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New mining methods to be tested in Konsuln

When new challenges arise, creating effective solutions demands creativity and collaboration. LKAB knows that it will have to mine at greater depths in the future. What we need to do now is find out how. The way ahead is spelled SUM – Sustainable Underground Mining.

The Konsuln orebody is currently a hive of activity. The unique collaboration between LKAB, ABB, Epiroc, Combitech and the Volvo Group is in full swing, and together they will develop a new global standard for sustainable mining.

“In five years, we have to submit our recommendations for how LKAB’s mining operations will look after 2030. To do so, we must develop and test new methods and practices in a real mining environment,” says Mike Lowther, in charge of test mine activities.

The first pilot tests will be carried out as early as next year, after which many production, automation and communications tests will be carried out up until 2023. At the moment, only a small team is working in the test mine, but the pace is high and the number of employees will increase over time. LKAB Berg & Betong prepares both inclined drifts and ventilation galleries while production is under way.

”Finding new solutions is more important than ever given our knowledge of ore availability in Kiruna. We have to carry out operational tests to secure methods and physical outcomes in order to mine at greater depths in the future,” says Mike Lowther.

The SUM collaboration is part of MINE 5.0, included in the framework of the development programmes initiated to implement LKAB’s journey toward the next generation’s production systems and tomorrow’s LKAB. The objective is to set a new global standard for sustainable mining at great depths, and the target is a future mine that is safe, carbon dioxide free, digitalized and autonomous. The initiative is one of Sweden’s biggest industrial investments ever.

”We’re planning to test autonomous mining machines such as autonomous loaders that unload onto autonomous trucks. The aim of the autonomous machines is to enable production for a longer period each day. All of the test results will be used as the basis for decisions on tomorrow’s mining,” concludes Mike.

Will the work in the test mine disrupt daily production?
”The principal focus is always daily production, but the test mine creates the ability to face tomorrow’s challenges. Our contribution will be our skills in everything from planning to charging, drilling and media work. Our participation in SUM is essential if we are to achieve the major, necessary technological advances necessary for tomorrow’s mining operations,” says Nils Stenberg, Mine Manager, Kiruna.

In brief: SUM is split into four parts.

  • Mine layout and technology
  • Autonomous, intelligent CO2-free machines
  • Management system and integration
  • People at the Centre