Automated mining

CSIRO has signed a Letter of Intent to commercialise new mining automation technology with one of the world’s largest mining original equipment manufacturers.


Australia’s industrial research and development organisation CSIRO has signed a Letter of Intent to commercialise new mining automation technology with one of the world’s largest mining original equipment manufacturers.


Both CSIRO and Joy Global agree that the Letter of Intent is expected to result in a licensing agreement between them for the commercialisation of CSIRO’s underground longwall automation technologies.


In underground longwall coal mining, a large shearing machine with rotating cutting heads is driven back and forth across the coal face. Each run across the face removes a massive ‘slice’ of coal.


This form of underground coal mining accounts for about 90 per cent of underground coal production in Australia, which is about 70 million tonnes a year. CSIRO has been working on a long-term Australian Coal Association Research Program (ACARP) funded project to develop new technology to locate and guide coal cutting equipment in longwall mines.


“The goal was to provide automated systems that would allow people to move away from hazardous equipment,” Dr David Hainsworth, Senior Principal Research Engineer with CSIRO Exploration & Mining.


“CSIRO has been working on a long-term Australian Coal Association Research Program (ACARP) funded project to develop new technology to locate and guide coal cutting equipment in longwall mines.”


“If you can move people even 50 metres away from where the action is, you can improve safety by being away from the mechanical and hydraulic energy and dusty environment.”


A pre-commercial prototype of the technology has been operating at Xstrata’s Beltana longwall mine for some time. In 2006, for the third year in a row, Beltana was the highest producing longwall mine in Australia at 6.8 million tonnes. It managed to top its nearest rival by almost two million tonnes.


It is hoped that a finalised licensing agreement will be completed and signed by 31 May 2007.