Tag Archives: Andrew Scott

Robotics on its way to the exploration industry, QR’s Scott says

Mining has entered a robotics boom as developers take substantial strides in artificial intelligence (AI), use of drones, and data capture and analysis technology that will deliver safety improvements and better managed mines, Queensland Robotics Executive Chairman, Andrew Scott, says.

Speaking at the IMDEX Xploration Technology Symposium, he said that with the development of autonomous haulage and drilling technology, the mining industry had moved through a “trough of disillusionment” around robotics and was rapidly accelerating towards the “plateau of productivity”.

The two-day online conference brought together experts in mining innovation and exploration industries to discuss the latest in new technologies, tools and advanced analytics.

Scott said acceptance of new technologies had been aided by restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the development of some digital transformation projects planned for the next three to five years being executed in three months.

“COVID is a significant accelerator and robotics is no exception,” he said.

Capital was available to fund new and emerging projects and was another clear indicator of a robotics boom, which Scott said would undoubtedly mean more jobs not less.

“There’s a lot of work that’s underway right now to really bring to the forefront a lot of automation and robotics to deal with enhanced data capture and execution of exploration programs and also within the mining environment,” he said in an interview ahead of the symposium.

“In the mining environment, we’ve seen the proliferation of automation in the form of autonomous haulage and autonomous driving, but now we’re seeing all the other ancillary services that are requiring automation and robotic solutions to take people out of danger but also to enable a highly efficient and productive system.

“We’re starting to see some of those capabilities move across into exploration, including the ability to deploy smart sensors in the field robotically, the collection of samples, and the analytical processing of those samples.”

He told the symposium the increase in robotics was aided by a reduction in sensor and computational costs, and, with more tools and technology available, there was increased adoption and acceptance.

“Robots are helping with the dirty, dull and dangerous, and distance challenges,” he said. “Applying robotics can definitely remove people from harm’s way. It can also augment what they are able to achieve by being able to explore in environments where until now we’ve been limited.”

This included in Australia, with areas subject to extreme heat, the high altitudes of the Andes, and subsea exploration.

“Robotics is surfing the wave of AI,” he said. “There’s a huge amount of development and growth in this area. We’ve gone past the AI winter, as they call it, and the acceleration of tools, and the ease of use of those tools is becoming a critical enabler.

“My prediction is that we’re going to see more and more solutions where they’re highly engineered highly capable, robust, highly configurable and easy to use.”

GMG examines functional safety in mine automation with latest guideline

The Global Mining Guidelines Group’s (GMG) latest guideline on autonomous systems will “provide clarity on the expectations between the various parties involved in delivering automation to mines”, Gareth Topham, one of the guideline project co-leaders, says.

“Whether it be fully autonomous or semi-autonomous, there are degraded modes or unexpected situations that people deal with every day in mines,” Topham, Principal Functional Safety at Rio Tinto, says. “To manage the removal of a potential control and introduce a technical solution as an alternative, we have to apply functional safety principles to confirm we are reducing the risks as much as we reasonably can.”

The GMG’s ‘Guideline for Applying Functional Safety to Autonomous Systems in Mining’ provides a common approach to applying functional safety to autonomous systems and references international standards within the context of the mining industry and its current maturity, according to GMG. It also describes clear expectations for the communication requirements to support change management and effective application.

“Functional safety is an important industry challenge as adoption of autonomous systems grows,” the GMG said. “While autonomous mining is an opportunity to remove people from potentially hazardous situations, there are also residual risks. Automatic protection systems in a mining environment need to respond to various kinds of errors and changes in conditions, such as human error, software failures and operational/environmental stress.”

To help readers navigate these risks, this guideline begins by identifying important reference materials and listing standards relevant to applying functional safety to various aspects of autonomous systems, the GMG says.

The core content of the guideline is an example of a functional safety lifecycle for applying autonomous systems in mining and identifies some key expectations and responsibilities for providing information, documentation and support at each stage. It also offers high-level guidance on software development, verification, and validation; competency management; cybersecurity; and assurance documentation, according to GMG.

Industry alignment on the expectations and requirements related to functional safety is also a key goal for this guideline.

Andrew Scott, Principal Innovator at Symbiotic Innovations and GMG Vice-Chair Working Groups, says: “Experts from a wide range of stakeholder groups – suppliers, consultants, operators, regulators and system integrators – have been engaged in this guideline’s development and extensive peer review. The engagement in this project has been an excellent example of how traditional competitors can come together to create a safer future through the GMG community.”

Because functional safety for autonomous systems in mining is a rapidly evolving topic, this guideline is expected to evolve and add any appropriate detail over time to align with new and updated standards and consider emerging concepts and technological advances.

A separate GMG project on system safety is also ongoing and will complement this guideline by addressing adjacent topics such as safety case and risk management, human factors, integration, and verification and validation, GMG says.

GMG launches cybersecurity and electric mine working groups

The Global Mining Guidelines Group (GMG) says it has just launched two new working groups on cybersecurity and the electric mine to create safe and sustainable mines of the future.

The Cybersecurity Working Group aims to help mining stakeholders as they look to design safe, secure, reliable and resilient cybersecurity infrastructure that adheres to regulatory, trust, and privacy best practices, GMG said.

The group is to provide guidance for the industry to access and implement existing solutions, be responsive to the priorities of the industry, and look for projects that will benefit from GMG’s open, collaborative principles and processes, it added.

“As digitalisation increases in our industry, so does the risk of cybersecurity incidents,” says Andrew Scott, GMG Vice-Chair Working Groups and Principal Innovator at Symbiotic Innovations. “Industry-wide knowledge sharing and collaboration are important for mitigating these risks.”

Scott added: “The topic has come up in many existing GMG projects including those on autonomous systems, artificial intelligence and interoperability, and it is clear that cybersecurity is a high-priority concern among mining stakeholders.”

The group will work closely with the Mining and Metals Information Sharing Analysis Centre (MM-ISAC) to collaborate on and identify existing projects and prevent duplication, according to GMG.

The Electric Mine Working Group, meanwhile, aims to accelerate the advancement and adoption of electric mining technologies in underground and surface contexts. It will cover all-electric technologies that are replacing those that typically use diesel.

Key objectives include developing guidelines and sharing information on using and testing electric technologies and designing electric mines.

GMG Managing Director, Heather Ednie, said: “The shift toward the electric mine in surface and underground contexts is indicative of our industry’s growing commitment to reducing greenhouse gases and providing safer working environments.

“Previous GMG work on battery-electric vehicles in underground mining brought together a community of companies leading the way in developing and adopting electric mining technologies. As these technologies are increasingly used in surface mines, the need to expand the community has become clear.”

This group will work in parallel with the International Commission on Mining and Metals (ICMM) and its Innovation for Cleaner Safer Vehicles (ICSV) initiative to ensure that the initiatives support each other, GMG explained.

Once launched, these groups will form a steering committee to refine the scope and objectives and identify early projects, GMG said.

The Cybersecurity Working Group will have its introductory virtual meeting on November 11. The kick-off workshop is to define what the industry needs from a cybersecurity perspective; it will be held at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, USA. on December 5, held in partnership with the MM-ISAC.

The Electric Mine Working Group will have its introductory virtual meeting on November 21.

GMG helping miners leverage machine learning

The Global Mining Guidelines Group (GMG) has published a new whitepaper that, it hopes, will better equip mining companies to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning technologies.

The Foundations of AI: A Framework for AI in Mining offers an overview of the process of planning for and implementing AI solutions for mining companies, GMG said.

GMG explained: “AI-based innovation is being used increasingly in the mining industry as a means to improve processes and decision-making, derive value from data and increase safety, but the levels of operational maturity are variable across the industry.

“Though many mining stakeholders are adopting AI, there is still uncertainty about the technology and how it can be harnessed in the mining industry.”

This white paper – developed collaboratively through workshops, conference calls and online collaboration tools – addresses a variety of concerns, such as the challenge of establishing data infrastructure, apprehensions about the effect on the workforce and worries about failure after investing substantial time and funds into an AI project, GMG said. “It offers a realistic strategy for building a foundation for planning, implementing and moving forward with AI.”

The primary audience is those in charge of introducing or expanding the use of AI in mining companies, according to GMG.

Rob Johnston, Project Manager at CITIC Pacific Mining and GMG AI Project Leader, says: “There has been a recent explosion in the application of AI in industry, and this document aims to assist mining companies to fully embrace this exciting technology and drive business value.”

Having this information available will also help cut through the hype that surrounds AI, according to GMG.

Andrew Scott, GMG Vice-Chair Working Groups and Principal Innovator at Symbiotic Innovations, said: “Although mining stakeholders generally recognise the value of understanding the technology, many are intimidated by the concept and see expertise in AI as a very specialised knowledge set, so this will help them start off on the right foot.”

This document will also be useful for those who are part of the ecosystem that surrounds mining companies, which comprises those assisting in applying the technology, culture and safety considerations and regulatory frameworks that are necessary for a successful AI strategy, according to GMG.

Speaking from his perspective as a solution provider, Kevin Urbanski, CTO at Rithmik Solutions, says the white paper will provide “current and future customers with a macro view of artificial intelligence and related solutions”, while helping mining operations to “identify opportunities to apply these powerful algorithms within their organisations.”

He added: “Mining companies know best what their needs are, and this document will help them match those needs with what’s possible.”

Urbanski thinks the document will also help to standardise communications around the technology, saying it will “provide great level-setting, ensuring that we and our customers are speaking the same language when talking about AI”.

Johnston, meanwhile, says that while this publication is an important step, the document will be reviewed and updated as needed: “The field of AI moves so fast that this will be a document that will be updated regularly in order to remain relevant to the industry.”

GMG members devise mine automation guideline

The likes of Anglo American, BHP, Barrick Gold, Glencore, Newmont, Rio Tinto, Teck and Vale have collaborated on the Global Mining Guidelines Group’s (GMG) latest guideline on automation.

The Guideline for the Implementation of Autonomous Systems in Mining offers a broad view of the implementation of these systems, which are being used more and more frequently due to their potential for making the mining industry safer and more productive, according to GMG.

Christine Erikson, General Manager Improvement and Smart Business at Roy Hill, said the guideline “covers all aspects of operations, including people, safety, technology, engineering, regulatory requirements, business process and organisation models”. She added: “The guideline considers all perspectives in the industry, making it relevant and practical in implementation.”

The guideline provides a framework for mining stakeholders to follow when establishing autonomous mining projects ranging from single autonomous vehicles and hybrid fleets to highly autonomous fleets, GMG said. It offers guidance on how stakeholders should approach autonomous mining and describes common practices.

“More specifically, the publication addresses change management, developing a business case, health and safety and risk management, regulatory engagement, community and social impact, and operational readiness and deployment,” GMG said.

“There has been an incredible level of engagement in this project since its launch last year,” said Andrew Scott, Principal Innovator, Symbiotic Innovations, and GMG Vice-Chair Working Groups, who facilitated many of the workshops. “The industry interest reflects the growing importance and relevance of autonomous systems in mining and the industry’s need for a unified framework for mitigating risks and managing change while maximising the value of autonomy.”

Chirag Sathe, Principal, Risk & Business Analysis Technology at BHP – one of the project co-leaders alongside Glenn Johnson, Senior Mining Engineer, Technology at Teck – said the guideline is relevant even to those who have already embraced autonomy: “I would say that even though some mining companies have implemented autonomy, it hasn’t been a smooth ride and there are a number of lessons learned. This guideline would be a good reference material to everyone to look at various aspects while implementing autonomy. It is not meant to provide answers to every potential issue, but it at least may provide some guidance on what to look for.”

Erikson concurred, saying, “Roy Hill’s involvement has given greater insight into industry learnings that we have considered as part of our own autonomous projects.”

The guideline also promotes cooperation between the involved parties as a means of easing the implementation process, according to GMG. Andy Mulholland, GEOVIA Management Director at Dassault Systèmes, said: “Mining companies will need to rely heavily on their technology partners.” This guideline “sets down a great framework to be able to collaborate”, he added.

Sathe said: “As technology is moving very fast, guideline development also should keep pace with the change.”

As a result, the guideline will be reviewed and updated on a regular basis, according to GMG.

GMG said: “Although implementing autonomous systems creates new challenges, such as changes to the workforce and the workplace, their successful deployment adds definite value, with improved safety and efficiency and lower maintenance costs. As more operations move toward the application of these technologies, this guideline will be an invaluable asset.

Mark O’Brien, Manager, Digital Transformation at CITIC Pacific Mining, said the process of developing the guideline highlighted “just how much there is to factor into deciding whether to implement autonomy, whether you’re ready for it and what the journey is going to look like.

“Having this all captured in a single, well-considered document is a terrific resource.”

GMG completes the underground communications infrastructure trilogy

The Global Mining Guidelines Group (GMG) has published the third part of its Underground Mine Communications Infrastructure guideline suite, which, it says, provides an overview of the planning and design recommendations for underground communications development.

Called Underground Mine Communications Infrastructure Guidelines, Part III: General Guidelines, the document also includes some best practices used within mining environments and where to find more information on digital communications, standards, and frameworks, GMG said.

Andrew Scott, Principal Innovator, Symbiotic Innovations and GMG Vice-Chair Working Groups, described this document as “a key general reference for any company looking to implement communications infrastructure at any of their operations or new projects”.

This guideline suite was developed in response to the rapid development of industrial and communications technology in recent years, according to GMG. “It provides a high-level view of the processes needed by mine personnel to meet planning and design requirements when creating or replacing underground mine communications infrastructure,” GMG said. “It steps the user through the general tasks and components to define the technical requirements for an underground communications infrastructure that sup­ports mine services now and into the future.”

GMG Chair, Michelle Ash, said: “These technologies are now at the heart of mining safety and productivity and are becoming essential for running safe, productive and efficient underground mining operations. Anything we can do to speed up the rate of adoption in our members’ operations will make a positive impact on the industry.”

These general guidelines form the core content of the guideline suite, according to GMG. Part I: Positioning and Needs Analysis provides a general overview of the guideline objectives and audience and presents a mine communications maturity lifecycle diagram. Part II: Scenarios and Applications outlines scenarios of practical applications in underground mining today and in the near future. Both were published in 2017.

This third part, Scott explained, can be used more directly: “[It] provides a sound foundation for selecting the appropriate communications infrastructure, assisting with the decision-making process.”

This project has been ongoing since the Underground Mining Working Group formed in 2015. “The underground communications project group has been a very active and motivated group of mine operators and technology suppliers,” Scott said.

Eric L’Heureux, President, Solutions Ambra Inc, said, from a technology provider’s perspective, “This guideline is very important as it allows the mining industry to stay on the leading edge of the technology. The mining companies can get relevant information allowing them to upgrade their networks and meet requirements required by new applications such as remote operation, ventilation on demand and tracking.”

Cailli Knievel, Chief Engineer, Newmont Leeville Operations, said what she learned while working on this guideline was “extremely relevant as Newmont moves toward increased automation”.

It is great “to get an outside perspective on items that have the potential to disrupt the industry in the future”, she added.