Creating Mining History through TechnologyWed, 10/21/2015 - 10:47
Q: What have been Atlas Copco’s proudest accomplishments within the Mexican mining industry?
A: Atlas Copco has introduced several state-of-the-art technologies for the mining industry. For example, our drilling systems reduce energy consumption and are better than other available systems under most types of rock hardness and ground conditions. We have invested considerable time and money in the development of these systems in response to the evolving needs of the mining industry. In 2013, Atlas Copco invested close to 3% of its total worldwide revenue on R&D. Additionally, our facilities in Zacatecas enable us to support our customers in the mining industry with maintenance services, training, spare parts, and any other needs they may have. The key component of our strategy is our desire to increase the productivity of our customers’ operations. We have branches and personnel located in different parts of Mexico, as well as consignment stores in several mines to reduce machinery downtime, and many products that support safety for the mining industry. One of the most popular products is the Boltec rock bolting rig, which is required to support a tunnel during development and production. There is also a device available for the Boltec which positions meshes for the construction of tunnels. Another interesting product is the Scaletec, which helps avoid manual tunnel scaling and prevents the risk of falling rocks. All this equipment is supported by modern facilities containing simulators that allow operators and service technicians to learn how to use the equipment in a myriad of settings.
Q: How are mining safety and efficiency improved by the automated functions of Atlas Copco’s equipment?
A: Our automation processes are currently at different stages. The most used automation stage is represented by a remote control room from which one operator can operate several machines without entering the risk area. The automatic bolting processes all aim to improve safety for mine workers. Even so, automation depends on the ability to operate a machine remotely, which requires a lot of preparation in terms of communications and infrastructure in the mine. Nowadays, a lot of remote automation processes are used in Mexico, but these operations are still performed close to the machine.
Q: How do you deliver solutions to Mexican mining operations on time if your manufacturing facilities are abroad?
A: We have several factories around the world. One of our biggest factories for underground equipment is in Sweden and one of the largest factories for surface mining is in Garland, Texas. We make a projection for the year ahead based on information we receive from our customers, and then communicate our equipment needs to the factories. We possess an efficient supply chain for spare parts and have large warehouses here in Mexico. When there is a downturn, we are challenged by the same problems facing any other manufacturer in the mining industry because we all assemble using equipment from other suppliers. Mining companies know this, so we remain in communication with them in order to anticipate and supply equipment when they need it. We are planning to open a service and distribution center in Zacatecas, but we have had to delay it in order to redesign the facilities to be LEED-certified. This center, which will include a workshop, training center, and offices, will be four times as large as the facilities that we have in Zacatecas today and is expected to be finished by mid-2015, at a cost of more than US$7 million.
Q: How has the Green Line, which includes electric loaders and trucks, been received in the Mexican mining industry?
A: We are very excited about the Green Line of vehicles as we are leaders in this technology and we are relying on it for growth. We are the first manufacturer to produce fully electrical loaders and trucks such as these. Atlas Copco has begun selling smaller electric models, but we will soon release the larger models which are much better suited to the Mexican market. As there are no CO2 emissions, these products cut ventilation costs and even reduce energy consumption by 40-70%. Productivity remains the same because it is exactly the same machine, but the electric engine makes all the difference. The other major difference compared to conventional equipment is mobility. A vehicle with a diesel engine is easy to move, but electric equipment requires an electrical infrastructure investment in order to increase its mobility. Therefore, Atlas Copco also provides mobile generators to support the use of this equipment