Turning on the digital future of mining at Lihir
Posted on June 25, 2019
3 min read
Together with Newcrest, we’ve switched on the first Private 4G LTE mobile network in Papua New Guinea at the Lihir gold mine. This next-generation network will allow for greater levels of safety, tele-remote operation of mining equipment, and autonomous systems throughout the mine, while seamlessly integrating into Newcrest’s existing Wi-Fi network.
We worked with Newcrest to design, stage, deploy and test the network at Lihir, implementing a Private LTE system that has been validated as a dependable and scalable networking platform for the mining industry – and one that will help mining houses digitally transform their operations to plan for the future.
Newcrest’s Lihir gold mine extends 300 metres into a volcanic crater, which has the potential to expose workers to elevated temperatures. Chris Jordaan, the mine’s general manager, says that tele-remote and autonomous mining technologies are fundamental to working the hot work areas that will become more dominant features of the Lihir operation in the future.
“The Private LTE network will be a great enabler for these technologies and coupled with the existing in-pit Wi-Fi network, we have been able to create a heterogeneous network that covers the whole mining lease.”
We’ve provided Newcrest with a tailored platform using Ericsson technology that will underpin its safety and digital mining ambitions and will help improve productivity and deliver new value and efficiencies to the business. They’ll be using it to further modernise the mine site to enable the use of current and future mining applications, including tele-remote and autonomous systems, more extensively.
Newcrest and Telstra Mining Services took what has become a best-in-class preliminary deployment approach with the network. Designing it for full production but initially deploying at two sites allowed Newcrest to validate the design principles, implementation techniques and practical capabilities of Private LTE before scaling their investment.
Crucially, the Private LTE platform also includes ‘HetNet’ functionality and rugged vehicle modems provided by Perth-based AVI that allow Newcrest’s connected vehicle fleet to seamlessly switch between LTE and existing Wi-Fi networks without impacting critical mining applications. The new system, completely independent from public mobile networks, uses dual-frequency base stations configured to provide coverage for Lihir’s long-term operations in the area.
Every kind of production vehicle asset that Newcrest uses at Lihir, including trucks, drills, excavators, dozers, shovels and barges, has been connected and operationally proven over the Private LTE network. The upgrade brings significant performance improvements in terms of reliability, speed and latency – boosting fleet efficiency and real-time visibility by 80 per cent.
Lihir’s Private LTE deployment will also improve the efficiency and safety of mining, according to Gavin Wood, Chief Information & Digital Officer at Newcrest.
“Safety is Newcrest’s number-one priority and the network Telstra Mining Services has built with us at Lihir will enable safer and more efficient mining using new technologies. The success of this project was 100 per cent driven by leadership and personal commitment of the Lihir’s OT / IT team working together with Telstra Mining Services.”
LTE is a future-ready platform for wireless communication in mining, and provides highly scalable communications that will be vital to the next generation of machines and systems in the sector. We’re proud to bring our extensive experience with our own networks to help Newcrest work towards the future of mining.