Vedanta Zinc and GE South Africa collaborate on digitalisation at Gamsberg

Vedanta Zinc International (VZI) has announced a leading greenfields digitalisation initiative which will see a ‘Smart Ore Movement’ system built into VZI’s flagship Gamsberg Project. The project, which is being undertaken in collaboration with GE South Africa, will see the implementation of breakthrough systems in the development phase of the project, as opposed to waiting for Gamsberg to come online and then attempting to retrofit the systems.

The $400 million Gamsberg project is currently under development in South Africa’s Northern Cape Province, with production schedule to begin in mid-2018.

Says VZI CEO, Deshnee Naidoo, “VZI places great emphasis on the concept of ‘Adapt and Thrive’ across all areas of our business. A core philosophy at Vedanta is to embrace new technologies and practices, and we welcome the opportunity to become part of the disruption revolution. As mining companies we need to offer our employees, our communities and our investors a different future, and people-centric technology has the potential to be part of that process.

“Working smarter through technology and digitalisation is one of our 7 core pillars in Vedanta. We are acquiring best-in-class technology for our assets, and focusing on creating our own. Last year, the wider Group initiated a US$30 million investment fund for in-house R&D, supporting our wealth of knowledge and spirit of innovation with meaningful resources.”

Thomas Konditi, the CEO of GE South Africa says of the collaboration, ‘we are delighted to work with VZI as our partners. Mining in South Africa remains an important industry, and as a digital industrial company, we are focused on providing integrated solutions across all sectors and mining is no exception. We leverage solutions from one sector or industry and apply them to another. We have deployed a similar approach in digital industrial mining. The objective is more than just efficiency, the quality of the ore produced is also important. Together we are transforming the entire industry and building sustainable mining and contributing positively to the economy of South Africa and the region. We are confident that this partnership will meet the scale, speed, complexity and other requirements of the mining industry”

The CEO of MineRP, Mr Pieter Nel, shared MineRP’s commitment to the global mining industry and its partners as follows: “MineRP has invested heavily in creating an internationally recognised software platform for the amalgamation of disparate mining technical data, and the unification of the technical and financial information domains in the mining industry. The MineRP Platform is foundational to digitally transforming mining. Furthermore, the company has worked very hard over the past years to develop value-driven partnerships for digital transformation with global companies such as GE, and we’re proud to participate in this project with them.”

The concept of ‘Smart Ore Movement’ centres on the need to ensure that all available information about the state of the mine, the quality of ore, the conditions of the processing plant and the value of the output product are not only made available to the mine management team in real-time, but that the information is presented in such a way that it allows for minute-by-minute decision-making.

The shared vision between our companies is that this engagement will be a multi-year journey that will not only address VZI’s immediate application and digital infrastructure needs, it will also be an industry-leading partnering of our teams, as well as those from selected high-quality service and technology providers. A goal of this partnering approach will be to provide a solid, trust-based foundation for the agile co-creation of mining solutions that can be deployed across VZI.

As more and more companies are discovering, the road to digital transformation in today’s increasingly integrated landscape is not as simple as an “upgrade project”. To remain on the cutting edge of their respective marketplaces, companies are turning their focus towards improving not only those tools used in their everyday production, but also the work processes that lead to true change and improvement.

This digital transformation project will target elimination of the inefficiencies that would typically exist in today’s mining operations through the application of new culture combined with digital technology and a customized delivery approach. As Gamsberg is a greenfields project, this will allow it to begin operations with best practices already in place. These best practices can then be replicated in subsequent phases as well as across other parts of the company. VZI sees this as protection against the uncertainties of inevitable disruption and intense competition, as well as an opportunity to capitalise on being the disruptor.

GE, as a leader in the digital industrial space, will take the strategic leadership role in the partnership and with their Predix platform for the industrial internet. This will form the integration layer for Smart Ore Movement and further initiatives such as Cyber Security, Asset Performance Management and Operations Performance Management solutions. GE will use the expertise gathered in other industries to provide seamless integration in a ‘one stop shop’ type of environment.

MineRP will be focussing on enabling real time decision making. Firstly, through visibility by providing immediate access to information in relevant context; and secondly through insight into conditions, relationships, and trends that are not otherwise apparent. For example, the ability to adjust the blending strategy based on real time grade reconciliation will ensure a constant feed grade to the plant. This is achieved through the MineRP 4.0 product-set, that ingests spatially oriented data like the geology and mine designs from their source systems along with the shovel, trucks and stockpile positions from GE’s collision avoidance systems. MineRP4.0 will do live calculations and optimisation of the blending and grade models, to guide the contracted fleet, and provide early warning to the plant, through GE’s PREDIX platform.

Deshnee Naidoo concludes that “Gamsberg is VZIs flagship project, and one of the largest greenfields mining projects currently underway in South Africa. The partnership that is achieving this leading practice is a global one, using local expertise. It will play a crucial part in the realisation of the vision of the Black Mountain Mining Complex, which will be a game-changer for the Northern Cape, as well as the Southern African zinc industry.

“This initiative is about helping the VZI on-mine teams to become more efficient and effective – it’s a story of growth and development. We know what challenges we need to solve to operate optimally – this partnership is about addressing those. The VZI digitalisation journey starts here – there is so much more to come”.