Epiroc Agrees to Acquire Mining Automation Company RCT
Mining expert Epiroc gave the green light to acquire mining automation company Remote Control Technologies Pty Ltd (RCT) and is expected to complete the deal later this year.
RTC, an Australian company based in Perth, provides an array of automated solutions for either a single machine or an entire mixed fleet of machines. The company offers mining automation and remote-control solutions to the global mining industry.
The acquisition will usher the company to become a “world-leading mining automation solutions provider,” for unloading, loading, and haulage apart from surface and underground rock drilling.
Currently, RCT has customers in more than 70 countries. The company offers data and information systems, fleet and machine management systems, and machine protection systems.
In August 2022, Epiroc announced that they had acquired RNP Mexico. They also said that they would be acquiring mining equipment manufacturer AARD in September 2022.
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In a statement, the President and CEO of Epiroc, Helena Hedblom said, “mining automation is increasingly important for the mining industry to strengthen safety and productivity, and RCT’s advanced solutions complement Epiroc’s existing mining automation offering well. Together we will provide complete mining automation and remote-control solutions to support our customers on their journey towards optimal operations.”
“We are especially pleased that Bob Muirhead, RCT’s founder and a true pioneer within mining automation, will continue in an active management role. We look forward to welcoming the strong RCT team to Epiroc,” the statement stated.
In October 2022, Epiroc launched a new long-hole production drill rig for medium to large-sized drifts designed to provide increased mining automation and high-quality drilling. This is the company’s initial step towards its optimization program.
Mikael Larslin, the company’s Global Product Manager of Production Drilling said, “The connected Simba E70 S provides us with performance and quality data, so we can take the first step towards providing tailored process management to our customers.”
Navtech Radar aims to reduce the “single point of failure” problem in mining automation
Navtech Radar’s Sam Wood said that banking exclusively on one sensor-based technology for autonomous operations of vehicles is a risk that most mining companies cannot afford to take.
Wood, the Product Manager of Navtech Radar, also said that the issue of operational continuity is likely to become evident in 2026 when an anticipated solar excitation event pushes a lot of GPS-based systems offline.
Wood talked to IM on the sidelines of the recent Bauma 2022 fair in Munich, Germany. This event showcased the American company’s Terran360 single-sensor radar localization solution.
According to Navtech, their machine leverages the company’s millimeter wave radar technology to reliably position a machine in its surroundings, especially in harsh working conditions – like mining and construction. While the Oxford-based company is well-invested in providing radar-based solutions, the organization is also focusing on integrating its platform into multi-sensor fusion setups at mine locations thereby integrating with LiDAR GPS and others.
“We see our mining automation solutions complementing and integrating with other technologies,” Wood said. “We feel mines and other industrial sites should not have a ‘single point of failure’ within an automated setup as this can lead to unnecessary downtime, or – in some cases – potential accidents or injuries.”
Navtech added, “In the mining and construction industry, autonomous vehicles solely depend on GPS sensors to report their whereabouts. However, their ability to reliably maintain centimeter-level positioning required for autonomy, particularly within developments with tall infrastructure, deep pits, or at high latitudes, is often compromised.
“Terran360, on the other hand, draws on high-resolution radar technology which penetrates the atmospheric and weather conditions to constantly deliver highly accurate, centimeter-level location data,” Navtech further explained.
A spike in GPS attacks, by “jamming” or “spoofing”, effectively means that depending completely on GPS is turning into a commercially risky proposition for autonomous mine operators.
“Terran360, and other examples of innovation developed by Navtech, aims to address these challenges,” Wood said.
In partnership with Oxbotica, an autonomous software expert, the Terran360 is certified to IP66 standards. The radar localization technology installed is protected from water and debris. This ensures constant operations with minimal maintenance to allow 100% visibility of assets at all times.
“Oxbotica’s world-class localisation algorithms are combined with Navtech’s ruggedised industrial radar sensors to provide a package that is resilient to weather and harsh environments,” Navtech added.
Oxbotica’s product portfolio in the mining industry includes software for the entire technological spectrum from low-level sensor managers to calibration, four-modal localization, mapping, perception, 3D mapping, and planning and control.
The two companies have been partnering on solutions for the industry after several successful radar deployments. Amongst them are the trials in one of Boliden’s major underground mines in Europe wherein the radar sensor provided situational awareness to support machine retrieval from smoke-filled mining tunnels.
Navtech has also partnered with Örebro University in Sweden where its radar-based sensor was tested as part of a sensor fusion project with the school’s Centre for Applied Autonomous Sensor Systems. This trial has seen the company’s teleremote and automated setup in applications like mining.
Wood also said that more companies are keeping their eyes on these mining automation solutions. Navtech also sees demand for radar-based platforms in other applications. He cited an example in Minas Gerais, Brazil wherein Navtech’s CIR sensor-based solution is offering 3D stockpile management and anti-collision detection in a ship loader application at a port.