The advantages of the development of digital mines

The challenges of the modern world have led industries to evolve and adopt a more innovative and forward-thinking approach to overcome them. Digitization offers benefits to multiple industries, and mining companies are increasingly implementing data-driven models in their operations. This article will discuss smart mining and the benefits that digitization can bring to the mining industry.

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Smart Mining: an innovative approach to the problems facing the mining industry

Industry 4.0 is rapidly becoming a global reality. This has led to an increasing focus in the mining industry on innovative approaches to solving several key issues it faces today.

Chief among these approaches is the development of the connected, data-driven, and automated “smart mining” model. Mining companies have prioritized investments in technology, building their data and intelligence capabilities, and integrating equipment, software, and human operators.

The smart mine leverages several innovative technologies, including Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices, artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual and augmented reality, wearable and equipment-based sensors, big data paradigms and centralized data centers.

Smart mining requires significant economic investment in equipment and infrastructure as well as worker training.

Implementing a digital and data-driven approach has several distinct advantages for the mining industry. The concept of smart mining is gaining momentum within the industry. Globally, many mining companies are in the early stages of digitalization.

Automation in mining

Automation is a major trend in the mining industry. Removing human operators from the mine and replacing them with autonomous mining equipment offers significant benefits to mine operators. Using sensors on automated equipment makes it possible to monitor their performance and the mine environment in real time, with data collected and analyzed at a central hub.

Miners can build on existing networks and easily integrate automated elements into them. Digitizing mines with wireless sensor suites to perform remote measurements facilitates the automation of key mining processes and assets. IoT-enabled devices continuously provide data to human operators, and artificial intelligence enables equipment to make decisions without human intervention.

Economic Benefits of Digital Mining

Smart mines present significant cost reduction potential for mining companies, with a better return on investment than their traditional “analog” counterparts. Costs are saved in terms of labor, equipment maintenance and reduction of unnecessary mining infrastructure such as extensive cabling.

The use of operational interfaces and the analysis of historical data help predict potential disasters and equipment failures, thus avoiding the long and costly interruption of mining operations.

Digitalization also saves water and energy, improving the economic and environmental sustainability of smart mines. KPIs and reporting are enhanced using innovative technologies in these next generation mines.

Mining Safety

Smart mines dramatically improve safety by removing human workers from the mining environment.

Autonomous machines do most of the work, allowing humans to focus on higher value tasks that are less laborious and dangerous. Workers can be located away from the site in centralized locations above ground, further enhancing worker safety.

With predictive data analytics, disasters can be detected earlier using smart sensors located throughout the mine. This alerts workers to any danger and gives them more time to get to safety before explosions or cave-ins occur.

Wearable sensors provide real-time data analysis and reporting functions. Workers can be tracked in real time using sensors, warning them of potential hazards and instructing them to avoid certain areas where disaster is likely.

Critical safety parameters such as pore water pressure can be monitored in real time, allowing operators to reduce water pressure and prevent disasters such as catastrophic dam failures to protect assets and key workers.

Manual measurements may not be able to detect security issues in time and should be performed regularly.

Improving productivity in mines

Along with economic and safety benefits, smart mines help improve productivity and profitability. Site managers can design efficient workflows to streamline operations.

Analyzing large amounts of data, both historical and collected during operations, gives the smart mine powerful capabilities to optimize efficiency and profitability. Predictive analysis avoids downtime and, in addition, geological data can help accurately identify the location and volume of ore bodies, reducing the need for exploratory drilling and other conventional methods of identification deposits.

Predictive maintenance in the mining industry

Predictive maintenance dramatically improves mine productivity, safety and profitability.

With predictive maintenance, there is no need to wait for a critical equipment failure to occur to begin maintenance work.

IoT-connected sensors embedded in machines continuously monitor equipment status and feed that data back to central hubs, where AI and human operators can identify problems before they occur and send feedback. maintenance teams.

Combining data analytics with predictive maintenance can reduce costs and provide productivity gains estimated at 10-20%.

Real-time actionable insights allow mining operators to optimize their operations.

Machine learning is a key technology in predictive maintenance. With predictive capabilities, maintenance is no longer reactionary, with obvious benefits for mining companies.

Data Security in Smart Mining

Data security is essential for mining companies. Mining companies protect their data against competing companies and hackers.

There is a risk that increased digitization will give bad actors the ability to access mining data, and even disrupt or control mining operations, leading to security issues and increased financial burdens.

Therefore, robust security protocols should be at the heart of any smart mine. Keeping data “in-house” and out of the cloud can help protect vital data as well as key equipment and infrastructure.

The future of smart mining

The concept of smart mining is gaining prominence in the mining industry and has vast benefits for the future of the sector, with several companies already digitizing and automating their operations.

As Industry 4.0 becomes a reality, companies will likely continue to invest heavily in technology and processes that improve mine profitability, safety, productivity and sustainability.

References and further reading

Phoshoko, D (2020) Data-driven exploration [online] miningnews.co.za. Available at: https://miningnews.co.za/2020/06/01/data-driven-mining/

Compel (2017) Improved mine productivity through better analysis of blast data [online] mineexcellence.com. Available at: https://www.mineexcellence.com/blog/readblog.php?blog=Improving-Mine-Productivity-by-better-Analysis-of-Blasting-data

Provencher, M (2021) A predictive maintenance guide for the smart mine [online] aquantico.io. Available at: https://www.aquantico.io/a-guide-to-predictive-maintenance-in-mining/

Sensation of the World (2022) Smart Mines: The 6 benefits of making your mine digital [online] worldsensing.com. Available at: https://www.worldsensing.com/article/smart-mines-benefits/

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Norma A. Roth