Three trends transforming mining operations

Three major trends are fundamentally changing how mines will operate in the future: electrification, digitalisation and automation.

For thousands of years, mining has provided us with the raw materials we need to develop economies and build communities. But mines are entering a new era that’s requiring them to transform their operations, create new business models and foster a digital culture.

Remaining competitive in today’s minerals market environment means continuously striving for more flexibility and agility in mining management, combining operational excellence and digital innovations.

Three major trends are fundamentally changing how mines will operate in the future: electrification, digitalisation and automation.

Digitalisation

The first major trend is the digitalisation of the mine. Mining companies can’t rely on ageing systems to support their business activities of the future. To remain competitive, mines need to create new operating and business models and foster a digital culture where real-time data of their employees, assets and business performance is not only readily available but provide the opportunity to make changes in real-time from anywhere in the world.

 

By investing in a clear vision and fostering a cross-functional, enterprise-wide and collaborative approach, mining companies can:

  • Reduce capital cost, minimise risk and keep projects on schedule across the entire value chain
    Increase the level of automation, improve quality, move people away from danger and protect the environment
  • Enable integration of control and monitoring data from multiple sources
  • Guide day-to-day and strategic decisions with real-time and historical data per defined KPIs
  • Quickly resolve and predict unwanted situations using advanced algorithms, modelling, analytics, remote expert assistance.

Assessing, automating, optimising and collaborating are only a few of the values digitally connected products and services can create for the mining industry. ABB unifies and simplifies access to all its digital solutions for mining and mineral processing under the single portfolio – ABB Ability™ MineOptimize.

With digitalisation at its heart, ABB Ability™ MineOptimize connects all electrification, automation and digital offerings and creates the backbone for transforming and optimising all stages in the mine lifecycle.

By ensuring that the right people have the right information at the right time and from anywhere, ABB Ability™ MineOptimize digital applications enable mine operators to maximise reliability, safety, productivity and energy efficiency while optimising planning and visibility across operations and the entire enterprise.

Automation

Another major trend is mine automation, whether that’s finding new ways to increase the production rate of operations, reduce the cost per tonne produced, extend the life span of a site or establish new operations.

There are many technologies readily available to assist mines, from robots and drones, to virtual, augmented and mixed reality and artificial intelligence, to digital twins, 3-D and 4-D printing. The challenge to companies is not procuring these technologies but integrating them into their operations in a holistic way that is supporting the larger transition to be a mine of the future. By partnering with an experienced leader in the field, it will make piloting, learning, adapting and connecting these different technologies easier, and will help prioritise and embed the right solutions that will drive the biggest impact to your operation.

To achieve higher levels of automation and optimisation in a mine, leveraging advanced process controls across mining processes and business systems is an area that can bring substantial energy savings, increased product recovery and optimise product mix based on real-time data on pricing and other variables.

Mining electrification

The final major trend in driving improvement in operations is the electrification of the mine. Mine operators need to be looking at ways to become more energy efficient, be less diesel dependent, and further their social licence to operate while ensuring operations are safer and more productive.

Electricity transformation is happening at all levels, including fully-electric or hybrid electric heavy vehicles and battery energy storage. However, these technologies present many new challenges for mine operators concerning the infrastructure, maintenance and operating constraints. The selection of the right electrical product or solution and its implementation takes experience and technical know-how to ensure your vision and objectives will be met.

Technology partners like ABB can support your transition towards electrifying your mine. ABB is partnering with many mining companies around the world such as Nouveau Monde Graphite in Quebec where ABB’s technology will see them be the first all-electric surface mine.

 

 

Companies of all sizes around the globe trust ABB to be their digital transformation partner.

This article first appeared in Aspermont’s Mining Monthly magazine.

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About the author

Stuart Cowie

Stuart Cowie is the head of ABB Australia’s Industrial Automation Process Industries business, where he oversees ABB’s automation and electrical solutions across industries such as mining, metals production, pulp and paper, and cement. Stuart joined ABB in 1998. In 2002, he was appointed General Manager of Industrial Automation in New Zealand before moving to Australia in 2012 to take on the role of Service Manager for the Process Automation before being appointed to head the Process Industries business in 2016. Stuart has over 35 years experience in the paper, metals and mining industry and through this time he has been involved with sales, service and project management of automation and electrification projects. Stuart holds a Higher Diploma in Electrical Engineering from Witwatersrand Technikon in South Africa; a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of South Africa; and earned his MBA from the University of Auckland in New Zealand.
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