Mining Companies Continue to Invest in Simulation
MINING WEEKLY – APRIL 2014
Despite continued cautiousness and a slowdown in the mining industry, investments in operator competency, including safety and productivity, still continue to grow. Advanced training simulators are being seen as an increasingly important part of mine operations globally and a sound investment as a technology that will up-skill employees and uplift the surrounding community’s skills base.
Some big players and projects recently bought into simulation to enhance their core fundamental performance measures with ThoroughTec Simulation experiencing another year of continued growth in 2013. Their range of advanced military standard CYBERMINE training simulators is now in its fourth generation. “More and more mine operators are realising the advantages that simulation can bring to their mine sites around the world,” says Greg Lew, Executive Vice President of Global Business Development. “We’re continuously receiving reports from mines about how simulation is aiding in the recruitment process, improving productivity and reaction times in emergency situations.”
“This means less unscheduled maintenance and lower maintenance and training costs.”
In 2013 ThoroughTec broke into several new markets, including India and Kazakhstan. The world’s largest integrated producer of zinc, Hindustan Zinc of India, took delivery of a CYBERMINE Mining Simulator for a Sandvik drill rig, LHD underground loader and ADT surface hauler for their Sindesar Khurd mine in Rajasthan. Kazakhmys, the world’s largest copper producer and one of the largest mining companies in Kazakhstan, is currently involved in two major copper projects: Aktogay and Bozshakol. They’ve recognised the benefits of simulation and its ability to support these big projects with Aktogay ordering a simulator for a CAT haul truck and wheel loader and a Hitachi shovel and excavator. Bozshakol will be receiving a simulator for a CAT dozer and haul truck, Hitachi shovel and excavator and a Sandvik drill rig.
“Because mine vehicles are being used for fewer training tasks, the associated running costs of training are greatly reduced,” says Lew. “Damage and wear-and-tear on mine vehicles decreases as green operators are able to familiarise themselves with the controls of the machines and iron out their mistakes on the mining simulator instead of the real machine. This means less unscheduled maintenance and lower maintenance and training costs.”
Expansion in Latin America continued at speed with entry into the lucrative and copper-rich Collahuasi region in Chile and ThoroughTec’s reputation with training schools in the country solidified. The University of Santo Tomas (UST), one of the largest education institutions in Chile, purchased a Fixed Facility Simulator, ideal for classrooms, for a Komatsu haul truck. Peru, one of the world’s largest producers of base and precious metals and home to Volcan Compana Minera, ordered a Fixed Facility Simulator for an Atlas Copco twin boom drill rig at their training school in Yauli which is also home to three of their mines.
Continued growth was also seen in Southern Africa with Anglo American’s Mogalakwena platinum mine in Limpopo ordering a simulator for a TZ rope shovel. Assmang’s Black Rock manganese mine now has a total of five simulator base units after receiving a unit for an Atlas Copco underground truck and bolter. Kumba Iron Ore’s Sishen mine in the Northern Cape now operates the largest number of ThoroughTec simulators with 10 now on site. In 2013 they purchased simulators for a Caterpillar ADT, haul truck and grader and three Komatsu haul trucks. Construction and engineering company Murray & Roberts Cementation purchased a Fixed Facility Simulator for their Bentley Park training facility near Carltonville. This order is for a Sandvik drill rig, LHD, bolter and underground ADT.
In a continuation of large-scale mining operations recognising the benefits of simulation, Swakop Uranium in Namibia received three CYBERMINE Mining Simulators for a Caterpillar rotary blasthole drill rig, hydraulic shovel and rope shovel and a Komatsu haul truck for their Husab mine near Swakopmund. This is currently one of the biggest uranium mining projects in the world.
Moving over to North America, military standard mining simulation penetrated the oil sands market with the largest oil sands company in the world, Syncrude. They purchased a simulator for a CAT truck, dozer and grader, Liebherr truck and a P&H shovel. “Syncrude chose ThoroughTec due to our capability to customise every cab using their standard operating procedures,” says Lew. Syncrude also have a large hiring expansion over the next 4-5 years where they will be looking to hire experienced operators. “Simulators are an ideal tool for aiding in the recruitment process.”
The only palladium and platinum producer in the United States, Stillwater Mining Company, purchased a simulator for an Atlas Copco drill, CAT loader, DUX underground mining truck, MTI truck and a Trident truck. The simulator will be a vital tool in their plans to expand the Nye site and East Boulder site in Montana and for refresher training of their current operators. “Stillwater will also use the simulator as a useful recruiting tool to weed out the bad operators and pinpoint the experienced and good operators,” says Lew.