Tag Archives: Plotlogic

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).

Collaboration key to unlocking digital transformation, BHP’s Bourke says

BHP has already made great strides in digitalising its processes at mine site and operations centres, but Pat Bourke, VP of Technology for Minerals Australia at BHP, says collaboration will play a critical role in helping the company leverage further operational and safety gains.

Speaking at the IMARC Online event today, he gave examples of how BHP is combining “lean concepts” with digital solutions to improve its performance through in-house collaboration.

One such example was the company’s Maintenance and Engineering Centre of Excellence, which develops advanced maintenance strategies based on data analysis to decide on what assets to maintain, when to maintain them and how to maintain them for “superior performance”.

The BHP Operating System, meanwhile, supports the company’s “front line” to improve day-to-day operations through the use of standard systems underpinned by technology, he said.

“To fully capture the next wave of productivity at speed, we need to integrate technology and our digital solutions with these initiatives,” Bourke said, explaining that this will further enhance the company’s agenda of safety and productivity.

He then moved onto the external collaboration side, saying one of the critical elements to unlocking digital transformation was the ability to collaborate within the broader ecosystem as well.

“We can do a lot as an organisation…and as an industry…in partnership with our supplier, communities and government to solve for the future,” Bourke said. “We can do even more when we effectively combine our capabilities and bring multiple partners to collaborate on shared problems.”

Thinking differently about who the company connects and creates synergies with has led BHP to find partners outside its usual circles such as the Australian Defence Force, it said. This partnership, in particular, has seen the organisations collaborate on workforce learning, culture, technology, training and shared apprenticeships.

“Through these synergies, we can stack hands together to gain further insights and understand the similarities around areas such as quantum technologies, automation and cyber defences, for example,” Bourke said.

And, even during COVID-19, the company has been collaborating to produce productivity outcomes.

This has seen it work with Microsoft to deploy augmented reality headsets that combine video with advanced 3D sensing technologies, allowing BHP engineering teams based in the Perth office, some 1,300 km away from the Pilbara operations, to oversee complex installation of mine equipment remotely.

“But it’s not just the big partners who are helping us to find a competitive edge,” Bourke said. “In today’s world we know we need to innovate and deploy new technologies even more quickly to keep up with the pace of change.”

A collaboration with start-up Plotlogic is seeing BHP pilot precision mining technology, for instance.

“This technology will map the face of a pit wall to provide a detailed view of ore versus waste,” Bourke explained. “This type of precision mining will give us the step change in productivity that we are chasing to improve the quality of the ore we extract…this will enable further efficiencies.”

Earlier this year, 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 says.

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.”