ABB helps turn historic Swedish mine into a vision of the industry’s future

2015-06-09 - Garpenberg’s lead, silver and zinc has been mined since the 13th century. ABB’s “Next Level mining” approach to automate and integrate its processes offers something more important than a rich past: It enables a profitable future.

From the control room of Boliden's Garpenberg Mine, ABB's System 800xA distributed control system helps operators coordinate what once were stand-alone activities into an efficient integrated system
In 2011, the year Boliden AB said it would spend $580 million to expand its Garpenberg mine in central Sweden, Chief Executive Officer Lennart Evrell based the decision on Garpenberg’s strong growth over the past few years.

This included financial strength, as well as ore reserves and the expectation for good market conditions for Garpenberg’s metals, zinc, silver and lead. The investment was to strengthen Boliden’s growth over the coming years by cutting costs and in the process increase the utilization of the area's geological potential.

As a part of the expansion project, Boliden enlisted ABB to deploy technologies of the “Internet of Things, Services and People” concept, extending the immense productivity benefits that are increasingly coming to the aide of process industries to a new environment: deep underground.

ABB’s System 800xA automation platform at Garpenberg not only controls its powerful mill drives, hoists and the electricity coursing through the mine’s high-voltage transformers to coordinate sub-operations once seen as separate tasks.

“It is a high level of automation,” Evrell said. “After the trucks tip into crushers in the mine, the ore is sent without touching human hands: Into the skip, into the hoist, up to the surface and through the plant, 24 hours a day.”

Located north of Stockholm, Garpenberg Mine has a history stretching back to the 13th century - and a future that's bright, too, with help from automation from ABB
Increasing production, plunging costs

Boliden’s ambitious undertaking – turning Garpenberg into the world’s most-integrated and advanced mine – is yielding impressive results.

After Boliden and ABB completed the project on time in mid-2014, Garpenberg’s milled ore tonnage rose about 60 percent to 2.22 million tons, a figure set to climb to 2.5 million tons by year’s end. Costs per ton plunged with less energy consumption, water use and noise for the 500 residents who live nearby.

This strengthens Boliden’s stature as a supplier of zinc, lead and silver, metals that ultimately will be used in infrastructure, construction, electronics and cars all over the world.

Starting deep underground, ABB has integrated water management, crushers, conveyor belts, skip loading, concentrator and pumping stations into a seamless, efficient operation
“Garpenberg is the most profitable unit we have in the group,” Evrell said. “The project went as planned. The concentrator plant started very well... and has excelled.”

Garpenberg’s brain

ABB’s System 800xA control solution is the ”brain” behind an automated Garpenberg. Its operators and engineers, stationed at 33 different workplaces, are linked to tablet-equipped workers via a wired and wireless communication network installed in the mill and part of the mine.

Tailored for the rigorous needs of mining, ABB’s System 800xA controls and collects data from Garpenberg’s 400-plus electric motors, 280 variable speed drives and two massive hoists that can whisk people and 416 tons of ore inside its 1,200-meter shaft.

The system integrates all critical functions, such as Garpenberg’s water management, crushers, conveyor belts, skip loading, concentrator and pumping stations. It also controls ABB’s energy-saving SmartVentilation system, ensuring blowers run only at speeds needed to clear the air, whether it is following a blast or simply the lingering fumes from a truck.

Instant access

With System 800xA’s documentation capabilities, operators with mobile tablets have instant access to information, should equipment a kilometer or more down require immediate attention.

An ABB remote service engineer in Europe is on call from hundreds of miles away to provide support for Boliden's automated mine.
If additional assistance is necessary, ABB’s team of remote services engineers in another part of Europe can access Garpenberg’s comminution systems. ABB offers local as well as remote support, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to new hoists in Garpenberg via ABB’s new Hoist Performance Monitoring Service (HPMS) package.

When sensors on Garpenberg equipment gather feedback that exceeds normal parameters, for instance, ABB experts hundreds of miles away can offer guidance to help Boliden make proactive maintenance decisions, rather than waiting until something goes wrong.

The upshot is, Boliden saves time, money and the hassle of keeping high-priced experts at its location.

“Great things come with technological advancement and increased productivity,” Evrell said.

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