AMIDST tough times mining firms are striving for maximum productivity at minimum operating cost to increase profitability. The productivity of mining operations essentially depends on efficient management and effective utilization of fleets. The increasingly complex nature of material handling and haulage in open cast and underground mines necessitates a fool-proof system for effective management of machinery in order to achieve higher productivity coupled with low operating costs.

Fleet management systems have attracted considerable attention in recent years due to the substantial gains in productivity achieved through implementation. These systems not only increase equipment and operational efficiency, they provide a safer working environment for miners though systematic planning and deployment of heavy mining machinery.

Introduction

A fleet management system is an integrated system with a GPS mounted on the operating equipment assimilated with a remote computer through interface software. It includes various modules such as dynamic vehicle movement monitoring, location tracking, mechanical diagnostics and driving conditions. These parameters ensure efficient, productive and safe mining conditions, and answer some of the key concerns faced by miners such as longer cycle times, machinery overload, poor utilization and improper material movement.

Fleet management systems ensure material is transported to stack or dumping site with minimum cycle time by using the appropriate demarcated haul routes and by carrying optimum load. Haul road congestion can be eliminated which leads to minimum turnaround time, and hence increases productivity and utilization of mining machinery.

Use in open cast mines

All open cast mines contain operating heavy equipment which means effective fleet management is a prerequisite for equipment allocation, production planning and dynamic monitoring of equipment from a centralized location, thus providing continuous information about equipment availability and material movement within and outside the mine pit limits. In addition, these systems regularize haul road traffic flow within the mine thereby reducing the turnaround time by 5-10%, thus improving productivity by 8-12%.

In addition, there is a direct correlation between pit and haul road conditions, and productivity. Well surfaced roads with a gradient in the range of 1-in-14 to 1-in-16 and free from potholes reduce corrugation and rolling resistance. Poor road and mining conditions also lead to wear and tear of consumables, which leads to an increase in maintenance costs of the machinery and hence, the cost of contract. Efficiency loss in equipment can lead to a decrease in mine productivity. By implementing fleet management systems the existing problems can be reduced to a great extent.

Underground mines

Underground mines require a greater degree of machinery planning and process optimization as the entire process is continuous. The overall performance of all stages, such as drilling and blasting, needs to be planned with the production machinery since equipment usage is synchronous with all operations. The performance of machinery should be synchronized with other mine operations so that problems associated with other aspects of underground mines such as drilling, blasting, etc. does not affect the production operation adversely.

In this way fleet management systems in underground mines assume significant importance. By implementing a system, mine managers hope to minimize the downtime at hung-up draw points through effective maintenance and coordination, therefore increasing the throughput of an underground mine.

Maximizing productivity

Fleet management technologies maximize productivity at minimum operating cost:

  • Mine managers use GPS enabled Truck Dispatch Systems (GTDS) to track vehicle location, speed and condition, thereby reducing the risk of mine accidents, high maintenance cost and fuel thefts. Remote sensing systems and satellite imagery techniques are used for mine surveying so that a geological mapping grid pattern is obtained. Through proper utilization of GTDS systems, mines have achieved productivity increases of 10 to 15%.
  • Fuel additives provide around 10 to 15% fuel savings. Additives such as EVO-MT reduce operational costs and improve sustainability by substituting fuel with lower cost and cleaner natural gas. By using EVO-MT, dump trucks are able to run on 50 to 70% of their total requirement of fuel. Another fuel additive, Dipetane, improves fuel efficiency and reduces emissions of particulates, sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide, hydrocarbons and carbon dioxide.
  • Machines powered with new greener technology provide higher productivity due to better torque, less downtime, optimum payload and lesser fuel consumption. A reduction of fuel consumption ensures greater refilling intervals and hence increases the machinery utilization rate and in turn overall equipment effectiveness.
  • A trained operator has the potential to save fuel (up to 3-4%) by operating the equipment in an appropriate mode.

Effective fleet management

A major gold mining company was facing challenges pertaining to vehicle collisions in mines with poor management of fleets and lack of situational awareness of drivers being the major reasons for this.

A fleet management and dispatch system (proximity detection and speed alert system) was installed to increase operational capability by reducing vehicle collisions. Speed alert systems measured the GPS velocity of equipment, which was compared with the upper and lower limits prescribed for certain points along the route.

The proximity detection modules monitor locations of heavy and light equipment through satellite signals. Warning signals are sent if two or more equipment units are in close proximity to each other. This has led to an increase in the material hauling rate per hour, and also higher productivity of machinery was realized after the system implementation.

Primary sources: Industry experts

Secondary sources: Supplier catalogues and case studies - http://modularmining.com/cat-media/case-studies/; www.wencomine.com/news/; www.catminestarsystem.com/articles/coal-mining-fleet-management-systems-address-three-big-challenges; https://mining.cat.com/products/technology; www.gfs-corp.com/download/GFS_7930SpecSheet_09.17.pdf

About the author: Sumeet Singh is a research analyst in the mining domain at Beroe Inc. He is responsible for projects in underground mining category and related services. He has worked on different projects pertaining to metals and mining and has published a paper on ‘Mine Water Management Strategies in Dry Areas of Chile’ in the international conference, Mine Water Solutions. Sumeet Singh is a graduate (B.Tech) in Civil Engineering from NIT Tiruchirappalli.

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