World’s Biggest Iron Ore Mine Becomes Automated

Thursday, September 18th, 2014
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Swiss engineering firm ABB has obtained a fresh follow-up contract for the creation of an automated system for the largest iron ore mine in the world in order to dispense with the usage of diesel haulage trucks.

The $103 million contract will see ABB continue the installation of an automated electrical system at Vale’s S11D iron ore mine in the Para region of  Brazil. S11D is the world’s biggest iron ore development, with a projected output of 90 million tonnes per annum, and is considered critical to Vale’s future prospects.

ABB has already completed the first phase of the mine’s automation project under a $140 million contract awarded by Vale at the end of 2012. That project involved the construction of shiftable conveyer belts for the transportation of ore to the mine’s processing facilities in lieu of off-highway dump trucks.

ABB provided the mine with a complete system for the automation of plant processes, including a centralised 800xA control system that increases safety for mining personnel by enabling them to oversee and perform mining procedures remotely.

The system permits the automatic recovery and piling of iron ore via the usage of satellite signals and GPS systems to shift and position machinery, as well as makes use of 3D scanning for field screening.

In addition to the automation of mine processes, ABB also supplied the electrical infrastructure for the mine’s new processing facilities, as well as power distribution and supply equipment.

ABB said that the project marks the first occasion that a “truckless” automated solution will be deployed on a significant scale at an iron ore mine, providing numerous benefits with respect to costs, efficiency, safety and impact on the environment.

According to ABB, the truckless system can achieve significant reductions in operating costs as well as carbon emissions, by cutting down dramatically on diesel fuel consumption.

“If the S11D mine were to be operated using trucks it would need around 100 trucks and consume 77 per cent more diesel per year,” the company says.

Veli-Matti Reinikklala, head of ABB’s Process Automation Division, said the project would “use the latest automation technologies to create the mine of the future, a benchmark mine in terms of productivity, safety and sustainability.”

“The project will allow Vale to increase production by approximately 90 million tonnes, while reducing emissions and improving operational efficiency and process safety.”

Under the new contract ABB will provide a 230 kilovolt in-feed substation that will connect the mine to the grid, as well as 42 secondary substations, three of which will be self-contained in pre-fabricated modular enclosures, and the motors that power the conveyors belts of the automated system.

Iron ore production at S11D is set to commence in 2016, with production expected to reach 90 million tonnes of iron ore per annum by 2018.

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