Since the launch of a fuel automation system at the Investing in African Mining Indaba in February last year, mining technology company Minetec Smart Mining has seen significant demand for the technology.
The fuel automation system allows for the management of fuel allocation and expenditure to provide an easy fuel management tool while preventing fuel theft.
Minetec Smart Technology MD Oguz Kiciroglu tells Mining Weekly that, although many automated fuel management systems are available on the market, they are not necessarily designed with the unique requirements of the mining sector in mind.
“One of the most significant costs in the opencast sector is diesel, which is the lifeblood of opencast mining operations. It is critical that it is managed intelligently through a system that is designed specifically for the mining industry,” he comments.
Minetec Smart Mining’s fuel automation system is a digitalisation tool that captures all the refuelling and consumption information on one database.
A junior coal miner was the first client in South Africa to test and implement the fuel automation system at its opencast mining operation, in Bronkhorstspruit, in Gauteng, in May last year.
Following the completion of a successful three-month trial, it was installed and commissioned in August. The system has since been rolled out at other opencast operations on all mining machines.
“Fuel attendants are issued with ruggedised Android devices, enabling them to digitally create fuel requisitions and automatically capture accurate litres dispensed into every vehicle. “All vehicles are tagged and configured with the Minetec software, allowing for automatic vehicle recognition,” the Minetec Smart Mining sales department said in a statement issued in January.
All bulk tanks and mobile bowsers were also equipped with level sensors for continuous tank level monitoring. Additionally, water sensors were installed in these tanks to monitor fuel quality, which the Minetec Smart Mining sales department said was crucial to ensure that good quality fuel was in the machines to allow for optimised engine runtime and minimised downtime.
“Minetec Smart Mining’s fuel automation system offers a comprehensive mining digitalisation solution, which integrates into one database that provides key data on fuel use and qualities. “Further, the system aligns with our drive towards using Industry 4.0 solutions by using Big Data to optimise mining operations and, thereby, proactively manage our various key performance indicators or targets,” the client explained in the January statement.
Kiciroglu explains that the system has several key features and capabilities, including a vehicle recognition system, supplier management, stock management, stock level warnings, order or purchase process management, as well as fuel requisition form management and fuel consumption reporting.
“The system is equipped with powerful software, where trends can easily be recognised, and enables us to take swift action, should any irregularities occur, which is crucial to avoiding loss of fuel, owing to theft or wastage,” added the mine's system administrator.
Kiciroglu notes that the system’s combined features make it “near impossible” for fuel theft to occur, thereby addressing an unfortunate ongoing problem in African mining.
Even more common, however, is human error when manual reporting methods are used, which this system effectively eliminates.
A Smart Suite
Minetec Smart Mining’s fuel automation system is one aspect of a larger suite of smart and comprehensive solutions to optimise management, operation and communication processes in modern mining.
The company also offers an advanced collision avoidance system, which prevents the loss of capital and productivity by reducing the risks of resource losses.
The production management solution provides advanced dumping detections, loading-area identification through geofencing, budget calculation and vehicle-productivity reports.
Additionally, a fleet management system monitors company resource management, stock levels and productivity to infer information about company performance, while a tracker solution boasts a geofencing feature, which can name the fields on a map and make specific definitions according to various algorithms – such as preferred areas, no-go areas, waypoints and customised boundary identification.
Other solutions in the suite include key control, which verifies operator licences using biometric authentication for vehicular access and digital ignition control. To complement this, fatigue management monitors the state of the operator to prevent operation of machinery when inappropriate, while an engine monitoring system monitors internal machine parameters to infer the state of the engine and ensure its viability.
Kiciroglu says the suite of intelligent mining solutions is used by numerous clients in not only South Africa but also Africa, through sales in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ghana and Kenya, in applications such as coal, anthracite, iron-ore and manganese mining.
“We are working on a project in the DRC where we are installing a combination of these solutions in about 650 machines, and the fuel automation system is being installed on about 13 fuel tanks. “The implementation is under way. We expect the project to be finalised by about the end June,” he says.
Minetec Smart Mining provides physical and theoretical technical training on all its solutions for clients.