Private LTE Networks Boost Mining Efficiency

Next Generation Communications Blog

Private LTE Networks Boost Mining Efficiency

By: Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

The mining industry is booming thanks not only to natural resource demands in China, but also because every electronic device, including smartphones a lot of the precious materials that miners pull from the earth. For example, an iPhone contains gold, silver, platinum, copper and many rare earth elements like Yttrium, Lanthanum, Neodymium, Gadolinium and Europium.

Keeping these bustling mines efficient requires a highly reliable, accessible, secure and high-performance communications network. The reason is the mines tend to be operational 24/7/365. It is a major factor in why many mines are in the process of or evaluating upgrading their communications networks, since the existing Wi-Fi, 2G, 3G, proprietary VHF and PMR options are not keeping pace with mining information interchange demands of all types.

One solution is private, ultra-broadband, as described in a recent TrackTalk posting, LTE for mining: delivering ultra broadband in the middle of nowhere, by Thierry Sens, Marketing Director Transportation Segment, Alcatel-Lucent (ALU). Indeed, the reason for the title is somewhat obvious in that mines tend to be in not just remote but very remote locations.

For example, the Rio Tinto West Angelas mine in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, the solution for better connectivity has been a private single and converged ultra-broadband 4G LTE network for its pit fields, railways and ports.

The network, installed in 2013 by Alcatel-Lucent, helps with mission-critical communications for things like in-pit autonomous haulage systems (AHS), autonomous drilling systems (ADS), driverless freight train control, anti-collision systems, in-pit proximity detection, in-pit CCTV, high-precision GPS and an array of telemetry systems and sensors are now integral components of successful mine sites around the world, according to Sens.

Alcatel-Lucent has provided an illustration of a private broadband for mining.  While a bit of an eye chart, what stands out is the extent of the IP/MPLS infrastructure along with the wireless links from the mines to the backbone network.

Source: Alcatel-Lucent

For Rio Tinto, the performance of its LTE network has led some observers to comment that they have a better mobile signal in the middle of the mine, hundreds of miles from the nearest city, than in their office.

“An LTE network is also contributing to reduced operating costs by using an IP protocol to support all applications on a single converged radio network, and improvements in operational efficiency,” notes Sens.

Private LTE networks and mining are a good fit, as Rio Tinto has demonstrated.


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