Each year, Discovery Channel flagship science magazine Daily Planet airs one week of episodes exploring the world’s most powerful and outrageous machines. From a helicopter with a set of giant spinning saws hanging beneath it to a giant robotic arm dubbed the future of mining, the show’s production crew travels the globe for the most unusual and awesome machines around.
The giant robotic arm is actually a remote loading solution, dubbed the SP-TRL, designed and produced by Sudbury based technology developer TesMan, and on the November 8th installment of the program, Daily Planet showcased the SP-TRL- in action at the NORCAT Underground Centre.
New technologies are emerging all the time in the mining industry, and traditionally, these inventions are intended for production purposes. However, this technology was developed for safety reasons. Designed to save lives, the remote loader allows underground miners to load explosives into the rock face of a mine without putting themselves in danger. The long form name of the invention is the Steve Perry-TesMan Remote Loader, and is aptly named after Steve Perry, the 47 year old Vale employee who was struck and killed by a 14 tonne wedge of rock that dislodged from the face on the 4,215 level at Coleman Mine.
After vowing that no family would ever again experience heartbreak due to similar accidents, mine managers approached TesMan asking for their help in following through on their promise to develop an alternate solution to keep miners safe while cleaning and loading blast explosives in underground tunnels. TesMan was known for its team of mining, mechanical and electrical engineers who had previously devised software and equipment to improve industrial safety and productivity. The TesMan team ultimately determined that automating the operation from a distance was the answer. In the Daily Planet episode, TesMan CEO Rod Steele and engineer Greg Milks walk viewers through the process, showing how the arm has taken over one of the most dangerous jobs underground. Currently, a miner has to load explosives manually, standing inches away from the rock face. With the SP-TRL however, the loader is operated 17 feet away from the face, using tools operated by a joystick and touch screen to clean, drill and load the blast holes in the rock face with explosives.
Co-starring in the seven minute segment is the NORCAT Underground Centre, the innovation centre’s fully referenceable operating mine that provides both startup ventures and multi-national companies with the resources, infrastructure, expertise, and equipment required to design, prototype and test their equipment in an underground operating mine environment. Since the loader will be used in a mining environment, it needs to be properly tested to ensure that it will withstand actual underground conditions. Access to the NORCAT Underground Centre enabled TesMan to develop their technology right in their own backyard. In the summer of 2017, TesMan, a NORCAT resident and client of the Innovation Mill, used the Underground Centre to test the loader prototype with miners operating the technology and providing feedback to TesMan.
Over 1% of the global workforce holds a job related to mining. Concurrently, over 8% of workplace fatalities take place on mine sites. Since their incorporation in 2003, TesMan’s mandate has been to make mines safer; successfully building an industry wide reputation for innovation and problem solving. With a prototype now in place at Coleman Mine, and with worldwide interest, TesMan has found a way to once again deliver on their mandate and make a once dangerous job a lot safer.
The full episode is available for viewing here.
The SP-TRL in action at the NORCAT Underground Centre