Mining Technology spoke with Mark Ryan, Normet’s Vice President of Equipment Offering and R&D about the industry’s renewed focus on improving productivity in mines and tunneling sites and why a holistic approach is a clear solution.

In times when market conditions are challenging, the ability to reduce unnecessary costs and increase productivity levels provide much-needed support to the mining industry. For a sector so vulnerable to the ebbs and flows of market prices, putting in place productivity measures can provide some protection from these unpredictable fluctuations.

There are a variety of options available to businesses when it comes to improving productivity in mines and tunneling operations, but according to Mark Ryan, Vice President of Equipment Offering and R&D at leading mining equipment manufacturer Normet, a holistic approach is essential.

“When we talk about new technologies to improve productivity, we are putting a lot of focus on battery electric equipment and automated processes, and we are talking about a holistic approach – in other words, reviewing all of the moving parts of the mining and tunneling cycle together, or how they affect to each other. If you improve efficiency in one area of the cycle other parts may suffer as a result, so again a holistic approach to the entire cycle is needed. In addition, there is no one fit solution that fits all applications or problems so in most cases some customer tailoring is necessary.

“We might only be involved in a small part of the total process, but you always have to take a holistic approach when it comes to improving productivity.”

Normet is heavily involved in a range of areas around the world which aim to increase performance in the industry. According to Ryan: “There are a lot of different projects going on in various parts of the world that are going to highlight how truly global we are. For instance, we have developed VR sprayed concrete training simulators, and with the help of our global spray master team we assist customers in training their operators cost-efficiently in a safe environment, to increase performance, overall sprayed concrete result, and greatly reduce waste. In addition, we have also scanning technology available, which can accurately measure sprayed concrete thicknesses to ensure that the optimal thickness has been achieved. This technology takes only a fraction of the time that current sprayed concrete thickness measurement methods take.

“Other areas we have been working on are battery electric equipment and looking at autonomous processes. We have been doing a lot of work in sprayed concrete, particularly combining our chemicals and reinforcement in order to improve overall efficiency and productivity in that area

“There has also been a lot of focus on the explosive charging process. We have got a lot of development going on in the area. In addition, we are also doing a lot of development in the areas of concrete transportation, scaling and logistics vehicles

Transforming processes to improve productivity in mines and tunneling operations

When compared to other industries, the mining sector has historically struggled to implement effective productivity measures. While recent years have seen significant improvements in performance levels, there is still work to be done.

This is particularly true with underground sites, where it is difficult to monitor what personnel are doing and short interval control is more challenging. Open-pit mines, however, allow operators to observe what is going on, and satellite tracking systems for trucks enable accurate measurement of performance. Overall, there are many more opportunities to monitor and utilize new technologies to create productivity gains in open-pit environments.

“An area we are honing in on is data, data transfer, and being able to give the customer a holistic view of the assets and how they are operating underground,” says Ryan.

“We take the roof off the tunnel or the mining area so that customers are able to see where equipment is located, what they are doing and how productive they are, showing the utilization of the equipment, and so on. This has been really helpful in pinpointing areas that may require productivity improvements and process finetuning.”

At Normet, particular efforts are also being made to transform processes and increase performance through technological innovations. Areas of focus include underground logistics, concrete transportation, spraying concrete, and explosives charging.

“Normet is continuously collaborating with customers, to improve their processes, particularly around these essential underground operation areas,” says Ryan.

“We are constantly helping our customers improve their operations’ overall safety, efficiency and productivity.”

For more information, visit Normet’s website.