Atlas Copco’s Underground Rock Excavation division and ABB claim to have developed the world’s first system designed to deliver on the vision of the fully integrated underground hard rock mine. The new technology is based on integrating data via a WiFi network from Atlas Copco’s advanced underground mobile mining equipment with ABB’s Process Control System 800xA, all in real time.

                This system, according to the two companies, gives personnel in a control room environment a complete overview of all activities, allowing them to make informed decisions regarding the production flow. Location tracking, equipment performance, production status and environmental impact are a few of the outcomes the joint project was able to demonstrate.

                Ed Tanner, business line manager for Atlas Copco underground rock excavation equipment in the U.S., said, “Our mine operators want a compelling, all-in-one information center to optimize the use of our machines underground. That’s what this new system can give them.”

                Patrik Westerlund, product manager for mine automation at ABB said, “We all agree that the mines of the future will use fewer workers for manual jobs and more qualified operator experts for product and process optimization, maintenance planning and environmental control. This means that operations experts will need to interact with each other to cover the complete value chain and may even be expected to work across several mines at once.

                “Sensors and automated systems already provide mine operators with real time, essential information for each product and process control. The new mobile integration system is the next big step, allowing a mine to optimize the utilization of underground mining equipment and increase productivity while reducing energy consumption.”

                The system has successfully passed trials at Atlas Copco’s test mine in Kvarntorp outside Örebro, Sweden. Atlas Copco and ABB will continue to develop the technology and add more functionality to the concept, potentially via a joint customer-focused project.

                The two companies started their collaboration about two years ago with a common aim to develop the “smart mine of the future.” Development of the integration system began in February 2011.