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Orica, Epiroc to debut Avatel mechanized underground development charging system in Australia

Avatel, the world’s first mechanized underground charging system. Credit: Orica.

The world’s first mechanized development blast charging system, Avatel is set to enter Newcrest Mining’s (TSX: NCM; ASX: NCM) Cadia underground mine in the later half of 2022 as the first commercial trial in the world. 

Co-developed by Orica and Epiroc, Avatel is a first-of-its-kind semi-automated explosives delivery  system designed to remove people from harm’s way and drive productivity during underground development. The innovation enables a single operator to prepare and wirelessly charge a development face from within the safety of an enclosed cabin, while providing superior blast control and operational reliability with Orica and Epiroc’s flagship technologies. 

A critical enabler of Avatel is the second generation wireless initiation initiating system, WebGen 200, which will eliminate the need for wired connections and subsequent exposure to crews at the face, enabling continued and safe access, even in poor or seismic ground conditions, to accelerate the development cycle. 

“We are proud and excited that Newcrest have continued to place their trust in us by being the first site globally to trial Avatel,” said Orica chief technology officer Angus Melbourne. “They have provided invaluable advice throughout the design and development of the system, which we are truly grateful for. Together, we eagerly await the delivery of the first Avatel unit as it will herald the start of a new era for safer and productive underground development charging.”  

“We do expect teething issues as is common when deploying any new technology,” added Newcrest’s group manager for directional studies and innovation Tony Sprague. “However, it will  be well worth it if we can ensure our tunnel faces are charged with all human work completed from the safety and comfort of Avatel’s operator cabin.” 

Avatel is currently undergoing trials at Epiroc’s Kvantorp underground test mine in Sweden under controlled conditions before heading to Agnico Eagle’s Kittila mine in Finland to complete extended underground trials in the production environment.

Australia will receive the first commercial unit in the second half of 2022, with Canada following closely toward the end of the year.

(This article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)