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Intelligent Mining Technology for an Underground Metal Mine Based on Unmanned Equipment

This article presents facts and figures on mining equipment safety and reviews various important aspects of mining equipment safety including quarry accidents, electrical accidents, equipment fires, maintenance-related mining accidents, causes of mining equipment accidents and major ignition sources for mining equipment fires. A number of methods considered useful for performing mining equipment safety analysis are also presented. Useful strategies to reduce mining equipment fires and injuries, guidelines to improve electrical safety in the mining industry, and human-factor-related tips for safer mining equipment are discussed.

With the world’s rapid economic development, the demand for mineral resources is increasing. It has been forecast that the depth of more than 33% of the metal mines in China will reach or exceed 1000 m within the next decade. Deep underground mining will become the trend of metal mining in China [1]. To overcome the disadvantages of traditional mining methods, such as excessive resource consumption, poor operating environments, low production efficiency, high safety risks, high production costs, and severe pollution, it is essential to develop an intelligent mining technology for underground metal mines that provides complete safety, environmental protection, and efficiency [2], [3]. Some developed countries have done a great deal of work in the field of intelligent mining for underground metal mines over many years, and thus have considerable experience in this field. At the beginning of the 21st century, Canada, Finland, Sweden, and other developed countries made plans for intelligent and unmanned mining. At the Stobie Mine, an underground mine belonging to the International Nickel Company of Canada, Ltd. and a typical example of such an automated mine, mobile devices such as scrapers, rock drills, and underground mining trucks are operated remotely and workers can operate the equipment directly from the central control room on the surface [4]. According to the Canadian government’s 2050 long-range plan, Canada intends to transform one of its underground mines in the northern part of the country into an unmanned mine. The plan states that all devices will be controlled from Sudbury via satellite in order to achieve intelligent and unmanned mining. Another intelligent mining program covering 28 topics—including the real-time process control of mining, real-time management of resources, construction of a mine information network, and application of new technology and automatic control—was carried out in Finland. Sweden has developed the Grountecknik 2000 strategic plan for mine automation [5], [6], [7], and veteran mining equipment companies such as Atlas Copco are actively developing a series of unmanned underground gold mining equipment and related control systems that can be used to implement the strategic plan. One of the most famous institutes in unmanned vehicles, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization of Australia, is making great efforts to achieve the intelligent mining of underground mines, with a particular focus on the unmanned control of various types of equipment [8].

2. Intelligent mining

Mining is one of the oldest industries in the world. environmental protection equipment techniques have passed through a rapid change from artificial production, mechanized production, and on-site remote-control production, to intelligent and fully automated production. In order to move the mining industry forward, mechanization tools have been developed, single-equipment and independent systems have been automated, and the entire mining production process has been highly automated [9]. By integrating information technology with the industrialization of mining technology, intelligent mining technology has been rapidly developed, based on mechanized and automated mining, as shown in Fig. 1. This has resulted in the gradual upgrading of intelligent processes in mining equipment; unmanned and centralized mining equipment have now entered the stage of practical application, which will significantly advance the automation and information technology used in mining [10].

As shown in Fig. 3, the executive layer mainly consists of trackless mining equipment such as rock-drilling jumbos, DTH drills, underground scrapers, underground mining trucks, or underground charging vehicles. The transport layer mainly includes a ubiquitous information-acquisition system, wireless communication system, and precise positioning and intelligent navigation system. The control layer is designed as a system-level platform, and is responsible for intelligent mining process scheduling and control. This is the core of the entire system, because all intelligent mining-related functions and control ideas are implemented through this platform. First, a reasonable gold and diamond mining equipment plan is designed by analyzing the reserves of mine resources and geological conditions in combination with the underground production schedule. Next, an intelligent scheduling and control platform is developed. Control instructions for the equipment are sent through the transport layer to a specific piece of equipment in order to perform a mining task at a specific position and time. Within the executive layer, the control layer collects current information on the tunnel and basic information about the vehicle in real time; this information can be used to determine the location of the equipment or adjust it at any time until that entire stage of the mining plan is successfully completed.

Intelligent trackless mining technology is based on intelligent unmanned equipment at the executive layer, such as rock-drilling jumbos, DTH drills, underground scrapers, underground mining trucks, or underground charging vehicles. The functions of intelligent and unmanned diamond mining equipment differ according to the different tasks each piece of equipment must carry out.

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