Gold Fields opts for ABB for Salares Norte

Salares Norte will feature ABB automation systems

 The project is underway in the Atacama Desert amongst the highest peaks of the Andes mountain range.jpg

The project is underway in the Atacama Desert amongst the highest peaks of the Andes mountain range.jpg

South African mining company Gold Fields has chosen ABB to deliver a power and automation system for its open-pit Salares Norte project in northern Chile.

ABB will build six electrical rooms there and deploy an integrated digital system solution based on ABB Ability 800xA distributed control system (DCS).

Salares Norte will also use a common platform for process and power control using ABB Ability System 800xA, its Power and Process Control Library, and Camera Connect, an ABB video system embedded in the control platform for optimized process monitoring.

ABB's Ability Knowledge Manager will be used to manage information production through Plant Information Management System (PIMS), alongside ABB AbilityAsset Vista Condition Monitoring (integrated with SAP), an Extended Operator Workplace (EOW) as an integrated control room at the site, a collaboration table and 800xA Smart Client stations to enable read-only access to displays.

"The digital aspect is critical to this project due to its remote location - the nearest town being Diego de Almagro, 180km away, the altitude of the project and adverse weather conditions which make site access and fieldwork difficult especially during the winter," said Max Combes, Project Director of Gold Fields. "Gold Fields has developed digital infrastructure through initiatives at operations around the world. ABB's complete solution, integrated engineering and remote operations technology will enable us to build on this digital capability and overcome the particular challenges at Salares Norte."

The scope also includes a dynamic process simulator to allow checks on all control logics and for operator training purposes.

"The simulator will allow for shorter and more efficient start-ups on site," said Iván Villegas, Solutions Manager at ABB in Chile. "It will also support the training requirements, meaning Gold Fields will have several accredited operators with the right skills for high-quality operations."

"Together with Gold Fields we can demonstrate over the long-term that ABB's control systems connect and perform their functions in totally isolated areas, within satellite range, and with minimal latency," said Cristian Gallegos, Mining Account Manager for ABB in Chile. "It is an opportunity to modernize mining and showcase the benefits that digital transformation brings by controlling and supporting the mining plant and equipment at Salares Norte from 1,300km away."

ABB and Gold Fields also plan  to connect different ABB technologies between Santiago and the Salares Norte project using satellite telematics.

The companies have already they carried out remote control and monitoring of smart electric motors and a simulation of telemedicine care between the two locations, through a connection controlled by ABB Ability System 800xA and conventional mobile equipment with minimal latency.

Through mixed reality lenses, both virtual reality and augmented reality, two authorities of the Ministry of Mining in Chile (the Minister and the Regional Secretary) each at one end, were witnesses and protagonists of the successful test, where the two held a conversation that flowed in real time, each "seeing" the avatar of the other, as if they were together in a physical environment. 

Salares Norte is expected to produce 3.7 million ounces of gold over an initial mine life of 11 years and is estimated to be a USD 834 million expenditure project. The operation involves drilling, blasting, loading, and hauling methods for ore extraction. It has a production capacity of two million tons per annum and the life-of-mine average recovery of gold and silver will be 92.7 percent and 67.5 percent, respectively.

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