How Rugged Hardware Can Help Improve Mining Operations


Two miners working on an Australian mine using a rugged handheld device

Rugged hardware has changed the face of mining operations around the world in recent years.

The technology needs to be rugged, reliable and usable across all areas of a mine site. Rugged hardware is designed to endure the harshest working conditions. It must be light enough that it can be held and transported around the mine, but tough enough to cope with the rigours of fieldwork.

What Sets Rugged Technology Apart from Consumer Devices

Consumer devices fail in the harsh conditions of mine sites. Even outdoor use renders them useless. Rugged devices have better quality screens designed to be moved between indoor and outdoor environments. Add in the dust, rain, extreme variations in temperature and the risk of drops and a commercial device won’t last long on a mine site. 

Rugged devices undergo testing to determine their resistance to:

  • Drops on hard surfaces

  • Blasts

  • Extreme Temperatures

  • Liquids

  • Salt Fog

  • Dust

  • Humidity

Types of Rugged Devices

We classify rugged technology in three categories. The type of device needed will depend on conditions and functions it needs to perform on a mine site. 

Semi-rugged – the components are the same as commercial off the shelf hardware, but they’re better protected in these device casings

Fully-rugged – suitable for extreme temperatures and impervious to being dropped, shock and vibration resistant, dust and waterproof.

Ultra-rugged – designed to meet precise specifications for military use in extreme conditions such as a sandstorm or blizzard.

Rugged devices have multiple purposes. Accessories are used to make them more suitable for use in different settings and to perform a range of functions.

A device may be needed in-vehicle, so a docking station secures it, then out in the field a worker may attach a strap or handle for taking the device with them on foot. For report writing, a worker may convert a tablet into a laptop with a snap-on keyboard.

Rugged devices have developed over the years to make life on a mine site that little bit easier and far more efficient.  

Improving Mining Operations

The improvement in rugged technology has allowed for changes in mining operations. Almost all facets of mining have benefited, including safety, asset management, drill and blast operations, GIS and GPS, fleet management and machine guidance.


Mining is one of the most dangerous industries to work in. But technological advances have helped reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries. Mobile devices are used to enter data into forms during safety audits, maintenance inspections, structural and equipment inspections, and to enter faults and defects.

In addition to entering data, rugged devices are used to take photos. The information is location-based and can feed back to the head office and a central server through the wireless network, so there’s  no lag on required information.   

Mining Asset Management

Mine sites use rugged devices in the field to track assets and resources. Mine assets vary between fixed and movable. All assets need to be tracked, inspected and maintained regularly for safety and efficiency purposes. Rugged devices also assist with structure inspections, maintenance reporting, equipment readings such as downloading sensor data from a machine or pump, and machine health information.


Mine sites can be kilometres in width and depth. They lack the signage we use to navigate around suburban streets. Rugged handheld devices have GPS and GIS tools to assist with assessing conditions, managing building and resources, planning infrastructure and assessing environmental impact.

Rugged devices can run geo-mapping software with their large image files and high-resolution visuals. Using GPS tracking and geotagging saves significant time and resources because workers can accurately navigate to locations. Communication is possible with the use of external antennas.   

Fleet Management

A wide range of vehicles move around mine sites 24/7. Keeping track of their location was difficult without fleet management systems. Rugged handheld devices are installed in vehicles on sturdy docks in reach of drivers. WiFi and cellular networks allow vehicle-to-vehicle communication, status updates, locations, images and field-captured data.

Fleet management systems streamline fleet workflow, increase efficiency and productivity by automatically communicating their location, payloads and updates. The systems have also helped improve mine safety as drivers of haul trucks have limited visibility of 4WDs in the area.

Fleet management systems need rugged devices to cope with constant vibrations and extreme temperatures on site, the dust and liquids when tablets are removed from vehicles.         

Machine Guidance

Rugged devices are used to run machine guidance software that helps with digging, drilling, shaping and pumping on mine sites. The software provides the information needed for mine planning, mining operations, and the operators working in the field. 

Some of the most dangerous and accurate operations on a mine site relate to drill and blast activity. A rugged device is needed for Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) in blasting operations.

Drill operators can use a rugged device to record the kilograms of explosives, the detonator and emulsions then navigate and measure the depth of drill holes. The devices have improved the blast-hole drill rig efficiency, utilisation and compliance.  

Being able to monitor and operate machinery from a rugged handheld device improves safety and resources. Instead of pressing the button at a blast site, a worker can be at a safe distance using a device to perform the blast.

For hazardous locations that may have combustible fine dust and gas fumes, a rugged device must be classified as Class 1, Division 2 (C1D2).     

Rugged devices and machine guidance software assists with precise tasks such as digging, shaping, drilling and pumping. The devices also assist with predictive maintenance, monitoring machine performance and repair schedules. The benefits include reduced equipment downtime, less waste and saves resources. 

If you need a rugged device for your mine site, contact the hardware experts at Roaming Tech with your requirements by calling 1300 131 933 or contact us online.

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