For a safer underground
Working underground can pose a range of hazards. Sandvik’s recent acquisition of DSI Underground will further drive safety in underground mining and tunnelling.
GIVEN THE INHERENTLY hazardous underground environment, keeping miners and tunnelling workers safe has always been a top priority for the industry. Despite mining and construction companies implementing systems and processes to support a Zero Harm approach, incidents and injuries still occur.
A couple of megatrends drive the further development of underground safety. There is an accelerating shift from open-cut mining to underground mining. This is partly due to depleting deposits and because open-cut mining is coming under more scrutiny and finding less public acceptance. At the same time, existing underground mines need to go deeper to find new ores.
In tunnelling, the construction of mega tunnels in major cities worldwide will continue to increase, and much tunnelling will occur in challenging ground conditions.
Sandvik announced in December 2020 that it would acquire DSI Underground, a full-service provider to the underground excavation process with a focus on safety.
The company provides a wide range of ground support and reinforcement products, systems and solutions. Working closely with customers is part of the strategy. DSI Underground’s technical engineering design team assists customers with new or non-standard products, and with 22 manufacturing plants around the world, the company can rapidly adapt products to individual needs.
“Safe and reliable ground support products and services are essential for the mining and tunnelling industries,” says Derek Hird, regional CEO for the APAC region. “DSI Underground’s products are critical to productivity and a safe working environment by supporting the roof underground.”
DSI Underground has a long history of focusing on technical innovation. “We have a long pipeline of technical developments, ranging from product enhancements through to next-generation products, such as self-drilling injectable bolts,” Hird says. “As mines go deeper and the need for higher capacity support increases, our R&D team can assist with the design and testing.”
As well as focusing on product developments, DSI Underground has focused on manufacturing improvement and capital investments in their factories to ensure they drive the internal efficiencies in manufacturing. The investment into a state-of-the-art injection chemical facility in Poland is a good example.
“Injection chemicals are products used for ground consolidation and cavity void filling in those extreme mining conditions,” Hird says. “Through this plant, we can supply these injection products globally.”
DSI Underground’s Fasloc resin capsules also improve safety and simplify handling and the injection process when installing mining anchors.
Founded: In 1979. The company’s roots go back to 1865
Headquarters: Munich, Germany
Global presence: In more than 70 countries
Number of employees: More than 2,000
Manufacturing: 22 plants around the world
The portfolio includes:
- Rock bolts and anchor systems
- Passive support products, e.g., profiles, girders, mesh and rock mbolt straps
- Injection resin/chemical systems and cartridges
- Self-drilling systems
- Pre-support systems, e.g., pipe umbrellas, spiles and forepoling boards
Their ease of use, fast setting times and high bond strength have made them a popular choice in conventional and fully automated installations.
Digitalization and automation will be increasingly essential enablers to make underground mining safer, more efficient and sustainable. However, ground support installation lags other processes in the underground excavation cycle in these areas.
“This is where DSI Underground becoming part of Sandvik will make a difference,” says Michael Reich, president of the new ground support division at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions. “Together, we will be a full-service provider to the underground excavation process. We will leverage a combination of equipment, drilling technology and ground support to improve safety and speed of ground support installation, unlocking value for our customers.”
DSI UNDERGROUND HAS formed a dedicated subsidiary, DSI Underground SMART, to fully participate in and lead digital development.
“We have started to engage with industry partners around the world to develop digital solutions, helping to overcome challenges in ground control,” Reich says.
The new company will, for instance, soon present solutions to live-monitor ground movements and convergence underground. This will support geotechnical engineers with critical data points to make the right decisions about ground support products.
In February 2021, DSI Underground SMART acquired Edvirt, a Swedish educational technology company that develops and delivers virtual reality and augmented reality tools to the underground mining and tunnelling industry.
Simulators have become a standard tool for training miners to operate OEM equipment, but using them to train miners to install ground support in an underground environment is still relatively new. For example, Edvirt’s underground bolt simulator helps avoid costly mistakes involving major equipment repair or production downtime when installing ground support systems.
In the end, DSI Underground’s top priority is to provide customer value, which is true for safety as well as other areas.
“We pride ourselves on being responsive to our customers’ needs,” Hird says. “This might involve technical innovation, offering 24-hour emergency cover, on-time deliveries, guaranteed product quality, providing technical pre-sales support or after-sales services. And it doesn’t matter whether the customer is down the road or across the world.”
Improving underground safety together
In December 2020, Sandvik announced that it would acquire DSI Underground. The transaction closed in July 2021.
“Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions and DSI Underground have complementary product offerings, with minimal overlaps,” says Henrik Ager, president of Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions. “DSI Underground is a 100 percent aftermarket business and is the clear market leader in its segment. This strategic acquisition will enable Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions to become the industry’s leading full-service provider of equipment and consumables to underground hard rock mining and tunnelling, adding further value to our customers and driving the growth of the aftermarket business.”
DSI Underground will form a new division within Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions. “Together, we will drive safety and productivity across the full underground cycle and support our customers in setting new standards,” says Michael Reich, president of the new ground support division at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions.
Being part of Sandvik will enable DSI Underground to accelerate its expansion into advanced ground support products and the opportunities of integration.
“Our presence in key markets worldwide will enable Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions’ progress as a full-service provider within underground hard rock mining and tunnelling,” Reich says. “Our ground support offering can also be marketed via Sandvik’s expansive global sales network. It will lead to more interaction with existing customers and will support the development of our sales in, for example, Africa and India.”