Underground Mining on the Verge of Full Automation

digital image of Underground Mining Transformed with ExScan

Underground Mining Transformed with ExScan

CSIRO engineers have developed a world first “flameproof” 3D laser scanning device that can “see things our eyes cannot” by transmitting a full panoramic view of an underground coal mine in real time. Called the ExScan, the device is set to revolutionise the underground mining industry, allowing miners to leave the coal face and manage longwall operations remotely from a control centre above ground.

From an article in ABC News by Lexy Hamilton-Smith.

Called the ExScan, the device is set to revolutionise the underground mining industry, allowing miners to leave the coal face and manage longwall operations remotely from a control centre above ground.

This form of “intelligent mining” is currently being trialled by Glencore at its Oaky Creek mine site between the mining towns of Tieri and Middlemount in central Queensland.

The industry, which contributes $7 billion to Australia’s export income, had been plagued with safety issues including the emergence of black lung disease.

Glencore technology superintendent Lauris Hemming said the industry had been aiming for safe full automation for decades.

“Removing people from the dust, removing people from the hazardous environment — take them away from the machinery interaction and keep them in a safer place, above ground.”

The advancement is achievable after years of research by the team at CSIRO’s Centre for Advanced Technologies in Brisbane.

CSIRO principal research engineer Dr Mark Dunn said it had been working on the ExScan technology with the goal of achieving “hands free” coal mining operations with no drop in production levels.

Having undergone more than 50 explosion tests as part of its certification, the laser scanner was able to operate in the harsh underground environment.

“This is the first time we have been able to map in 3D — a hazardous environment underground — safely,” Dr Dunn said.

“The ExScan takes a full 3D environment scan and transmits it through a combination of wi-fi and optic fibre many kilometres from the coal face which is 300 to 400 metres underground.”

For the full article click here.

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