ABB partners with University of Western Australia to accelerate the digital mine

The most successful mine of the future will be digital. That is why ABB has partnered with the University of Western Australia to accelerate the digital mine through its TestLab based in Perth.

Australia holds an enviable position as one of the world’s leaders in mining. It is in the top five as a producer of most of the world’s key commodities, and is the world’s largest exporter of iron ore, alumina, lead and zinc and the second largest exporter of uranium.

But the mining sector isn’t immune to the digital disruption occurring across many, if not all, industries critical to Australia’s future prosperity. The fourth industrial revolution, also known as Industry 4.0, presents tremendous opportunities to transform the mining sector – where organisations can take advantage of digital technologies to unlock greater value through data and analytics, automate core mining processes, and improve productivity. The most successful mine of the future will be digital.

This movement towards a digital mine underscores the partnership established between ABB and the University of Western Australia’s (UWA) Energy & Resources Digital Interoperability Industry 4.0 (ERDi i4.0) TestLab, run by Enterprise Transformation Partners (ETP), to advance Industry 4.0 open process automation standards.

The University of Western Australia’s Energy & Resources Digital Interoperability Industry 4.0 TestLab has been established to work with industry to develop new technologies as part of the fourth industrial revolution. Industry 4.0 Testlabs are a strategic initiative of the Australian Prime Minister’s Industry 4.0 Taskforce, which was formed in 2016 with the support of the Australian Government.

The partnership between ABB and UWA also includes collaboration on AMIRA Global’s P1208 Interoperability Enablement for Natural Resources project which is designed to realise the future digital mine. It aims to develop and implement interoperability standards for mine planning, mine scheduling and execution so that equipment and applications for mine operations become ‘plug and play’. Building on the University of Western Australia I4.0 ERDi Test Lab, this initiative will enable an offsite test laboratory to evaluate efficacy of interoperability of technology without disrupting ongoing mining activities.

“Industry 4.0 and digital transformation are huge opportunities for the Australian mining industry with automation, analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) generating insights and accelerating greater productivity and efficiency,” said Stuart Cowie, Head of Industrial Automation Process Industries, ABB Australia.

“Our partnership with the University of Western Australia demonstrates ABB’s commitment to ensuring Industry 4.0 concepts influence our product roadmaps into the future. It will give ABB valuable insights into how to accelerate the digital transformation across the mining sector. We’re excited to be working with the ERDi TestLab to build our digital platforms into an even more powerful tool for the industry,” said Cowie.

Separate to the AMIRA project, ABB is also working closely with ETP on an integrated systems project at Gold Fields’ Granny Smith mine 740km northeast of Perth, Western Australia. It is one of the largest and highest producing gold mine operations in the country. This advancement will enable the mine to connect and coordinate mine operators, workforce, equipment and all mining activities in real-time, from face preparation to crusher.

“In 2019 we launched the Integrated Systems Project to increase production throughput of the Granny Smith gold mine,” said Michael Place, Technical Service Manager, Gold Fields Australia. “To achieve the objective of a fully connected mine, we are working with ABB and ETP to build an integrated business process and system architecture that will enable visibility of operational activities in near real-time via automated information exchange between various mining systems.”

“The system architecture has been designed to allow deployment across various operations both open pit and underground. This deployment will be the major phase of the technology strategy for the Granny Smith mine and will be a pilot for integrated platforms across Gold Fields Australia, which aims to create one of the most innovative, digitally connected mines in the world. This project and partnership will be key to achieving this,” said Place.

“ABB’s investment, both in financial terms as well as time, together with their expertise, is critical for this project to support the re-engineering of products that are often required to deliver a reliable, performant and standards compliant software package,” said ETP Managing Director, John Kirkman. “The performance requirements of a software package that exchanges and processes granular events with rich information in real-time, when compared to a software package designed for periodical manual entry, are like comparing chalk and cheese and that’s where ABB plays a big role.”


Above: At the official opening of the University of Western Australia’s ERDi TestLab.
From left to right: Mark Frame (ETP), Richard Marsh (ABB), Shannon McDermott (Gold Fields), Andrew Whibley (Gold Fields).


The Energy & Resources Digital Interoperability Industry 4.0 (ERDi i4.0) TestLab in Perth CBD.

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About the author

Joanne Woo

Storyteller & head of communications for ABB Australia. From large global conglomerates to fast growing start-ups, Joanne Woo has led diverse marketing and communications teams across energy, mining, aviation, transportation, healthcare and technology sectors. Joanne is also a mentor for the Superstars of STEM program which aims to smash society’s gender assumptions about scientists and increase the public visibility of women in STEM.
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