Arnon - Digitalisation taking over mines

Sandvik: Digitalisation taking over mines

Solid rock at depths of up to four kilometres is impenetrable to the eye. With digital solutions by Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology, mines can achieve transparency of production and improve safety, productivity and profitability.


While digitalisation is already a reality in many areas of manufacturing, the global mining industry has only recently woken to the many advantages it offers.

– “Right now, mines are very excited about digitalisation. Nearly all of our customers have formed or are in the process of forming digitalisation strategies. Each mine is unique, and the same tools may not be suited for everyone. Over the past two and a half years, we have observed a marked shift in customer behaviour as understanding has grown of the increasing importance of automation and digitalisation,” says Business Line Manager Ville Svensberg, responsible for the digitalisation of Sandvik mining equipment in the Asia-Pacific region based in Australia.

Digitalisation represents a major shift that affects both people and electronic systems. For a variety of reasons, its introduction has been and remains a challenge for many types of business operations. They find themselves in unfamiliar territory and are often unsure where to begin or what kinds of systems and equipment are needed. Some companies have been reluctant to invest in digitalisation over fears of its impact on employees and workplaces. Still others have shown interest in the new technologies but may lack the necessary funding.

Ville Svensberg, Sandvik

Optimising processes through data collection

Sandvik divides digitalisation into three pillars. The first pillar is formed by devices connected together over a network. To achieve this, the customer must build an underground communications network that allows mining equipment with smart sensors to communicate with the control room. The sensors are used to control the equipment, collect data and transfer it aboveground to a database in the cloud or on a local server.

The second pillar of digitalisation includes automated functions that assist mining equipment, as well as self-driving mobile machinery or robots. These are controlled by the onboard automation or the Sandvik AutoMine automation system. Two decades ago, Sandvik became the world’s first company to begin developing automation for mining equipment. The first automated machines descended into the ground in 2004 and to date, more than 400 machines have been supplied.

-” The third pillar consists of information management and process optimization system, the OptiMine system, which connect to the mine’s production plan and enable situational awareness and control of the production process. Each piece of data from production is collected and transferred to servers. After this, the system builds a comparison model of what should have happened and what actually happened. The model can then be used to optimise the overall process”, Svensberg explains.

Production time increased by hours

Mines will benefit from digitalisation by being able to drill, load and haul increased quantities of rock with improved quality and safety.

– “Digitalisation makes production transparent and easier to control. Work can continue uninterrupted even when the mine is not manned, such as during blast clearance times or changes of shift. The new technologies have improved productivity by as much as 15-25%”, Svensberg adds.

With older methods, it is impossible to immediately correct production anomalies due to the lack of real-time transparency. The new systems help us see what the machines are doing underground, control their operation in real time and adjust production plans if necessary. Information is delivered from deep underground directly to the right people, and work can be
resumed as quickly as possible.

Data collected from the machinery is compiled into real-time reports or used to predict the service and replacement needs of mission-critical components. If any such needs are detected, spare parts and maintenance can be provided in a timely manner to ensure uninterrupted production. Other service and spare parts needs can also be anticipated without any loss of production, improving utilization rate and productivity.

Data also allows various stages of the process to be optimized and integrated seamlessly with one another. By ensuring that machines are correctly situated and ready to carry out the planned work stage, overall productivity can be increased.

– “At its core, our customers’ business is fairly straightforward: mine the rock, haul it to the surface and extract any minerals. Sandvik helps our customers achieve this with the highest possible quality, reliability, safety and cost-effectiveness”, Svensberg sums up.

Reading suggestions for you

Article archive by year