Canadian Mining Journal

Feature

RCT brings automation to underground haul trucks



Over the past several years, mining companies have been looking harder for ways to improve efficiencies. Now, the focus has shifted towards the implementation of technology and automation to increase productivity, profitability and safety.

RCT’s haul truck guidance solution.

Automation is now the buzz word around the mining industry and it’s seen as the crucial step forward for companies to increase productivity and reduce costs.

The industry has already experienced much success, resulting in a major shift in the way companies are approaching mine planning and mining methods. Automation is no longer an afterthought; it is now being implemented at the planning stages.

Underground guidance laser. CREDIT: RCT

RCT’s newest addition to its ControlMaster brand, the Haul Truck Guidance solution, is aimed at helping underground mines take advantage of the benefits of automation. As a leader with 45 years of experience in the remote control and automation fields, RCT saw an opportunity to leverage its ControlMaster Loader Guidance technology to address common issues with haul trucks in underground mines.

“The decision to automate underground haul truck process was the next logical step for RCT,” said Dave Holman, RCT’s head of product management.

Derived from RCT’s Loader Guidance technology, the solution was developed and designed in-house with the close collaboration of key mining companies.

The haul truck process in underground mines can be problematic, with sites often experiencing inconsistencies in manual operation that result in costly damage and erratic production results.

“By automating the process we would simplify the task of driving a haul truck long distances within tight space limitations to deliver consistent cycle times while heavily reducing machine damage,” Holman said.

“The Loader Guidance system underwent a redesign of both hardware and software to suit the haul truck application, and as a result, the Haul Truck Guidance system is unlike anything else available on the market within the underground mining space.”

The latest solution physically removes the operator from the truck, taking the stress out of operating haul trucks, especially in difficult to navigate drives. As a result, operators’ fatigue levels are reduced and their overall working environment improves significantly as they can work from an ergonomic operator control station located in a safe location on the surface or underground.

RCT’s Guidance technology ensures the operator avoids collisions with walls and obstacles to keep the truck on the optimal tramming path. Steering, braking and speed are automatically controlled. In addition, the tramming speed is determined by the minimum width of the drive and the look-ahead distance of the on-board laser units.

The object detection feature further assists in tight areas.

“The first system was installed and commissioned in December 2015 and today it is a unique solution that has had an immediate and profound impact on the underground mining industry,” Holman said.

Benefits

The ControlMaster Haul Truck Guidance solution, like RCT’s entire range of solutions is universal across all global regions and can be installed on any mobile machine, regardless of make, model or brand.

“This is a major point of difference to other suppliers who are restricted to installations on only new or brand-specific trucks,” Holman said.

RCT has already successfully fitted the system to numerous trucks across three different brands and five models in five different regions – meeting customers’ expectations each time, he added.

“Each system was fully designed and implemented following a detailed machine audit to ensure that operations are carried out efficiently,” Holman said.

“It has already proven itself by reducing damage bills and downtime, creating a better working environment for operators and producing consistent cycle times to enable mining companies to accurately plan and meet tonnes moved.

Companies using the solution have reported real-time measureable outcomes in both the production and maintenance departments.

Due to the successful implementation of RCT’s Loader, and now Haul Truck Guidance solutions, the mining industry is now looking at how the systems can work collaboratively to deliver further productivity improvements in the loading and hauling applications.

“This is resulting in a major shift in the thinking of the mine planning and mine methods used going forward,” Holman said.


This article was provided by RCT.


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