To develop the digitalized, autonomous and carbon-dioxide-free mine of the future, in collaboration with other globally leading Swedish companies, LKAB initiated SUM, Sustainable Underground Mining in 2018. Significant progress has been made and the engineering group Sandvik has now joined the venture as a new partner that will further strengthen a joint endeavour towards sustainable underground mining at great depths.
”In the coming years LKAB must have a solution in place to be able to mine iron ore at depths approaching or exceeding 2,000 metres in a cost-effective way by employing technology that is safe, autonomous, electrified, digitalized and carbon-dioxide-free. To enable this, collaboration with other leading industrial companies will be decisive. Sandvik’s longstanding experience of producing underground vehicle systems will complement the ongoing work in an important way,” says Jan Moström, President and CEO of LKAB.
”LKAB has used automated equipment from Sandvik for many years and we look forward to the opportunity to extend our collaboration and introduce new and advanced solutions that will set an industry standard,” says Stefan Widing, President and CEO Sandvik.
Partners in SUM also include Epiroc, ABB and Combitech and the project has received funding support from the Swedish Energy Agency. The Volvo Group’s earlier partnership in SUM will now take the form of other collaboration with LKAB.
A new world standard for mining at great depths
After 2030 LKAB must be ready to mine iron ore deeper in the mines in Kiruna and Malmberget. For this, one of Sweden’s biggest industrial investments ever, decisions will have to be taken in the mid-2020s. This type of strategic collaboration project is very complex, each company contributes its specific expertise, and the partners will link together both digital systems and operations. Providing unique possibilities for SUM, the test mine Konsuln in Kiruna will serve as a real mine environment where technology, machines and working methods will be tested.
Epiroc and Sandvik provide the global mining industry with smart vehicle solutions. Here, it will be a matter of battery-powered, autonomous and efficient mining equipment and related solutions that will ensure improved productivity and safety in LKAB’s mines. ABB‘s role is to contribute knowledge and solutions for electrification, automation, service and maintenance. With the help of digitalization, solutions can be identified for increasing the amount of available information, which contributes to optimal productivity in a safe, accessible and sustainable way.
Combitech contributes broad expertise and experience when it comes to connecting autonomous processes and people via so-called digital ecosystems.
”To meet the mining industry’s challenges it is essential that we work together to create effective solutions that guarantee safe mining operations that are economically, environmentally and socially sustainable. Swedish mining companies have a tradition of being technology leaders, which has enabled them to compete internationally. To secure our future competitiveness, we must continue to make the best use of our collective know-how. Within the framework for SUM, suppliers and mining companies have joined forces under a common vision whereby ABB, with our longstanding experience of both automation and electrification of mines, will shape the future of sustainable mining together with our partners,” says Björn Rosengren, CEO of ABB.
”We at Epiroc, with our expertise and leading position in automation and battery electrification of mining equipment, are proud to be able to contribute to the future mine. As well as bringing great advantages in terms of the work environment in the mine, this will benefit the climate, and our open systems will facilitate autonomous and other smart vehicle solutions. We are very pleased to be part of the SUM initiative, which uses proactive thinking and world-leading innovation to place people, the environment and productivity at the top of the agenda,” says Helena Hedblom, President and CEO of Epiroc.
”Via this partnership, we can derive maximum benefit from digitalization. One key is integration between various complex systems in order to manage information flows and enable interactivity. Here, we are proud to contribute our know-how and experience of digital integration to achieve the sustainable mining of the future,” says Hans Torin, CEO Combitech.
Collaboration in SUM is both unique and challenging. Structure, cross-functional teams and work methods must be developed to fit all member companies. Although this effort has taken longer than expected, significant advances have been made:
- Successful establishment of the test mine Konsuln in Kiruna, where testing is done in a real mine environment.
- An integration and collaboration platform, “LOMI” (LKAB Open Mine Integrator) has been developed to enable an open systems architecture whereby all partners can develop modules and solutions that work together.
- ABB has delivered ABB Ability System 800xA, the control-room console Extended Operation Workplace and a ”Collaboration table” for visualizing key functions and key figures in the mine, allowing the operator to monitor and control equipment in the best, most sustainable way. The ambition is that everything that is done in the test mine can be approved, planned and controlled via a project office at surface level, so that underground work can be done more efficiently.
- Epiroc has delivered the drill rig Easer L and mine loader Scooptram ST18, both equipped for automation functionality, for the test mine, and operators and service personnel have been trained. Easer L, commissioned in 2019, has shown good results in drilling over 50-metre-long holes in the test mine, which is an important step for planning future mine layout. For the loader, during autumn 2020, the plan is to conduct tests with increasing complexity in terms of automation and interoperability.
- Combitech delivers new solutions for systems platforms on an ongoing basis together with LKAB’s IT- department. The aim is to synchronize new technology with existing systems.
In March 2020 the ”Testbed for integrated, efficient and carbon-dioxide-free mining systems”, a part of SUM, received funding amounting to 207 million kronor from the Swedish Energy Agency, showing just how important the project is for the climate and for the technological transition, but also for Sweden as an industrial nation.