Teleop solutions work to eliminate mine site dangers and inefficiencies

Hard-Line’s Teleop Control System, along with Auto, Multi, and Auto X upgrades, increases efficiency and productivity in mining

Four staff members gather together at a display.

Hard-Line is currently working on incorporating artificial intelligence into its technology. — Photo courtesy Gabriel Janakaraj

The future has arrived, thanks to Hard-Line, a supplier of tele-remote, semi-autonomous and autonomous mining technology. Hard-Line was established in Dowling, Ontario, in 1996. Now, this company's reach brings technology across the globe to increase efficiency and production in mining.

As a mining supplier, Hard-Line is a member of the Mining Supplier Trade Association Canada (MSTA Canada). Gabriel Janakaraj, vice-president of business development at Hard-Line, said, “MSTA is helping us build the bridge to regions we aren’t in,” he said. “There’s so much market data that we can’t retrieve that they have access to, or contacts in, and are helping us in many ways.”

It’s Janakaraj’s responsibility to cultivate partnerships with other companies, projects and research institutions and to engage new business prospects, showcasing the benefits of its products. He is rewarded by the efficiency, production and safety increases that Hard-Line's products provide to his customers. “It’s all about increasing performance,” he said, “seeing a mine adapt to our technology and increase its production values.”

Hard-Line’s solutions

In terms of safety, Hard-Line’s products eliminate most of that concern from mines because operators are removed from the potential hazards in the underground environment. Instead, operators can be on the surface or in an air-conditioned office around the world because the products are tied to a mine’s Internet network.

The most challenging task for Hard-Line is educating miners on the benefits of its products. “People are not educated on the technology,” said Janakaraj. The advanced technology disrupts a culture that has been largely untouched for years. “It’s the adaption to change that is the challenging part for us to instill in the mining culture,” he said.

The first clarification that Janakaraj makes is that Hard-Line’s products increase production rather than eliminate jobs. “It’s allowing operators to do more,” he said. “Instead of one person controlling one LHD (Load, Haul, Dump), you have them controlling a fleet of autonomous LHDs.” With Teleop Auto, production increases, so the same number of workers are necessary to run these larger operations.

Another is the price. Using a mine’s existing fleet maximizes the mine’s capital. “A lot of people think that our products are expensive, but they are not,” said Janakaraj. “It pays for itself in a couple hours, depending on the material mined.”

The products are off-the-shelf ready and are brand-agnostic, so Hard Line can convert a traditional mine to its technology no matter what type of mining vehicles are being used.

A global client base benefits from Teleop

Goldcorp Inc. is a long-time client that immediately saw the benefits of Hard-Line's tele-remote controls. “They were one of the earlier adopters of our technology,” Janakaraj said. “Now they want to push it farther because they see how it’s helping.” Goldcorp is so pleased with the technology that the company allows Hard-Line to show potential clients the technology in use on its mine site.

Hard-Line provides products as well as support so companies can integrate the new technology. “We provide a lot of support and on-site assistance. It’s simple to install and work with,” he said. Hard-Line uses what its customers say to improve the product wherever possible. “We use feedback to upgrade the system for the operator’s usefulness. We make sure it’s user-friendly,” he said.

The future is artificial

As a technology manufacturer, Hard-Line has its eyes on the future. “We are in the forefront of technology, but we know the next step is moving into artificial intelligence (AI),” said Janakaraj. “We have an AI team that is trying to see what AI can do to help the miners and operators.”

There is even the possibility for AI on a corporate level, computing thousands of variables per second compared to what humans can do. In the future, Hard-Line sees AI providing a dashboard experience that visualizes the mining operation in real time. “Now you have all these metrics. We’re talking about machine temperature, the location of your assets, what’s down and what’s up, what’s being mined, who is on site,” he said. All this data would appear on a dashboard setup, so executives can make business and operating decisions based on the data, further minimizing operating costs.

Regardless of where the technology expands in the future, Hard-Line prioritizes its clients’ efficiency and productivity. “We look at really making the machine sweat for you,” Janakaraj said.

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