Tag Archives: MST Global

MST Global on the rise of remote operating centres in mining

The spread of COVID-19 has seen renewed interest in remote operating centres (ROCs) and how they can be better managed to maximise efficiencies and reduce the number of personnel required on a mine site at a time, according to MST Global.

Rio Tinto was one of the early adopters of ROCs, introducing the world’s first fully autonomous haul trucks at its Pilbara iron ore operations in 2008 followed by the launch of an automated hub in Perth, Western Australia, in June 2010, which controlled its rail systems, infrastructure facilities and port operations, 1,500 km away from site.

In July 2013, BHP followed suit, opening an automated ROC in Perth for its seven Pilbara mines. Today, all the major players globally have introduced similar ROCs to their operations.

“As an underground mining technology provider, it has been an exciting time to be a part of the industry as we develop hardware and software solutions that help our mining partners through this digital transition,” MST Global said.

In a recent report, McKinsey & Company confirmed MST’s observations, citing, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, mining executives had shown a greater interest in ROCs to unlock further value for their operations.

“As mining companies seek to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and act to safeguard employees, some have started to relocate around 15-20% of their on-site workforce by setting up ‘control towers’ to facilitate remote working (especially for non-frontline roles like subject-matter experts),” McKinsey & Company stated.

“This is helping the industry develop more resilient, responsive and flexible operating models suited to an increasingly uncertain environment.”

MST Global says it has seen this first-hand, with many existing and new clients reaching out to the mining tech provider to assist in streamlining their operations, and looking at ways to effectively increase remote work capabilities.

MST Global CEO, Haydn Roberts, said the discussion has also centred on the transition to a smart mine, where systems and processes in place on site work together to unlock greater value for ROCs.

“COVID has really focused our minds on the importance of having enough bandwidth underground and adopting IoT and digitalisation strategies so we can have a smart mine where our sensors and video cameras are connected, and we can operate in a remote way,” Roberts said.

“Remote operation centres have become really key because of all those things, so that’s driving the change.”

The challenges

Mining companies are admittedly still in the early stages of their digital transformation, continuously looking at ways to improve to deliver on objectives.

McKinsey & Company said: “Some companies have implemented cloud-based systems that aggregate site data into a single data lake that can be accessed, analysed, and visualised for decision support, creating a ‘room of screens’; other companies manage and actively control plant automation systems, fleet management systems, and remote-controlled machines from the ROC.

“The most sophisticated companies manage all these functions on a larger geographic scale, covering the value chain from end to end, optimising post-processed ore logistics and port facilities used by multiple mine sites within a region, with regional parts and supply warehouses monitored across multiple assets for supply-chain optimisation.”

McKinsey said while the technology adoption was “the easy part”, its research revealed a common challenge: “insufficient emphasis on and investment in developing a robust change-management strategy and subsequent implementation.”

It highlighted the importance for leaders to set clear expectations of bottom-line impacts from ROCs to measure value and the need for a new decision-making structure to allow ROCs to reach their full potential.

“Without a new mandate, a new way of working, and a new decision-making structure, the ROC staff will struggle to capture the frontline team’s attention,” the report stated. “And, although the ROC is implemented and functional, it never reaches full potential for value. Without a conscious focus on organisation, a ROC can be counterproductive, creating redundant organisational structures.”

It added careful consideration must also be given to data and systems reliability, location of primary physical storage infrastructure, back-up systems and having a robust cybersecurity approach to protect ROCs from potential threats.

“These decisions can impact connectivity, bandwidth, and latency, each of which must be sufficient to enable the ROC to effectively control on-site operations in real-time: for example, adjustment of plant processing parameters or remote control of mobile equipment and process optimisation tools, such as machine-learning algorithms,” it stated.

“With the right technology foundation, the ROC can function as the analytical centre of excellence, setting data standards, creating and updating analytical optimisation models, building analytics capability and driving partnerships to co-develop solutions aligned with the new planning process for optimising site-level profit. Such actions can move the organisation toward new ways of thinking about hierarchy, decision rights, and ways of working.”

Digitalisation: what this means for jobs

There was also the issue of jobs, and how transitioning to autonomous operations and ROCs will impact workers on site.

MST Global’s Roberts said from his experience, so far with ROCs, this wasn’t something the industry should be too concerned about.

“I know some people talk about a fear that we’re going to take people out of mining and people will lose jobs,” he said. “I actually see the exact opposite of that. I think it is going to bring more people together in more meaningful work, more productive relationships.

“We’ll focus on things that will bring a new lease of life to mines. Yes, we will remove people out of harm’s way and perhaps machines, but the amount of upside there is to actually work with these solutions, from AI to big data analysis to automating and adopting more smart sensors, this is going to create a more interesting future for a lot of people.

“Mining is not going away. We obviously have to adapt it and change it to these new technologies and solutions that we have available. The people that we’re bringing into this industry expect that.”

MST Global concluded: “At MST Global, we are proud to be helping our mining partners globally embrace the transition to the smart mine and ROCs – no matter where they are at in their journey – through our leading software and hardware solutions.

“Our brand-new software platform HELIX helps underground miners create a complete digital ecosystem underground, connecting all their hardware and third-party integrations into one single platform that provides real-time data anywhere, anytime, on-site or thousands of kilometres away in a ROC.”

MST Global releases new integrated software platform, HELIX

MST Global has launched HELIX, a next-generation software platform that brings underground miners’ “software, hardware and third-party integrations into one platform”.

HELIX, which builds on MST’s 2D Visualisation and Tracking software, ICA and Minedash, has all the luxuries of a modern interface and platform while building “your digital ecosystem”, the company says.

Within the platform is HELIX 3DConnect, a solution that provides miners with a total overview of operations across multiple sites, including the integration of surface maps. “You can view these maps in 3D and in 2D, depending on what view provides your task with the most value,” MST Global says.

This allows companies to view the location of personnel, fixed and mobile assets and technology devices underground; as well as offering tracking view options to scale with increased granularity or coverage. HELIX 3DConnect also provides direct messaging to personnel within the 2Dmap functionality.

When it comes to control and monitoring, HELIX Automation sets up distributed automation processes underground and monitors sensor activity that triggers a series of events. This includes events such as ventilation on demand through personnel and vehicle tracking movements, turning on and off water pumps while managing the capacity of the water tank, and better traffic management.

HELIX Automation offers pre-defined automation and sensor rules for convenience, as well as the ability to adapt or custom build automation and sensor rules unique to the mining operation. It also allows users to integrate existing third-party sensors to automate and control operations.

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.

MST Global tackles underground power supply problems with AXON range

MST Global has introduced a new range of uninterruptable power supply (UPS) products for use in harsh environments like underground mines.

The new AXON UPS range is designed specifically to further improve power management in underground networks in a cost-effective manner, a task that is becoming increasingly important as the use of remote operations and automation accelerates.

MST said: “Uninterrupted power is critical for the safety and productivity of all mines and tunnel operations, and in developing these industry-spec UPS, MST can now offer greater reliability and more holistic system solutions.”

The three solutions range from low to high level power requirements, with the highest, the AXON Force UPS (pictured), the most suitable for underground hard-rock mines and extensive tunnel networks.

Dmitri Fechine, Product Manager at MST, said: “More often than not, the supply of power to the digital network and client devices in the underground environment comes as an afterthought, after the purchase of the main network gear. The situation is then further complicated by the fact that the main power outlets are not readily available underground and their installation is typically very expensive.”

Bringing the power supply considerations upfront and offering a range of suitable power supply solutions suitable for various scenarios means MST can help customers reduce their capital and operational expenses as well as improve the overall system performance and reliability, he added.

AXON Mini UPS is a single-level solution for operational scenarios where the area needing power requires only one UPS per network node, where power loads do not exceed 60 W or where the focus is on tunnelling or non-complex stand-alone automation solutions, MST said.

AXON Connect UPS is a mid-level power supply that can enable voice and other IP solutions for tunnelling and hard-rock environments. It serves as both the power over ethernet (PoE) injector and the network junction device for a number of daisy chained PoE users such as Wi-Fi access points.

AXON Force UPS, meanwhile, can power-up IP networks and each unit is able to support multiple chained network nodes connected via composite cable. Additionally, AXON Force can be paired with a remote monitoring kit for enhanced manageability.

The three UPS solutions are built and fully supported by MST, and are designed to connect seamlessly with existing MST products.