Daniel Sharpe, longwall mining engineer, Komatsu Mining

The use of Discrete Element Modelling (DEM) in the mining industry has applications from conveyor systems to shovel bucket loading efficiency. The ability to build in design changes and the implications these have on material transfer or interaction gives greater confidence before new generations of equipment are tested in the field. In longwall applications, Komatsu has been applying DEM technology to simulate bulk flow behavior along the armored face conveyor. Analyzing flow-critical areas such as the main gate corner, BSL discharge and the crusher, DEM has been used to validate design changes and as a development tool to test empirical designs. The software has been used to simulate extraordinary operational conditions. Simulations of large particles can analyze the effect of blockages on the AFC to account for mines prone to large slabs of material or poor face conditions. With exciting potential to simulate particle breakage, wear contacts and particle residence times among others, the capabilities of DEM for longwall applications continues to grow into a significant design and problem-solving tool for engineers