Remote Charging Removes Workers from High Risk Areas

The development face is one of the most significant hazard areas of an underground mine, particularly in seismically active ground with geotechnical hazards such as ground fails, stress induced failure and rock bursting. 

Industry members have long identified the need to minimize exposure, particularly for charge-up crews who are most at risk due to the length of time required at the mining face to perform their tasks.

CMIC’s RCU project promises to provide a solution that is both efficient and cost-effective.

RCU is a project that started in 2019 when Olitek Mining Robotics began developing its innovative Trigger Assembly technology, which uses conventional detonator technology in combination with remote charge-up solutions. This will remove personnel to at least four or five meters from the underground development face while avoiding the need for costly wireless detonation solutions.

Newcrest Mining and Olitek approached CMIC with the technology, and CMIC’s members agreed that RCU could redefine the approach to remote charge-up at the development face. Another CMIC consortium project was conceived.

“As part of the global mining industry’s need for a safe means of undertaking face prep and charge-up processes, this collaboration will deliver viable mechanized hole cleaning and charge-up capability, supporting the industry’s drive towards safe, deep development and mine development in high stress environments,” said the consortium partners. 

Olitek has developed the sub-systems, including the trigger assembly, vision and control systems, coarse and fine positioning systems, hole inspection, cleanout and the tie-in module. These sub-systems are now ready to be integrated into the system. The CMIC consortium will be pulling those pieces together to design, build and test a prototype.

The project is now moving into phase 5.1, which will include the following:

  1. Trigger Assembly TRL6.2 site placement trial (postponed from Package 4 due to COVID impact)
  2. Semi-Autonomous Positioning System (SAPS) DELTA V1 development & system updates
  3. Vision System development
  4. SubSystem integration: 6T SAPS + Tie-In Module (T.I.M.)
  5. Subsystem development: tie-in module
  6. Subsystem development: 16T Positioning System and procurement and incorporation of 16T carrier
  7. Test Wall reconfiguration for 16T Carrier Platform

The project proposal and scope for phase 5.2 is currently under development.

The project execution approach utilized by Olitek in co-developing with the customer to deliver the product needed has accelerated the speed of innovation. It will likewise accelerate the pace of deployment in this project. 

One of the most promising aspects of this technology is that it utilizes existing, non-electric blasting technology for hole priming that can be used manually and remotely. This technology will make the system cost-effective for operators to deploy, unlike other technologies currently under development that use wireless detonating techniques that are very expensive.

Prototype machine test trials are planned for early to mid-2023, and the system should be ready for commercialization as early as mid to late 2023.

As with all CMIC consortium projects, RCU provides an opportunity for accelerated development and deployment of technologies in an environment where partners share the risks and rewards.

Learn more about the Remote Charging Unit project here.

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Mike Stuart

Head of Sales , Intel