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Smart technologies help reshape coal mining industry in China

Updated: 2021-10-16 15:56 ( Xinhua )
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With a few clicks on a smartphone, a giant machine roared to life and coal briquettes began to be transported to the surface of the conveyor belts.

"I can even control the conveyor and other equipment in the coal mine from home by using a management application on my phone", said 32-year-old Cai Jin at a spacious and illuminated work platform that is around 280 meters below ground at the Caojiatan Coal Mine, northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

Cai, who is in charge of a mechanical and electrical team at the mine, said there are only several workers at the platform, unlike stereotypical coal mines, and the environment is largely free of harmful coal dust.

Located in Yulin City, the Caojiatan Coal Mine covers an area of around 108.5 square kilometers with annual coal production of 15 million tonnes.

Benefiting from smart technologies, the mine has realized integrated management of fully-mechanized coal mining, tunnel boring, and coal transport. The new drainage systems and dust reduction techniques have also greatly improved the working environment of coal miners.

Workers were replaced by patrol robots to monitor the status of the downhole water pumping station and substation, said Li Zhiguo, maintenance worker of Cai's team, adding that the replacement significantly reduces the safety risks of miners.

"Robots acquire accurate real-time data of the station to secure smooth operation by detecting sound, temperature, and images," said Li.

With information and real-time data collected, three control centers of the coal mine enable workers to control all the production equipment and monitor the underground production, said Li Peichen, a senior worker of the mine.

"The number of workers in a mining team has been reduced by about 50 percent, from 15 to 7, and the seven workers can produce 3,500 tonnes of raw coal in two hours," said Li Peichen.

Caojiatan Coal Mine mirrors the increasingly smart coal mining industry in China as traditional coal mine enterprises are introducing intelligent technology to innovate their production, with the technical support from the country's high-tech companies.

At the 16th Yulin International Coal and High-end Energy Chemical Industry Expo that kicked off Wednesday, companies including Huawei offered cutting-edge solutions for coal enterprises.

Huawei displayed its new system named "Kuang Hong" at the expo. Released on Sept. 14, the system is capable of connecting devices from different manufacturers through unified interface and protocol standards.

Wang Bingchao, the person in charge of Huawei's exhibition at the expo, said the digital twin technology helps create a digital replica of the underground mining space and thus allows real-time monitoring.

Wang said the technology has been applied to a number of coal mines in Shaanxi.

"High-tech Chinese enterprises like Huawei are playing an increasingly important role in helping traditional mine firms speed up their digital transformation," Wang added.

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