Orica’s Digital Solutions segment continues to make major inroads across the mining value chain, with its latest mine to mill initiative set to involve a collaboration with Caterpillar.
Speaking during the company’s FY23 financial results webcast, Sanjeev Gandhi, Orica Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, said demand for software, sensors and data science continued to increase as orebodies become increasingly hard to find and extract against a backdrop of high commodity prices and increasing ESG obligations and commitments.
“Customers are continuing to seek operational efficiencies across the mining value chain and unlocking the value of digitisation and automated workflows is key to achieving these efficiencies,” he said.
Orica was reporting Digital Solutions’ first full year result, with Gandhi highlighting a doubling of earnings alongside a significant improvement in margins.
“This was driven by growth across all three sub-verticals, namely Orebody intelligence, Blast design and Execution solutions, GroundProbe,” he said.
The Digital Solutions business has been identified as one of Orica’s key growth verticals as it continues to build and invest in the next generation of digital technologies and solutions, beyond its blasting core.
This was witnessed during the company’s most recent financial year, when, among other developments, it acquired Axis Mining Technology, a leader in the design, development and manufacture of specialised geospatial tools and instruments for the mining industry; as well as released what it said was its most innovative fragmentation monitoring solution yet, FRAGTrack Gantry.
Gandhi said: “Innovation continues to be a focus, and this year we have released 15 new digital features, with a focus on artificial intelligence-based solutions to support our customers.”
And, as the industry and Orica’s customers look to solve their biggest challenges through partnership, Gandhi announced its new collaboration with Caterpillar, saying the two companies had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to explore opportunities to integrate key elements of their respective domains.
He explained: “The initial focus will be on the potential integration between Orica’s Rhino™, BlastIQ™ and FRAGTrack™ technologies with Cat® MineStar™ Terrain technologies.”
Rhino (graphic pictured above) is an autonomous drill string-mounted geophysical sensor that measures unconfined compressive strength while drilling. It enhances orebody knowledge in real-time, enabling miners to make better blast planning, improve fragmentation profiles and increase throughput, according to Orica. The technologies in the BlastIQ platform, meanwhile, are, Orica says, designed to deliver economic and operational value individually, with the benefits maximised when integrated in a systemised process. And finally, FRAGTrack is Orica’s state-of-the-art fragmentation measurement tool designed to provide rapid insights into the outcome of blasting processes.
Caterpillar says of MineStar Terrain: “Cat MineStar Terrain uses high-precision guidance technologies, material tracking and more to help your machines work according to plan – increasing efficiency, reducing variability and helping you get the most out of your drilling, digging, loading and grading operations…The solution helps you increase drill capacity, crusher throughput and material accuracy while driving consistency in payloads and bench heights.”
Gandhi said on this MoU: “The goal of this integrated workflow is to provide customers with high-fidelity rock property information enabling significant improvements to on-bench safety, drilling and blasting program accuracy and productivity, along with higher quality blast outcomes that generate enhanced mill performance.”
In the future, the two companies intend to extend their collaboration to optimisation of the entire value chain, from mine to mill, according to Gandhi, who said the approach aligned with both organisations’ ambitions to create sustainable solutions and services that will build the momentum for more intelligent and solution-driven mining ecosystem.