Empowering people by transparency
Boliden has always been in the forefront of industrial technology development. Their very first trial with wireless underground technology can be dated back to 1989, but the first positive report on the subject was not written until 2003. By that time, the technology department concluded that wireless solutions were ready to be deployed underground and in 2008 the decision was made. Four years later, the very first wireless underground network was setup in a Boliden mine.
“We are not necessarily moving fast, but at least we have been persistent, and we are working hard. My colleagues have done a great job in understanding that you can’t do mining automation without data communication, and you can’t do mining automation without a positioning service. But still, other mining companies don’t seem to fully get it.”, says Peter Burman, Head of Automation at Boliden.
The company is producing metal in restricted high-cost environments where there is a no tolerance policy against work-related injuries. So, embracing new technology, such as Mobilaris Onboard™, is one of the ways to move forward.
“Visiting the operations center, I got to see the MMI section of Mobilaris, where you can position and see where every co-worker is located. I quickly realized that this is wonderful from a safety viewpoint.”, say Andreas Suup, Mining Manager at the Kristineberg mine.
With Mobilaris Mining Intelligence installed in most of their mines, Boliden’s ambition is to create a more transparent work environment where people can make information-based decisions.
“Micromanagement with control over workers and orders should never be the goal. Instead, managers should focus on creating a more open work environment, not making miners less capable when machines already are getting smarter.”, says Peter Burman.
The way Boliden is renewing underground mining originates from how they operate their smelters. There, the information is pushed down to the people that can make live changes in decisions, without the guidance from managers or operation centers.
“Boliden still owns their smelters and concentrators such as Rönnskär, we inherit experience from there. If you look at their automation level, they are at the very forefront and an inspiration for the mining side. If it can be used in the industry, the same principle must be working underground!”, says Peter Burman.
Today, Boliden mines such as Kristineberg are becoming more productive and safer for workers.
“We are a relatively small scale mine. Here, efficiency is key, and we believe that the more independent decisions our co-workers can make, productivity will increase. Looking at the Onboard system and the Traffic Awareness functionality, we can get early indications that cars are approaching around corners – where the main problems occur. Now we have a good opportunity to steer to the side and let heavier or prioritized vehicles pass through.”, says Andreas Suup.
Making use of the new technology is a matter of investing in knowledge and training. The new generation of underground workers will also demand better technology and expect to be connected, just as people working in an office.
“It is costly to introduce new technology and mining companies are often underinvested in that area. But what is the purpose of new technology if nobody is using it? If you have invested in new solutions, you must also do the investments necessary for making them the standard of operations – with training, courses and introductions.”, finishes Peter Burman.
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