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5G Enables Intelligent and Digital Transformation of Mine Production

The much-awaited MWC 2023 has kicked off, and Huawei’s 5G ToB booth attracted an influx of visitors. The 5G Remote Control Solution, in particular, garnered attendees’ interest. Although terms such as “mining trucks, shovels, drilling rigs, slopes” displayed at the booth may be unfamiliar to some carriers, the exhibition of remote unmanned automation of large devices demonstrated the vast possibilities and potential changes that 5G technology could bring to the mining industry.

The audience is visiting the booth of ToB at MWC2023

Meanwhile, in the 100-meter Zhulan Iron Mine of Pangang Group Mining Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as “Pangang”) in Panzhihua City, Sichuan Province, in southwest China, the scene depicted at the MWC booth is currently unfolding under the miner’s lamp.

Large mining equipment, such as mine cards, electric shovels, and drilling rigs, operate in a highly organized way, without human intervention, which starkly contrasts traditional mining methods. The remote-control center, located 3 kilometers away from the mine, is where the intelligent and digital capabilities enabled by 5G technology make this transformation in mining operations possible.

The view of the Zhulan Iron Mine

On entering the remote-control center of the mine, Yao Shijian, the operator of Pangang’s shovel, takes his place in a remote seat reminiscent of a game controller. With skill and precision, Yao operates the shovel, expertly excavating ore from the pile and transferring it to the mine truck. “Initially, I felt like it was a bit surreal, but after a few times, it felt just like being on-site,” Yao said. As the 5G mining system became a norm production, Yao Shijian and his colleagues transitioned from working under the sun and wind to sitting in a climate-controlled room, moving from “grey collar” to “white collar.”

Li Yibing, the project’s lead, said, “This project represents a new production mode that revolutionizes the mining industry and sets it apart from previous technological improvements. Unmanned mines have increased mining efficiency by over 10 percent. Particularly through unmanned mines, we’ve been able to capitalize on the difference in electricity price between day and night to increase our production capacity during the night. This has saved almost one million RMB in monthly electricity bills, and all made possible through the low latency, high bandwidth, and high reliability of 5G networks.”

Yao Shijian’s operating the machine remotely for mining

For Zhulan Iron Mine of Pangang, a pioneer in metallurgical mining in China, implementing remote control technology was a formidable challenge. The biggest challenge for 5G remote control was signal freezing and delay, which could impact the work experience and lead to accidents. However, with the reliable and low-latency capabilities of 5G networks, workers like Yao Shijian can control the forklift’s robot arm movement with precision and without delay. The project team worked for three months to design the optimal network configuration, including the 5G base station location and network optimization parameters, to meet the communication requirements of vehicles, shovels, and drills. This enabled the optimal air interface delay and prevented data from traveling over public networks by deploying 5G core network devices in the edge data center of the mining area.

To accelerate the rollout of the remote-control system, Huawei collaborated with partners to pre-install network, computing, and security devices and remote-control applications in a “container” data center. Onsite installation took only two weeks. Additionally, Huawei used “video stitching” technology to combine multiple cameras into seamless large-angle images, improving the forklifts’ maneuverability and control efficiency.

Huawei’s innovative solution integrates workers’ professional experiences and scientific and technological support into the production process, fundamentally changing the operation mode of traditional open-pit mines. In the future, 5G technologies will be introduced into underground mines and factory workshops, further improving production safety and working environments for employees and contributing significant value to the digital transformation of the industry.


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