Catoca diamond mine in Angola is the world’s fourth-largest diamond mine. The mine is located on a kimberlite pipe near Saurimo in the Lunda Sul province in the northeast of the country. The mine is owned by the Sociedade Mineira de Catoca joint venture, a consortium of international mining interests including Endiama, the state mining company of Angola, Alrosa, the partially state-owned Russian company, Odebrecht of Brazil, and the Diamond Finance CY BV Group.
The Catoca mine accounts for about 6% of the world's diamond production and about 70% of Angola’s diamond output, so it is a very important contributor to the national economy. The mine began operations in 1997 and the processing plant was expanded in 2005. The open-pit mining method is employed using bulldozers and dump trucks. The current operating depth is more than 200m deep and is expected to reach 600m by 2034.
Communications at Catoca relied on an analog MPT1327 trunking system for more than 10 years, but the network was no longer fit for purpose. The voice quality was poor and the system was unable to support features such as data capability, including GPS location services.
The age of the MPT system meant it was also difficult to find spare parts and get reliable after-sales and maintenance services to keep the network in good repair. This was very frustrating for the end users, as the poor network quality reduced the effectiveness of the mine’s internal communications, which directly impacted operational efficiency.
The management at the Catoca mine decided to replace the analog MPT system with a modern, digital radio network. Hytera was selected to implement a DMR Trunking Lite solution. One reason Hytera was chosen is that it is the market leader for the PMR industry in Angola with a number of major clients. Hytera solutions are being used by the police, military, Sogester container port, Soils oil refinery, and MSTelcom, which provides telecommunications to the oil industry.
Hytera was also able to demonstrate that it had a very strong after-sales capability in Angola. This gave the customer the confidence to choose Hytera as its communications supplier, as it believed the company would be there to provide the necessary ongoing support to maintain the radio system in the future.
Hytera provided two DMR DS-6211 Trunking Lite base stations, each of which has five carriers. In addition, more than 500 DMR PD705G and DMR PD785G hand-portable radios and DMR MD785G mobile radios were supplied. The voice quality is much-improved thanks to the digital technology and Hytera’s noise-canceling solution.
The great advantage of the DMR Trunking Lite solution is that it is modular and can be easily expanded in terms of both coverage and capacity to meet the growth of the mine. Individual and group calling means it is easy for managers to communicate instantly with the right person or team and provide instructions, which improves operational efficiency and productivity.
The Trunking Lite system can be extended to connect to fixed telephone networks through SIP gateways, so staff who do not have access to a radio can be reached. End-to-end encryption ensures communications are kept private and secure. The over the air programming (OTAP) feature makes changes and updates to radio configuration easy to manage.
The PD705G and DMR PD785G (full keypad and display screen) hand-portable radios are highly ruggedized and IP67 certified against dust and moisture ingress, so they can cope with the harsh working environment of the mine. The workforce is well-protected thanks to the radios’ emergency button, priority interrupts, man down and lone worker features.
The GPS technology in the hand portables and vehicle-mounted in-cab MD785G mobile radios enables supervisors to track the location of staff and vehicles in real-time, which helps to improve efficiency and productivity as time is not wasted trying to locate staff or vehicles.
The Hytera DMR Trunking Lite solution has provided employees at the Catoca mine with much clearer, better quality audio, wider coverage, and increased capacity, so voice calls or short messaging services can get through instantly at all times, and staff is able to hear clearly despite the noisy environment.
Managers now know immediately where staff and machinery are located, which enables operations to be directed much more quickly and efficiently without delays being caused by poor communications. The modular approach adopted by Hytera means the DMR network can be easily expanded to keep up with the growth of the mine.