Telstra deploys private LTE network in PNG volcanic crater gold mine

All production vehicles are hooked up to a private 4G network for Newcrest Mining.

The mining services arm of Telstra has completed and switched on a private LTE network for Newcrest Mining at its Lihir gold mine in Papua New Guinea.

Telstra Mining Services (TMS) said it delivered an LTE network core with dual-frequency base stations and its own SIM cards that are separate from PNG's public networks. Alongside this, Newcrest erected new towers, redundant power across the site, as well as new data centres.

All of the site's production vehicles -- including trucks, drills, excavators, bulldozers, shovels, and barges -- are "connected and operationally proven over LTE", TMS said.

The new network is set to help run the mine remotely and provide connectivity to autonomous systems, with connected assets capable of switching quickly to Wi-Fi thanks to heterogeneous network functionality.

"The Lihir mine extends 300 metres into a volcanic crater and our workers can often be exposed to elevated temperatures," Newcrest Lihir general manager Chris Jordaan.

"Tele-remote and autonomous mining technologies are fundamental to working the hot work areas that will become more dominant features of our operation in the future.

"The Private LTE network will be a great enabler for these technologies and coupled with the existing in-pit Wi-Fi network, we have been able to create a heterogeneous network that covers the whole mining lease."

See also: Rio Tinto preparing for the Mine of the Future with automation

TMS added that so far, the LTE network has increased communications reliability by 80%.

Telstra formed its mining services arm in June 2016 after it acquired the Wi-Fi and mesh communications technology services of CBO Telecommunications.

"The acquisition of CBO's network consulting, engineering, and services business was the next step to expand our communications business beyond the mine gate," the head of Telstra Global Industries David Keenan said at the time.

At the start of 2018, Telstra signed a deal with Linfox to provide advanced telematics and management of Internet of Things (IoT) solutions.

Under the deal, Linfox's entire fleet of trucks will be enabled with IoT tech including mounted Samsung tablets for access to logbooks and safety checklists.

In September, Telstra and Ericsson announced they had extended the range of its long-range narrowband IoT connections to 100 kilometres from the base station.

Ericsson Australia and New Zealand MD Emilio Romeo said at the time that the capability could be used in the logistics and agriculture segments, with the two companies demonstrating an NB-IoT temperature sensor and a solar-powered weather station measuring temperature, humidity, rainfall, and leaf wetness.

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