Miners dig deep underground, and Hagerbach digs deep into the future. Transferring aspects of life into mountains could become a reality one day. Hagerbach (Switzerland) became a testing ground for mining and tunnelling technologies, and today, they offer an academy, research and test installations for engineering and safety in mining and tunnelling sector.

Safety is at the centre point of activities in Hagerbach. Participants learn safety practices, research safe methods and materials, simulate proper ways of equipment handling and try out new technologies. They looked at available safety assistance solutions in the market and tested different technologies for their safety concept and eliminated all of them except Crew Companion.

Hagerbach Crew Companion Identec Solutions Switzerland

The Champion of Tunnelling

Robots, digital twins, training on simulators. Sounds like Silicon Valley, doesn’t it? Well, not this time. Its neither Japan or Taiwan, but right in the heart of Europe, in the mountains of Switzerland, literally in fact. Driving north from the Rhine Valley at Sargans, you will see the rugged peaks of the Churfirsten, a chain of rocky skyscraper-like peaks atop a massive wall that rises several hundred meters straight up from the valley floor. Below, lies the Walensee, a peaceful deep blue lake squeezed between the towering mountains, on the southern flank of which the autobahn carves its serpentine way through the hard rock mountainsides. It's Swiss engineering at its finest that made this possible: tunnels and galleries for kilometre upon kilometre, cutting through the mountainsides, testimony of a world-renowned 20th-century heritage: Switzerland, the champion of tunnelling.


The Test Gallery

It is the only test gallery of its kind in the world. There are underground laboratories and old galleries used for testing. "Hagerbach is special because we offer this diversity of underground related disciplines, and we are driven to excel at safety, and excited to experiment and innovate. In the beginning, Hagerbach was just one of many underground labs in Switzerland, but the others disappeared over time, being not profitable anymore. All except Hagerbach, which became a testing ground for mining and tunnelling technologies. Today, we offer an academy, research and test installations for engineering and safety in mining and tunnelling", says Michael Kompatscher, CEO of the Hagerbach Test Gallery, "this is how we make our living."

Digital twin in mining

A digital twin is a powerful concept: it creates a digital model of reality. In Hagerbach, it is their test gallery. You are only halfway from fully understanding if you think of a digital map featuring a few interactive points. Think instead of a virtual world with real-time data like temperature, pressure, movement, positions, humidity, and then morph that into a 3D environment to simulate and compute fire drills, blasting, or drilling holes with new technology. The advantage: it is cheap, fast, and safe.

"In the past, you had few chances, if at all, to try things out before time or resources ran out. Today, you simulate your experiment, choose the solution that shows the best result and only then conduct a proof-of-concept field trial", says Kompatscher. "It is so much faster, with better results." A digital guinea pig.

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