Tag Archives: Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology


Partnership will be the watchword in the technological collaboration between global diamond leader De Beers Group and engineering group Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions on the Venetia Underground Project (VUP).

South Africa’s largest diamond mine, Venetia has been mined as an open pit since 1992. De Beers Group is investing ~$2 billion to start mining underground from 2022, extending the mine’s life beyond 2045. The VUP represents the biggest single investment in South Africa’s diamond industry in decades.

Allan Rodel, Project Director of the VUP, says that the use of technology is critical in building the mine of the future and will ensure the safety of its people, as well as create unique employment opportunities. He adds that the successful implementation of technology holds the key to further improve the mine’s productivity and cost effectiveness, enabling the quality and accuracy required for precision mining. This will also provide real-time geospatially referenced data that supports digitalization of processes and provide a wealth of data for analysis and continuous improvement.

The underground mine will use sublevel caving to extract material, from its K01 and K02 ore bodies. Initially the ore will be hauled to surface using a combination of underground and surface haul trucks. As the operation matures the hauling systems will transition to an automated truck loop in combination with vertical shafts for steady state production.

Prioritising safety and productivity, the VUP will leverage the technology achievements of Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, having ordered 19 units of high-tech equipment from the company.

According to Simon Andrews, Managing Director at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions Southern Africa, the company will supply a range of intelligent equipment including load-haul dumpers (LHDs), articulated dump trucks (ADTs), twin-boom drill rigs, roof bolters and cable bolters. Amongst the advanced models are 17 tonne LH517i and 21-tonne LH621i LHDs, 51-tonne TH551i ADTs, DD422i face drills, DS412i roof bolters and DS422i cable bolters.

“As important as the equipment itself is, De Beers Group was looking to partner with a company who would support them through the VUP journey,” says Andrews. “Taking a mine from surface to underground has many challenges, including the change in operational philosophy.”

Andrews highlights that change management processes are as crucial to success as the capacity and performance of the mining equipment. The implementation of the new technology is seldom a straightforward process, and always requires a collaborative effort.

“The expectation of the customer is for a strong relationship with a technology partner who will help them to apply, develop and fine-tune the systems they need, over a period of time,” he says. “This way, the technology is assured to deliver the safety, efficiency and other positive results that the new mine will demand.”

Andrews believes that Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology leads the pack from a technology point of view, having introduced its intelligent i-Series machines to enhance remote operation capability. This advanced range combines automation with powerful data management capacity, aligning with the philosophy that De Beers Group has applied to this world-class operation prioritising the safety of its people.

Also included in the package for VUP is the Sandvik OptiMine® control system which enables continuous process management and optimisation, focusing on key areas such as face utilisation and visualisation of the operation in near real-time. Utilising data generated by the i‑Series machines, OptiMine® helps mining operations to achieve the lowest operating costs and highest levels of productivity.

Andrews notes that Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology is not new to the Venetia site, having worked with Venetia’s surface operations for some years, providing tools for drilling as part of a performance contract.  

“We’ve been following the VUP with great interest and were ideally placed to contribute as we have extensive South African experience with mining customers in transitioning from opencast to underground,” he says. “This has involved providing equipment, implementing the systems and getting a full operation running with the latest equipment.”

Andrews emphasises the extensive global footprint of Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, and its significant investment in ongoing research and development. This allows it to help customers push technological boundaries for efficiency in their operations.

“Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions has successfully completed numerous large and ambitious projects, and it reflects our experience in applying automation technologies from first principles,” he says. “The learnings from these projects will be seen in the VUP as the mining systems are rolled out. We will take the very latest technology and assist the mine to implement it in an underground environment through a collaborative approach using local skills and supporting it from a local base of expertise.”

He emphasises that the automation will be applied through a phased approach, beginning with manual operation and closely monitoring performance through data analytics. Automation can be gradually introduced with the necessary training and experience, ensuring consistency of operation which is the key to success.

“This will allow costs to be driven steadily lower, using the data from the operation of the fleet to guide the transition to automation,” he says. “We will work with the mine to introduce automation and further data management as work progresses deeper into the mine, and as mine employees become more comfortable with this way of working.” Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions is geared to support the trackless systems implemented at the mine through the full lifecycle of the machines by supplying spare parts, tooling and components from an on-site Vendor Managed Inventory stockroom and its other South African based facilities.


Despite the travel restriction difficulties associated with COVID-19, Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology has found novel and innovative solutions to overcoming these challenges which has ensured the company maintains its leading position in the fields of both automation and digitalisation.

Considering Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology first introduced automation solutions into its product offering some 15 years ago, and digital technologies 10 years ago – the company has been leading the way in helping the mining industry adopt and embrace the modernisation revolution.

“The African mining industry has traditionally shied away from embracing new technologies, but COVID-19 has been the push factor in accelerating the necessity to adopt change, and this has happened rapidly as mines have had to learn to operate remotely and with limited resources owing to COVID-19,” starts Simon Andrews, Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology Vice President for Sales in Southern Africa.

The adoption of new technologies however is no longer the primary objective. Finding ways to implement them remotely has now become the primary focus, Andrews continues.

With the philosophy of working towards finding a solution for any challenge, Sandvik Mining & Technology has done just that, and introduced a headset which enables it to walk and talk anyone through the process of commissioning a machine and associated software without having ever seen it before. “This offering removes all barriers associated with the inability to connect physically on the ground and is a mechanism of training in itself,” says Niel McCoy, Automation Business Development Manager for Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology.

Coupled with this new skill set and offering is Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology’s ability to better utilise its highly skilled personnel. “Our top level experts within the business are no longer time restricted by travel and are able to utilise their skills set across multiple mines on a more frequent basis, something we had never considered in the past but is an exercise already reaping great success,” McCoy points out.

As a result of the company’s efforts in ensuring digital technologies and the implementation thereof remain a top agenda for clients – regardless of remote working conditions, lockdown restrictions, etc., Sandvik has established a new communication repertoire with its clients. “Never before have we communicated so effectively or as frequently with our clients as we do now. We know more about our sites now than we ever did before, which naturally provides us with the ability to better assist our clients in any areas that we can contribute towards and give input on,” Andrews concludes.


Surface operations can now be operated with higher levels of safety and productivity, with the recent launch of Sandvik’s automation system, AutoMine® Surface Drilling for Boom Drills.

One operator can now control multiple drill rigs simultaneously. They can work from a comfortable location within line-of-site of the rig, or from a control room in a remote location. This means less exposure to noise, dust and vibration – and removes the hazard of working close to highwalls.

Automated onboard functions allow the rig to work autonomously. The operator monitors at fleet level and takes control only when required. The onboard automation functions of Sandvik’s iSeries surface boom drill rigs form the basis for the remote operation, minimising the risk of human error. The fleet view shows all the connected rigs and allows the operator to easily switch control between machines on the large touch screen.

This complete view of the drilling operation is made possible through multiple cameras, mounted on critical positions on the rig. The drilling main camera can be controlled remotely by using ‘shortcuts’ or with a dedicated joystick. There is even a high-quality audio feed to improve drilling performance.

The AutoMine® system helps the operator to use the drill rig’s full design potential, ensuring accurate and efficient drilling operations. The essential information on each rig is made available to see at a glance.

Designed for ease of use, the system also facilitates fast start-up under any conditions. It comes standard with a simple and reliable stand-alone network or can be integrated to a mine’s existing network solution. Network communication is established automatically creating a user friendly, reliable and ergonomic operating environment.

With operator safety being central to all mining operations, AutoMine® includes a safety system designed in accordance with international functional safety standards.

The AutoMine® Surface Drilling automation system can be employed on Sandvik’s Pantera™ DP1100i and DP1500i top hammer drill rigs, as well as the Leopard™ DI650i down-the-hole drill rig. The company also have a similar offering for its range of rotary drills.

Intelligent Sandvik drill rigs equipped with AutoMine® come with a range of onboard automation features and options to ensure optimal drill performance and minimise the possibility of errors. Among these features are feed auto-aligning and positioning, which ensures quick and accurate alignment and positioning according to the drill plan.

It also boasts an intelligent collaring sequence to make sure the hole start is perfect. The iTorque drilling control system ensures optimum drilling parameters for different rock conditions. Pipes are added and removed efficiently by the automatic pipe handling system.


The Covid-19 pandemic means less people in the mining area, working to achieve the same output; this makes digitalisation no longer a nice-to-have but a vital efficiency mechanism for survival.

This is according to Niel McCoy, business line manager for automation and digitalisation at Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology, who explains the challenge is that digital strategies often fail due to lack of a vision.

“Most mining companies have for years been working to digitalise their operations, but the difficulty is to know exactly what this process is meant to achieve, and where managers want their mines to be in the future,” says McCoy. “Bringing in new technologies means fundamentally changing the way your operation runs, so you need to be ready for the change management that this will require.”

The result is that many mines are still struggling to develop and apply digital strategies. Effective digitalisation, he says, involves nothing less than moving away from the traditional style of management. It means bringing everything towards a more centralised point.

“Digitalisation allows the whole underground mining operation to become visual – as if the ‘roof’ has been lifted off the mine – and to be managed from an operational management centre,” he says. “This gives management a view of all operations in real time, and the ability to optimise the various processes.”

Before any implementation can begin, the goal must be clear in everyone’s minds – a picture of what their ‘mine of the future’ looks like. Failing that, he emphasises that the effort becomes extremely difficult to implement and success is not likely. This will then guide the roadmap to be followed for adoption of digital tools. There is a clear journey to follow to be successful in digitilisation.

“Without an end in mind, this will become just another initiative,” he says. “Operations people will be unable to contextualise what the digital solutions mean within the big picture, and how it will improve their day-to-day activities and outcomes. This is mainly due to the data not being used in day-to-day management and decision making. It can never be a side project.”

McCoy emphasises that digital solutions are not just for managers to see more clearly what is happening on their mines, but is vital for the people on the ground to run their operations more effectively and efficiently, There needs to be full buy-in from the start if the intended efficiencies are to be realised in practice.

“The only way of making mining operations more efficient is to understand what is happening and where, and to react accordingly as quickly as possible,” he says. “One of the main shortcomings with traditional, hard-copy reporting methods on mines is that it simply takes too long for managers to sort through the raw reports from each shift and identify problems in time to make a meaningful intervention.”

This means that operations can never be properly optimised. Digital tools play a valuable role in addressing this challenge, helping mines achieve their key performance indicators.

“A good example of a KPI in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic is this: How do we get the best out of a reduced workforce?” he says. “Once a mine has clarified how it plans to approach this, it can start selecting the appropriate digital tools to achieve its goals.”

Change management is at the heart of the process, based on short interval control and process management. Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology’s core focus in digitalisation is process management and optimisation, through its Optimine® product.

“There are five different modules within OptiMine® that we offer customers, depending on their digital requirements,” he says. “Further digital solutions are also available, relating to aspects including telemetry of non-Sandvik equipment, face utilisation, ventilation monitoring, personnel tracking and ventilation-on-demand through our Newtrax platform.”

McCoy highlights that Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology’s experience in this field is substantial, demonstrated by the fact that OptiMine® has been installed at about 66 sites worldwide. He also emphasises that, while industry technology providers have their own specific focus areas, mines need to ensure that the different systems integrate effectively.

“As a manager on a mine, you don’t want to have dozens of different log-in points and dashboards to manage your operational data,” he says. “Rather, you want just a few key interfaces from which you can gather the overview you need. That is why it is so important to have your digital vision and understand what solutions you will require to achieve this vision.”

Inter-operability is therefore a vital aspect of the digitalisation planning. Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology’s leading inter-operability policy commits the company to working with any other type of information system that a customer has on site. This is to achieve the effective transfer of data between systems, to make it more useful for the customer.

“We are very proud of this policy, and are one of the first original equipment manufacturers to make such a policy public,” McCoy says. “It shows our understanding of the bigger digital picture and our role within it – aimed at ensuring that the customer is empowered use their data the way they choose.”


Southern African mines will soon begin the transition from diesel-driven to battery-powered drill jumbos, with the introduction of the world’s first highly-automated underground electric drill rig by Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology.

According to Saltiel Pule, Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology’s business line manager for underground drilling in southern Africa, the Sandvik DD422iE rig has already seen enthusiastic take-up in mining countries with strict anti-pollution regulations. The innovation has been in development for the past 3 years.

“The key benefits of the battery concept in underground drill rigs are zero emissions and much less heat, making for safer and healthier working conditions,” Pule says. “There are many other advantages to this technology, however, including increased drilling productivity, reduced operating costs and better energy efficiency.”

The Sandvik DD422iE’s electric driveline, with an electric motor mechanically connected to axles for high torque and high efficiency, allows the rig to tram independently between working areas. The unit’s high-precision inverter delivers exact control of the tramming speed.

“The rig only needs to be connected to mains power during the actual drilling, at which point the electric motor is connected onto hydraulic pumps,” he says.

Improved drilling power of up to 20% is achieved by an active power compensation system which draws reserve power from batteries during peak loads. Battery charging is done during those phases of the drilling cycle when power intake is low, such as during boom movements. There is therefore no waiting time to charge up batteries.

In pursuit of zero-harm safety standards, the unit uses sodium nickel chloride (SoNick) technology – regarded as the safest battery system for underground conditions. Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology also offers a battery rental option to customers, taking responsibility for battery inspection and maintenance, as well as responsible disposal at the end of battery’s life.

“The battery therefore becomes an operational cost for the mine, rather than a capital expense,” Pule says. “This option also gives the customer the certainty of predictable operating costs while adopting a new technology.”

In addition to zero emissions and less heat generation, the electric drill rig produces less noise, making communication easier and working conditions less stressful. There is a reduced risk of fire, as there are no fuels exposed to hot surfaces – as is common with diesel engines.

“The range of indirect savings that customers achieve when they move from diesel to electric includes lower ventilation costs underground, no need for diesel storage and diesel pipelines, and more control over operating costs,” Pule says.


The Coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown is adding impetus to the adoption of technology in mining in a way that is likely to change the sector quite dramatically, according to Simon Andrews, managing director at Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology Southern Africa.

Within the legal restrictions, Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology has continued operations in support of its mining customers in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

“Our structure – in which each country is managed independently – has proved invaluable under the lockdown conditions,” Andrews says. “This ensures we have the necessary skills in-country and on-site. In fact, there has been no need for our staff to cross borders.”

Most Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology staff are set up in home offices to keep the wheels turning, and a return to the normal office environment will not be considered before September. The company is also leveraging the technology in its equipment to facilitate remote working.

With its advanced mining automation and teleoperation systems, it is possible to monitor machines and optimise operations from any distance. Andrews says Sandvik has long promoted the merits of this technology, but it is not always simple to dislodge established practices in a conservative industry.

“No-one likes change, and the introduction of technology in any mining process can demand considerable commitment,” he says. “Rather like going to gym, everyone agrees that adopting technology has benefits for business, but actually acting on that belief, however, is a different story altogether.”

He highlights that the practical implementation of technology means tackling a steep learning curve. There is usually a significant change management process required, and myriad teething problems to resolve.

“It is a difficult process, and there often has to be something to break the inertia,” he says. “Certainly, Coronavirus (Covid-19) has forced everyone to work differently and to adopt new technology. Just consider how we work from home with online platforms to communicate with colleagues and customers.”

Like most technology partners in mining, Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology had to accommodate a sharp drop in mining operations in the early stages of South Africa’s national lockdown. It continued working with its coal mining customers designated as essential services, and has been ramping up as the rest of the sector returns to work. Equipment and components have continued to be brought in by air and sea, ensuring necessary supplies to customers.

“We stay in close contact with all staff and customers, and the overall business looks positive,” says Andrews. “Projects are generally continuing and orders are coming through. We have, of course, been implementing cost-saving measures to preserve the business for 2020, as we look forward to a better 2021.”

He emphasises, however, that there will be no going back to normal when intensity of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic eases. Technology will be increasingly embraced as it contributes to safer and more remote working practices.

“We want to be part of that journey with our mining customers, as they enter a new era of mining,” he says. “This will see technology, data management and remote operations become a way of life – making mines safer, more efficient and more sustainable.”


Solar power is driving Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology’s world-class facility in Zimbabwe, already saving the company over 400 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.  

Promoting Sandvik’s sustainability goals, the Harare-based operation kicked off its solar power journey in 2017 with an 18-month Phase One project. This included strengthening the roof of the remanufacture facility to accommodate the weight of some 400 solar panels.

Using local contractors and expertise, the project was soon generating 50 kW of power to the facility. In Phase Two, another 50 kW of capacity was added. The installation now supplies about 75% of requirements, and plans are afoot to provide 100% of demand with another 30 to 50 kW of capacity.

“This takes our Harare facility to the next level in terms of technology and sustainability,” Ian Bagshaw, territory manager Zimboz – Southern Africa at Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology, says.

In an unusual design, the system operates with no battery storage, consuming the energy as it is generated. This substantially reduced the cost outlay for the project, enabling an efficient payback period of just nine years.

The solar journey has not been limited to the facility’s buildings. Over the past year, it has also been extended to the homes of employees. In a pilot project, standalone domestic solar power systems were designed, tested and installed. The combined impact so far amounts to about 35 kW of renewable energy.

“We will provide loans to staff members wanting to install solar power at home, empowering them to further reduce climate impact,” Bagshaw says. “We will roll out this programme in 2020 through an offer to all staff, and we expect an enthusiastic uptake.”

He estimates that the company’s domestic solar programme could soon produce a total of about 300 kW of renewable energy.

Well-regarded throughout the Sandvik Group, the Harare facility focuses mainly on the remanufacture of Sandvik trucks, loaders, drills and bolters.

“Our workshop is fully accredited and works to OEM standards,” Bagshaw says. “This high quality of workmanship allows us to provide full warranties on the machines we strip down and rebuild.”

The facility is also an important training resource for Zimbabwe, developing diesel plant fitters, millwrights and electricians. It accommodates about 40 apprentices in training at any one time; currently around 30% of these are women. The facility also provides work-related learning to other companies’ employees in the region and is a government accredited trade testing centre.


In response to customer requests for a different approach to the raise drilling and blasting sequence, Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology’s highly mobile Rhino 100 ‘plug-and-drill’ raiseborer is a leap forward in mobility and drilling speed.

According to Saltiel Pule, Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology’s business line manager for underground drilling in southern Africa, the key to the Rhino 100’s mobility is being self-sufficient.

“This unit carries all its own components, from rods and cables to hydraulics and the raiseboring head,” says Pule. “Pulled by a specially adapted double-axle John Deere tractor, no other transportation equipment is needed to move the rig.”

Together with fast set-up times and high drilling productivity, the Rhino 100 is an integrated solution that allows mines to meet ambitious drilling targets.

“Outriggers stabilise the machine so there is no requirement for a concrete pad before setting up,” he says. “This means that the machine can be set up in as little as 10 minutes, compared to the few days it takes to cast and cure a concrete pad before use.”

He adds that no roof bolting is required either, as the Rhino 100 is equipped with an inclinometer that provides the operator with the necessary x and y coordinates, which the surveyor can confirm before drilling starts.

Its productivity is further enhanced by its high drilling speed; with penetration rates of about two metres per hour, it can progress drilling at more than double the rate of conventional methods.

“The rod-handling arm enhances health and safety underground, especially by preventing back and finger injuries,” he says. “By carefully manipulating and changing rods without them needing to be placed on the ground, the automated arm also avoids dust and rock chips getting into the threads. This helps maintain the workflow and keep the whole process running efficiently.”

The 52-tonne Rhino 100 – at 3,1 metres wide and 3,4 metres high – has been designed to fit comfortably into a standard mine haulage, with easy mobility from one tunnel or stope to the next. Pule notes that, judging by the number of enquiries from major mining players, the unit looks to have a promising future in southern Africa’s mining sector.


Orders are already placed by major South African coal miners for Sandvik’s new LS312 flameproof underground loader.

The first active units will start rolling off the local production line in the second quarter of 2020, according to Richard Hickson, product support manager at Sandvik Mining and Rock Technologies.

“The LS312 loader is an enhanced 12 tonne high-capacity heavy-duty utility vehicle, building on the best features of our 10 tonne LS190 and 12 tonne LS190S models,” says Hickson. “This raises the bar once more in terms of better performance, reduced emissions and lower total cost of ownership.”

Powered by the C7.1 mechanical engine, the new generation LS312 complies with Tier II emission standards while ensuring quieter and more efficient operation.

“Customers’ productivity will benefit from increased engine performance, with 20% higher torque and 8% more power,” he says. “The lower rpm at which the machine can run also translates into less engine wear and lower emission levels.”

Hickson highlights that the new design continues to include a focus on reliability and easier maintenance. The drivetrain has been enhanced with a 12 tonne axle, and the structural integrity of the front frame strengthened. Maintenance crews will have easier access to hydraulic test points, which are now located in a panel on the side of the machine, making for safer working practices. In addition, the improved cooling system will further reduce maintenance time.

The product also offers an optional electronic shutdown system, providing easier fault diagnosis, reducing mean time to repair.

With the industry driven need for collection of machine and operational information, the Sandvik LS312 LHD offers an onboard data monitoring capability allowing for transfer of information via the mine’s Wi-Fi network and management through the “My Sandvik Cloud platform.

“Safety is paramount in all our designs, and a proximity detection interface is now provided as standard,” he says. “The lower frame design – facilitating improved visibility for the operator – has been retained in the LS312.”

The local manufacture of this new model brings a number of benefits to customers and the economy, says Stephan Greisiger, production manager at Sandvik’s world-class manufacturing facility in Jet Park.

“Local production of the LS312 units will significantly reduce the lead-time to our market,” says Greisiger. “This makes it easier for customers to plan capital equipment purchases.”

Sandvik’s quality-accredited facility of some 2,200 m2 under roof ensures the highest standards are applied in the manufacture and assembly of these new units. Its capacity is proven by its output of 5 tonne and 8 tonne loaders.