Mining is extremely energy-intensive due to the motors needed to power underground crushing plants, pump fresh air into the maze of underground tunnels, and transport the ore to the continually rotating grinding mills.
Since the end of the 1990s, Boliden – Sweden’s largest mining company – has worked with technology leader ABB to increase the sustainability and production efficiency by using smart, digital solutions.
Mining activities in Garpenberg in central Sweden can be traced back to 375 BC. Today, the Garpenberg mine is one of the oldest yet most modern and productive in the world. In a new plant, hundreds of motors, drives, and other pieces of equipment have been digitally connected.
This has enabled constant remote monitoring of the operational status of every aspect of the mine. Also, maintenance needs can be predicted based on the continual analysis of the collected big data from the underground mine’s operational efficiency.
These digital solutions have contributed to a production increase of 60 per cent to 2.5 million tonnes of ore annually, while noise pollution as well as energy- and water consumption have been drastically reduced. The sustainability aspect of operations has also been improved. Smart ventilation systems adjust the fans for specific needs, saving up to 50 per cent of energy compared to previous systems.
Furthermore, ABB has designed, delivered and commissioned electrical infrastructure capable of powering several electric mine trucks at Sweden's largest open-pit copper mine, Boliden’s Aitik. The electrified lane is roughly 700 metres long and is expected to save about 830 m3 of diesel fuel per year.
This infrastructure will ultimately enable Boliden to carry up to 70 million tonnes of rock every year and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from transportation by up to 80 per cent along those routes where the technology can be implemented.
Another advancement is the use of 5G technology, which has been tested at Boliden’s Kankberg site in cooperation with Ericsson, ABB and Boliden.