Working in cooperation with Swedish miners Boliden and LKAB, ABB announced this week that it has successfully completed testing of the industry’s first automated robot charging technology for loading blastholes with explosives. Blasting schedules in underground mines can vary, but the process takes place up to 15 times per day in larger mines. The ABB Robot Charger automatically detects blastholes and fills them with charges without the presence of humans, removing the need for miners to be near the face during blasting sequences.

The tests confirmed the effectiveness of integrating a robot charger with a carrier vehicle, communication with bulk emulsion and vision systems and incorporating a second robot arm to assemble the primer and detonator. It ensured full reach to all borehole levels and areas of the rock face and remote control for operators. The tests took place at Boliden’s Garpenberg mine, an underground zinc mine, located 180 km northwest of Stockholm.

“The robot locates the drilled holes on the rock face using a vision system, and these recent tests show all can be reached and charged with the cycle fully automated,” said Vedrana Spudic, head of technology for mining at ABB. “This removes the need for human operators in a small, unsupported area right at the face.”

ABB is now embarking on the final stage of development that aims to execute the entire blasting sequence underground with full control of the robot handed over to the mine. It is also looking for more mine operators to join the co-development project, so that the technology can be tested in underground mines beyond northern Europe.