The goal is to make mines safer by automating one of the few manual processes left in mining: charging the blasting holes with explosives.
Blasting schedules in underground mines can vary, but the process takes place up to 15 times per day in larger mines as miners expand the chambers to extract mineral and metal ores. ABB Robot Charger automatically detects boreholes and fills them with charges without the presence of humans, removing the need for people to be near the unsupported rock face during blasting sequences.
The completed testing phase confirms the effectiveness of integrating the robot charger with a carrier vehicle, communication with bulk emulsion and vision systems and incorporation of a second robot arm to assemble prime and detonator. It ensures full reach to all borehole levels and areas of the rock face and remote control for operators.
The programme has been undertaken at Boliden Garpenberg, an underground zinc mine that is located 180 kilometres northwest of Stockholm, Sweden.
ABB is now aims to execute the full blasting sequence in the underground mine with full control of the robot handed over to the customer. The company is also starting discussions with other mine operators to eventually join the co-development project so that the technology can be tested in different mine environments and regions beyond Northern Europe with varying climate and rock composition.
Vedrana Spudic, head of technology, business line mining at ABB, said: “This is a significant technology development for ABB and the wider industry where safety is part of overall ESG commitments. The robot locates the drilled holes on the rock face using a vision system, and these recent tests show all can be reached and charged with the cycle fully automated. This removes the need for human operators in a small, unsupported area right at the face.”
ABB developed the robot charger technology with vision systems and automation solutions to communicate with the truck, crane and ABB industrial robotic arm. The solution can be retrofitted to any truck.