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VTT, Nokia & Sandvik collaborate in 5G powered research project on next generation underground mining technology

Press release

August 16, 2021

Industrial 5G is unlocking efficiency in mining for improved productivity, safety, environmental sustainability and global competitiveness. These impacts will be realized through the introduction of next generation mining technology, including autonomous connected machinery, digital automation and advanced analytics for real-time situational awareness and control, to enable safety, productivity and sustainability improvements in mining operations.

Next Generation Mining (NGMining), is a new project funded by Business Finland bringing together industrial 5G private networks, edge computing and AI technologies based solutions to enable digital transformation in mining. The core theme of the project is to facilitate safe, and sustainable underground mining through productive use of autonomous and connected machinery.

VTT is coordinating the joint R&D project with Nokia and Sandvik as the leading industry experts.

”VTT supports all project partners by coordinating the project. In addition, in the research VTT applies and further strengthens the competences related to telecommunication technology, situation-awareness, sensor technologies, edge computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI) on new application areas in mining context”, says Sauli Eloranta, Vice President, Safe and connected society, VTT.

“Collaboration across the ecosystem is essential for developing winning technology solutions that will meet productivity and sustainability targets and capture global market share in the growing mining business”, says Jarkko Pellikka, Director, Nokia Unlocking Industrial 5G program.

“Sandvik is conducting research on 5G connectivity use cases in the mining environment and this NG Mining consortium helps facilitate this with our network partners,” says Miika Kaski, Commercialization and Networks Lead, Sandvik.

The NGMining project also collaborates with the Sustainable Industries X initiative (SIX), as the results on autonomous connected working machines can also be exploited in other industries. The 2- year NGMining project kicked off in May 2021, and includes also University of Oulu as a research partner, as well as Epec, SATEL, Huld, Terrasolid, Outsight, Etteplan, Noptel, Unikie, Iiwari, Millisecond, Wizense ja Indagon as company partners. The project advisory board includes representatives from Outokumpu and Agnico Eagle operational mines, Telia 5G Business, Kalmar and Ponsse.

The goal of the NGMining project is to build proof of concept (PoC) experimental systems to evaluate integrated connectivity solutions, which are tested in harsh underground mining environments. The objectives pertaining to the 5G network infrastructure cover spectrum usage in the underground mining environment, 5G modems integrated in relevant machinery and user equipment, and edge computing. Identified challenges include: understanding signal behavior in underground environments, harsh environments for HW, and network design requirements to ensure underground connectivity with respect to bandwidth, frequency range, latency, reliability and scalability.

By engaging with key industry players in the mining segment, the intention is to drive joint experiments for mining digitalization. The target is to develop a mine compliant connectivity infrastructure, with integrated solutions that incorporate safety and tracking technologies and AI enablers, for safe and efficient operation of autonomous connected working machines (AGVs) in underground mines. Project phases include use case definition for autonomous machinery in mining, solution evaluation via testing platforms with 4G/5G wireless capabilities, selection of most value-added results for development and commercialization, and pilot implementations in operational customer mines.

Finland's unique industry ecosystem enables creation and piloting of technologies, solutions and business models, and the partnership will continue to grow as it takes on new challenges and additional partners, both domestic and international.
 

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