LKAB is the world’s technical leader in supplying iron ore pellets to the global steel industry. It is unique in that the majority of its iron ore production is derived from underground — as opposed to open cast mining — and its rich magnetite mines are sited in the north of Sweden above the Arctic Circle.
A new research centre recently opened in Koskullskulle which also embodies a welcome centre for visitors to the nearby Malmberget mine. Electrosonic was responsible for engineering the AV facilities at the centre, and these feature a giant videowall made up from 192 Christie® MicroTiles®.
LKAB (or Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara Aktiebolag to give it its full name) is owned by the Swedish state and has a turnover of SEK 31bn (approximately $4.6bn). Its iron ore mines are among the most productive in the world, and LKAB has developed highly sophisticated methods of automated mining and pellet processing that results in the ‘greenest’ production of iron.
The new R&D centre, which includes the ‘LKAB main entrance’ (or visitors centre), was completed at the same time as a new production level 1250 metres underground in the Malmberget mine called M1250. Both were opened by the King of Sweden, Carl XVI Gustaf, on 14 June 2012, who declared the opening standing in front of the big video display.
The AV system was designed and engineered by Electrosonic AB of Stockholm working to the requirements of LKAB’s consultant, WSP. The main presentation space is flexible, and can seat around 120 people in classroom style.
The space is dominated by the Christie MicroTiles videowall, arranged in 16 x 12 configuration to give an overall image size of 6.5m x 3.7m (21.4ft x 12ft). The display occupies little floor space and is sufficiently bright to be used when there is full room lighting, and in the face of an exterior glass wall at the other end of the room. In high summer automatic blinds are needed, but in the Arctic winter the display is highly visible from outside the building.
This is because MicroTiles draws on the strengths of both DLP projection and LED technology to offer substantially brighter images and a much wider colour palette than conventional flat panel LCD and plasma displays.
The display is fed from a Christie Spyder X20 image processor, configured for eight inputs and eight outputs. This allows for complete flexibility in the placing of images on the display, and ensures that all images are displayed at their full resolution, with eight Electronic Control Units (ECU’s) driven at 1066 x 1200 pixels each. The high resolution of the MicroTiles themselves ensures that there are no visible pixels however close the audience gets to the display.
Permanent inputs to the display include a Blu-ray player, a dual output high specification computer mounted in the source system rack, a digital video tuner (set top box) and facilities for connecting ‘visiting’ sources like laptop computers. A media player is used to present the house show, Performance in iron making, that introduces LKAB, its products and its processes.
LKAB has spectacular high resolution aerial images of its operating sites, and these are used as backdrops to both formal and informal presentations. Templates for formal presentations have been designed by Muscot Media to ensure a consistently high standard of presentation.
Elsewhere, the presentation room is fitted with a comprehensive audio set-up with overall system control handled by AMX control.
Next to the main presentation room Electrosonic has equipped a boardroom for management meetings with overall control again from an AMX room controller with touchscreen user interface.
But the highlight for many who visit the LKAB visitor centre is a tour of the Malmberget mine itself. This is a ‘drift’ mine, meaning in practice that all the mining areas can be reached by ‘road’. The Malmberget mine has a staggering 600km (373 miles) of roads within it, and is 1390m (4560ft) deep. It contains not only the mining areas, but crushing plants, workshop areas and transport systems.
Mining is carried out by first using water powered drills to drill long straight holes down which explosives are placed. Blasting takes place at night when the mine is unoccupied. The loosened ore is broken up and collected by a variety of vehicles. It is transported to silos situated above the crushers which crush it into pieces no bigger than 10cm (four inches) long.
The crushed ore is then transported by conveyors to high speed skips which carry the ore to the surface. The skips each contain 40 tons and travel at 17m/sec (40mph). In the Malmberget mine the main transport level is at the 815m level, and ore from the main 1250 mining level reaches it by means of a 1.7km (1.05 mile) long conveyor belt.
The whole atmosphere down the mine is surreal, seemingly straight out of a combination of Mad Max and James Bond film sets – but there is a homely touch too, with a Hard Rock Café located near the working level. All visitors are issued with a tracking device, and it is reassuring that, in the control room, it is possible to see where they are on one of the monitoring screens.