Russia: Olimpiada’s transition to automation

By | 2019-02-06T09:03:35+00:00 February 6th, 2019|Global|

Edited by Leon Louw

Gold mining company Polyus has introduced eight automation solutions at its Olimpiada mine in Russia. 


Olimpiada in a nutshell

Located in one of Russia’s most prolific gold mining provinces, Olimpiada is Polyus’ largest operation. The mine began production in 1996 and currently accounts for over half of the company’s total gold output. The ore mined at the site is processed at three plants with a combined capacity of 12.2 million tonnes of ore annually. To treat Olimpiada’s sulphide ores, Polyus employs Bionord, the company’s proprietary bio-oxidation technology.


Automation specialists RCT recently installed tailor-made solutions on five of the mine’s Caterpillar 777F trucks, a Komatsu 1 PC-3000-6 hydraulic shovel and D-275A-5 dozer, and an Atlas Copco DML drilling rig. Olimpiada is an opencast mine in the Krasnoyarsk region of Eastern Siberia. The project is a crucial turning point for the gold mine’s transition into an autonomous machine operation and will allow the site to operate more safely and efficiently. The solutions allow operators at the gold mine to simultaneously clean up landslip while continuing production in the same area, significantly increasing productivity by reducing downtime associated with manual operation of the mobile machines.

This is made possible thanks to the customisation of the teleremote solution to incorporate the multiple machine selection (MMS) feature, which allows one operator to swap between machines when production tasks change. This is particularly significant to aiding productivity, as the mine operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Equipment needs to operate in extreme condition in Siberia, Russia. The temperature can reach −45°C in winter.

Equipment needs to operate in extreme condition in Siberia, Russia. The temperature can reach −45°C in winter.

Prior to the installation of RCT’s automation solutions, the mobile machines were operating in hazardous areas prone to rockfall and exposed to extreme weather conditions all year round. Today, the operators work from a central control station, complete with modern comforts such as heating, which is essential at a mine experiencing such extreme temperatures.

According to RCT’s CIS business development manager, Stephen Macarow, two control centres were deployed on site. “One control centre controls the trucks, dozer, and shovel and the second controls the drill. Providing operators with a comfortable working environment has proven to increase productivity as they remain more alert during shifts,” says Macarow. All RCT’s products were designed to withstand the extreme temperatures experienced in Russia. All components have to operate efficiently in temperatures ranging from −45°C in winter to temperatures as high as 45°C in summer.

RCT drill console.

RCT drill console.

Adapting to extremes

Visibility was another factor that had to be taken into consideration due to the mine’s location. To ensure seamless operation during the evening shifts and the winter months, additional external lighting was fitted to the trucks and loaders, ensuring adequate visibility during the mining process during these times.

This extensive project also required the reinvention of the design of RCT’s existing surface drill console, which was installed to control the Atlas Copco drilling rig on site.

“The drill console was downsized and thanks to the latest ControlMaster technology, RCT’s custom department was able to reproduce it into a more manageable size with the same functionalities it previously possessed,” says Macarow.

The console now consists of four joysticks that can be used over four different modes to perform 50 functions necessary to operate a surface drill via remote control. It was also integral that the drill icons would translate well into Russian but also have a universal meaning.

Operators and equipment at Olimpiada in Russia are exposed to extreme weather conditions throughout the year.   

Operators and equipment at Olimpiada in Russia are exposed to extreme weather conditions throughout the year.

“Everything we have implemented on this console has been to serve a specific function. It was important that we catered to every function the operator would have, as if they were in the cab of the machine,” says Macarow.

To further ensure operators have the same, if not better view of the operating area, pan-tilt-zoom cameras — capable of remote directional and zoom control — were added to the drill.

The end result was a modernised console that met all the criteria for this drill that will lay the foundation, to be adapted to various drills for years to come.

A large part of the Olimpiada equipment fleet was recently automated.

A large part of the Olimpiada equipment fleet was recently automated.

The project involved more than 40 employees from four companies: VT, RCT, Neman, and Sercons. Four tonnes of high-technology RCT equipment was delivered from Australia to the remote mine site in Russia. The project further involved designing and building two operator stations, obtaining six certification (permission) documents. It took six months for installation, full testing, and commissioning.

*Photos by Leon Louw