Industrial collaboration for the mining of the future

In the coming years LKAB needs to have a solution in place that will allow it to mine iron ore at depths approaching or exceeding 2,000 metres – carbon-free, digitalised and autonomous. To achieve this, collaboration with other leading industrial companies is vital.

Since 2018 LKAB has been running a collaborative project to develop a new world standard for mining at great depths in partnership with Epiroc, ABB and Combitech, and during the year Sandvik joined as a new partner.

The collaboration is highly complex, with the companies linking up both digital systems and operations. But with each company contributing its specific expertise, the foundation is being laid for development that benefits all parties.

“The collaboration is both unique and challenging as the structure, cross-functional teams and ways of working are being developed to fit all the companies,” says Per Brännman, who manages the loading section in Kiruna.

Key to the collaboration is the Konsuln test mine in Kiruna, where new technology, machinery and working methods are being tested in a real mine environment. What is tested is implemented step by step and sometimes in parallel in the regular mining operations.

Per Brännman is described by his colleagues as the “bridge” between production in the Kiruna mine and the test mine.

“What we’re doing in this collaboration involves major technological advances for a new world standard for the future of mining. It’s big. But at the same time, it’s development that is closely related to the operations.”

With the aim of carbon-free, digitalised and autonomous mining, the Konsuln test mine is important for achieving the goals of increased productivity, better and safer work flows and carbon-free operations. Close dialogue and cooperation are taking the work forward:

  • An integration and collaboration platform, “LOMI” (LKAB Open Mine Integrator), has been developed that allows an open systems architecture in which all parties can develop modules and solutions that work together.
  • ABB has provided solutions for visualising key functions and key ratios in the mine. The aim is that everything that happens in the test mine must pass through, be planned in or be managed via a project office above ground so that the underground work becomes more efficient.
  • Epiroc has provided a rig for drilling opening holes and a mine loader with automation functionality for the test mine, and operators and maintenance personnel have been trained. The drilling rig has drilled holes of more than 50 metres in the test mine with good results, which is an important step for planning the future mine design. The mine loader is being tested with gradually increasing complexity of automation and interoperability.
  • Combitech is constantly providing new solutions for system platforms in close collaboration with LKAB’s IT department, testing out the synchronisation of new technology with existing systems.