The Digital Mine – built on LTE with full site coverage

Photo: Zinkgruvan Mining

In close collaboration, Mobilaris and Zinkgruvan Mining AB, part of Lundin Mining Corpora-tion, have set up a unique, full site coverage, communication and positioning infrastructure at the Zinkgruvan site. During the project, Mobilaris Virtual Tag™ was developed. Running on a smartphone, the tag enables seamless positioning functionality between the different areas of the mining site.

 As the demand for minerals is increasing and mines are getting deeper, most modern mining com-panies are now looking for solutions to digitalize their operations to improve safety, efficiency, and productivity. A standardized high-performance communication network is the foundation to manage this digital transformation. Modern technology requires modern communication infrastructure. Just as a communication network is a foundation, positioning services are almost as essential.

Lundin Mining's Zinkgruvan is located in south-central Sweden, 15 kilometers from the town of Ask-ersund. It has been in continuous production since its opening in 1857, focusing on zinc, lead, and copper concentrates.

Together, Zinkgruvan Mining and Mobilaris started a digitalization project in 2019 to set up a unique, full site coverage, communication, and positioning infrastructure at the Zinkgruvan site. The solution is based on an LTE network, for high speed and capacity, with seamless functionality between the different areas of the site. The underground LTE installation is one of a kind. It makes the Zinkgruvan site future-proof and the network will work with 5G mining that is coming around the cor-ner.     

During the project, a new product was developed to find a positioning solution that worked with the LTE network and Wi-Fi. It is now known as the Mobilaris Virtual Tag.

- Mobilaris Virtual Tag is a mobile app running in the background of your Android smartphone. The solution enables a seamless positioning service when moving between underground, surface, and indoors. The application continuously scans and reports radio references such as LTE radio cells, Wi-Fi access points, GPS, and BLE anchors. These references calculate the position in real-time via the Mobilaris Mining Intelligence platform, says Marcus Ek, Product Manager at Mobilaris.

One of the requests from Zinkgruvan Mining was to find a positioning solution that didn't require that the personnel in the mine had to carry any more tools or equipment. With Mobilaris Virtual Tag, the positioning solution integrates with their mobile phones, and there is no need for additional tools or equipment.  Mobilaris Virtual Tag also enables a flexible roll-out of positioning infrastructure. Com-bined with BLEs, it enables Zinkgruvan to decide in which areas a better positioning accuracy is needed.

- For detailed positioning we are using BLE-beacons to send signals to our smart phones or tablets. Each BLE-beacon has a unique ID which makes it possible to connect each beacon to a position in the mine map. For the deployment in the mine and inside buildings, we are going to use or place BLE beacons in zones and on assets where we need high precision positioning information, says Håkan Mann, IT Project Manager at Zinkgruvan Mining.

 

 

With the communication and positioning infrastructure in place, the next step has been to evaluate digital solutions from Mobilaris with the goal to improve safety and efficiency. During 2020, Mobilaris Situational Awareness, has been implemented and evaluated.

- Modern communication infrastructure is critical for our operations, and with LTE installed un-derground, we are well prepared for the future and the many possibilities of 5G.  On top of that, Mobilaris Situational Awareness has been evaluated and is now being deployed. This will give us the eyes underground to see our operations live and give us tools for improved safety, efficiency, and effectiveness, says Craig Griffiths, Mine Manager at Zinkgruvan Min-ing.

With Mobilaris Situational Awareness, the position of vehicles, equipment, and personnel is present-ed in a 3D user interface on the operations center monitoring screens. This information makes it possible to control the operations and resources better, and people can act upon what is happening and make smart decisions faster. Valuable time searching for tools and equipment can be turned into production.

To improve safety at the Zinkgruvan site, Mobilaris Emergency Support application is being in-stalled. In the case of an emergency, people underground will be notified via Mobilaris Virtual Tag. The mobile terminal will start to sound, blink and vibrate. The control room is notified when users have received the message and acknowledged the message. Also, when every minute counts, the rescue team will know the position of people underground and focus on those who have not reached a rescue chamber.