<p>Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology systems will be able to interface with other systems via the company’s interoperability policy.</p>
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Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology systems will be able to interface with other systems via the company’s interoperability policy.

Tech teamwork

For Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology, joining forces with respected partners to apply the newest and best in IoT technology provides mining companies with tangible productivity, safety and cost benefits while helping them operate more sustainably.

For mining companies looking to harness the power of data from all their automation and data collection systems, OptiMine Analytics helps turn that data into actionable knowledge to support decision making. It merges data from various sources, including the My Sandvik fleet monitoring system and other components of the OptiMine software suite, such as location tracking, task management and scheduling tools, as well as any third-party systems that the mine may use to track and manage its operations. OptiMine Analytics combines all of these data flows and integrates with other IT systems via open application interfaces.

Sandvik has teamed up with IBM to supply OptiMine Analytics with truly powerful predictive capabilities. Whereas OptiMine Analytics merges the communication with various data flows and mining equipment operating underground, the IBM Watson IoT system provides the analytical and machine learning capabilities that make predictive maintenance and optimization a reality.

Now the time has come to take the next step, in line with the principles of Sandvik’s data interoperability policy, which states that Sandvik systems are based on open architecture. While data from Sandvik equipment can be read directly from the machines via predefined interfaces, the data is also available for reading at the server level. Sandvik systems can read and utilize data from third-party systems and, conversely, data from Sandvik systems can be used in third-party systems.

A good example of what Sandvik’s interoperability policy means practically is the recent acquisition of Newtrax Technologies Inc. and the vendor independence that Newtrax technology brings to Sandvik’s digital offering.

Newtrax Technologies is the global leader in wireless IoT and the preferred source of big data for AI for underground hard rock mines, offering safety and productivity solutions through the monitoring of people, machines and the environment. Newtrax complements OptiMine with wireless IoT solutions to extend the sensor capabilities and to add data collection elements that can be integrated with OptiMine. If OptiMine is the brain of the data analytics solution, Newtrax extends its nervous system with new sensing capabilities.

Practically speaking, what does this bring to the table? One new benefit is the ability to integrate third-party equipment with the system, creating a solution that is independent of a specific OEM supplier, including Sandvik itself.

Sandvik interoperability policy

Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology has instituted its data interoperability policy, which specifies how Sandvik systems, equipment and tools share data in the mining digital ecosystem. The policy outlines the principles by which Sandvik systems can communicate in a digitalized mining and rock excavation industry. These systems will be able to interface and exchange data with other systems around the operation, ensuring that the value of the data can be unlocked.

Telemetry and tracking data from a non-Sandvik drill rig, for example, can now be seamlessly imported to the OptiMine environment and combined with other sources of data.

Proximity detection is an example of the benefits Newtrax brings to the table. The patented technology has been developed specifically to reduce the risk of collisions between light and heavy vehicles as well as pedestrians in underground hard rock mines by eliminating blind spots around mobile mining equipment. With this technology integrated in every underground miner’s cap lamp, people can request emergency stops when vehicles appear in harm’s way, and a fall detection feature system recognizes unconscious workers by detecting that their cap lamp has not moved at all for a specified length of time.

The acquisition of Newtrax Technologies adds another layer of wireless IoT access to OEM-independent OptiMine.

The acquisition of Newtrax Technologies adds another layer of wireless IoT access to OEM-independent OptiMine.

Personnel and equipment tracking is another way Newtrax technology can improve mine safety, particularly for people working alone. By connecting to any network infrastructure in an underground mine, the sensors placed on the personnel’s cap lamps and on the vehicles send location signals to the surface, so that lone personnel are safe at all times and vehicles are easily retrievable at start of shift.

In addition to personnel and equipment safety, Newtrax also provides early detection of hazards related to ground displacement, mine air quality and water-level monitoring.

The system integrates various instrumentation devices, such as pressure monitoring instruments, settlement sensors and piezometers for water level monitoring, and merges the data in simple dashboards for a clear overview and to enable potential corrective measures. For example, ventilation by auxiliary fans can be switched on as needed.

Improved safety is not the only benefit of the Sandvik-Newtrax partnership. The combined offering provides the potential to improve sustainability, increasing the productivity of underground mines through more efficient use of resources. Better control of the mining equipment enables more accurate planning and ultimately increases the tonnage produced in each shift.

Newtrax technology also cuts expenses by assisting mines to avoid unnecessary work and vehicle traffic, which saves fuel and maintenance costs and also helps to reduce exhaust emissions. While lower emissions provide crucial environmental and health benefits, they may also help to achieve indirect cost savings by reducing ventilation needs.

Sandvik and Newtrax

The companies announced their partnership aimed at delivering world-class mining safety, efficiency and productivity to underground metal mines through digit- alization in November 2018, and the letter of intent on an acquisition was signed in April 2019.

Headquartered in Montréal, Canada, Newtrax will be run as an independent business unit within the division Rock Drills & Technologies in the business area Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology. The transaction was closed in the second quarter of 2019.