Points on Plug and Play – H3RO

Dr Thomas Paul, HUBER+SUHNER, and John Hooper, Ampcontrol, explain how plug and play is the future for reliable, secure mining connectivity and communications.

As mining operators augment profitability by reducing operating costs, raise asset utilisation and improving safety performance, there has never been a greater need for digitalisation within the mining sector. With mines growing deeper underground and new reserves located predominantly in remote locations, it is becoming abundantly clear that technology has a huge part to play.

With the fourth industrial revolution beckoning, increasing numbers of next-generation technologies such as sensors, automated or self-controlled equipment and data-heavy automation solutions are being adopted to allow for smoother and more efficient operations. All of this, however, requires reliable, high-bandwidth connectivity to manage the large amounts of data necessary for the successful daily running of the mine.

Ensuring mission-critical communication

Robust high bandwidth networks are imperative for mission-critical communication that goes on within the mine – both above and below ground. Data links are the backbone of automated operations and safety-critical infrastructure by transmitting information from sensors, CCTV and voice communication throughout the mine. Data streams need to pass over long distances and through challenging environments.

Next to the quasi-unlimited data bandwidth, fibre optic links are also intrinsically immune to electromagnetic fields, provide galvanic insulation and remain future-proof while permitting for bandwidth extension as demand grows. But the harsh environments of a mine can also pose a risk for the physical integrity of such networks.

With mining operations heavily reliant on their communications infrastructure to keep operations running, the invulnerability of the link to and between personnel and machines underground is crucial. Any outages or failures can result in downtime, the costs of which scale rapidly with duration. In order to avoid this, it is vital that companies adopt high-performance, high-quality and long-life solutions that enable seamless underground connectivity.

Quick and easy-to-deploy infrastructure is key

In mining, production depends entirely upon having a network which is continuously accessible for reliable communication between sensors, workers and machines. With so much relying on it, it is evident that any damage to a mine’s fibre optic network can cause significant expense and safety hazards. Network failure and outages prove a major headache for operators with personnel having to be removed and work stopped in affected areas underground. Therefore, it is essential there is a quick fix for when things go wrong and damage occurs.

The ability to repair a network quickly is a serious challenge faced by companies throughout the industry, with issues underground being time-consuming to solve. Finding an available qualified fibre optic engineer certified to work underground at short notice is challenging and costs for such experts are high.

Whilst damage to fibre optic networks cannot be completely prevented, there is an answer for operators looking to reduce downtime on the network and get back to normal much quicker in the event of a network malfunction. The trick is to use quick and easy-to-deploy infrastructure that enables fast, rapid repair – even by staff who are unskilled in fibre optic engineering.

H3ro hero bot fibre optics networking

Utilise plug and play technology

HUBER+SUHNER and Ampcontrol have combined their respective knowledge to form a speedy, innovative solution called H3RO – a robust toolkit for fibre optic networks designed for the harsh conditions in underground mines. Rapidly installed and maintained, it enables mines to deploy and expand their networks conveniently and hassle-free. Moreover, it allows them to get back to normal quickly and efficiently when things go wrong.

H3RO comprises a set of pre-terminated modular fibre optic cable assemblies and fibre optic breakout terminals (distribution units) which removes the need for specially trained engineers for installation. Its plug and play elements support standardisation across mines of all sizes and regions. This has allowed for reductions in cost, easier rollout, consolidation of spares and consistency for high-quality expansion within tough environmental conditions.

Combining telco-grade low-loss high density push-pull and screw-on connectors with fit-for-purpose industrial breakout terminals (BOTs), cable armour and glands, a reliable and robust industrial solution has been formed. The BOTs remove the necessity of having large enclosures and minimises common failure points, such as unnecessary patching and needless connector exposure. This single-mode fibre optic system supports both Passive Optical Network (PON) models and traditional Ethernet, replacing the need for time-consuming fibre optic terminations in the field with a standardised future-proof infrastructure.

With communication networks being critical to the core of operations, it is essential that mine operators have access to quick and easy solutions for when failures occur or when network expansion is required.

H3RO Optic Fibre Networking Mine Site

Typical H3RO fibre optic networking connection within underground mine site

Bringing the concept to reality

In most cases, when a mine’s network is damaged, work ceases due to the loss of essential safety communication between those working on the surface and those underground, along with the ability to continue operating autonomous machinery or other digitalised features. However, when a copper and gold mine in Western New South Wales, Australia, experienced an outage caused by the severing of a communications cable, downtime was limited to the shortest time possible by adopting the innovative solution to ensure a quick and simple repair.

As a result of H3RO’s ease of use, workers unskilled in fibre optics were able to safely deploy the solution and enact a fix to get the mine’s operations back up and running. The IP68 connectors and bulkheads allowed for the system to be seamlessly integrated within the existing infrastructure. The hassle-free, simple repair instilled confidence for future fast recovery in similar incidents or potential network expansion.

When installing new or replacement infrastructure, it is quite common for parts to be modified in the field to fit with the existing setup. This can be problematic within the harsh environments of the mine, which can see the fibres being exposed to dust, mud and other potentially damaging elements – however, since H3RO’s modularity covers a breadth of application embodiments, additional modifications were not necessary. The mine workers simply swapped out the damaged section for the newer one – meaning time-consuming fibre field splicing was not required.

Another deployment saw the same solution providing network connectivity to underground mining equipment within a coal site, where autonomous operations were carried out with machinery. The fibre optic backbone required throughout the mine needed to offer easy integration with new and existing equipment, including third-party panels and components.

Due to the functionality of the system, monitoring and control of underground equipment was achieved by utilising pre-existing FOBOT panels throughout the mine, enabling rapid, uncomplicated expansion of the network by site staff and resulted in a high-quality, low-loss dynamic network. With a robust solution created specifically for use within harsh environments, mine operators can be certain that their fibre optic infrastructures not only deliver high performance but high levels of practicality too.

Preparing for the demands of the future

There are many options for mining operators to consider when selecting fibre optic infrastructure for their communication networks and connectivity. A report by the World Economic Forum and Accenture forecasts that by 2025 digitalisation will have added more than US$425 billion of value to the mining industry, with around 1000 lives saved and 44 000 injuries prevented. As such, the sector will rely more and more on next-generation technology as they increasingly become squeezed for higher efficiency and profits. With so much riding on their networks, it is essential that companies take advantage of systems that are simple, risk-free and cost-effective and that will upgrade and improve performance within the mine while offering easy adaptability and expansion for future requirements.

This article was written and published by Dr Thomas Paul and John Hooper for the latest edition of Global Mining Review.


Ampcontrol and Insig Technologies Enter Rockstarter Partnership

Ampcontrol is pleased to announce that we are partnering with Insig Technologies to establish a service centre in Kalgoorlie, which will support, repair and service Ampcontrol products for the Western Australian market. Insig Technologies will also be a distributor for Ampcontrol’s market leading multifunction outlet starter, Rockstarter, for underground hard rock mining, tunnelling and other industrial applications.

Insig Technologies are a technology company specialising in the production of customised, fit for purpose IT/OT solutions within the mining automation and mining technologies sectors.

In late May, Ampcontrol and Insig Technologies signed a memorandum of understanding to establish the foundation for the partnership and have now advanced the new association to service market and customer needs. We believe the partnership will further enhance both Ampcontrol and Insig Technologies offerings in the underground mining electrical services domain and provide a one-stop-shop for Ampcontrol customers in Western Australia.

We look forward to working with new and existing customers under this new partnership agreement.

Boundary Power Launches New Website

Boundary Power, a joint venture between Ampcontrol and Horizon Power has launched its new website, showcasing its expertise in Stand-Alone Power Systems (SAPS).

Boundary Power is at the forefront of SAPS development; combining the businesses’ collective design, technology, construction, deployment, and operations expertise to deliver a new, innovative series of SAPS solutions to the market.
Its suite of products range from the Nano SAPS, which is perfect for smaller power loads, through to its R-Series SAPS which has already been deployed on more than 25 Horizon Power customer properties outside of Esperance, enabling the permanent removal of 64 kilometres of poles and wires.

Boundary Power’s Solar Cube is the latest in its range of innovative SAPS designs and is responding to a growing demand for an off-grid utility grade power solution. Its advanced modularity design makes it easier to assemble, transport and deploy – with the system ready to export energy in just 90 minutes from deployment.

Boundary Power is receiving positive feedback from utilities across Australia and anticipates the growth in demand for its SAPS solutions will generate long term economic and job benefits for the State.

Visit Boundary Power’s website to find out more about its SAPS solutions.

If you are interested in exploring more about Boundary Power and its product and services, please contact Boundary Power’s Eastern and Central Business Development Manager, Adam Champion.

Introducing IS LEDi – The Next Generation Longwall Lighting System

The Burn Brite IS LEDi is the latest innovation in lighting and safety from Ampcontrol for underground coal mines.

Supporting the move towards autonomous operations, the IS LEDi not only provides general longwall illumination, but incorporates smart functionalities by warning of, and identifying machinery movements and potential risks to personnel.

Designed specifically for use in underground coal mines, key components of the IS LEDi system are IECEx certified for Group I applications.

The system comprises of three main components: the intrinsically safe lights, a Bluetooth gateway device and an interface module.

Each light on the system is individually controlled using a Bluetooth mesh network. The lights can display seven colour variations, and a variety of flash sequences and brightness levels can be used to create highly visible warnings indicating no go zones and shield faults, positions of fire extinguishers and first aid stations.

Designed to be controlled by the mine automation system, the Burn Brite IS LEDi is fully programmable to suit any operation or application type.

Read more about this innovative lighting system here.


Ampcontrol Recognised with Innovation Accolade

Ampcontrol has been recognised for developing a fully functional emergency ventilator to assist with the NSW Government COVID-19 response, having been awarded the ‘Excellence in Innovation’ accolade during Friday evenings Lake Macquarie Business Excellence Awards.

We designed and developed the ventilator in consultation with the NSW Government and project partners NSW Health, Safearth, NewieVentures, University of Newcastle and the John Hunter Hospital.

The emergency ventilator was developed in response to the NSW Government ‘call-to-arms’ in March 2020 with our dedicated research & development team successfully delivering an initial functional prototype for testing at the John Hunter Hospital in just 18 days.

The following three months saw the project team further refine the prototype before manufacturing ten pre-production ventilators for further clinical testing and submission to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). The pre-production units were officially unveiled by the NSW Premier The Hon. Gladys Berejiklian on 9th September 2020.

Lake Macquarie Mayor, Cr Kay Fraser congratulated Ampcontrol and all 13 category winners and finalists who have excelled this year, despite the impacts of COVID-19.

“Never before has our business community had to adjust so rapidly to change because of COVID-19 restrictions. It has been really difficult for many businesses across our city, but these awards have been a chance to celebrate the successes and resilience shown by our local businesses,” Cr Fraser said.

Accepting the award during a virtual ceremony, Ampcontrol Executive General Manager Innovation & Service Warwick Sommer said partnerships and collaboration have been essential to the project’s success.

“The Ventilator Innovation Project is a true partnership in action. Tackling a challenge of this size was only made possible through collaboration with local businesses, clinicians, university, and Government.

To turn a concept into a fully functional life-saving piece of medical equipment within such a critical timeframe is a testament to our region’s skilled expertise and highly advanced capability to produce innovative solutions and products that make a difference to people’s lives.”

“We have an amazing business community in Lake Mac epitomised by organisations like Ampcontrol, so it has been wonderful to be able to provide some positive recognition and congratulate them on their achievements this year. I congratulate all our finalists and award winners and I encourage our community to get behind local business and show your support where you can,” added Cr Fraser.

Following success in the Lake Macquarie Business Excellence Awards, we will now progress to the Hunter Business Awards to be held on Friday 20th November, 2020.

Gilghi Recognised with International Engineering Award

Gilghi, Ampcontrol’s innovative off-grid containerised water treatment solution has today been acknowledged with its first international accolade, receiving the Chris Binnie award for Sustainable Water Management from the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). ICE, a UK based professional membership body supporting in excess of 95,000 members bestow the Chris Binnie award to projects that have ‘benefited society by improving the sustainability of water’.

Developed in conjunction with project partner Aurecon, Gilghi is designed to improve the accessibility of clean drinking water within remote communities.

Utilising a stand-alone hybrid power supply consisting of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, a back-up diesel generator and battery storage, Gilghi is designed to stand up to the demanding environmental conditions experienced within the isolated communities in which it is deployed.

The innovative water treatment solution is currently installed in the remote community of Gillen Bore, located 75km’s from Alice Springs, which until Gilghi’s installation in 2019 relied on the continued truck transport of potable water due to the high salinity, hardness and low pH levels found in their existing bore water.

Ampcontrol Managing Director & CEO Rod Henderson said he was thrilled to see Gilghi receiving international recognition.

“The transformative technology of the Gilghi unit has had a remarkable impact on the wellbeing of the local community, which now has immediate access to locally sourced, great-tasting, and contaminate free drinking water for the first time.

For remote communities’ access to clean, safe drinking water can’t be taken for granted. Gilghi is now a proven sustainable water solution that has the potential to be a game-changer when it comes to addressing water security across our country, as well as developing nations around the world,” commented Rod Henderson.

Professor Chris Binnie, ICE Water Panel member and Exeter University visiting Professor was highly impressed by Gilghi’s value creation and its applicability to a bigger sustainability picture.

“Gilghi is a genuinely new project with a novel technological approach; the integration of the work of water process engineering and electrical engineering and solar panels was particularly pleasing. The solution provides a reliable and potable supply of water in a sustainable manner that does not increase CO2 emission,” Professor Binnie said.

“We are honoured to be recognised on an international level for the innovative products and solutions we design and manufacture in Australia that make a meaningful improvement to people’s lives”, added Rod Henderson.

Gilghi’s reception of this international honour follows closely the award of a number of Australian accolades including an Australian Engineering Excellence Award, Good Design Award and an Australian Water Association Award.

For further information on Gilghi and the benefits it’s able to provide to remote communities, click here.

Gilghi Claims Top Newcastle Engineering Award

Gilghi, Ampcontrol’s innovative off-grid containerised water treatment solution has been announced as the Newcastle divisional winner in the 2020 Australian Engineering Excellence Awards (AEEA). The win sees Gilghi advance as a finalist in November’s Sir William Hudson Awards, the highest project accolade bestowed by Engineers Australia.

Developed by Ampcontrol in conjunction with project partner Aurecon, Gilghi is an innovative off-grid water treatment plant designed for remote communities.

The Gilghi water treatment plant utilises a standalone hybrid power supply consisting of solar photovoltaic panels, a back-up diesel generator and battery storage, and is designed to meet the demanding environmental conditions of the isolated communities in which it is located.

It has been initially deployed in the community of Gillen Bore, 75km from Alice Springs, which until 2019 relied on the continued transport of potable water due to the high salinity, hardness and low pH levels found in their existing bore water.

“We are immensely proud to receive this prestigious accolade by Engineers Australia, in acknowledgment of the engineering pedigree, innovation, and technical excellence we have at Ampcontrol” said Ampcontrol CEO and Managing Director Rod Henderson.

Engineers Australia Newcastle Division Manager Helen Link added: “Thanks to Project Gilghi, Indigenous and remote communities across Australia now have access to affordable and continuous potable water thanks to an innovative new off-grid, containerised water treatment plant. It is a remarkable achievement and a worthy nominee for the national award.”

“The award-winning success of Gilghi, and our ability to design, develop and manufacture high-quality products and solutions that make a difference to people’s lives around the world is a direct result of our passionate, talented, and innovative team” added Rod Henderson.

The award capped off what proved a successful week for Ampcontrol, with Gilghi’s latest accolade quickly following last week’s Good Design Award win announcement.

For further information on Gilghi and the benefits it can provide remote communities, click here.

Gilghi Off-Grid Water Treatment Solution Receives Good Design Award

Ampcontrol’s innovative off-grid water treatment solution, Gilghi, designed in collaboration with project partner Aurecon, has been awarded the Good Design Award Winner accolade in the ‘Social Impact’ category during today’s virtual Good Design Week awards ceremony. The annual Good Design Awards signify the pinnacle of Australian industry’s design and innovation honours.

More than 55 Good Design Awards Jurors evaluated each entry according to a strict set of design criteria which covers ‘good design’, ‘design innovation’ and ‘design impact’. Projects recognised with a Good Design Award must demonstrate excellence in good design and convince the Jury they are worthy of recognition at this level.

Gilghi is an innovative off-grid water treatment plant designed for application within remote communities. The water treatment plant utilises a standalone hybrid power supply consisting of solar photovoltaic panels, a back-up diesel generator and battery storage, and is designed to meet the demanding environmental conditions of the isolated communities in which it is located.

“We are incredibly proud to be playing a role in delivering a sustainable water solution to communities in need through the innovative design and advanced technology of Gilghi” said Ampcontrol CEO and Managing Director Rod Henderson.

“For remote communities access to clean, safe drinking water can’t be taken for granted. The Gilghi unit is designed to be serviced and supported by the people in the communities it serves, making a meaningful improvement to people’s lives.”

Dr. Brandon Gien, CEO of Good Design Australia said: “Receiving a Good Design Award is a significant achievement given the very high calibre and record number of entries received in 2020.”

“There’s no doubt it has been a really tough year for everyone so it’s nice to be able to share some good news for a change. The projects represented in this year’s Good Design Awards shine a positive light on our creative and innovative capacity as human beings. These inspirational winning projects give me hope and optimism that our design community will continue to innovate, no matter how challenging the world around us is,” said Dr. Gien.

The Good Design Awards jury praised Gilghi, adding: “A great solution and potentially a massive market across the globe. This off-grid containerised water treatment solution has the potential to make a significant impact on the lives of people who rely on groundwater for their main water supply. A breakthrough solution that provides remote communities with quality, potable water. This is such a beautiful example of good design that makes our world better. Well done.”

For more information on Gilghi and the benefits it can provide remote communities, click here.

Ampcontrol Named NSW Minerals Council 2020 Mining Supplier of the Year

On 18 June, Ampcontrol was named as the 2020 NSW Minerals Council NSW Mining Supplier of the Year at the annual NSW Mining Industry and Suppliers Awards.

Taking out the NSW Mining Supplier of the Year category for the development and deployment of Rockstarter, Ampcontrol’s multi-functional outlet starter designed for use in underground hard rock mines highlights an ongoing commitment to research and development for customers across NSW and the globe.

Rod Henderson, Ampcontrol CEO and Managing Director accepted the award at the online ceremony. “What the last few months have shown is the incredible ingenuity and agility of Australian manufacturing, we have such highly advanced expertise, skill and capability in our country and the development of Rockstarter is a testament to that ingenuity.”

“Our Rockstarter product has been an innovative game changer for Ampcontrol, enabling customers in NSW to make the transition to smart mining technology, with an off the shelf, commoditised solution,” he said.

This prestigious accolade from the NSW Minerals Council follows two Good Design Awards wins for Rockstarter in the Engineering Design and Product Design categories in 2019.

Find out more about Rockstarter

Going Digital at Ozwater’20 Online

Ready to quench your thirst for action? Join our Product Manager Wayne Diemar and Aurecon’s Sachini De Silva on Tuesday 2 June at 11.30am (AEST) at Ozwater’20 Digital.

Kicking off the first day of this digital conference, Wayne and Sachini will present their paper titled ‘Project Gilghi – Modular Self Contained Solar Water Treatment Plant for Remote Communities’. Online delegates will have the chance to learn more about the design and engineering behind Gilghi, our remote water unit that uses advance filtering technology and is a breakthrough water solution for regional and remote communities.

This presentation follows our Australian Water Association (AWA) NSW Water Infrastructure Project Innovation Award win for Gilghi earlier this year. National winners will also be announced during the online conference on 11 June at 4.45pm.

For more information about securing your registration and to view the full program, head to the Ozwater’20 Online website.

To discuss how we can solve your water requirements please contact Wayne Diemar via email or phone 1300 445 717. You can read the full Gilghi specs and find out more here.