Tata Steel’s West Bokaro Mine, India

MinLog implements a fleet management system at Tata Steel’s West Bokaro mine

COMMODITY: Coal
OPERATION: Tata Steel’s West Bokaro Mine, India
TYPE OF ENVIRONMENT: Open-cast colliery
SOLUTIONS DEPLOYED: Fleet Management System

 

Background

Although India has low reserves of coking coal resulting in a need for high volumes of coal imports to meet the demand of steel producing companies in that country, Tata Steel owns two collieries, including West Bokaro, which provides it with metallurgical grade coal for its steel-making endeavors and allows it to supply other steel plants and power plants. West Bokaro was acquired by the steel giant in 1956. The current coal beneficiation plant at West Bokaro was commissioned in 2005/6 and it produces clean coal at optimum cost for use in the Tata Steel plant at nearby Jamshedpur. West Bokaro has two open cast mines which are treated as separate business units. One quarry (Quarry ACD) opened back in 1976, the other (Quarry SEB) in 2003.

 

Requirement

The use of fleet management technology for open cast mining is still in the process of maturing in India, where it is generally referred to as Truck Dispatch Systems. Tata Steel’s requirements for improved equipment utilisation and productivity at their newer SEB operation, led them to investigate their options from a Fleet Management System perspective.

Like many mines, West Bokaro management wanted a system requiring the minimum amount of operator interaction, plus reduced configuration and maintenance effort.

Challenges

Possibly the biggest challenge in the deployment of the Fleet Management / Truck Dispatch System was the requirement that it be non-intrusive from an operational perspective and supplement the limited communications infrastructure with technology to provide for accurate in-time information from a product tracking perspective.

 

Solution

Following investigation and taking cognisance of the fact that a MineSuite FMS system has been successfully operating at their ACD operation since 2001, Tata elected to install the MineSuite FMS system at their SEB operation.

At quarry ACD, six hydraulic excavators and forty trucks (50 ton) are provided for by means of a MineSuite FMS version 5.7 implementation. Since this system was implemented in 2001 this version of the system uses UHF radios to transfer data, facilitated via channel steering, from three production areas to a central MineSuite server.

Tata Steel has been instrumental in supporting the ACD hardware installation throughout the life of the project. In-house technicians have successfully maintained the electronics platform with on-going technical support from Australia. Integration of the system into the site mining operational practices and “ownership” at a technical level have been key factors in the long term success of MineSuite FMS at West Bokaro.

Having a similar size fleet of six excavators and 40 CAT 777D trucks and wanting Quarry SEB to gain similar benefit to that achieved at the ACD operation the decision was made to implement the MineSuite FMS system at Quarry SEB. This time around the decision was, however, to equip the Load and Haul fleet with the latest MineSuite Field Computer Equipment, comprising an on-board tablet computer and making use of Motorola’s meshing network technology for data transfer between equipment and FMS server.

Tata is also one of the first operations to benefit from the latest Decentralized Store and Forward technology of MineSuite. The new store & forward system is very much in line with Tata Steel’s requirement, as the topography of the site changes dynamically (given the constraints of coal seams at West Bokaro) making it hard to maintain line of sight with access points for data transfer from remote units.

 

Outcome

The latest Quarry SEB quarry systems configuration resulted in the ability to provide for accurate trip tallies and related production information to be reported with a minimal communications infrastructure.

Enhanced features, such as the Decentralized Store and Forward technology which has the equipment acting as data carriers for the communications backbone, aid in overcoming challenges posed by the decentralized nature and changing topography of the site.

In a similar fashion to that achieved since 2001 when MineSuite was implemented at the ACD operation of Tata, all indications are that once operational it would demonstrate its value, in terms of user-friendliness and reliability.

Given its impressive track record at Quarry ACD, Tata Steel is eager to receive the benefit from implementing the MineSuite FMS at Quarry SEB while it is currently in the process of commissioning the implementation.