The Challenge of Wireless Connectivity to Support Intelligent Mines

Viviane S. B. Barbosa, Luis G. U. Garcia, George Caldwell, Erika Portela Lopes de Almeida, Ignacio Rodriguez, Troels Bundgaard Sørensen, Preben Elgaard Mogensen, Hernani Lima

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Abstract

The need for continuous safety improvements and increased operational efficiency is driving the mining industry through a transition towards large-scale automation of operations, i.e., “intelligent mines”. The technology promises to remove human operators from harsh or dangerous conditions and increase productivity, from extraction all the way to the delivery of a processed product to the customer. In this context, one of the key enablers is wireless connectivity since it allows mining equipment to be remotely monitored and controlled. Simply put, dependable wireless connectivity is essential for unmanned mine operations. Although voice and narrowband data radios have been used for years to support several types of mining activities, such as fleet management (dispatch) and telemetry, the use of automated equipment introduces a new set of connectivity requirements and poses a set of challenges in terms of network planning, management and optimization. For example, the data rates required to support unmanned equipment, e.g. a teleoperated bulldozer, shift from a few kilobits/second to megabits/second due to live video feeds. This traffic volume is well beyond the capabilities of Professional Mobile Radio narrowband systems and mandates the deployment of broadband systems. Furthermore, the (data) traffic requirements of a mine also vary in time as the fleet expands. Additionally, wireless networks are planned according to the characteristics of the scenario in which they will be deployed, but mines change by definition on a daily-basis. Therefore, a careful and continuous effort must be made to ensure the wireless network keeps up with the topographic and operational changes in order to provide the necessary network availability, reliability, capacity and coverage needed to support a new mining paradigm. By means of simulations, we analyze the effects on the wireless network along 7 years of constant topographic changes in an open-pit mine coupled with much higher data requirements. The authors also present a new network topology that is able to partially meet the requirements posed by mining automation and discuss the consequences of not providing connectivity for all applications. The work also discusses how the careful positioning of the heavy communications infrastructure (tall towers) from the early stages of the mine site project can make the provision of incremental capacity and coverage simpler.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication24th World Mining Conference (WMC) 2016 : Automation and Robotics
Number of pages12
PublisherIBRAM
Publication dateOct 2016
Pages105-116
ISBN (Electronic)978-85-61993-11-5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016
Event24th World Mining Congress 2016 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Duration: 18 Oct 201621 Oct 2016
http://www.wmc2016.org.br/default2.asp

Conference

Conference24th World Mining Congress 2016
Country/TerritoryBrazil
CityRio de Janeiro
Period18/10/201621/10/2016
Internet address

Keywords

  • Mining Automation
  • Wireless Communication
  • Intelligent Mines

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