While observing railcars loading at Fording River Operations, Automation Specialist and Project Manager Roger Cote saw an opportunity to make mining processes more cost-effective and efficient. He drew on his experience implementing automated controls from previous work in the automotive and pharmaceutical industries and tapped into Teck’s Ideas at Work Fund to bring his ideas to life.
By using radar sensors, a system was developed to identify railcars entering the loading silo and automatically determine how to operate the chutes to maximize the loading of railcars. With support from the Operating Excellence team and the RACE program, planning for and implementation of the new system went full steam ahead, and the first automated load chute went into operation on May 25, 2020. In the month that followed, underloading was reduced by half and Fording River Operations shipped an additional 11,266 metric tonnes of steelmaking coal.
The new system increased the speed of which trains can be loaded. It now takes only about 40 seconds to load a railcar, or two-and-a-half hours per train, which is a 41.5% increase in train loading speed.
This technology has now been scaled to another loading facility at Fording River Operations and is in the commissioning phase. Early plans are also being developed to expand this technology across our steelmaking coal operations.