Granny Smith Mine (GSM) is an underground gold mine located 740 km northeast of Perth, Western Australia. In 2018, Gold Fields launched a five-year modernization program for the site. The first phase’s ambition was to ensure cost-efficiency, productivity, and a safe work environment by integrating data-driven solutions into the mine. Gold Fields’ investment will also contribute to positive environmental effects over time as their digitalization more sustainable operations.
Michael Place has worked at Gold Fields, Granny Smith, for the past seven years and holds the Mine Manager position. He is responsible for the daily mining operation, including the modernization program. He believes in combining technology from different vendors since no size fits all, therefore Gold Fields has applied a technology-agnostic approach when implementing new technology.
The Mobilaris products that have been implemented so far are Mobilaris Situational Awareness and Mobilaris Onboard.
Historically, underground blasting has been one of the biggest time thieves in the Granny Smith Mine. They are currently losing four hours of production in a 24-hour period due to the firing. With the ongoing modernization program, the mining company is becoming more
efficient than before.
"Integrating technology into the mine allows us to look at options to reduce the amount of inactive time. The expected outcome of implementing digital solutions is a 5-15% increase in productivity"
A challenge has been maintaining the productivity profile, as the mine gets more complicated by the day. In 2019, a group from Gold Fields, Granny Smith, including General Manager Andrew Bywater, visited the Swedish mining company Boliden to study the use of the Mobilaris product suite, with a focus on Mobilaris Onboard and Mobilaris Situational Awareness.
Mobilaris Onboard, working as a car navigator underground, creates traffic awareness and a safe and effective traffic flow. Based on real-time data, Mobilaris Situational Awareness enables transparency and awareness. The information makes it possible to control operations and resources, and people can quickly act upon what is happening and make smart decisions faster.
After the visit to Boliden, Gold Fields implemented Mobilaris Onboard and Mobilaris Situational Awareness in their underground operations.
“Mobilaris Onboard allows us to navigate to all locations underground quickly and efficiently. It improves our productivity and decreases inactive time by reducing traffic congestion and the time spent finding equipment and machines. We are a haulage-constrained mine, and by reducing the cycle time of our haulage fleet, we can raise our productivity. It is a significant benefit”, says Michael Place.
According to Michael Place, combining technology from different vendors is the best way to use data. Gold Fields use Mobilaris Situational Awareness as their number one source of information and integrates it with fleet management, inventory systems, and the daily shift scheduler. Their digital investment is expected to pay off within a year.
“The location data will synchronize with daily schedules to ensure real-time data is captured from the time jobs are planned and executed. We are looking at efficiency improvements, but we are currently introducing this technology to maintain our production profile with the increasing depth and costs. We foresee a return on investment in 12 months”, says Michael Place.
As for any industry with people and large machines in movement, it can be hard to increase efficiency without adversely affecting safety. Especially in a limited underground environment. During the research process, Gold Fields discovered that Mobilaris Onboard addresses specific safety issues. By sharing positional data and navigation in 3D, drivers can avoid traffic collisions and easily find the closest refuge chamber in case of emergencies.
“We have installed tablets in all our heavy vehicles. With Onboard’s traffic awareness feature, we can minimize the vehicle-to-vehicle interaction and the vehicle-to-personnel interaction. The application also tells us where to find the three nearest refuge chambers to our location. So, if there is an emergency, we can get the quickest path to safety in seconds”, concludes Michael Place.