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

The demystify series will be divided into three parts. This is about the first part.

ABSTRACT: In this part, i will analyzes the current research status and development trend of intelligent technologies for underground metal mines in China, where such technologies are under development for use to develop mineral resources in a safe, efficient, and environmentally friendly manner.

In the second part, i analyze and summarize the research status of underground metal mining technology at home and abroad, including some specific examples of equipment, technology, and applications. And i will introduce the latest equipment and technologies with independent intellectual property rights for unmanned mining, including intelligent and unmanned control technologies for rock-drilling jumbos, down-the-hole (DTH) drills, underground scrapers, underground mining trucks, and underground charging vehicles.

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 WORDS: Underground, Autonomous, Communication, Navigation Intelligent

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With the world’s rapid economic development, the demand for mineral resources is increasing. It has been forecast that the depth of more than 33% of the metal mines in China will reach or exceed 1000m within the next decade. Deep underground mining will become the trend of metal mining in China. To overcome the disadvantages of traditional mining methods, such as excessive resource consumption, poor operating environments, low production efficiency, high safety risks, high production costs, and severe pollution, it is essential to develop an intelligent mining technology for underground metal mines that provides complete safety, environmental protection, and efficiency. Some developed countries have done a great deal of work in the field of intelligent mining for underground metal mines over many years, and thus have considerable experience in this field. At the beginning of the 21st century, Canada, Finland, Sweden, and other developed countries made plans for intelligent and unmanned mining.

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Although these developed countries have already invested a considerable amount of time and money into the study of intelligent mining, only a few related studies have been carried out in China, especially in the field of intelligent equipment and plat- forms. In order to rapidly advance its intelligent mining capabilities, China is supporting many intelligent mining projects, including the Key Technology and Software Development for Dig- ital Mining project and the High-Precision Positioning for Under- ground Unmanned Mining Equipment and Intelligent Unmanned Scraper Model Research project. In particular, a project titled Intelligent Mining Technology for Underground Metal Mines was established during the 12th Five-Year Plan, in order to promote intelligent mining technology to a certain extent.

This article introduces several research achievements and their applications in this project. Trackless mining equipment such as rock-drilling jumbos, down-the-hole (DTH) drills, underground scrapers, underground mining trucks, and underground charging vehicles have been developed using intelligent technologies. Suitable communication techniques, sensors, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, information technology, and computer technology for mining equipment and platforms have been implemented. The experimental results indicate that some of the system’s functionalities are innovative and show good performance.

2.Intelligent Mining

Mining is one of the oldest industries in the world. Mining production techniques have passed through a rapid change from artificial production, mechanized production, and on-site remote- control production, to intelligent and fully automated production. In order to move the mining industry forward, mechanization tools have been developed, single-equipment and independent systems have been automated, and the entire mining production process has been highly automated. By integrating information technology with the industrialization of mining technology, intelligent mining technology has been rapidly developed, based on mechanized and automated mining, as shown in Fig. 1. This has resulted in the gradual upgrading of intelligent processes in mining equipment; unmanned and centralized mining equipment have now entered the stage of practical application, which will significantly advance the automation and information technology used in mining.

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Fig. 1. A comparison of production efficiency and mining technology development

Integrated communication, sensors, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, information technologies, computer technologies, and unmanned control equipment were combined in order to achieve intelligent mining technologies, as shown in Fig. 2. Such technologies are based on precise, reliable, and accurate decision- making and production process management through real-time monitoring; they allow mine production to be maintained at the optimum level, and lead to improved mining efficiency and economic benefits. In this way, green, safe, and efficient mining can be achieved.

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Fig. 2. The fundamentals of intelligent mining

Taking a typical trackless mining technology as an example, intelligent mining technology can be divided into three layers— the control layer, transport layer, and executive layer.

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Fig. 3. A diagram of intelligent mining technology

As shown in Fig. 3, the executive layer mainly consists of track- less mining equipment such as rock-drilling jumbos, DTH drills, underground scrapers, underground mining trucks, or under- ground charging vehicles. The transport layer mainly includes a ubiquitous information-acquisition system, wireless communication system, and precise positioning and intelligent navigation system. The control layer is designed as a system-level platform, and is responsible for intelligent mining process scheduling and control.

This is the core of the entire system, because all intelligent mining-related functions and control ideas are implemented through this platform. First, a reasonable mining plan is designed by analyzing the reserves of mine resources and geological conditions in combination with the underground production schedule. Next, an intelligent scheduling and control platform is developed. Control instructions for the equipment are sent through the trans- port layer to a specific piece of equipment in order to perform a mining task at a specific position and time. Within the executive layer, the control layer collects current information on the tunnel and basic information about the vehicle in real time; this information can be used to determine the location of the equipment or adjust it at any time until that entire stage of the mining plan is successfully completed.

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That’s all for this week. Keep an eye on me, and I'll be publishing part II next week, which will include the unmanned mining equipment you're most interested in.

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