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Part III of Demystify: Intelligent Mining Technology for an Underground Metal Mine Based on Unmanned Equipment

The demystify series are divided into three parts. This is about the last part. If you miss the previous part, I don't mind if you check my history.

Abstract: In the last part, three basic platforms will be introduced, which are used for intelligent and unmanned mining: the positioning and navigation platform, information-acquisition and communication platform, and scheduling and control platform.

Key wordsBasic System Platforms, Underground, Autonomous, Communication, Navigation Intelligent

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1. Positioning and Navigation Platform

The positioning and navigation platform consists of a precise positioning system and an intelligent navigation system. The precise positioning system can provide position and altitude information to the underground mining vehicle. The intelligent navigation system consists of two key modules for path planning and path tracking. The path-planning module helps to find the navigation path of the mine vehicle according to the dispatch instructions, and the path-tracking module helps to automatically move the mine vehicle to the target position along the planning path.

1.1 Taking a point and line as the basic geometric representation, a two-dimensional (2D) navigation map was built, and accurate drawing of the underground map and detailed incorporation of the navigation information were achieved. This provides a basic map platform for the precise positioning and intelligent navigation of the mining equipment.

1.2 Real-time high-precision positioning information was obtained by combining laser-positioning data with ultra-wide-band (UWB) auxiliary positioning data, as shown in Fig. 1. The positioning system consists of a high-precision laser-positioning base station system, a vehicle machine vision system, and UWB wireless positioning technology. The positioning accuracy can reach up to 100 mm. 

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Fig.1.Positioning information obtained by the laser system and UWB system. xworld-yworld-zworld is the world coordinate system; xbase-ybase-zbase is the local coordinate system; h is the pitching angle and u is the roll angle; r is the distance between the laser and the equipment; and (hbase, ubase, rbase) is the location of the equipment in the xbase-ybase-zbase coordinate system.

1.3 A reasonable and smooth plan- ning path can be searched for on the electronic map using the path-planning module, based on the breadth of the first search, the dichotomy, and the symmetric polynomial curve-smoothing method. Hybrid architecture and a real-time reflection control system were used to achieve accurate tracking of the planning path using the positioning information.

2. Information-acquisition and Communication Platform

The main function of the information-acquisition and commu- nication platform is to obtain intelligent mining data. The under- ground intelligent equipment, scheduling and control system, information-acquisition system, and data communication system work together using the same communication protocol within the framework of intelligent mining technology, as shown in Fig.2. Thus, the extendibility, reusability, and standardization of intelligent mining technology have been achieved. Independent underground functions, geographically dispersed sensors, trackless equipment, production equipment, and local control systems were combined to form the basis of intelligent mining technology for an underground metal mine.

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Fig. 2. Architecture of an underground wireless communication system. AP: access point.

2.1 The basic functions are provided by a ubiquitous underground information-acquisition and control device. The real-time high- precision acquisition and rapid reliable transmission of analog, dig- ital frequency, and video and audio frequency are achieved using a high-frequency embedded processor and distributed architecture, as shown in Fig.2. The architecture can be configured with vari- ous pieces of underground equipment, a digital mine system, a mining production system, and an environmental monitoring sys- tem, and information can be uploaded efficiently. A non- differential data-transmission channel is established between the equipment and the communication system using CAN, RS485, Ethernet, and other data-transmission methods.

2.2 A multilevel com- posite network architecture based on distributed technology per- mits the achievement of seamless roaming and redundant transmission technologies between the base stations during the movement of the underground vehicle. The underground wireless network has no blind area coverage, and has a high transmission rate and very reliable communication. This network provides a fast, efficient, and reliable data-supporting platform for the remote operation of mining equipment.

2.3 Fast mobile switching of underground wireless communication terminals is very important, as shown in Fig. 3. Multi-frequency cross-networking was used to overcome the communication interruption problem for underground equipment in motion. Seamless mobile handover of the operation process of intelligent equipment was achieved.

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Fig. 3. Fast mobile switching of underground wireless communication terminals.

2.4 The communication system overcame the communication-rate bottleneck of traditional wireless devices and achieved a wireless link rate of up to 600 Mbit s—1 using 802.11n technology. The automatic identification, classification, and transmission of underground intelligent equipment business data were fully supported. A stable network communication plat- form was thus provided for the remote control and autonomous operation of the equipment.

3. Scheduling and Control Platform

The intelligent scheduling and control system plays an important role in the performance of mining. An intelligent software platform and management center are key features of an intelligent mining system. Based on the actual demand of underground metal mine production scheduling and process control, the intelligent dispatch of an underground metal mine based on a data warehouse was achieved by implementing key technologies such as the orga- nization and management of multisource data, 3D visualization of resources and mining environment, dynamic simulation of produc- tion processes, and intelligent dispatch and control systems.

The scheduling and control system also performs the functions of organizing and managing mine data, modeling and updating resources, identifying the mining environment, automatically pro- ducing the mining plan, and intelligently dispatching the produc- tion process. The platform can provide information on the 3D environment simulation, simulation of equipment condition, real-time status of equipment, intelligent scheduling of equipment, device real-time video, and location. An integrated intelligent scheduling and control platform for intelligent mining was built using this system, as shown in Fig. 4.

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Fig.4. Diagram of the intelligent scheduling and control platform

4. Conclusions

Intelligent mining technologies for underground metal mines are the concrete embodiment of China’s national policy of upgrading traditional industries through modern and cuttingedge technologies. Intelligent mining technologies integrate the applications of high-end technologies based on automation, information technology, digital and artificial intelligence, and many other new technologies, through multidisciplinary and multiple technology integration. Intelligent mining not only improves the effectiveness of mining equipment and the intelligent monitoring of mining processes, but also significantly improves mining efficiency, thus reducing the mining cost and improving the competitive ability of mining enterprises. At the same time, intelligent mining can reduce the number of field operations and the risk of disasters.

In addition, intelligent mining is an effective way to achieve cleaner production and sustainable development of mines. In intelligent mining, the loss and dilution of ore mining are effectively controlled, and the amount of waste ore produced by mining is minimized, while the recovery rate is maximized. Thus, intelligent mining can effectively reduce the discharge of mine solid waste and significantly improve the utilization rate of mineral resources. It can promote the efficient, safe, green, and sustainable development of mineral resources.

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At this point, the demystify series is over.

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