Tag Archives: big data

BHP targets more mineral discoveries with SensOre JTA pact

SensOre says it has welcomed a wholly-owned subsidiary of BHP as a client for its Data Cube and Discriminant Predictive Targeting® (DPT®) technology.

SensOre and BHP reached agreement on a Letter of Intent in May 2020 and confirmed this in a Joint-Targeting Agreement (JTA) on September 18, SensOre said.

The JTA envisages a phased process training the DPT technology on commodity-specific deposit types and applying the knowledge gained to a pre-determined search space. SensOre stands to benefit through fees for the targeting exercise and potential success-based payments on certain discoveries resulting from the technology, it explained.

Richard Taylor, CEO of SensOre, said: “The JTA is a very positive development for SensOre that has come to fruition over many months of discussion.

“The vast data challenge of cleaning and integrating massive geoscience datasets has in the past been an obstacle to applying big data and machine learning advances to mineral exploration. Through agreements like this, we believe SensOre’s DPT technology will be part of a new wave of discovery in mature markets.”

SensOre aims to become the top performing minerals targeting company in the world through the deployment of artificial intelligence and machine-learning technologies, specifically its DPT workflow. SensOre collects all available geological information in a terrane and places it in a multi-dimensional hypercube or Data Cube, with its big data approach allowing DPT predictive analytics to accurately predict known endowment and generate targets for further discovery, it says.

SensOre recently committed to a joint project with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation looking at automation and efficiency in big data cleaning and processing solutions for the mineral resource sector.

Eclipse Mining’s SourceOne can help miners prepare for the unexpected

While all businesses should have a risk plan, the very nature of mining presents a unique set of problems and opportunities for consideration, according to Abinash Moharana of Eclipse Mining Technologies.

Whether an operation is contained in one location or spread throughout the world, strategic plans impact physical activity, which, again, impacts the strategic plan. The optimisation of this continuing cycle is imperative to success, Moharana says.

Even when physical operations are forced to shut down, data analysis and other planning must continue to meet revenue projections, and to prepare for physical operations to resume. This is increasingly relevant during today’s COVID-19-related lockdowns.

“In the event of a physical shut down, all existing plans become irrelevant,” Moharana, Technical Product Manager at Eclipse, says. “New plans are needed quickly. And the most significant risk (or opportunity) at this point, is the quality and timeliness of your data, and access to that data for employees working in remote locations.”

Eclipse’s SourceOne solution, which features a collaborative platform to connect data from different sources, and a datahub to store historical and contextual data, can help here. SourceOne renders this data serviceable for analytics and for adoption of tools, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The ability to create new reactive plans and multiple scenarios is imperative to surviving shutdown events, Moharana says. “And, doing so accurately may provide an opportunity to emerge on the other side even stronger than before so that when physical operations resume, you can jump right into it without wasting time or resources.”

Moharana added: “To achieve this, you must turn your biggest risk into opportunity using high-quality data that is easily accessible with real-time updates. And SourceOne can make this happen for you.”

As a mine platform designed with multi-users in mind, SourceOne is made to host multiple remote users.

It accommodates concurrent on and off-site users, while also handling off-line users with automated merges to a clean state, according to Moharana. “A geographically disparate team can work seamlessly together, transfer data and messages as part of a workflow, always be able to work with the latest data, and know the genesis of each data.”

Moharana explained: “With all the existing mine plans rendered redundant, the mine planning engineers can start working on new mine plans with updated assumptions and requirements. The requirements may have changed, such as volume becoming an immediate priority, rather than profitability, to be able to supply the end user. While doing this, the goal is also to not deviate too far from the strategic plan.

“SourceOne maintains the complete history of each project and data. Historical plans can be used to generate the differentials between the existing plans and the strategic plans. These can be weighed against the new goals, and a sub-optimal plan with smaller recovered metal may be considered as it does not stray too far from the strategic plan.”

With so many plans being made, the chances of errors magnify, as does the need to be able to audit the results with an internal or external auditor.

SourceOne maintains a complete audit trail of the entire project, so every plan can be traced back to the assumptions that were used at each step, according to Moharana. This speeds up the process to validate the suitability of the plan to be implemented in the field.

Mine planners must realise that for their corporate management, there is a big difference between risk and uncertainty, Moharana says. Risk is something that can be measured, while uncertainty cannot. The difference lies in measurable information.

“A good Business Continuity Plan (BCP) for mine plans allows the enterprise to convert some of these inherent uncertainties into calculated risks, which then can be properly weighted by the management,” Moharana said.

Mining personnel may think that the COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented event, but they need to be prepared for such a unique occurrence, according to Moharana.

“This preparedness allows mines to better manage the risk by being able to make mine planning a part of your BCP and ensuring that the mine is well prepared for any disruption, rare or not.

“De-risking the mine planning process is one of the many ways SourceOne can help your organisation become more resilient and be prepared for ordinary (and extraordinary) events.”

Newtrax tackles data silo issues with launch of IoT hub

Newtrax Technologies, a leading provider of safety and productivity systems for underground hard-rock mines, has used the backdrop of the Sandvik Digitalization in Mining event, in Brisbane, Australia, to launch its brand new IoT Hub.

The Newtrax IoT Hub is the first AI-powered data aggregation platform, which enables the mining industry to connect all IoT devices into a single data repository, according to the company.

“It connects datasets and information in real time with a wide choice of software applications, enabling transparency of the mining processes and proactive decision making,” the company, which was acquired by Sandvik earlier this year, said.

This hub provides every mining company – big or small – with the ability to build their own “data lake” through industry-standardised application programming interfaces (APIs), according to the company. “This ensures mining companies can pick and choose from virtually any application they want and build the best solution architecture for their unique requirements,” Newtrax said.

Newtrax told IM that there are several applications inside the IoT hub including:

  • Mobile Telemetry Solution data;
  • “AI-ready”;
  • Scheduler;
  • Task Management; and
  • Asset Health.

While the digital mining tech leader has focused, to date, on monitoring and providing insights on people, machines and the environment in underground mines, it told IM that the IoT hub was ready to also host “any process plant solutions”. Newtrax is not intending to build such a solution though and would, instead, happily integrate with other vendors that already had one, the company confirmed.

Alexandre Cervinka, President & CEO of Newtrax, said the company has seen throughout the industry plenty of examples of separate vendors selling IoT devices that only work with their own software platform, leading to the generation of “islands of data”.

He continued: “However, the real power of data can only be unlocked with the customers’ ability to aggregate the data together to make insights that would not normally be seen. That is where the Newtrax Iot Hub comes in.”

Newtrax, which is run as an independent business unit within the division Rock Drills and Technologies in the business area Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology, says it is committed to having an open architecture and will continue to interface with other vendors in the mining digital ecosystem.

The Newtrax news comes only a day after Sandvik said it was opening up its own automation platform for underground loaders and trucks to the wider mining industry through its AutoMine Access API system.

MinePortal offers up an integrated view of mine site data

DataCloud’s MinePortal solution has links to the ‘artificial intelligence’, ‘big data’ and ‘digitalisation’ buzzwords that are heard throughout the conference halls at any global technology conference today, but, unlike some of its competitors, the concept is very easy to understand.

Simply put, MinePortal collects existing datasets from within a mining company’s operation and aggregates that data into a model that shows the entire process – from drilling through to processing in the plant.

Technology-agnostic, it uses cloud computing to ingest and process this data in near real-time, applying the company’s proprietary geostatistical and machine learning algorithms to continually update models.

The fact it can look at the entire mining process – from end-to-end – makes it almost unique in the industry, according to DataCloud Chief Technology Officer, Krishna Srinivasan.

“Data is no longer the problem in mining,” he told IM on the side lines of the Mines and Technology conference in London last week. “What mines haven’t got is a place where all of this data is displayed together for analysis. This is what MinePortal brings.”

In addition to leveraging off a mine’s existing fleet management and condition monitoring platforms, it also uses its own RHINO blast hole measurement package on production drills to enhance geology data right from the source.

RHINO (below) uses vibration signatures in the drill steel, acquired via IoT-enabled sensor devices, to calculate blast-critical subsurface information such as compressional and shear moduli, compressive strength, density, velocity, and more. This can help detect waste boundaries, faults, fractures, and many grade indicators, according to the company. Once this data is recorded, it is streamed to MinePortal and analysed to characterise the orebody.

Srinivasan says the integrated visualisation capabilities MinePortal offers allows companies to find out where the obvious opportunities are to improve performance in their operations.

Such analysis could, for example, highlight that drill and blast patterns need to be amended to improve rock fragmentation for improved recoveries at the milling stage, or, conversely, milling needs to be tweaked to account for the increased hardness of ore coming into the plant.

It connects the dots between the various processes in mining and “provides the context” mining companies need to increase production and productivity, according to Srinivasan.

In addition to being able to visualise the mining process in an integrated fashion from anywhere in the world through the cloud, DataCloud’s geostatistical and machine learning algorithms can predict the processing outcomes should a site, for example, amend their drill spacing at the drill and blast stage.

Srinivasan was keen to stress these algorithms do not ‘take over’ a mine’s processing procedures, instead offering up estimates based on previous operating data and existing industry data MinePortal has analysed.

MinePortal has, until now, mostly been used as a visualisation tool at open-pit mines, but DataCloud recently signed an agreement with Trevali Mining to use the software on its Caribou underground zinc mine in New Brunswick, Canada.

DataCloud said of this agreement: “Unleashing MinePortal will provide vast feedback applications across the value chain empowering their teams to make geology data-driven decisions.”

This is part of the mining company’s wider plan to digitalise its operations through its T90 business improvement program. T90 is targeting $50 million in pre-tax annual sustainable efficiencies by the beginning of 2022 through “operational improvements, standardisation, and the deployment of technology”.

Outside of its work with Trevali, DataCloud is encouraging miners to get in touch for a customised demonstration of MinePortal’s capabilities to a mine site’s specific data, workflow and goals.

“Give us a year’s worth of data and we’ll display this in MinePortal for you,” Srinivasan said, explaining that the company is confident miners will be able to see areas for improvement through this visualisation and that it will lead to them engaging with DataCloud over a longer timeframe.

Data is a mining company’s greatest asset

Mark O’Brien, Manager of Digital Transformation at CITIC Pacific Mining Management, believes that the mining industry is starting to turn a corner when it comes to making the most of data and automation.

Before hearing from him at the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC), taking place on October 29-31, and Mines and Technology London, taking place on November 25-27, Andrew Thake, Head of Content, Mines and Money, sat down with him to dig deeper into his attitudes around technology and automation in the mining industry.

What is your outlook for the mining sector in the next 12 months?

In the Australian space, there’s been a noticeable uptick in the mining sector, and although everyone is still very conscious of costs and not getting too crazy with spending up, there’s a lot of investment going on and we’re already seeing the usual cyclical issues with finding good talent becoming an issue in mining-focused cities like Perth.

You are speaking at Mines and Technology. In terms of innovation in mining technology, where does the biggest opportunity lie and why?

It finally feels like mining companies have realised that data really is one of their greatest assets, and many companies are starting to see some serious value out of exploiting the data they’ve been sitting on for years. Analytics, the application of data science and AI are all starting to show some huge potential to provide insights and support critical decision-making in ways that have not been possible to date. Some of this stuff will turn out to be ‘shiny object’ stuff, but there’s definitely some very pragmatic initiatives out there that are showing very real benefits.

I also think that a lot of mining companies have realised that taking technology seriously can enable some significant reshaping of the way they do business through greater automation, more integration of data and insights across their supply chain, and being able to operate leaner and more cost-effectively with real-time operational data at their finger-tips.

In terms of innovation in mining technology what is the major challenge facing the industry right now and why?

Obviously, some of the classic obstacles to innovation relate to mindset and culture, but I think we’re seeing change on that front. And, of course, truly innovative companies require strong and capable leadership, and that’s just not as prevalent as you’d like.

I’m not so concerned about lack of funding because in many ways I’m a firm believer that scarcity and constraint fuel innovation and creativity. One of the areas that I think is needing greater focus is in the area of interoperability because this will drive innovation by diminishing the dominance of proprietary solutions and open up the playing field for others to enter and compete. We’ve had to accept what certain vendors have dished up, but I think that’s now changing and mining customers are starting to work together to get better outcomes for the industry as a whole.

What are the cultural challenges of introducing technological change in a mining company? How do you win ‘hearts and minds?’

It’s not rocket science. It all comes back to taking the time to build relationships, trust and credibility through meeting expectations and getting things done. In our context, nobody enjoys what we call ‘Projects from Perth’ and we’ve found it hugely beneficial on lots of fronts to spend a lot of time at site meeting with our operational users in their context, really getting to understand their jobs and their challenges, and then trying to solve real problems in a collaborative way. You just can’t do this stuff remotely. It takes time and commitment, and sometimes having to forge your way through legacy perceptions of IT or technology being a waste of time or ‘irrelevant’.

How is your company responding to events such as Brumadinho and the need to rethink tailings and water management solutions?

I think most companies have revisited their tailings strategies and facilities to double-check and ensure that the risks have been properly understood and mitigated. In Australia, we’re fairly fortunately that many of our mines are in very remote locations where the threat to human life is not the main issue, but certainly the damage to the environment and impact on reputation and social licence to operate weighs heavily on mining companies following the tragic Brazilian catastrophes.

What is the biggest bottom-line benefit that innovating in technology has bought to your company?

It’s pretty hard to pick out any one item!  We’ve seen great outcomes in everything from IOT experiments to fleet management systems, private LTE communications, and a host of initiatives large and small.  Our technology group is one that operates in a fairly lean way, and we’ve proudly been able to kick some excellent goals with the business, largely by solving the right problems!

Can you tell us a little bit about what you will be speaking at Mines and Technology? 

One of the big themes that we’ve grappled with directly in our own business has been the interaction between IT and OT and, over the past few years, I’ve developed some thoughts around some ideas that I think need to be embraced by the mining sector if we’re to get the very best bang for buck out of our technology spend. It started out as a bit of a cheeky poke at IT, but turned out to strongly resonate with others I’ve shared this with.  Is it time to kill IT?

What is your rationale for attending Mines and Technology London?

I’m always keen to meet new people in the mining industry, especially those who are operating and leading in very different contexts to my own. I’ve actually never attended a mining conference in the UK, so I’m very keen to see who will be there, what the hot issues are, and have some interesting conversations along the way. I always try to pay attention, learn a little, and take home something to apply in my own patch. And, in general terms, anything which combines mining and technology is immediately attractive to me, so I’m looking forward to the experience and the program.

What are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

  1. Good to Great by Jim Collins…it’s an oldie but a goodie, and really changed the way I thought about leadership and culture. As a leader, I’m acutely concerned with developing the right culture within my domain because it makes our group not only way more effective at their jobs, but it also makes it a fun place to work.
  2. Getting Things Done by David Allen…helped me manage my world of responsibilities and actions so much more effectively with a simple system and set of principles that have soaked into the way I tackle almost everything. It’s a book I often give others.
  3. A Class with Drucker by William Cohen…loved it because Drucker was smart and remains relevant. I wish I’d been able to have a class with him!
  4. Atomic Habits by James Clear…fantastic book on making change happen in your life, and I wish I’d been able to read this earlier in my life. But, it’s a great book with some tremendous principles, and definitely has application into life and business far beyond just personal habits. It really provides a paradigm for understanding behaviour.

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a ‘favourite failure’ of yours?

Without going into too much detail, I once entered into a role with huge reservations about the person I was going to be working for as my direct manager, but I thought I could offset that with other things. After going through a very tough year and eventually exiting that organisation, it really reinforced to me the importance of culture and having respect and good relationship with the person you are working for and with. It’s one of the big lessons I pass on to those I mentor, which is something I try to do because I benefitted hugely from people who took the time to proactively mentor me. The old adage is that people don’t leave companies, they leave bosses. I learned that one the hard way and I try to be the kind of boss that is a ‘keeper’.

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the ‘real world’? What advice should they ignore?

I tell them to go and read (another book!) So Great by Cal Newport, to forget about pursuing their passion, but rather go try stuff and figure out what they’re good at. Once you’ve figured out what you’re good at and where you bring the most to the table, you suddenly find that you might have stumbled on your passion. Most lives are a bit serendipitous, but unfortunately many young people what to get to the end a little too quickly.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

Not sure if it’s a recommendation, but it’s definitely a ‘thing’ out there in technology land. Too often we spend too much time telling people what they can’t do, becoming gatekeepers and blockers on innovation and progress, largely because we can’t control it. I tend to take the view that we shouldn’t be saying ‘no’ unless we have a decent alternative to offer up. I’m a firm believer in making quick decisions and keep on moving, rather than slow decisions that cause you to get bogged down. Even if you make wrong decision, if you’re moving at speed you can quickly correct and redirect. Getting bogged and losing momentum is death.

Mark O’Brien, Manager – Digital Transformation, CITIC Pacific Mining Management – Sino Iron Project, will be delivering a presentation at Mines and Technology London, taking place in London, November 25-27, 2019, titled, ‘Is it Time to Kill IT?’

He will also take part in an artificial intelligence Q&A at the International Mining and Resources Conference + EXPO (IMARC), taking place on October 29-31, where he will explore ‘How artificial intelligence is changing the way we explore, mine and operate at CITIC Pacific Mining and the industry as a whole?’

International Mining is a media sponsor of both IMARC and Mines and Technology London. For more information on Mines and Technology London, click here

Emerson and Cisco to improve plant productivity, reliability and safety

Emerson has partnered with Cisco to introduce a “next-generation industrial wireless networking solution” that, the Missouri-based company says, can improve plant productivity, reliability and safety.

The combination of the Emerson Wireless 1410S Gateway with the Cisco Catalyst® IW6300 Heavy Duty Series Access Point results in the latest in wireless technology with advanced WirelessHART® sensor technology, it said. The solution, according to Emerson, delivers reliable and highly secure data, even in harsh industrial environments like mining.

Emerson said: “To help enable new digital transformation strategies, this industrial networking solution combines Emerson’s expertise in industrial automation and applications with Cisco’s innovations in networking, cybersecurity and IT infrastructure.

“Driven by the demand for greater productivity, lower maintenance costs and improved worker safety, industrial manufacturers are accelerating investment in robust IoT sensor networks combined with scalable operational analytics tools to improve organisational collaboration and decision making. In these environments, network performance and security are critical for success.”

The new wireless access point supports mobile applications that offer instant access to process control data, maintenance information and operation procedures, enabling improved plant productivity and worker safety.

Liz Centoni, Senior Vice President and General Manager of IoT at Cisco, said a secure connection that scales easily is the foundation for every successful IoT deployment. “By using the power of the intent-based network, Cisco provides a secure, automated, rock solid infrastructure helping IT and operational teams work together to reduce complexity and improve safety.”

This wireless access point provides enhanced Wi-Fi bandwidth necessary for real-time safety monitoring, including Emerson’s Location Awareness and wireless video. These applications enhance personnel safety practices, improve plant security and help ensure environmental compliance, according to Emerson.

“A reliable and fast connection between devices and people streamlines decision making by providing real-time analytics,” Emerson said. “It also enables a mobile workforce to virtually come together, collaborate and resolve critical issues in a timely manner.”

Bob Karschnia, Vice President of Wireless at Emerson, said the need for products installed in industrial plants to last for years – even decades – was a key criterion for this new networking solution.

“This kind of longevity was a critical design and engineering requirement to ensure this new wireless access point was future-proofed to meet a rapidly evolving technology landscape.”

Matrix Design Group launches new group to crunch mine site data

Matrix Design Group is opening a new division, Matrix Analytics Group, to offer industry expert perspectives into mining operations “based on data and numerical modelling that helps drive meaningful enhancements to the decision-making process”, it says.

The division will be part of Matrix’s South African entity in Johannesburg, operating in both the US and Africa.

The company said: “Matrix Analytics is able to facilitate discussion aligned to the strategic goals of its clients by combining decades of mining industry expertise with modern data analytic techniques. Utilising a model-based approach allows Matrix Analytics to provide diverse insights into business and operations.”

David Clardy, President of Matrix Design Group – which already calls itself a leading provider of technology for mining safety and productivity – said: “In today’s competitive mining environment, efficiency is key. Matrix Analytics complements our mission to help mines operate more safely and productively through the most effective use of resources.”

Matrix Analytics uses a mine’s data to find key correlations and insights and presents the information in a way that it can be used to facilitate decision making.

Stephen Redford, Director of Matrix Analytics Group, said: “A mine’s data is an often-underutilised trove of information that can dramatically improve operations. We want to provide a means for mines to tap it for key, and sometimes critical, insights.”

Aury Africa equipped for the digitalisation of mining

Aury Africa Managing Director, Sydney Parkhouse, says in the near future the company will be tracking all of its screening and vibrating equipment via RFID tags and will incorporate full data packs for real-time access.

Speaking to IM, Parkhouse said Aury had been increasing its use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to measure important information such as temperature and vibration in its equipment. Initially this technology has been installed at three mines in South Africa to help track service data and share that information with mine operators, he said.

He told IM he saw many more applications beyond this.

“RFID tags have the capabilities of providing proof of presence when activated by for-purpose RFID readers. The associated software is configurable so that external monitoring devices can be inputted into the reader providing valuable information such as temperature, vibration, etc.

“However, the real benefits are through the digitisation of work processes,” he said. By capturing such data, personnel can verify all work processes are being completed in a logical manner, according to Parkhouse.

“Furthermore, real time capturing of data by trained personnel provides useful information, through configurable reports,” he said.

The RFID technology, using InfoChip software, was developed for Aury Africa by its Johannesburg-based technology partner, Thembekile Asset Management Solutions (AMS). The system not only allows the company to track when services are provided, but also enables some self-learning for its crew, while ensuring regulatory compliance for the mine, Parkhouse said.

AMS has offered active and passive RFID-based solutions to the mining industry, as well as the health care and logistics sectors, since 2012, according to Parkhouse.

In addition to the development of the use of RFID tags in equipment – which Parkhouse considers to be part of Aury’s broader goals of adapting to all facets of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including the digitalisation of mining – Aury’s sister company, Tianjin Meiteng Technology, is piloting ‘Smart Plant’ technology.

“The group’s ‘Smart Plant’ concept utilises automated control and sensor technology to monitor key parameters to boost operational efficiency on a proactive, real-time basis,” Parkhouse said.

This can range from pump pressure to conveyor belt speed, with all associated software and hardware proprietary and developed specifically by Aury’s parent company, Dadi Engineering Development Group.

Dadi recently retrofitted such a system at a 30 Mt/y coal handling plant in China, but Parkhouse said the market in Africa for such ‘Smart Plants’ was still in its infancy.

“Although several major mining houses have set goals for smart plants, the acceptance of the technology is slow and we believe it will be several years before there will be any significant changes,” he said.

Aury has also been carrying out work in dry processing; an area that has come into focus in recent years on the back of heightened fears over water resources.

Dadi, its parent company, has devised an intelligent dry sorting system (pictured above) that does not consume water or media, and has been gaining favour in China – Aury estimates some 60 dry systems are already in operation in the country.

Parkhouse expected Aury to have sold and installed its first dry sorting system in Africa by the end of the year, explaining ongoing trials of South Africa coals were taking place at Meiting’s facilities in Tianjin, China.

“In the meantime, plans are in place to bring into South Africa a pilot plant during the third quarter (September quarter),” he said.

When asked how this technology differed from other ‘dry’ technologies being developed by original equipment manufacturers, Parkhouse responded: “The real brains behind the technology is the development of big data capture, cloud computing, high-speed processors and high-tech IT skills. We believe Meitieng is at the front of this development.”

He said there were also applications beyond coal: “Trials are on-going in manganese and gold, which have produced very positive results to date.”

Emissions, resource access, finance, big data, social licence to drive mining’s future: WEF

The transition to a low-carbon economy, access to resources and new ways to finance mining are just some of the drivers the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Nicolas Maennling and Perrine Toledano believe will shape the future of the mining and metals sector.

Maennling and Toledano, co-curators of the WEF’s Transformation Map on Mining and Metals, said the industry was recovering from one of its most difficult periods in decades, with market volatility and a downturn in commodity prices creating “a new normal” where cost cuts, automation and operational efficiency are vitally important.

“Meanwhile, industry-specific issues related to regulation, geopolitical risk, legal limits on natural resource use, shareholder activism and public scrutiny have created additional challenges,” they said.

“While we believe that demand for minerals will grow in the coming years, there are several trends that will determine which types of mining companies will prevail in the future.”

The two then went on to spell these seven out.

Transition to a low-carbon economy

“Demand for most minerals is projected to be high in order to achieve the energy transition. While fossil fuels have helped to improve living standards around the world since the 18th century, their associated greenhouse gas emissions have led to global warming. In order to avoid reaching temperatures that will have catastrophic consequences for the planet, countries must decarbonise their energy systems by the middle of this century,” they said.

“Given that low-emission energy and transportation systems are more mineral-intensive than their fossil fuel-based counterparts, the transition provides a great opportunity for the mining sector. At the same time, the mining sector will have to reduce its own emissions. Mining companies that power their operations with renewable energy, operate electric or hydrogen-powered truck fleets and integrate recycling in their value chains will be best placed to sell low-carbon premium minerals.”

Access to resources

“Companies will need to venture into frontier mining areas. As world-class mineral resources in low-risk areas become exhausted, mining companies must either master new technologies for extraction and processing, or venture into frontier areas where extraction has not previously been economically viable,” the authors said.

“Automation and digitalisation will result in more targeted and efficient mining, which could further be enhanced through technological breakthroughs in areas such as in-situ leaching (a mining process used to recover minerals such as copper and uranium through boreholes drilled into a deposit), block caving (an underground mining method that uses gravity to exploit ore bodies located at depth) or bio mining (a technique for extracting metals from ores and other solid materials typically using prokaryotes or fungi).

“Mining jurisdictions with higher perceived risks may see increasing levels of interest from investors. In the search for high-grade ore deposits, deep sea and asteroid mining will be increasingly explored by governments and companies. While these technologies will open up new ways for mining companies to optimise the valorisation of existing resources or allow access to new ones, they are unchartered territory in terms of business models, processes, and potential social and environmental externalities.”

New ways to finance mining

“As mining companies try to limit risk, novel financing and production models will become more common. After demand from China triggered a commodity boom in the first decade of the 21st century, prices collapsed and mining companies were forced to focus on reducing debt ratios and improving their balance sheets. Alternative financing solutions were developed such as royalty and metal stream agreements that reduce the burden on mining companies’ balance sheets,” Maennling and Toledano said.

“To spread the risk of new capital-intensive projects, these financing solutions are likely to continue to grow. Companies may also seek to develop joint ventures similar to those observed in the oil and gas sector in order to reduce their exposure to a particular project or jurisdiction and may also consider service agreements.”

A social contract for mining

“Creating real benefits for communities near mine sites will be key for successful new projects. Obtaining the ‘license to operate’ from local communities has been a challenge for the mining industry in recent years. Many proposed projects have been rejected, and operations have been disrupted by protests,” they said.

“With a record number of mines nearing the end of their life and insufficient money being set aside for remediation; with new mining projects increasing the sector’s footprint without necessarily providing additional employment opportunities at the local level due to automation; and with increased water stress and extreme weather events due to global warming: local opposition to mining is likely to increase if no new business models are developed that benefit the affected communities.”

Big data and mining

“Data transparency to aid the mining industry’s relations with stakeholders. Collecting and processing massive amounts of data will be essential for mining companies as they digitalise and automate their operations. What data should be shared and made transparent will continue to be a major area of debate,” they said.

“Governments will seek to further push for disclosure of subsidiary structures to address tax base erosion; consumers will seek to increase value chain transparency; investors will use the proliferation of non-financial data to better assess the risks of their mining portfolios; civil society will continue to push for companies to go beyond the mandatory EITI Standard; and impacted communities are particularly interested in accessing data that capture the externalities that affect them.

“It will be key for companies to work together with other stakeholders in order to understand the types of data that should be made available and the appropriate format that data disclosure should take, in order to ensure standardization, usefulness and impact.”

The geopolitics of mining

Maennling and Toledano said: “Mining companies must navigate rising geopolitical risk and economic protectionism. A growing popular resistance to globalisation and free trade is altering politics, and directly affecting the mining and metals sector. Policymakers in mining jurisdictions are increasingly trying to enact local content laws and regulations which require minerals to be processed before they are exported.

“At the same time, import restrictions on semi-finished products such as steel and aluminium are at the centre of recent trade disputes. Trade wars and increasing protectionism are likely to dampen global commodity demand and disrupt the value chain of mining and metals companies. In the ‘critical minerals’ sector, which is central to high-tech and future-oriented industries, this trend is further complicated by market consolidation in the hands of a few players.

“Further consolidation, geopolitical manoeuvring and muscle-flexing could create challenges for companies that have so far prospered under a system of relatively free trade – while creating opportunities for domestic projects that might not be economically viable without government intervention.”

Modern mining workforces

“Maintaining an open dialogue will be key as mining companies try to revamp their employee base. Constantly evolving technologies and business models will require mining company employees to develop new skills. The sector will have to increasingly compete with the IT sector to attract top talent from universities in order to drive its digitalisation and automation processes. Governments and companies will have to work together to help transition workers that cannot be absorbed by an automated mining sector to new activities through retraining and transitioning programmes,” the authors said.

“The speed at which mining companies will be able to rollout new technologies at their mine sites will be closely linked to the host government’s and labour unions’ acceptance of reduced employment and procurement opportunities. As such, these actors need to be involved in the decision-making around the transition and in strategizing policies to support those who will be negatively affected.”

APCOM 2019 to showcase mining’s digital transformation developments

The preliminary technical programme for the APCOM 2019 conference in Wroclaw, Poland, (June 4-6) has gone live, showing off some of the highest quality peer-reviewed papers on ‘digital transformation’ in mining, from resource estimation to mine operation and safety.

The conference topics include:

Geostatistics and resource estimation

APCOM said: “An entire three-day conference stream provides more than 20 leading- edge and peer-reviewed papers by world-class practitioners from leading mining companies and by world-leading research institutes.”

Papers on this topic include: Transforming Exploration Data Through Machine Learning from MICROMINE’s Mark Gabbitus, Rock mass characterisation using MWD data and photogrammetry from Luleå University of Technology’s Sohail Manzoor, and Rethinking Fleet & Personnel Management in the era of IoT, Big Data, Gamification, and low-cost Tablet Technology from MST Global’s Sean Dessureault.

Mine planning

There will be about 15 papers on newest IT-supported techniques in mine planning, uncertainty reduction, geomechanics, modelling, simulation and the most recent software technology, according to APCOM.

Papers on this topic include: A procedure to generate optimised ramp designs using mathematical programming from Delphos Mine Planning Lab, AMTC/DIMIN, Universidad de Chile’s Nelson Morales, Incorporation of geological risk into underground mine planning from NEXA Resources’ Rafael Rosado and a presentation from AngloGold Ashanti’s Andrade Barbosa titled, Economic Optimisation of Rib Pillars Placement in Underground Mines.

Scheduling and dispatch

“Around 15 papers address long- and short-term scheduling optimisation, the application of neural networks and genetic algorithms as well as risk mitigation and related software systems. A keynote talk covers the impact of Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and gamification on fleet scheduling topics,” APCOM said.

The conference has attracted speakers on this subject from Clausthal University of Technology, AngloGold Ashanti, University of Alberta, AusGEMCO Pty Ltd, Newmont Mining Corp, Advanced Mining Technology Center and Maptek.

Mine operation in digital transformation

There are more than 20 papers in this stream covering mining equipment related topics in the area of LHD transport, drilling and longwall operation, as well as underground communications and new digital technologies in mine safety, as well as product quality optimisation.

Speakers from the Kola Science Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Breakline and breakdown surfaces modelling in the design of large-scale blasts), Komatsu Mining (The Digital Mine eco-system), Tunnel Radio (Hybrid 5G Fibre Optic/Leaky Feeder Communication System) and Epiroc (Monitoring of a stoping operation, digital transformation in practice) are set to present papers

Emerging technologies and robotics in mining

Under this topic, there are a number of sessions with almost 10 papers covering the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in mining, the benefits of upcoming technology in robotics, mechatronics and communications, as well as the changes in machine design through digital transformation, APCOM said. Also a completely new transport system is presented in this stream.

Papers in this stream include: More Safety in Underground Mining with IoT and Autonomous Robots (TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Institute of Mining and Special Civil Engineering), Application of UAV imaging and photogrammetry for high-resolution modelling of open pit geometry and slope stability monitoring (Department of Mining and Metallurgical Engineering, University of Nevada, Reno) and The concept of walking robot for mining industry (Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Wroclaw University of Science and Technology).

Synergies from other industries

A plenary speech from an active airline captain will lead this session, talking about the impact of human-machine interfaces on decision-making of automated equipment and in control centres, APCOM said. Other papers will be on the transferability of building information modelling from commercial construction to mining.

A paper from MT-Silesia Sp zoo called: From machine construction to mechatronic system design: Digital Transformation is changing the way of thinking! is included. There are also talks from MobileTronics GmbH’s George Biro on, Rethinking mining transport: Trackless trains for mass transport in mining and KGHM Polska Miedeź’s Mariusz Sangórski presenting, Energy Management System Maturity Model – Systematic Approach to Gain Knowledge about Organization’s Real Engagement in Energy Efficiency Area.

The conference takes place at the convention centre of the Wroclaw University of Technology and is accompanied by an exhibition, APCOM said. A social programme, conference dinner with entertainment and partner activities are available as well as field trips on June 7.

“A post-conference hike in the Karkonosze Mountains is offered from June 8-10, with overnight stays in two microbreweries on the ridge, is a relaxing finish to the technical discussions of the week,” APCOM said.

All presentations are to be held in English. Simultaneous translation to Polish is provided if requested by a sufficient number of participants.

International Mining is a media partner for APCOM 2019.