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'Smart Mines' Herald One-Person Coal Mining

Source: | 2024-01-25 14:56:01 | Author:


An unmanned mining machine operates. (PHOTO: XINHUA)

By Staff Reporters

Professor Lu Xinming is bringing his vision of "Smart Mines" to reality. As an expert in digital mine, his work at Shandong University of Science and Technology is revolutionising China's mining industry.

Innovation at the core

Smart Mines, hailed as a new path for mining transformation in China, integrates technologies such as cloud computing, big data and AI into mining operations, aiming for a future of unmanned or minimally manned mining.

After introducing the concept of Smart Mines domestically and elevating the "General Technical Specifications for Smart Mine Information Systems" to national standards, Lu's team received accolades such as the Second Prize of the State Scientific and Technological Progress Awardthe for their work on "Software Key Technologies and Applications for Digitized Mining."

Lu began his entrepreneurial journey as a university professor in the 1990s. The results of his research, including Smart Mines, found applications in over 400 mines owned by enterprises like Shandong Energy Group, CHN Energy, and China Coal Group.

Making the impossible, possible

Digging deep into the earth for coal, a process that spans exploration, tunneling, underground mining, transportation, screening and cleaning, requires intricate coordination. After over 40 years of dedicated work in the mining domain, Lu has identified the critical need to adopt suitable methods and advanced processes for safe and efficient coal extraction at mining faces.

One significant challenge is underground mining with issues like extensive tunneling, low coal yield, and challenging ventilation conditions. Lu's team, over 25 years, tackled these areas of concern, gradually providing solutions up to a national scale.

Ventilation systems, akin to a mine's respiratory system, are crucial for diluting and expelling toxic gases and dust while preventing coal and gas explosions. Lu, with a background in computational mathematics, developed 14 key technologies for this purpose, focusing on adaptive ventilation optimization, pressure regulation, and directional adjustments. The result was a fully intelligent mine ventilation system with four-tier architecture, driven by computer software technology.

"Developing an intelligent underground ventilation system was challenging, and many people thought it was impossible before," said Lu. But with determination and innovation, he proved his detractors wrong, emphasizing that with the right direction and perseverance, success is inevitable.

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Less labour and more efficiency

"Reducing workers by 70 percent, yet increasing efficiency by 20 percent" – this is the transformation witnessed at Shandong Energy Group, thanks to Lu's team's Smart Mine system.

Once a mining area undergoes digital transformation, a visual, transparent, and controllable smart mine emerges. Workers above ground can access real-time information from any location within the mine and make informed decisions through large screens.

Safety is both the starting point and end point of their innovation. Lu's team project utilizes advanced equipment and software to precisely and visually model the entire geological structure and concealed attributes of a mine, allowing for early prediction and prevention of geological disasters and hazards.

In Lu's company Shandong Lionking Software, 23 patented inventions are on display, with more in the pipeline. Their focus is on Smart Mine's core technologies, ensuring that they contribute to the creation of entirely new technologies.

In 2020, the National Development and Reform Commission, and eight other ministries, jointly issued guidelines to accelerate the intelligent development of coal mines, aiming for comprehensive intelligence by 2035. Lu sees this as an encouraging sign. His current mission is to refine the technology, shape the scenarios, and promote widespread implementation.

"Given time, with the technology chain in place, the era of 'One-Person Coal Mining' is on the horizon," he said.

Editor: 林雨晨

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