ABB mining robot has a blast with automated charge handling

1 min read

A new ABB robot that can automatically charge blasting holes in mines with explosives has been successfully trialled in Sweden.


The ABB Robot Charger uses a combination of machine vision, automation and precision robotics to identify boreholes in the rockface, then prime them with explosive charges and detonators. According to ABB, the system can be retrofitted to any truck, with the robot deployed to multiple blasting sites over the course of a day.

Blasting schedules in mines vary widely, but in some mines can take place up to 15 times per day. Currently, setting charges is one of the last remaining mining processes that is fully manual, with miners working at unsupported rockfaces. ABB said the Robot Charger will be a leap forward for mine safety, automating this potentially dangerous task.

“This is a significant technology development for ABB and the wider industry where safety is part of overall ESG commitments,” said Vedrana Spudic, head of Technology, Business Line Mining, ABB.

“The robot locates the drilled holes on the rock face using a vision system, and these recent tests show all can be reached and charged with the cycle fully automated. This removes the need for human operators in a small, unsupported area right at the face.”

According to ABB, the Robot Charger consists of four separate systems that work in tandem: a camera to scan the rockface for boreholes; a hydraulic crane to reach the full height of the space; a small industrial robot for managing the detonators and primers; and a larger industrial robot for placing the explosives in the drilled holes.

The pilot programme has been undertaken in partnership with mine operators Boliden and LKAB at Boliden Garpenberg. Located 180km northwest of Stockholm, it is claimed to be the world's most productive underground zinc mine. ABB is now embarking on a final stage of development that aims to execute the entire blasting sequence in the mine, with full control of the robot handed over to the customer.