Tag Archives: CITIC Pacific Mining

Hyperspectral imaging technology tested at Western Australia gold, iron ore mines

The University of Queensland and research partners Plotlogic Pty Ltd have developed new automated mining technology that, they say, will facilitate automation of the mining process while improving operating efficiency.

The research has shown how artificial intelligence can use scans of the mine face to almost instantly identify valuable minerals and waste rock, allowing each stage of the mining process to be planned more effectively in advance, UQ said.

Professor Ross McAree, Head of School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering from UQ, said the new technology used visible and infrared light to automatically classify materials.

“Each mineral has its own characteristic response to different wavelengths of light, so by scanning the mine face with our system we can map out the minerals present in the rock and their concentration (ore grade) almost instantaneously,” Professor McAree said.

This real-time mapping allows the mining process to be planned out before digging even starts, according to the researchers.

“Beyond this immediate efficiency gain, the enhanced ability to recognise ore grade could also underpin future autonomous mine systems,” Professor McAree said. “Machines equipped with this imaging system would be able to recognise ore grade as they were excavating it. Linked to artificial intelligence, this could allow automated machinery to operate in the mine environment, removing workers from hazardous parts of the mining process.”

Real-time ore grade classification at the mine face could also enhance mine scheduling and improve resource recovery and minimise processing waste, the researchers claim.

The project was supported by the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia (MRIWA), with MRIWA CEO, Nicole Roocke, saying investment into research like this helped position Australia’s minerals industry at the leading edge of technology development.

“This imaging approach could prove particularly valuable where rapid extraction and consistency of ore grades could provide a competitive advantage to those leading the way,” Roocke said.

The project, which was conducted in 2018-2019, had a total grant value of A$850,850 ($653,322). In addition to MRIWA, UQ and Plotlogic, CITIC Pacific Mining and AngloGold Ashanti were also involved, hosting trials at the Sino iron ore and Tropicana gold mines, in Western Australia, respectively.

It was based off the OreSense® prototype system, developed to meet the needs of the research project, as well as offering a commercial pathway for early industry adoption of the technology.

“The prototype delivers a system capable of acquiring, processing and classifying hyperspectral data in the field and in real time, mapped to terrain and geo-referenced for integration with mine maps,” the project partners said. “In order to be the most general and applicable to all minerals, the hyperspectral imaging capabilities cover the visible to short wave infrared spectrum (400-2,500 nm).

“The surveying capabilities of the system rotate in more than one axis to perform face scans and build a 3D data-cube from two individual line-scanning hyperspectral sensors. The system spatially and spectrally fuses the data cubes from the two sensors to provide a single data-cube for an entire scene. The system also performs on-board corrections and post-processing of the hyperspectral data to support real-time ore grade classification.”

The prototype used on site during the trials consisted of a sensor head with LiDAR and hyperspectral cameras, a pan-tilt unit and a GNSS receiver among other elements (see photo above).

MACA increases open-pit scale by acquiring Downer EDI’s Mining West business

MACA has entered into a binding agreement to acquire Downer EDI Limited’s Mining West business in a deal that could involve a consideration of A$175 million ($132 million).

Just last week, MACA said it was considering the potential purchase of Downer EDI Limited’s Mining West division as part of a stated plan to explore and pursue growth opportunities that will deliver “value to shareholders on an ongoing basis”.

The Mining West business currently comprises four large contracts at the long-life assets of Karara (Ansteel), Eliwana (Fortescue Metals Group), Cape Preston (CITIC Pacific) and Gruyere (Gold Fields, Gold Road Resources).

MACA’s CEO and Managing Director, Mike Sutton, said the acquisition provided MACA with a very meaningful addition of a large-scale mining fleet currently engaged across these projects. This comprises 14 excavators and shovels, 65 dump trucks, 11 surface drills and 36 other ancillary machines.

The fleet being acquired is currently fully utilised, or in the process of being deployed to projects, with the equipment having mixed life (with machines being on average mid-life). MACA says its due diligence has confirmed the machines are in good working order, having been well maintained by Mining West’s internal plant department.

With the inclusion of Mining West, MACA now has total contracted work in hand of over A$3.4 billion, which provides a robust revenue base well past its 2025 financial year, Sutton added.

Plotlogic raises profile and funds with BHP Iron Ore contract

Australia-based Plotlogic and its artificial intelligence-based ore-characterisation technology has won admirers from both venture capital funds and the world’s biggest miner by market capitalisation.

The company announced this week that four of the world’s top artificial intelligence (AI) focused venture capital funds – Baidu Ventures, DCVC, 8VC, and Grids Capital – had invested in an over-subscribed angel round of funding for the company.

On top of this, Plotlogic confirmed it had signed its first contract to embed OreSense, its new AI ore characterisation technology, into an iron ore mine site of BHP’s in the Pilbara of Western Australia. This technology uses hyperspectral analysis and AI to optimise ore recovery on mine sites.

Plotlogic’s vision is to enable autonomous mining operations using precise grade control with its new AI ore-characterisation technology, bringing technology that can “see and grade ore” to optimise operations and maximise yield, it said.

“Plotlogic uses AI, computer vision and spectral analysis in real time to optimise the recovery of ore from mine sites,” the company said. “Accurate ore intelligence enables precision mining that lowers operating costs, minimises energy consumption and reduces operational uncertainty.”

Precision mining with the help of technologies like OreSense have the potential to increase worldwide industry value by $370 billion/y, according to Plotlogic, while reducing carbon emissions and improving the sustainability of mines over their life cycle.

Founder and CEO, Andrew Job, said: “The mining industry is years behind other industries in utilising big data and AI: as a result, there is a lack of fast and accurate orebody knowledge that ultimately restricts yield. With our technology we can grade every tonne of ore accurately, before it even leaves the ground – driving efficiency, sustainability, and profitability. Plotlogic can optimise the mining process from pit-to-port with pinpoint precision.”

The team behind the technology, in addition to mining engineer Job, include Dr Richard Murphy, one of the world’s leading experts in hyperspectral geology, and Dr Michael Edgar, an experienced physicist and expert in optical sensors with experience spanning NASA and CalTech. Plotlogic has more than doubled its workforce since the start of the year, plans to double again before the end of the year, and once again next year, the company said.

Plotlogic said research collaborations with the University of Queensland’s Smart Machines Group and the Mineral Research Institute of Western Australia aided its quick establishment as a leader in real time high precision ore mapping and modelling.

Job said successful field trials with BHP’s iron ore and coal divisions, AngloGold Ashanti and Citic Pacific Mining over the past three years had provided valuable learnings that improved the technology and value proposition of OreSense across the iron ore, gold and coal sectors.

“Our technology has been purpose designed and built from the ground to best meet industry requirements,” he said.

On the BHP Iron Ore contract, Job said: “The opportunity to partner with the world’s biggest mining company is instrumental to our collaborative approach in the development and implementation of new technology for the mining industry.”

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.”

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

Teck’s Babaei joins GMG Artificial Intelligence Working Group

The Global Mining Guidelines Group (GMG) has announced that its Artificial Intelligence (AI) Working Group, launched last November, now has two leaders.

Mohammad Babaei (pictured speaking on the left), Digital Mining Innovation Lead in Digital Operations at Teck, has come on board as a co-leader, joining joins Mark O’Brien, Manager, Digital Transformation at CITIC Pacific Mining, who has been leading the group so far.

GMG said: “The AI Working Group has already seen an incredible level of engagement. With this new team, Babaei in Canada and O’Brien in Australia, the group has leadership in both hemispheres.”

Early on, O’Brien said, the group knew it needed good global representation to reflect both how globally relevant AI is and how rapidly the field is changing. “Part of that meant trying to build good coverage with our leadership to make sure we could keep up and share the load,” he said.

Babaei has worked in a variety of contexts including open-pit mines, consultancies and universities. In his current role at Teck, he guides and supports digital innovations that improve safety, sustainability and productivity, according to GMG. “For example, he led projects applying machine learning in mining and maintenance and developing a unique real-time diggability solution.”

Babaei said: “AI can bring revolution in many streams of mining like mineral exploration, haulage, planning and logistics, safety and maintenance.

“I hope we will be able to promote better understanding of AI within the industry and open doors for collaboration between operators, subject matter experts, academia and other innovators.”

O’Brien said this partnership, and the working group’s collaborative approach, reflects the broader importance of collaboration and openness across the industry.

He said: “When you take a close look at the most exciting things happening in the realm of AI over the past few years, one thing that becomes quickly apparent is the most impactful advances are coming out of collaboration.

“Two leaders will, I hope, be far better than one.”

The AI Working Group has recently launched its first project. “This Foundation for AI in Mining project will provide a unified understanding of the basics of AI in mining that cuts through the hype and clarifies what methods are useful, and for what circumstances they can be applied,” GMG said.