The mining industry has been one of the biggest driving forces for Australian exports with 15% of GDP contribution coming from the mining sector. Globally, the mining sector is seeing increased operational costs due to deeper mineral deposits and execution issues on the technical side of mining. So, it only makes sense that mining companies are starting to take a more innovative approach to how they gather data, model resources and mine deposits.
As the year’s progress, the “digital mine” is becoming more and more realistic. There has always been a lot of talk about moving towards a digital mine, however, more than ever we are seeing real action being taken with a focus on leveraging technology that has been used in other industries.
There is a vast array of innovative technologies in sensors, cloud, IoT, wireless and AI that have been successfully applied in the fields of medicine, banking and consumer products. These innovations provide a great opportunity for the mining sector to adopt proven technologies to create safer, more productive, sustainable and efficient ways of working with minimal implementation risk.
It is clear the industry needs an innovation overhaul, and unfortunately, it can’t be achieved solely by one device or technology. A common theme to come out of IMARC 2018 was that change begins within. Christine Eriksen from Roy Hill stated, “Automation will come from 70% change management and 30% technology”. This statement really resonated with us.
One of the reasons we are not just an engineering services company is because we understand that long-term business objectives, operating environment and competitive landscape are just as important as a great idea and a perfectly engineered solution. And if you don’t have the right mindset and management support for innovation, it can be difficult to successfully implement a program of sustainable innovation that will have a true business impact. Technology is but one piece of the puzzle.
A digitalised mine site can assist with monitoring safety, improving efficiency, QA, automation and extracting greater value from new and existing data sets.
Some of the technology being adapted for mining includes:
- Digitised geological data
- IoT sensors for real-time data and monitoring
- Automated drill rigs
- Mine drones for inspection and safety
- Long and strong wireless connectivity (Above & Belowground)
- Driverless trucks
- Gyro, magnetic and core orientation tools and sensors
- Accelerometers, strain, rugged pressure sensors
Having worked with mining companies for over 10 years, it has been great to watch the industry grow and progress. The first product we developed in mining saw the use of wireless technology to connect a downhole instrument to a handset. At the time this was a world-first innovation, a lot has changed. It seems the real value for mining companies today lays within their data to allow for better decision making. This is a key area that was highlighted by Deloitte’s 2018 “Tracking the Trends” report and also something we have seen from working on a number of cloud-based analytics projects over the last few years.
Although change will take time, the benefits of the digital mine outweigh the challenging path it will take to get there.