When an industry with a history extending over 1,000 years back in time meets modern digital technology exciting things happen. By connecting Boliden's mine in Kankberg, both efficiency and productivity increased. But the digitalisation also makes the mine safer and more accessible. "This is real digitalisation. A project that many other companies can learn from", says Eilert Johansson, project manager at RISE.
A lot of money and resources are being invested in digitalising Swedish industry in order to increase its competitiveness. The PIMM project in Boliden's mine in Kankberg is a textbook example of how that transformation can take place. PIMM stands for Pilot for Industrial Mobile Communication in Mining. The name says a lot about what it is all about: wireless mobile communication down in mines.
"We built a mobile infrastructure with the latest technology 400 meters underground. One result is that 5G technology can now be used in industrial contexts. Just by avoid having to lay cables in the mine to monitor temperature, air quality and more, saves a lot of time and money", says Eilert Johansson.
"Mobile networks are used daily by millions of people above ground, but this was the first time the mining and telecom industries joined forces to use them in an industrial context", says Eilert Johansson.
Wireless networks measure movements in the rock
The wireless networks convey information from sensors that measure the movements of the rock, temperature differences and more. But it is also about facilitating video streams in different directions and very short response times for remote control.
By enabling the use of robots and the remote control of wheel loaders and other machines in the mining industry, there is a great potential for increased efficiency, productivity and, not least, safety.
For example, with machines controlled from an office space a distance from the mining activities, you do not have to wait for the blasting gases to be ventilated before production can be resumed after blasting.
– Boliden sees an enormous potential for increased productivity and is now automating all of the company's mines. In terms of safety, it gives the opportunity to move jobs further back in the production area, away from the unsecured rock where the mining takes place, says Eilert Johansson.
Accessibility in the mine increases
The new technology not only bring improvements in productivity and safety; the accessibility for those working in the mine is also improved. Thanks to the mobile network, they also have the opportunity to stay in touch with family and friends via a mobile phone – from 400 metres underground.
Continuation project with a focus on the exchanging of data
All parties involved in the project are very pleased with the results that, among other things, led to the ongoing continuation project PIMM DMA, which will be concluded in June 2019 and focuses on how companies can exchange data through cloud solutions.
"This is real digitalisation. It is one of the first digitalisations of heavy industry in Sweden. It is not just a lot of talk, all the parties involved have really come a long way on their digitalisation journeys", says Eilert Johansson.
And it is not only just the participants in the project who are benefiting from the knowledge that is created.
"No, we have shared what we have learned with lots of others. PIMM has had lots of spinoffs, both projects that RISE is involved in and others where companies benefit from knowledge from the project and implement it in their operations", says Eilert Johansson.
PIMM was a collaboration between Boliden, Ericsson, ABB, Telia Sonera, Volvo CE, Wolft and Luleå University of Technology and ran from 2015-2017. With cutting-edge technology and all participants contributing extensive technical knowledge, wireless communication networks were created in the Kankberg Mine in Västerbotten based on Ericsson's 5G technology and ABB's automation systems. The mine was formerly a copper mine, but is used today for the mining of gold and tellurium. PIMM is financed by PiiA, Process Industrial IT and Automation.