Abstract of Project
Robots were earlier the imagination of individuals because technology was not so advanced to create a machine that could interact with humans and perform operations equivalent to both humans and machines simultaneously. The articles: “A Robotic System for Underground Coal Mining”, “Mining the Seafloor with Robots”, “Mine Rescue Robot System – A Review” and “Scope and challenges for robotics in Mining Engineering Applications” describe the application of robots in mining operations. The use of robots can not only reduce the risks and threats which occur to health and life of individuals who are working in mines but also improve the productivity and efficiency of concerned operation. The application of these robots is just not limited to land activities but are also valid in the underwater mining operations.
Introduction to Robotics
Robotics is the branch of science, specifically engineering which includes an amalgamation of different other branches i.e. electrical, computer science, mechanical, etc. A robot is a man-made structure which is designed and constructed for aiding human activities which require more efforts. These comprise of instilled computer systems with respective sensory feedback pathways that help in processing information in a better manner. In this assessment, the application of robots in mining industry has been provided. The four articles which are to be considered for the development of this project include “A Robotic System for Underground Coal Mining”, “Mining the Seafloor with Robots”, “Mine Rescue Robot System – A Review” and “Scope and challenges for robotics in Mining Engineering Applications”.
Literature Review – Robots in Mining Applications
Mining is the process or industrial activity which involves the extraction of different minerals and valuable elements from deep inside the earth or beneath waters. The purpose behind this extraction is to provide respective raw material for other processes. Ajwad and Iqbal, (2014) accounted that robotics and automation are considered as a boon to the business enterprises but consequently it has created great barriers for employment opportunities. According to Atmanand and Ramadass (2017), underground mining operations have been full of risk and threats to the human life. The introduction of robotic systems in these kinds of operations has caused certain type of security system and safeguarding for the miners or workers. Threats are present in the form of falling of roof or the sides of mine, air blasts, gas explosions, dust blasts, sudden outbreak of fire, etc. (Shaffer and Stentz, 1992).
Coal mines and the non-coal mines have different possibilities and threats because of the environmental conditions. There are toxic gases like carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulphide, different nitrous oxides, etc. As per the views of Belal and Mahjabin (2016), several control measures are always required for enhancing the safety conditions for workers in such hazardous environments. Hence, there is a need for scientific development which can reduce the harmful effects and consequences of data mining. Robotics science has helped in solving these system related problems and issues of mining to a great extent. Reddy Kalyan and Murthy, Ch., (2015) identified that there are some components of mining which are not accessible by manual labour. Computerised technological use creates a pathway for accessing such metalliferous deposits which are out of reach of humans (Bogue and Bogue, 2015).
Automated machines are completely programmed and designed for a particular purpose with repetitive operations. Mining robots require high degree of accuracy and precision when it comes to performing their operations (Bogue, 2016). Since, large geographical area is required, there has to be proper designing in terms of mobility and sensing competencies. Bogue, (2016) recognised that artificial intelligence is one of the major scientific developments that can be utilised for development of business operations with greater efficiency. Mining is one such industrial field that requires robust machinery and skilful labour to perform the functions and operations. Sea mining is also a risk oriented task that requires lot of monitoring and precautionary measures for successfully extracting the elements and composites (Boillot, Dhoutaut and Bourgeois, 2014).
As the quantities of precious elements and metals are reducing due to excessive extraction from land mines, the major functional companies and various national governments have directed mining operations to the marine level. Camacho-Cardoza and Ledee, (2017) stated that remotely operated vehicles are the forefront of this mining activity. Despite of the fact that actual depth and quantity of material to be extracted from a region in the sea is very uncertain, there have been significant developments for exploring and extracting the material. According to Cui and et. al., (2013), ocean mining vehicles are certain robots which have the capability for enhancing the vision and going about 200 meters under the sea for finding the exact location of source material. The Korean Ocean Research and Development Institute (Emmet Cole, 2012) has conducted various research activities which are completely focused on the development of technologically advanced devices which will be helpful in conducting mining activities in the ocean. They have come up with an ideological vehicle that will perform ocean floor exploration and aid the deep water mining activities (Emmet Cole. 2012).
Robots have gained global attention of individuals and organisations especially the manufacturing and production oriented companies because of the widespread applications. Major advantage of robotics in mining applications is reduction in costs. There are various expenditures involved with these aspects when considering the implementation of manual labour. According to Dunn, Reid and Ralston, (2015), the loss of artificial individuals is not burdening as compared to the massive deaths which are caused in mining accidents. Be it cyborgs or clones, drones and androids, these are considered as machines and do not have any sort of emotional connections. However, the employees that work day and night and risk their lives for the accomplishment of company goals, if suffer any sort of injury then significant loss occurs (Ege and et. al., 2014). Therefore, scientific developments have taken pace with regards to exploration vehicles and machines for mining.
Mining involves different set of activities that happen to be drilling, transportation of waste or ore materials from one place to another, digging, boring, blasting, etc. As per the views of Feng and et. al., (2016), even waste management is a risk oriented function in mining. However, ore transportation is considered as the highest risk oriented factor till date. The occurrence of a mineral or metal can be in any form. It can be liquid, composite or in the form of strong solids. According to Gandhi and Armstrong (2016), there are separate containers and specialised vehicles which are given the function of transporting the elemental form of mineral or element to the desired refinery or factory. When these operations are executed with support of the robots then there will significant increase in efficiency. The amount of risks and hazards to the environment and individuals shall decrease (Green, 2013).
In the article “Scope and challenges for robotics in Mining Engineering Applications”, the challenges and applications of robotics with regards to mining in underground cases has been described. It enfolds that robotics is a complex scientific application which requires handful of skilled labour to handle the same. Whereas mining activities are completely oriented with unskilled labour (Knodt and et. al., 2016). Hence, a significant difference in the demand of human resource has occurred which automatically affects the activities of mining sector. According to Liu and et. al., (2014), the challenge faced by mining industry when introducing automation and robots as an extended application is the loss or reduction in jobs. The consequent increase in number of unemployed unskilled labour shall directly affect the economic conditions of native country and further deteriorate the position in national and international markets (Neumann and et. al., 2014).
Hover, revolution happens to take place when there is introduction of a technique or strategy that completely advances the current working system. Application of robotics or using amazing robots in the mining industry has significantly changed or revolutionised the working scenario. Be it underwater mining activities or the land mining activities, all become much more easier and efficient when computerised human models in the form of robots are introduced (Raskin, 2015). ROV or the remotely operated vehicles are one of the revolutionary ideas which have been implemented for gaining success in terms of efficiency and productivity. Considering the marine mining operations, there are source of zinc, gold and silver about 1600 meters deep in the sea. But the ROV has made it easier for conducting such search operations and bringing a new working direction for the organisations nations in this industry (Seto, Paull and Saeedi, 2013).
According to the article “Mine Rescue Robot System – A Review” subterranean robots with high mobility have been developed by different scientific research organisations of USA. Underground mines are like pits for deaths when it comes to manual labour. Since, the earth's crust and and core have different temperatures and atmospheric composition. The amount of oxygen decreases and significant increase in hazardous gases has been witnesses (Shukla and Karki, 2016). When mining activities take place, the workers use different tools and machines that have the probability to catch fire and create accidents. Despite of giving proper training and making individuals aware about the impact of their job, people risk their lives in such places. Hence, underground mines are the primary industrial sites which require attention and use of advanced technologies. Siciliano and Khatib (2016) provided that there are many efficient robots developed in USA with an aim to facilitate health and safety in mines. These include Wolverine V2, Geminin Scout, Ground Hog, Numbat and Sub-terranean Robot (SR).
The Wolverine V2 was developed as a military robot and had a gas sensor which helped in continuously monitoring and sampling the situation with help of three monitoring cameras. The basic operation was initiated with help of optical fibres. Strong (2016) stated that when individuals are able to gain the continuous image of current situations in the underground mines where manual exploration is very dangerous then science has actually contributed something to revolution. The Wolverine V2 was designed to be 1.27m tall and weighted about 550 kg. However, this design and structure did not work out and fulfil the major motive for which it was built. On the contrary, Ground hog was a robot designed with automated systems that had the ability to explore and map underground mines which were abandoned and had no further use (Shaffer and Stentz, 1992). There are certain elements and materials which have been taken from the abandoned mines recently by scientists. In such cases, robotic vehicles help in reducing the cost of implying new task force for implementing the same task.
The robotics technology acts like a compilation of various different equipments in one particular machine (Ajwad and Iqbal, 2014). Be it sensors, radars, drillers, washers, etc.; the entire mining activity can be completed with help of two or more robots and ROVs. These have been helpful in orbiting the space and bringing more knowledge to mankind regarding the activities and occurrences which take place in space. Apart from the mining and exploring activities, robots have been helpful in aiding human activities when rehabilitation is to be provided. The accidents which occur in mine sites cause a lot of damage to human life (Emmet Cole. 2012). Often the mining areas are quite distant from normal societal set-up because of the environmental and health concerns. Hence, there has to be facilitation of proper services which can be imparted so that restoration from damage can be supported in minimum possible time. Hence, robots can be applied for rehabilitation purposes (Belal and Mahjabin, 2016).
Bogue, (2016) identified that despite of these many threats involved in underground mining, sea-floor mining activities are more risk prone and deadly. The marine activities have to be conducted underwater and there are significant chances that any sort of negligence or accidental activity can claim lives of all the people on-board. The machines which are driven in the role of underwater mining are termed as Sea-floor Production Tools or SPTs. According to (Liu and et. al., (2014), the findings of various mining experience depict that amount of resources in the sea are very less in quantities as compared to the ones present on land. With serious environmental implications of these kinds of activities brings in global concerns for the organisations and nations.
The field of robotics has caused increase in the level of competition within the manufacturing industries (Reddy, Kalyan and Murthy, 2015). When robot technologies are utilised for extracting different materials in their elemental form, there has to be certain type of covering or protection provided so that direct contact with atmosphere doesn't cause any sort of complications. The robot can be deployed for this specific task. For instance, the extraction of sodium involves transportation of elemental sodium from the source to other industries. Elemental sodium is highly reactive towards the atmosphere and produces fire with a blasting sound. Although the availability of elemental sodium is very less because of its maximum occurrence in the form of sea salt but still there have to be measures for many of such compounds. According to Siciliano and Khatib, (2016), the gases which occur with these extractions cannot be controlled but human beings can be safeguarded when robotic vehicles are employed the same function.
Automation and up-gradation have their own impact and issues when it comes to the workers and labourers in mining industry. As mentioned before, Strong, (2016) stated that the maximum number of workers functioning in this industry are unskilled. Their knowledge and experience is completely oriented towards manual handling. If industries bring in robots and remotely operated vehicle then these labourers have to loose their jobs. As per the views of Gandhi and Armstrong, (2016), training and development programs in these fields can only be deployed if the concerned company or organisation aims to keep or retain the individuals for future work in the company. In case of unskilled labour the probability of getting layed off from the organisation is very high. The reason behind this principle aspect is that companies aim to function to achieve maximum profits and reduce their production and operation costs at any possible strategy (Shukla and Karki, 2016).
In the article “A Robotic System for Underground Coal Mining”, the entire mining process for coal mining has been devised with reference to the robotic systems. All these evaluations and findings have depicted that with use of robots in the working of industries, there is a great threat to the unskilled labour. According to (Boillot, Dhoutaut and Bourgeois, 2014), the requirements of human operator are reduced when it comes to automation. The entire functioning shall go on 24*7 which automatically states maximum profits are under control of the concerned organisation. Hence, the robotic systems are great boon for the mining industry when it comes to healthcare and safeguarding of employees. On the contrary, it itself is posing a great threat to the individuals that are working because of the lack of skills, knowledge and requirement to handle machines and robots which are automated (Raskin, 2015).
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Every time when robots and automated technology is considered or debated upon, the first thought that comes to mind is the production line or the manufacturing units. When considering application of this advanced technology in the mining industry, it can be inferred that the loss of life due to mining accidents and unplanned mining activities are significantly reduced. Furthermore, it is stated that the underground mining expeditions and sea-floor mining activities are heavily facilitated through the use of remotely operated vehicles and robots. The entire process is initiated and completed by one machine as compared to the use of various equipments. This calls for great benefits but simultaneously the entire working process with automation and robots is threatening the employability of unskilled labour. Hence, there have to be certain strategic formulations which can reduce this threat and help in successful utilisation of robotics benefits.
- Ajwad, S. A. and Iqbal, J., 2014. Recent advances and applications of tethered robotic systems. Sci. Int.(Lahore), 26(5).
- Atmanand, M. A. and Ramadass, G. A., 2017. Concepts of Deep-Sea Mining Technologies. In Deep-Sea Mining (pp. 305-343). Springer International Publishing.
- Belal, A. B. and Mahjabin, M., 2016. Robotic Vehicle Controlled Over GSM Network Using DTMF Technology (Doctoral dissertation, East West University).
- Bogue, R. and Bogue, R., 2015. Underwater robots: a review of technologies and applications. Industrial Robot: An International Journal. 42(3). pp.186-191.
- Bogue, R., 2016. Search and rescue and disaster relief robots: has their time finally come?. Industrial Robot: An International Journal. 43(2). pp.138-143.
- Boillot, N., Dhoutaut, D. and Bourgeois, J., 2014, May. Using nano-wireless communications in micro-robots applications. In Proceedings of ACM The First Annual International Conference on Nanoscale Computing and Communication (p. 10). ACM.
- Camacho-Cardoza, N. and Ledee, J. P., The United States Of America As Represented By The Secretary Of The Navy, 2017. Remote control mine neutralization delivery system. U.S. Patent 9,561,842.
- Cui, y. and et. al., 2013. Application of measurement robot technology in head sheaves monitoring [J]. Nonferrous Metals (Mining Section). 3. p.021.
- Dunn, M., Reid, D. and Ralston, J., 2015. Control of automated mining machinery using aided inertial navigation. In Machine Vision and Mechatronics in Practice (pp. 1-9). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
- Ege, Y. and et. al., 2014. Performance analysis of techniques used for determining land mines. International Journal of Geosciences, 5(10), p.1163.