Sandvik and partners boost underground safety with 5G and edge intelligence

The next generation of digital solutions could greatly improve underground safety, thanks to the Next Generation Mining (NGMining) project. A joint R&D […]
A Sandvik concept loader advancing in the company’s test mine. Credit: Sandvik

The next generation of digital solutions could greatly improve underground safety, thanks to the Next Generation Mining (NGMining) project. A joint R&D project co-ordinated by VTT shows the potential of industrial 5G and edge intelligence in this field and creates new solutions for safe underground mining.

VTT, Nokia and Sandvik, together with other Finnish companies, have taken steps towards deploying state-of-the-art 5G private wireless networks and edge intelligence to support autonomous mining. The mission of the recently completed NGMining project was to research, demonstrate and evaluate the feasibility and potential of industrial 5G, digital twin, and edge computing enabling safe digitalization of underground mines. The aim is to provide highly automated and remotely controlled mining operations.

The key results of the project include various novel solutions based on 5G and edge intelligence. These technologies enable virtual and dynamic safety zone algorithms and concepts, situational awareness and adaptive autonomous control solutions for autonomous moving mining machines, 360° real-time video streaming for underground vehicles, and digital twin of underground mining sites connecting the site systems, devices and vehicles for near real-time communications. Also, radio signal measurements were made to improve the wireless networks design capabilities and performance in underground environments. These solutions can improve safety, productivity and environmental sustainability in underground mining.

This project developed and applied a new R&D process, where the common long-term goals, experimental system architectures, iterative development of the prototype systems, and evaluation trials were done in collaboration among the consortia. The R&D process included multiple prototyping and evaluation trial rounds enabling evaluation and improvement of the technology from laboratory all the way to integrated prototype systems in the Sandvik underground test mine. In addition, a workshop series was held on mine information modeling, engaging relevant actors outside the consortia in Finland and abroad.

“Underground mining environment is unique and complex. To deeper understand what affects safety, reliability and performance of the prototype systems developed in the project, Sandvik offered its state-of-the-art test mine facilities in Tampere to be used as test bed for NGMining technology trials and demonstrations. We provided real-life mining use cases where the prototype could be deployed and tested. On top of solving technical aspect set forth in NGMining, it was also great to develop and learn new ways of working with project partners,” says Miika Kaski, commercialization and networks lead at Sandvik.

The NGMining project started in May 2021 and ended in September 2023. It also included University of Oulu as a research partner, as well as Epec, SATEL, Huld, Terrasolid, Etteplan, Noptel, Unikie, Iiwari, Millisecond, Wizense and Indagon as company partners. The project advisory board included representatives from Outokumpu and Agnico Eagle Finland, Telia 5G Business, Kalmar and Ponsse. The project was funded by Business Finland in connection with Nokia and Sandvik Veturi programs.

View the four-minute YouTube video on Nokia’s channel.


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