Modern Mining March 2023


VUG heads for an autonomous future Diamond miner, De Beers, has embarked on a journey at its Venetia Underground Mine (VUG) that will ultimately result in the new US$2 billion mine becoming one of the most mechanised and automated mining operations in the world.

T he VUG will see the Venetia Diamond Mine, located west of Musina in Limpopo Province, transitioning from open pit mining to under ground mining using the sub-level caving method. First production from the VUG – which extends Venetia’s life to at least 2046 – is expected within 2023. According to Giel Marais, principal automation & information at De Beers, the objective is to have a number of autonomous mining systems per forming multiple mining processes at the VUP by 2027. “This is an ambitious goal but we believe achievable given the major technological advances made in recent years, particularly by the OEMs who produce underground mining machines,” he says. “In the case of the VUG, our primary technol ogy partner is Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, which manufactures a full range of ‘intelligent’ mining machines that can operate independently

underground within access-controlled safety zones or be remotely operated from control rooms on surface.” Marais’ colleague, Freddie Breed, underground technical services manager at De Beers, points out that the group has previous experience of autono mous mining. “De Beers commissioned the first – and only – automated trucking loop in South Africa, and one of the first worldwide, at the Finsch diamond mine in the Northern Cape in 2005,” he says. Breed, who had first-hand experience of the trucking loop when he was based at Finsch at an earlier stage of his career with De Beers, says the system worked extremely well once it was fully com missioned and onboarded. “The Finsch team worked through all the issues and proved that automation was viable and able to positively compete with con ventional methods in terms of production,” he notes. On the benefits of the Finsch trucking loop, he says that the reliability of the driverless articulated dump trucks (ADTs) used was superior to manually operated trucks, while machine and component life

Giel Marais, Principal Automation & Information at De Beers. An operator programming the Sandvik DD422i drill rig machine ahead of a blast underground.

32  MODERN MINING  March 2023

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