22 October 2008

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Inbye signs automation deal for Carborough

INBYE Mining Services has signed a worldwide licensing agreement for CSIRO’s automation technology, enabling it to be one of the first original equipment manufacturers to commercialise the technology underground next year at Vale’s new Carborough Downs longwall in Queensland.


From left to right: Guy Mitchell, CSIRO's Dr David Reid, Inbye's Richard Eveleigh and Carborough Downs' Andy Miffilin.


CSIRO Exploration & Mining's Dr David Reid with Inbye Mining Services Managing Director, Richard Eveleigh. Photo, Dynamic Images.

The agreement was signed by Inbye managing director Richard Eveleigh who told International Longwall News the technology was key to the OEM’s success at Carborough – its first complete longwall contract.

“We intend to hit the ground running,” Eveleigh said.

“A primary goal of our team is to remain faithful to the open architecture of CSIRO’s system.

“This will ensure interconnectivity of equipment without communication protocol converters, a vital requirement in markets where single-sourcing of equipment is not so prevalent.”

When Inbye tendered for the Carborough Downs contract part of the specifications was for its equipment to be LASC compatible. Since winning the contract it has worked closely with the mine and CSIRO to ensure Carborough’s longwall ramps up with LASC enabled.

Carborough Downs project manager Andy Mifflin told ILN it was important for Vale from the project’s beginning that LASC automation was incorporated so the miner could put systems and processes in place that would allow the “longwall to look after itself”, especially given the tight skilled labour market.

He said Inbye’s fresh outlook as a new longwall OEM allowed the two parties to start with a “blank sheet of paper” and work together from the beginning pulling the whole package together.

Mifflin said Vale’s expertise would also be used, with the Brazilian mining giant already having its own automation centre in Brazil. Currently an automation team from head office is already in Australia looking at the Integra open cut.

“We will also have our own automation engineer onsite,” he said.

“Automation is too important not to be able to [provide a solution] quickly if there is a problem. We will be offering 24-hour support to the longwall crew.”

For Inbye, the licence will give it the ability to offer and enable LASC on future tenders.

“This is a wonderful example of Australian developed technology being used to help build an Australian company,” CSIRO business development director Tim McLennan said.

Eveleigh said Inbye’s Polish partner, Kopex, which supplies the shields for the Carborough contract, intended to sign its own licensing agreement with CSIRO to enable it to bring the technology to its traditional markets.

LASC Longwall Automation was developed by CSIRO Exploration & Mining with funding from the Australian Coal Association Research Program.

Inbye is the second OEM to sign the non-exclusive licence with CSIRO, with Joy Mining Machinery being the first last week.

Pre-commercial prototypes of the technology have been operating at three Australian mines – Beltana, Broadmeadow and Grasstree.

The principal components of the LASC automation system include face alignment, horizon control, communications and operator interface, and information systems.

“As the technology is incorporated into mines, it will improve productivity and provide a safer working environment,” said ACARP executive director Mark Bennetts.

“For ACARP, it is an ideal outcome, resulting from extensive and close cooperation between CSIRO, industry and manufacturers.

“The technology positions the Australian coal industry ideally for the future, in that it will not only boost productivity, but also make better use of valuable human resources and increase overall competitiveness.”

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