Orica, Epiroc unveil prototype system for first stages of underground automation

Orica and Epiroc are set to commission the Avatel explosives delivery system to help the underground mining sector remove workers from high risk areas.

Customers in the underground mining industry can look forward to safer, efficient and more productive development blasting as early as the end of 2021, as Orica and Epiroc commence commissioning on Avatel, a first-of-its-kind, industry-driven explosives delivery system.

A sought-after technology by customers in the underground hard rock mining sector, Avatel will deliver a completely new way of approaching development blasting operations by eliminating charge crew exposure at the face.

The development face is one of the highest risk areas of an underground mine, and serious injuries or fatalities continue to occur during face operations.

Development charging is the final step in the underground development cycle yet to be mechanised or automated. As mines advance deeper and orebodies become more complex, the need for safer, automated solutions that support an efficient mining cycle becomes more apparent.

The solution provides safe access for an operator in cab to execute the development cycle while reducing the reliance on costly, time-consuming and at-times ineffective controls put in place to manage the risks to personnel working in one of the highest risk areas of an underground mine.

“The mining industry is moving rapidly toward a digitally integrated and automated future, and Avatel will fulfil our shared vision of developing safer and more productive blasting solutions,” Orica chief commercial and technology officer Angus Melbourne says.

“Achieving this significant development milestone, despite COVID-19 disruptions, shows the strength of our collaboration with Epiroc and our collective ability to deliver the future of mining.”

Epiroc president underground division Sami Niiranen adds: “With this partnership, we continue to raise the safety bar by combining world-leading technologies that will make a difference in underground mines.

“The Avatel prototype represents the first step towards autonomous charging – a vital step in the journey toward safer and more productive blasting operations underground. We are looking forward to bringing this ground-breaking solution to customers worldwide.”

A key enabling technology of Avatel and Orica’s automation vision is WebGen, the world’s first fully wireless initiation system.

When combined with Orica’s LOADPlus smart control system, specifically designed onboard storage, assembly, digital encoding capability and Subtek Control bulk emulsion, Avatel provides customers with complete and repeatable control over blast energy from design through to execution.

Built on the foundation of Epiroc’s proven Boomer M2 carrier, and integrated with Orica’s latest explosives technology, Avatel is a twin boom, semi-autonomous and fully mechanised development charging solution that allows a single operator to complete the entire charging cycle from the safety of Epiroc’s enclosed roll-over protection structure (ROPS) and falling object protective structure (FOPS) certified cabin.

Avatel is equipped with the most sophisticated version of Epiroc’s acclaimed Rig Control System (version five). 

Through its intuitive interface, with a large touchscreen and dual multifunctional joysticks, and combined with Epiroc’s computer assisted boom positioning features, it can be easily handled.

Integrated with Orica’s LOADPlus, charge plans and other important data will be communicated between the systems.

The advanced and robust feed design of Avatel builds on Epiroc’s solid application design experience, further adapted to match conditions this new solution will face.

Future developments can be extended to other Epiroc carriers including battery driveline. Other key advantages include flexibility at the face through Epiroc’s dual diesel/electric plug-in power solution.

The convergence of these technologies ultimately ensures that the right explosives will be safely delivered into the right holes and given the right timing to achieve optimal efficiencies and the desired outcomes. 

Extensive trials of Avatel will take place throughout 2021, before the first commercially available systems are expected to enter service. 

This article also appears in the Mar-Apr issue of Safe to Work.

Leave a Reply

Send this to a friend