Tag Archives: data science

Freeport to invest in data science, AI programs at North/South America mines

After carrying out a successful pilot at its Bagdad copper operation, Freeport McMoRan says it is rolling out a program across its North America and South America mines involving the use of data science, machine learning and integrated functional teams.

The program, aimed at addressing bottlenecks, providing cost benefits and driving improved overall performance, was announced in its December quarter results this week.

It said: “During 2019, FCX (Freeport) advanced initiatives in its North America and South America mining operations to enhance productivity, expand margins and reduce the capital intensity of the business through the utilisation of new technology applications in combination with a more interactive operating structure.”

It said the Bagdad mine (Arizona, USA) pilot program, initiated in late 2018, was “highly successful” in utilising these innovative technologies and it would build on this for the implementation across its other mines in North and South America.

According to a report in the Financial Times, the system at Bagdad found that the mine was producing seven distinct types of ore and that the processing method, which involves flotation, could be adjusted to recover more copper by adjusting the PH level.

The company didn’t provide any details on who it was working with on this project, but confirmed at the back end of 2019 that the Bagdad trial was carried out with management consulting firm McKinsey.

In its investor presentation announcing its December results, the company provided a little more colour on these initiatives.

On the processing/concentration side, it was using a digital twin for processing plant, in tandem with a machine-learning algorithm. These used historical data to predict results and optimise throughput and recovery. In addition to this, the solutions were able to provide “quality recommendations”, aiding real-time data-driven decisions. This allowed the processing teams to target “best performance every day”, while unlocking bottlenecks and providing more consistent operations.

It was a similar story on the mine side. Data is being aggregated from multiple systems to help inform the data-science algorithms to predict the most efficient setups. It also sends commands to dispatch to adjust mining equipment and resource execution, allowing for clear visibility of the best possible performance for shift/day, again, effectively providing real-time decision making.

Under the title “agile way of working”, Freeport said it was promoting a more interactive organisational structure that will challenge norms and identify and prioritise opportunities as part of these initiatives.

CREDIT: Freeport McMoRan

Freeport continued: “A series of action items have been identified, prioritised and are being implemented. Based on the opportunities identified to date, FCX has incorporated higher mining and milling rates in its future plans, resulting in estimated incremental production of approximately 100 MIb (45,359 t) of copper in 2021 and around 200 MIb in 2022.”

Freeport said capital expenditures associated with these initiatives are expected to be “attractive” in relation to developing new copper supply, with the company estimating capital costs – principally associated with mining equipment and ongoing development of data science and machine-learning programs – of some $200 million.

Looking back at the quarterly production figures, it is easy to see the impact this trial had on Bagdad. In the March quarter of 2018, the mine produced 49 MIb of copper, with 48 MIb coming out in the June quarter of that year. It dropped to 45 MIb in the September quarter before stepping up to 57 MIb in the last quarter of that year (when the trial commenced). In the March quarter of 2019, output dipped slightly to 55 MIb, before heading back to 57 MIb in the June quarter and surpassing that (58 MIb) in the September quarter. Output fell back to 48 MIb in the most recent December quarter.

The Bagdad operation consists of a 75,000 t/d concentrator that produces copper and molybdenum concentrate, an SX/EW plant that can produce up to 32 MIb/y of copper cathode from solution generated by low-grade stockpile leaching, and a pressure-leach plant to process molybdenum concentrate.

Rio, Roy Hill and ATCO look for data science boost through CORE Skills pilot

CORE Skills has formally launched its ‘Geoscientist to Data Scientist’ pilot programme along with industry collaborations, Roy Hill, Rio Tinto, ATCO Australia and academic partners CSIRO, Curtin University and The University of Western Australia.

The launch, which took place at the the CORE Innovation Hub in Perth’s central business district, is aimed at addressing how resources sector leaders, geoscientists and engineers will contribute to “value creation of industry organisations” through data science, the resources hub said.

The CORE Innovation Hub is Australia’s first co-working, collaboration and innovation hub focused on the resources sector, while CORE Skills has been set up to create “skills pathways, harnessing the immersive culture of entrepreneurship, open innovation, collaboration and speed to market”.

Data sciences is one particular area of focus for the programme. There is an urgent skills shortage on the horizon, according to CORE Skills.

CORE Innovation Hub CEO Tamryn Barker said: “Digital technologies and the resulting flood of data promise to re-order the resources sector as we know it. We must learn what it takes to harness opportunities to overcome known resource sector challenges in the Data Science era, and embrace the disruptive context we are in.”

Dr Sophie Hancock, CORE Skills Catalyst and Pilot Lead, said being able to make informed, rapid decisions in the face of over A$1 trillion ($720 billion) in economic impact due to digital transformation will be the ultimate power for an industry organisation in the next decade.

This is where CORE Skills can help, according to Hancock.

“Together, we are building a talent pool with greater data science literacy. If participants think they grasped the opportunities of applying the tools the first time within the programme, it is going to be an order of magnitude more powerful applying the learning in follow on projects back in their organisations.”

The industry pilot is comprised of two specific course products: a one-day executive education programme aimed at a new type of senior leader needed to successfully steer companies through the digital transition, and a 12-week, one day a week professionals programme to repurpose capability effectively to match evolving skills requirements.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore CEO Chris Salisbury said his company was committed to investing in people and was always looking for new ways to help them along the way.

“This pilot is not only a great example of how we can pioneer innovative learning solutions to provide our people with the opportunity to grow and develop in their roles, but it also could become a model for upskilling our people in a number of fields,” he said.

This is likely to benefit Rio and its first ‘intelligent mine’, Koodaideri, he added.

ARC centre on mine asset maintenance receives Australia government backing

Universities and the mining industry are teaming up to tackle asset maintenance in the resources sector through the use of data science.

The new Australian Research Council Industrial Transformation Training Centre will be led by Curtin University in partnership with The University of Western Australia (UWA), CSIRO and the University of Adelaide, and industry partners Alcoa, BHP and Roy Hill, as well as CORE Innovation Hub and the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia.

Curtin University was awarded A$3.9 million ($2.9 million) in ARC funding for the establishment of the centre, with planning for the new ARC Training Centre for Transforming Maintenance through Data Science starting immediately.

ARC Training Centre for Transforming Maintenance through Data Science Director, Professor Andrew Rohl (pictured), from the Curtin Institute for Computation, said: “The effective maintenance of engineering assets underpins the A$205 billion ($151 billion) annual export earnings from Australia’s resources sector.

“However, maintenance management practices have changed little in the last 20 years and are ripe for a digital overhaul that will bring developments in computational methods, statistics, applied mathematics and artificial intelligence to determine how, when and why maintenance is conducted.”

The new centre will enable the development and adoption of new practices to improve productivity and asset reliability for industry and to foster a new maintenance technology service sector for national and international markets, according to Professor Rohl.

UWA Professor Michael Small, CSIRO-UWA Chair of Complex Engineering Systems, said being able to effectively use data to create better systems, develop new technology and transform the way maintenance is carried out across the resources sector is critical and the creation of the new centre will allow industry to take huge steps towards this.