Business Impact

Robomining

Robotics

Underground mining may have become a bit safer with the completion this March of a mining automation project in Copper Cliff, Ontario. A consortium including Toronto-based nickel producer Inco and equipment manufacturer Sandvik Tamrock launched the project five years ago; its goal was remote control, from the surface, of the machinery essential to hard-rock mining. Success means that for the first time workers would venture underground only to assemble the machinery and, occasionally, for maintenance work. Uninhabited tunnels would be smaller, and miners wouldn’t have to hike a kilometer every morning just to reach equipment-advances that would mean higher productivity.

The machines-outfitted with cameras and radio transmitters-are separated from the surface by hundreds of meters of rock, so they can use an unlimited range of radio frequencies without jamming surface transmissions. Partially unshielded coaxial cables fed into the mine serve as antennas, relaying real-time visual data to operators aboveground, who can control as many as three machines simultaneously with joysticks and foot pedals.

The project’s first successes were a ceiling drill and a front-end loader; the remaining machines, including a truck for hauling ore, will roll out over the next five years.

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.
Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Business Impact

How technology advances are changing the economy and providing new opportunities in many industries.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Basic.

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

You've read of free articles this month.