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Orica, Epiroc unveil prototype system for underground automation

By |  November 23, 2020
A front impression of a commercially ready Avatel unit in an underground mine. Photo: Epiroc

A front impression of a commercially ready Avatel unit in an underground mine. Photo: Epiroc

Orica and Epiroc plan to collectively unveil a new explosives delivery system in the coming weeks that will deliver a new way of approaching blasting operations – eliminating charge crew exposure at the face.

According to the companies, their Avatel solution will provide safe access for operators in a cab to execute the development cycle while reducing the reliance on controls put in place to manage the risks to personnel working in an underground mine.

Built on the foundation of Epiroc’s Boomer M2 carrier and integrated with Orica’s latest explosives technology, Avatel is a twin boom, semi-autonomous and fully mechanized development charging solution that allows a single operator to complete the entire charging cycle from the safety of Epiroc’s enclosed ROPS- and FOPS-certified cabin.

According to the companies, Avatel is equipped with the most sophisticated version of Epiroc’s rig control system through its intuitive interface, with a large touchscreen and dual multifunctional joysticks combining with Epiroc’s computer-assisted boom positioning features. Integrated with Orica’s Load plus, charge plans and important data will be communicated between the systems.

“The mining industry is moving rapidly toward a digitally integrated and automated future, and Avatel will fulfill our shared vision of developing safer and more productive blasting solutions,” says Angus Melbourne, Orica’s chief commercial and technology officer. “Achieving this significant development milestone, despite COVID-19 disruptions, shows the strength of our collaboration with Epiroc and our collective ability to deliver the future of mining.”

Epiroc’s Sami Niiranen, president of the company’s underground division, also weighed in on Avatel.

“With this partnership, we continue to raise the safety bar by combining world leading technologies that will make a difference in underground mines,” Niiranen says. “The Avatel prototype represents the first step toward autonomous charging – a vital step in the journey toward safer and more productive blasting operations underground. We are looking forward to bringing this groundbreaking solution to customers worldwide.”

According to the companies, a key enabling technology of Avatel and Orica’s automation vision is WebGen, a fully wireless initiation system. When combined with Orica’s LOADPlus smart control system, specifically designed onboard storage, assembly, digital encoding capability and Subtek control bulk emulsion, Avatel provides customers with complete and repeatable control over blast energy from design to execution.

The convergence of these technologies ultimately ensures that the right explosives will be safely delivered into the right holes, the companies say, giving the right timing to achieve optimal efficiencies and desired outcomes.

Trials of Avatel will take place throughout 2021, before the first commercially available systems are expected to enter service.

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry magazine. Yanik can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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