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Revolutionary longwall system awarded

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A recently introduced innovative CSIRO mining system that improves safety and increases productivity in coal mines has won a prestigious award.

A military-grade inertial guidance system is at the heart of the new system that has automated a number of processes in operating a longwall.

Instead of miners having to stop twice a day to realign the longwall shearer using string lines, by automating the process downtime is cut and productivity improved by thousands of tonnes a day.

With coal worth $100/t, this is a major development for the mining industry. It also helps remove miners from hazardous and dusty areas.

It was for these reasons the project was recognised by the Australian Coal Association Research Program (ACARP) with the ACARP Award for Research Excellence.

The awards are made every two years to research teams that address a significant coal industry problem. In presenting the award, ACARP noted the team succeeded in automating the fly cut, remotely monitoring the cutting sequence and advancing the maintenance practices on the wall.

“It is now possible to sit in the mine office on the surface and watch the cutting and associated operating parameters in real time as a direct consequence of this research project,” the ACARP statement said.

The innovation is continuing, with a number of the advances being commercialised. The team is also working to pick up marker bands in the coal seam to let them advance the automation of a longwall through automated horizon control.

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