performing auxiliary work in its surroundings, which means that the drill’s movements will vary depending on whether there are nearby elements or not.

If necessary, a remote operator can take control of the equipment during any process operation. “Specialists will be able to remotely control the engines, compressors and controllers, moving, turning, mast raising and lowering mechanisms, assembly of the drilling unit, the braking system, drilling itself, etc. In addition, the dispatcher will deal with security issues such as the admission of equipment and people to the automated site,” the tech firm said in a media release.

VIST also said that the automated system includes satellite navigation and special drill control programmes that are activated when directly approaching a specific location and that are able to provide pointing accuracy of up to 10 centimetres. Routes for the drill’s movement between the wells can also be developed.

To create such a solution, the Moscow-based company will equip a conventional Epiroc Pit Viper 27 drill with sensors to ensure accuracy and reliability. Then, it will record the entire data set on its operation, and the initial and changing conditions will be compared with the drilling parameters and the driver’s commands. The resulting information will be the input used to configure and optimise the drilling algorithm.

“The newly developed solution will become a part of the Intelligent Mine system, making it possible in the future to centralise control over several drills simultaneously, including simultaneous operation of these rigs in the same stack,” VIST’s press release reads.

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