The Importance of Digitization in the Mining Industry – Now and Into the Future
Prepared by RCT
Digitization has changed the face of mining over the years and it will continue to do so for years to come as technology advances at a pace never before seen. The mining industry in general is highly variable due to external factors such as commodity prices, declining ore grade quality, rising labour costs, pressure of new markets, depleting reserves (e.g. Tier 1 Gold producing mines) (Exhibit 1) and the fact it takes place in extreme conditions in remote locations. With so many factors to consider, companies place a huge importance on streamlining operations in order to remain profitable throughout these cycles.
The push towards digitisation in the mining industry is huge. Not only is it used to optimise processes and maximise the value of a company’s existing applications but it looks at the emerging technologies used to help mining companies optimise their investments on equipment while safeguarding operators.
The biggest change of all that has come about with digitisation is the introduction of automation and information systems. This has seen miners being relocated from the cab of machines to automation centres where they can control their machines with all the same functions from the comfort and safety of an ergonomic chair safely located away from the mine face.
In addition to this, real-time information has become readily accessible, making data more prevalent to make positive changes.
Digitisation has completely transformed the mining industry as a whole and has seen companies being able to achieve positive outcomes in key areas including:
Digitisation encompasses so many things on so many levels; it is not just simply about connecting to a network.
The Connected Mine
“Digitising the mining process changes it from a manual, paper-based operation to a digital platform that incorporates siloed systems, automation, AI ML, and DML to streamline operations and significantly improve business outcomes.”
Data & Analytics
Utilising proven systems to help process data is becoming progressively important in providing real-time decision support and future projections for mining companies. Advanced data and analytics add real value to mining operations by identifying hindrances – after the fact or by predicting where issues are likely to arise in the near future and avoiding them altogether.
The use of sensors improves this data capture and together with reporting it allows companies to make faster, more informed decisions to help streamline operations by removing inefficiencies. Delivering accurate, real-time information about fleets is integral in detecting machine failure before it occurs and identifying the root cause. Avoiding machine failure prevents unexpected downtime and saves companies a lot of time and money.
Increasingly, organisations in a variety of industries are using Internet of Things (IoT) to operate more efficiently, better understand process, enhance operations, improve decision-making and increase the value of the business. IoT enables companies to automate processes and reduce labour costs. It also cuts down on waste and improves outcome, diminishing operations costs, as well as offering transparency into overall business activities.
The digitisation journey is extensive and in order for all this information to be processed and delivered, a digital communications network is required to enable the large volumes to information to be delivered promptly. This helps companies automate the mining process; provides them with relevant information in real-time, machine-to-machine communications and effective fleet management systems.
Digitising the mining process changes it from a manual, paper-based operation to a digital platform that incorporates siloed systems, automation, AI, ML, and DML to streamline operations and significantly improve business outcomes.
The automation field had dominated the mining market over the past decade with the majority of mine sites looking towards the implementation of this technology to part, or the majority of their mining operations. In fact, automation plays a big part of a mining company’s digitisation journey as machine performance dramatically improves when the process is automated as it removes the inconsistencies associated with different drivers.
It is these inefficiencies that result in variations in tons moved, unplanned downtime, tyre wear, and fuel usage which can make effective mine planning very problematic.
In addition to removing inconsistencies, automation enables machines to operate 24/7 at a consistent and higher output, which is what mining companies today are striving for.
Sites can potentially reduce the costs involved with flying and accommodating miners at remote sites as in some cases work can be carried out from a Remote Operations Centre (ROC).
It is one thing to have all the latest technologies in place, operating at a mine site, but the key to returning value on these investments is to have them all work together; which is why interoperability is such an important factor.
Interoperability is the ability of a system to work with or use the parts of equipment of another system. This enables the seamless data capture, analysis and reporting of all the symptoms operating at a mine site. This includes mobile equipment, fixed assets, people and the environment. This is also just as important as the collaboration between the OEM, suppliers and mining companies.
The fully integrated mining enterprise allows companies to maximise value through effective planning and efficient operations.
When companies are choosing to embrace digitisation, they are able to effectively reconcile resources, ensure safe production and financials continuously as dictated by commercial and technical reality.
The digitisation journey has the power to change the way companies are remodelling their strategies and business models for the better. Like most industries, the mining sector is constantly evolving. While we have seen significant rise in digitisation and in particular real-time information devices and the use of autonomous machines in the last ten years, this really is just the beginning with even more technological advances to come in the near future to benefit the mining industry.
RCT’s full paper can be found here: https://rct-global.com/2020/10/digitisation-in-mining/
RCT has the expertise and technologies that transform the way the mining and industrial sectors operate. Specialising in the areas of machine Automation & Control, Protection, and Information systems, RCT is the only company in the world to offer an array of proven solutions that are agnostic and fully interoperable.
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