Glencore has begun using its autonomous longwall technology at the Oaky Creek underground metallurgical coal mine in Queensland following successful trials.
Developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) Centre for Advanced Technologies, the underground longwall uses first-of-its-kind ExScan technology enabling the operation to be fully automated.
A control centre above ground is alerted by ExScan’s sensors and transmissions enabling it to operate the longwall using three-dimensional scans of the mining area.
Given the risks associated with methane-rich underground environments, the ExScan technology has been specifically designed for use in explosion risk zones.
The ExScan is contained in an enclosure that’s been certified to International Electrotechnical Commission ‘Ex’ standards for use in volatile underground environments.
According to the CSIRO, the technology helps to make remote operations safer and more accurate by providing situational awareness in explosion risk zones.
It also provides steering information for longwall systems by measuring face creep, retreat and roadway height in real time, while creating accurate 3D maps of the underground environment by incorporating camera, radar and other sensor data.
It comes as Federal Minister for Resources and Water Keith Pitt visited the mine this week, with Glencore’s efforts in land rehabilitation and emission reduction also on display at Oaky Creek.
First announced in March, the mine has achieved 132.8 hectares of certified rehabilitation and has also cut emissions by up to 840,000 tonnes CO2e in the last year by using methane emissions for electricity generation.
Glencore coal chief operating officer Ian Cribb said he is proud of the company’s achievements at Oaky Creek.
“The metallurgical coal from our Oaky Creek operation is essential for making steel used in construction all over the world,” said Cribb.
“Glencore has a world-class coal business in Australia and we welcomed the opportunity to show Pitt some of the leading practices we have implemented, particularly around safety and gas management.”