The three-year project, called Next Generation Carbon Neutral Pilots for Smart Intelligent Mining Systems (NEXGEN SIMS), aims to support new technologies, methods and processes that will enable a more sustainable and efficient carbon-neutral mining operation.
The project, which has a total budget of €16 million (US$19.5 million), started on May 1, 2021 and will run until April 30, 2024.
The project is coordinated by Epiroc, and the other project partners are the mining companies Boliden, Agnico Eagle Finland, KGHM Polska, K+S and OZ Minerals; services and system suppliers Ericsson, Mobilaris Mining & Civil Engineering, AFRY and KGHM Cuprum; and universities Luleå University of Technology and RWTH Aachen University. All partners are based in Europe, except for Australia-based OZ Minerals.
A key aim of the project is to develop autonomous carbon-neutral mining processes. This includes the use of battery-electric mining equipment, full utilisation of 5G for optimal connectivity and positioning, autonomous material handling, AI-powered traffic and fleet control, and collaboration among machines. The project is also focusing on the mine worker of the future - ‘the modern miner' - including safety, for example by developing autonomous mine inspection technology.
Epiroc machines that will be part of the project include the Scooptram ST14 battery loader and the Minetruck MT42 battery hauler.
Helena Hedblom, president and CEO of Epiroc, said: "Collaboration and partnership among stakeholders that have different areas of expertise is increasingly important to successfully advance complex digital and automated systems that will improve the mining industry's environmental impact, work environment and productivity. We are proud to be part of and to lead the NEXGEN SIMS project, which will play a crucial role in this positive development."
NEXGEN SIMS builds on the successful EU-sponsored Horizon 2020 SIMS project, also coordinated by Epiroc (formerly Atlas Copco), which ran between 2017 and 2020. According to Epiroc, SIMS played an important role in advancing sustainable mining operations, partly through the use of battery-electric machines.
Ericsson's Dedicated Networks solutions will also feature prominently in the consortium. The solutions provide optimal on-site connectivity and supporting positioning for electric mining equipment, autonomous material handling, cross-machine fleet control and more.