HomeCarriersTelstra turns on private LTE for Newcrest gold mine in Papua New Guinea

Telstra turns on private LTE for Newcrest gold mine in Papua New Guinea

Australian operator Telstra has switched on a private LTE network at a gold mine in Papua New Guinea. The deployment at the Lihir gold mine, on Aniolam Island in the New Ireland Province of Papua New Guinea, will bring greater levels of safety, remote operation and automation, said the parties involved.

It is the first deployment of private LTE in Papua New Guinea. The site, located 900 kilometres north-east of Port Moresby, is owned and operated by Lihir Gold Limited, and managed by Melbourne-headquartered Newcrest Mining. Telstra Mining Services worked with Newcrest to design, test, and deploy the network.

Newcrest has been provided its own dual-frequency base stations, LTE core and SIM cards, with the network’s configuration and coverage designed and implemented to meet the Lihir’s safety strategy and long-term mine plan, said Telstra.

The solution also includes ‘HetNet’ functionality that allows the Newcrest vehicle fleet to seamlessly switch between LTE and existing Wi-Fi networks without impacting mining applications. Newcrest has installed new towers, data centres and redundant power systems across the site.

Trucks, drills, excavators, bulldozers, shovels and barges at the mine have been connected over LTE. Telstra and Newcrest claim “significant performance improvements” already in terms of reliability, speed and latency. 

“The network has been able to resolve challenges with existing Wi-Fi connectivity and is making Newcrest’s safety and productivity systems more effective. Fleet efficiency and real-time visibility have benefited from an 80 per cent improvement in communications reliability on LTE-enabled assets,” they said in a statement.

Design and deployment was “relatively” quick, they said, despite the remoteness of the Lihir operation. Coverage and capacity will be extended to across the mine, processing plant, port and camp.

Jeannette McGill, head of Telstra Mining Services, said Newcrest’s decision to invest in Private LTE validates it as a networking platform for the mining industry and a means for the sector to grasp the nettle of digital transformation. 

“We’ve provided Newcrest with a tailored platform that will underpin its safety and digital mining ambitions and will help improve productivity and deliver new value and efficiencies to the business. They’ll be using it to further modernise the mine site to enable the use of current and future mining applications, including tele-remote and autonomous systems, more extensively.”

McGill added: “Newcrest and Telstra Mining Services took what has become a best-in-class preliminary deployment approach with the network. Designing it for full production but initially deploying at two sites allowed Newcrest to validate the design principles, implementation techniques and practical capabilities of LTE before scaling their investment.”

Chris Jordaan, general manager for Newcrest Lihir, said: “The Lihir mine extends 300m into a volcanic crater and our workers can often be exposed to elevated temperatures. 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.”

Gavin Wood, chief information and digital officer at Newcrest, said: “Safety is Newcrest’s number-one priority and the network Telstra Mining Services has built with us at Lihir will enable safer and more efficient mining using new technologies. The success of this project was 100 per cent driven by leadership and personal commitment of the Lihir’s OT / IT team working together with Telstra Mining Services.”

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