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Process and control today | Gold Fields orders ABB integrated power and automation system for Chilean project


  • ABB’s digital solution helps overcome challenges of remoteness and climate instability at $ 834 million Salares Norte mining project in the Atacama Desert
  • A suite of process and power controls, all under ABB Ability ™ System 800xA, will modernize mining and showcase the benefits of digital transformation
  • Dynamic process simulator to enable realistic operator training

Global technology leader ABB will supply six electrical rooms and an integrated digital system solution based on the ABB Ability ™ 800xA distributed control system (DCS) to the Salares Norte de Gold Fields mining project in a remote region of northern Chile.

The South African mining company’s open-pit gold-silver mine project is located in the Atacama Desert, among the highest peaks in the Andes Cordillera. It is 1,300 km from the Chilean capital Santiago and has altitudes between 4,200 m and 4,900 m.

ABB will provide a common platform for process and power control using the ABB Ability ™ 800xA system, the power and process control library and Camera Connect (ABB’s integrated video system to the control platform for optimized process monitoring). ABB Ability ™ Knowledge Manager will be used to manage information production through the Plant Information Management System (PIMS), alongside ABB Ability ™ Asset Vista Condition Monitoring (integrated with SAP), an extended workstation operator (EOW) as an integrated on-site control room, collaboration table and 800xA Smart Client stations to allow read-only access to screens via a web browser.

As a common platform for monitoring production, operation and support areas, ABB’s system will reduce technical risks and the number of interfaces to allow Gold Fields to unify processes at the highest level. The electrical system is fully integrated via the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 61850 standard, which ensures full control and visibility of plant operations. ABB also provides engineering and project management.

“The digital aspect is essential for this project due to its remoteness – the nearest town being Diego de Almagro, 180 km away, the altitude of the project and the unfavorable weather conditions that make access to the site and tough fieldwork, especially in winter, ”said Max Combes, Gold Fields project manager. “Gold Fields has developed a digital infrastructure through initiatives across the globe. ABB’s complete solution, integrated engineering and remote operations technology will allow us to leverage this digital capability and overcome the unique challenges of Salares Norte.

The scope also includes a dynamic process simulator to allow checks on all control logics and for operator training purposes.

“The simulator will allow shorter and more efficient start-ups on site,” said Iván Villegas, solutions manager at ABB in Chile. “This will also support training requirements, which means Gold Fields will have several accredited operators with the skills required for high quality operations. “

“With Gold Fields, we can demonstrate over the long term that ABB’s control systems connect and perform their functions in completely isolated areas, within range of satellites and with minimal latency,” said Cristian Gallegos, Head of mining accounts for ABB in Chile. “This is an opportunity to modernize mining and showcase the benefits that digital transformation brings by controlling and supporting the Salares Norte mining plant and equipment 1,300 km away. “

Satellite telematics test

Along with this project, ABB proposed and was part of an initiative with Gold Fields to successfully connect different ABB technologies between Santiago and the Salares Norte project. Using satellite telematics, they performed remote control and monitoring of smart electric motors and simulated telemedicine care between the two sites. The tests were carried out in isolated areas, but within range of the satellite and via a connection controlled by ABB Ability ™ System 800xA and conventional mobile equipment with minimal latency.
Through mixed reality lenses, both in virtual reality and in augmented reality, two authorities of the Ministry of Mines of Chile (the Minister and the Regional Secretary) each at one end, were witnesses and protagonists of the successful test, where the two had a conversation that flowed in real time, each “seeing” the other’s avatar, as if they were together in a physical environment.

Salares Norte is expected to produce 3.7 million ounces of gold over an initial mine life of 11 years and is estimated to cost $ 834 million. The operation involves drilling, blasting, loading and hauling methods for extracting the ore. It has a production capacity of two million tonnes per year and the average recovery of gold and silver over the life of the mine will be 92.7% and 67.5%, respectively.

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