Smart technology revamps local mining industry

By Yuan Shenggao (China Daily)

Updated: 2021-02-26


Lou Yangsheng (front, second from right), Party secretary of Shanxi province, and Ren Zhengfei (front, third from right), visit the new smart mining tech lab in Taiyuan, Shanxi province. [Photo by Li Lianjun for China Daily]

A smart mining technology laboratory, jointly founded by technology company Huawei, the Shanxi provincial government and local mining companies, was launched in the Shanxi capital of Taiyuan on Feb 9, marking a further step in the digitalization and smart operations of Shanxi's mining industry.

Lou Yangsheng, Party secretary of Shanxi province, and Ren Zhengfei, founder and CEO of Huawei, unveiled a plaque for the lab during the launch ceremony.

"We used our intelligent technologies to develop the first smart coal mine in Shanxi in 2020, and we expect hundreds of such coal mines to come in the following years," Ren said at the launch.

The first smart coal mine refers to Xinyuan Coal Mine, a branch of coal-mining group Huayang New Material Technology based in the city of Yangquan in the east of Shanxi.

Using technologies and solutions from Huawei and telecom operator China Mobile, Xinyuan announced in July 2020 the operation of the first 5G-connected coal mine in China.

Two months ago, Ren paid a visit to Xinyuan to tour and witness the operation of the smart coal mine.

During the trip, Ren met with Shanxi Party secretary Lou to explore further opportunities for all-around collaboration with Shanxi's mining enterprises. The smart mining lab is part of the consensus reached by the two.

During the lab's launch ceremony, Ren said the Xinyuan 5G-connected coal mine is the first test of how to use cutting-edge digital technologies to upgrade Shanxi's traditional pillar industry of coal mining. He said he is happy to see that fruitful achievements have been made in this field and promoting the Xinyuan experience to hundreds of coal mines in Shanxi is an important task for Huawei in the years to come.

When recalling the collaboration between Xinyuan and Huawei, which started in September 2019, executives of the companies said the cooperation was a challenging mission for both sides.

"The fact that telecom engineers were not familiar with coal mining and coal-mining engineers not familiar with telecoms meant the collaboration across two totally different industries required painstaking efforts," said Zhai Hong, board chairman of Huayang.

Zhai said engineers from both sides have been highly motivated in the face of challenges, with Xinyuan engineers making great efforts to learn the latest digital technologies and Huawei's engineers venturing to the depths of mining shafts to study various application scenarios.

As a result, the collaboration has yielded a number of technological firsts in the country, including the first underground 5G base station and the first 5G network for mining shafts.

Ren said he is happy to see 5G technologies have played an important role in promoting coal-mining automation, improving efficiency and strengthening safety. He said the collaborative results made by the two companies are important for Huawei's further cooperation with Shanxi and the newly launched lab should promote such experiences and propose new solutions.

The smart mining technology lab currently has 220 researchers, including 50 from Huawei.

"We are the first in the world to use digital and information technologies for mining on a large scale," Ren said. "China has more than 5,300 coal mines and 2,700 metal mines. This will be an ideal testing field for Huawei to tap into the global mining industry."

Guo Yanjie contributed to this story.