Vale’s digital evolution takes shape: Sudbury nickel miner moving to world’s largest underground wireless network – by Len Gillis (Northern Ontario Business – September 19, 2019)

Vale Canada Ltd. is charging forward to provide LTE communications in its Canadian underground mining operations. In some cases, this will be an all new level of wireless communication, while in other cases it will mean switching away from existing Wi-Fi.

Vale said this means the company will soon be operating the largest privately owned underground LTE network in the world. LTE, or long-term evolution, is a higher form of wireless communications that most people associate with their cellular phones. In the mines, LTE will support a host of wireless devices and live connections to people and mobile equipment.

Vale described their new LTE system as an enabler, something that will allow the company to carry out significant changes for integrated operations scheduling, autonomous and tele-remote mining machines and huge efficiencies and cost savings for underground mine ventilation systems.

More communication

“We have changed the way we work here at Vale,” said Brad Atkins, manager of digital transformation for Vale’s North Atlantic operations. “We have very high interaction with each other. We also do continuous improvements every two weeks. Historically, a project does a ‘Lessons Learned’ (briefing) at the end of the project and we comment on things we would never do again.

“We now do that every two weeks,” he said. “One of the things that we found out was that for us as a team, the work was getting very well integrated, but our communications weren’t.”

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