Companies in the mining sector are turning to digital technologies to reduce costs, increase productivity and increase financial performance. Innovative technologies need to be used to improve its efficiency, but it also focuses on two other critical factors in its quest for innovation to increase productivity.
Mining companies wish to enhance the success of its sustainable development efforts, through reductions in water and energy consumption, which should reduce greenhouse gas emissions and recurrent costs, as well as contribute to the achievement of the expectations of local partners, but also through increased automation, particularly in the most dangerous areas of mines, for better safety of minors.
Data Integration and Predictive Analytics
The Internet of Things (IoT) will enable tools, gear, and workers to be equipped with digitally connected sensors, software, and wireless devices, whose data will be tracked remotely, recorded, retrieved and shared.
Real-time monitoring increases traceability and visibility, but also increases efficiency and security, reduces variation, and better identifies performance issues. Device health and performance diagnostic data can be transmitted remotely to analysis tools to predict failures before they occur, and to recommend maintenance programs or corrective actions to reduce downtime.
Instead of being confined to decision-making silos, a lot of valuable information is shared throughout the organization by Cloud computing or networks, which promotes collaboration between departments. Ongoing innovations in data analytics tools, GPS technologies, mobile broadband communications, sensors and data storage, including Cloud computing, will continue to increase the productivity of connected mines.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning
Electronic learning algorithms could be the next big step in the digital transformation of mining sites. Artificial Intelligence is a branch of computer science designed to create so-called “intelligent” machines, capable of learning and reacting like humans.
By incorporating data from satellite imagery, geophysical maps, previous drill holes, soil samples and sampling analyzes, smart computers can improve metallurgical accuracy by identifying the most promising drill targets.
Predictive models of ore bodies and drilling data from blast holes can help identify more accurate drill targets, better optimization of blasting and drilling patterns, and better ore fragmentation. Artificial Intelligence is widely used in the oil industry and has very promising potential in the mining sector.
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)
VR/AR technologies are rapidly becoming indispensable tools for mine planning, training and security. Augmented Reality is used to superimpose 3D visual images on physical reality, while Virtual Reality makes it possible to replace a real world with a simulated universe.
Virtual Reality is used to immerse users in an artificial mining environment that allows for extraction training and health and safety activities. This technology is also used to reproduce the blasting sequences in slow motion so that engineers can simulate different blasting models and thus improve drilling and blasting rates.
Growing data traffic on the Cloud and the increased presence of digital innovations make mining companies more vulnerable to online attacks. By keeping a record of all transactions and coding this information without the intervention of external parties, Blockchain technology will be used more and more to protect data against hackers.
Digital technologies have helped bring the mining industry closer to its ideal of fully automated operation. Significant efforts have been underway for several years to automate the extraction process. Several remote control operations are already well established in the mining industry.
Fully automated gear is used to haul ore, drill and other operations. In addition, automated blasting and de-icing systems are on the horizon. Automation could reduce variability; reduce operating costs, increase efficiency, and move workers away from the most dangerous locations.
The mining industry still has a long way to go to achieve total automation, the mining sector should bring out ideas that can bridge the gap between mining imperatives and digital technologies, which can significantly contribute to the digital transformation goals, as well as improving the health and safety of workers.