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5G system signals positive changes for mining industry

The efficiency and accuracy of the Product Distribution Center of the Nickel Smelter of Jinchuan Group has been greatly enhanced by 5G technology.

The smelter boasts one of the largest intelligent product packaging production lines in China. It includes intelligent electrolytic nickel packaging machines, a tiered warehouse, distribution system, hoisting and comprehensive management, which enables the smelter to provide automatic, intelligent and informatized services from product unloading, pre-treatment, cutting and storage, to delivery.

Through its visual identification system, the nickel plates will first be sorted according to different product information and stored on different shelves in the warehouse.

Delivery starts at 4:30 pm every day. Once the product is identified for delivery, it will be taken from the shelf by the robot to go through the delivery procedure.

Before delivery, four cutting machines and four robots working in two pairs at the center will respond to the programmed instructions. They will cut off the handlers of the plate and then pile them up. Later, an automatic guided vehicle will transport the plates for pressing, weighing, code spraying, packing, film-wrapping and storing. After these procedures, the plates are ready for delivery.

The 5G-based system was on trial operation in December 2020 and put into operation in June 2021.

“Since then, the efficiency and accuracy of delivery have been greatly enhanced,” said Bai Xiang, deputy director of the distribution center.

According to Bai, the procedure used to need 30 workers and now it only needs five to six workers while the number of workers for hoisting has been reduced from 10 to one.

“The 5G technology helps us to realize the seamless connection from nickel plate intelligent cutting to loading,” Bai said.

The system will precisely match the product amount, loading position, delivery vehicle and time to satisfy the loading on trucks or into trains from the workshop.

When a truck or train arrives at the center, a sensor will first identify the position. Then, the computer will automatically design the loading. By a single click of the operator, the intelligent hoister will start loading.

The 5G technology also plays an important role in ore transportation at the Longshou (Dragon Head) Mine of Jinchuan Group. Longshou Mine is responsible for the mining of nickel sulfide ore. The mine has a 2.2-kilometer rail transportation line, which is its main way of transport. Traditionally, the ore loading, transport, pipelining and unloading were done manually. The workers worked in an environment full of dust, noise and vehicle hazards.

In October 2019, in collaboration with a company in Beijing, Longshou Mine developed a Wi-Fi-based unmanned driving electric locomotive. The locomotive was able to work according to the orders from the control room.

However, the Wi-Fi telecommunication got disconnected frequently, which affected the smooth operation of the transport. In March 2020, the mine joined hands with China Telecom Jinchang Branch to develop an electric locomotive 5G telecommunication system. The operation of the locomotive only needs to receive orders from the dispatching office. The system helps to reduce 24 workers and enhance the transport efficiency by 22 percent. In the past, the whole process of transport needed about 45 minutes but now it only needs about 30 minutes.

“We used to sit in the driver’s cab where it was hot in summer and cold in winter. Today, the dusty and noisy environment has become history,” said Wang Bin, an operator at the intelligent workshop. China Daily

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