Processing Magazine

Anglo American launches major automation plan

January 15, 2013

Mining-Robot-CMUThe National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is working with one of the world's biggest mining companies, UK-based Anglo American plc, on the development of innovative robotic technologies for mining, the university says.

The partnership is backed by a five-year agreement and is hoped to result in a series of innovations that can be implemented in Anglo American's mines. An experimental robot is already being tested in surveying mining tunnels and shafts, as well as for mapping them.

Tony Stentz, NREC director, says CMU is extremely happy to have been selected as a partner for Anglo American in its project to develop mining robotics. His words are backed by Dimi Apostolopoulos, principal investigator and senior systems scientist at NREC, who adds that the agreement will result in ground-breaking development in the mining industry. Robotic technologies will be used to perform a range of tasks that are considered either too risky or too challenging for humans. Apart from making mining safer for workers, the new technologies will also contribute to improved productivity thanks to developments in processes and technologies, he says.

Engineers at the NREC's Robotics Institute and its Field Robotics Center are going to build their new projects on what they have been doing so far in the field of mining automation projects to develop advanced perception, electro-mechanical and robotic systems for Anglo American. A team of engineers from the mining company will also work on the projects to ensure that the solutions offered are fit for the purposes and compatible with the company's mining operations, the statement said. Initially, the partners will be working on applications like robotic mining machinery, mine mapping and automated inspection but they will also examine ways to further apply robotics technologies in mining.

The five-year agreement between the mining company and the university is part of a bigger project undertaken by Anglo American to advance mining technologies. The company has operations in a number of countries and produces a range of commodities, including copper, nickel, platinum, diamonds, iron ore, metallurgical and thermal coal. Developing robotic technologies that can be applied in all operations is of paramount importance for the company as it relies heavily on innovation and automation in its long-term business strategy, explained Donovan Waller, head of automation and remote control technology development for Anglo American.