Hitachi Construction Machinery is placing a strong focus on mining information and communication technology (MICT), a system that uses cutting-edge information technology to optimise earthmoving equipment’s productivity. GERARD PETER reports.

At excavation mines, several dump trucks are generally assigned to each excavator and the mined natural resources are loaded on one dump truck after another and then carried to any of various locations such.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 9, 2020
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In order to smoothly and efficiently undertake loading and hauling operations at mines, the dispatcher, who is responsible for dispatching vehicles, issues orders to vehicle operators while judging the state of operations.

Efforts are made to increase productivity of mines by optimising vehicle operation, and these include instructing dump truck operators to move to a different loading site if there is a long waiting time.

Hitachi’s Fleet Management System (FMS) is a MICT tool that makes it possible to conduct integrated management of vehicle and machinery operation and provides dispatchers with the information they need.

It is equipped with functions that make it possible to determine the location of excavators and calculate the number of dump trucks based on the load capacity and speed and to automatically set items such as efficient loading areas and hauling routes by entering targets such as the mineral content per truck and expected productivity for each mine.

It is also possible to assist in predicting failures and preventing unexpected breakdowns, to optimise the number of replacement parts and mechanics to be assigned and to reduce overall operation costs because aspects such as a vehicle’s fuel consumption and condition can be consistently monitored.

Data such as payload derived by signals from sensors embedded in the vehicle, type of minerals, and GPS location is uploaded to the on-board computer and then transmitted via wireless network to the server.

The data is analysed in real-time and displayed on the screens in the dispatcher room. FMS includes advance functions that automatically set the destination and travel route and provides operators with instructions based on key performance indicators such as production volume.

Greater efficiency in operations

In addition to the FMS, Autonomous Haulage System (AHS) for dump trucks is another technology that contributes to an increase in the operation and energy efficiency of mining operations.

In recent years, however, it is becoming difficult for mines create a safe working environment because of where mines are located and the harsh working environment.

The weight of a dump truck that operates at mine sites can reach more than 500 tons when fully loaded. As such, operators with advance driving skills and experience are required to safely and efficiently operate these huge vehicles.

AHS that makes it possible for unmanned dump trucks to operate autonomously, with several successful test already being held at mine sites.

These tests will be used to further improve various aspects, such as safety, reliability, and efficiency of earthmoving equipment.