The mine of the future will be carbon-free, digitalised and autonomous

The current main haulage levels in Kiruna and Malmberget are expected to produce ore until 2035 and 2030 respectively, and the Leveäniemi open-pit mine until 2030. Right now LKAB is collaborating on the question of what form mining of the future at new depths will take.

LKAB launched its joint development initiative SUM (Sustainable Underground Mining) in 2018 together with ABB, Epiroc, Combitech and Volvo Group.
The aim is to set a new global standard for production systems in underground mines at great depths. At the same time, it is about LKAB’s future. The deeper LKAB mines for iron ore, the higher the rock stresses it encounters. There are also increased distances for both development and the transport of ore, machinery and people, and therefore increased costs. In 2019 the project’s first pilot tests were started.

Virtual and real testing

Testing and development work are taking place both in a virtual mine and in a real mine environment – Konsuln, the test mine created in part of Kiruna’s underground mine. Certain tests are also being carried out in LKAB’s underground mine in Malmberget.
One of SUM’s subprojects deals with the mine, its layout and technology. The question that needs to be resolved is how LKAB will mine ore at depths of approaching 2,000 metres or more. Increased sublevel height and a completely different mine layout may be part of the answer. A variety of vehicles, techniques and working methods are being tested at Konsuln. During the autumn, for example, LKAB tested a new type of rig from Epiroc for drilling opening holes.
Another subproject is preparing the way for autonomous electric vehicles by looking at how these will work alongside manually operated vehicles, as well as how autonomous vehicles from different suppliers can communicate with each other. All test data from SUM should be collected by 2023, after which it will form part of the basis for LKAB’s decisions on future production systems at great depths.

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