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Anglo American has launched Australia’s first electronic tablet device certified for use in underground coal mines at its Moranbah North mine in the Bowen Basin.

Chief executive officer of Anglo American’s Australian business, Tyler Mitchelson, said digitisation was a key part of the company’s FutureSmart Mining approach, which applies innovative thinking and technological advances to address mining’s challenges.

The new tablets were already enabling improved communication and information sharing underground, which would ultimately lead to safer, more productive mining, he said.

The device was developed in collaboration with product manufacturer, Bartec, and tested to achieve certification with the Queensland Government’s Safety in Mines Testing and Research Station (SIMTARS).

Risk of ignition in underground coal operations means any device that does not meet ‘intrinsically safe’ regulatory approval, including standard tablets or smart phones, cannot be taken underground.

“Anglo American has taken a major step forward in digitising our operations, with the introduction of electronic tablets that can be safely used underground,” Mr Mitchelson said.

“Following the successful launch at Moranbah North mine, we are now moving towards rapid deployment across all our underground sites including our newly-approved Aquila mine, which will be developed as one of the most technologically advanced underground mines in the world.

“The tablets capture and share real time production, safety and environmental monitoring information with operators, ensuring critical information is readily available to key personnel and removing the need for paper records.

“They also provide direct access to our Safety Health Management System and can be used a portable video communication device (via Skype) to instantly access personnel working at the surface level. This will accelerate trouble-shooting and can also be used as a live video link in case of emergencies.”

Mr Mitchelson said the introduction of underground tablets followed significant work towards automating longwall operations and digitising the company’s mines.

Anglo American recently completed its first pilot longwall shear from an above-ground remote operating centre at Grosvenor mine.

Anglo tablet a first for underground coal mines