Is Connected Mining the Future of the Industry?

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The mining industry has one of the most hazardous work settings, where workers often come across life-threatening incidents. Businesses have been vying for a way to automate the entire process or deploy a digital option that can mitigate the risk and boost performance efficiency. Connected mining is emerging as a promising solution!

With real-time monitoring, predictive maintenance, and remote control capabilities, this technology enables mining companies to optimize production, reduce downtime, and make smarter, data-driven decisions.

So, let’s embark on a transformative journey to the realm of connected mining, where the future of mining is evolving through seamless connectivity and cutting-edge technologies.

What Does Connected Mining Help Resource Optimization?

Connected mining refers to the integration of digital technologies and connectivity solutions into traditional mining operations. It involves the use of sensors, data analytics, communication networks, and automation for enabling real-time monitoring, control, and optimization of various mining processes. It aims to improve safety, efficiency, productivity, and sustainability in mining operations.

With these advancements, connected mining is transforming mining processes. It is revolutionizing traditional mining operations, making them safer, more efficient, and environmentally sustainable.

Which Groundbreaking Innovations Are Unlocking the Potential of Connected Mining?

Subsurface mines are dangerous environments for workers because of possible health and safety risks. Here are the top 5 technological advancements in mining that have the potential to revolutionize safety in mining:

1.  Wearable Technology

IoT-connected wearables usage has far-reaching implications for worker safety in the mining industry. These wearable devices have prevalent applications in the detection of environmental factors, such as air quality, the location of workers, and the monitoring of fatigue levels of truck drivers & heavy machinery operators. The devices send an early warning signal for potentially harmful or dangerous circumstances, lowering risks and preventing mishaps.

Various organizations and companies are working together to leverage connected mining for ensuring safety in hazardous mining settings. For example, the iRIS innovation project aims to reduce vehicle-related fires in Swedish mines by 20% within five years using an intelligent digital system. This project, initiated by GRAMKO (Mining Industry Environment Committee), includes mandatory inspection and reporting tools for fires within the jurisdiction. The team is now working on FIREM-II (Fire and Rescue in Mines II), a project combining wearable technology and wheel loaders for fire suppression in underground mines.

2.  Robotics and Automation

Autonomous technologies are constructing a new standard of safety for mines while also increasing operational efficiency. Advancements in the capabilities of automated machines and robots have enabled them to perform additional tasks compared to manually operated machinery.

Autonomous equipment such as self-driving vehicles and robotic haulage, drilling, and other procedures improve safety by keeping workers out of hazardous settings and thus, find extensive usage in connected mining. A recent UNEXMIN project demonstrated the Robotic Explorer platform, which includes three robots (UX-1a, UX-1b, and UX-1c) that can aid with data collection and exploration to safely supply enhanced intelligence on abandoned and flooded mines that could be opened again for future use.

3.  Radio-frequency Identification (RFID)

Mining firms are widely using RFID tags to track their underground assets, both human and vehicular. These tags are lightweight and affordable and are used to track the movements of employees and equipment in real time. RFID-enabled wearables are employed to monitor environmental conditions and notify miners about potential hazards. Another application of RFID systems is for monitoring the usage patterns of heavy equipment that has been tagged, assisting in the scheduling of part replacement or fluid changes, and optimizing equipment maintenance.

Recently, Mesto, a frontrunner in the mining industry specializing in sustainable technologies, has launched an ore tracking service, the SmartTag system, which is designed to monitor and track ore packets from the mine to the factory using resistant RFID tags, detectors, and specialized software.

The SmartTag technology detects and tracks key points of ore processing, allowing for extended stockpile maintenance without internal power. It tracks products from the mine to the final customer while optimizing plant operations, sorting, blending, and homogenization. This system also provides accurate reconciliation and optimizes product supply and transport logistics.

4.  Internet of Things (IoT) Devices

The utilization of IoT devices like drones and sensors enables real-time monitoring of mining vehicles, equipment, and environmental conditions.

Sensors can detect threats from mines that are unsafe for human inspection and drones can be sent to collect imagery and create digital terrain models of sites, eliminating labor-intensive tasks of surveying, inspection, and mapping.

Weir, a natural resources supplier, has developed an innovative IIoT platform Synertrex®, which uses cutting-edge digital technology to increase efficiency, predict risk, and improve performance. This platform includes cloud computing and smart sensor installation on an array of Weir products, which collect essential operating data for improved analysis. The data is turned into valuable insights and delivered to the consumer via a digital interface. It can also indicate problems, decrease downtime, and improve machinery performance over a complete circuit.

5.  Digital Twin

A digital twin can develop simulated models that deliver life-like experiences without posing any safety issues because they are virtual reproductions of physical assets, systems, and processes. Connected mining operators can utilize a digital twin to generate accurate estimations for drilling, crushing, and extraction activities, and workers can test new approaches and predict maintenance needs by simulating equipment.

Digging Deeper

Connected mining stands at the forefront of a technological revolution in the mining industry. With its ability to maximize efficiency, ensure safety, and promote sustainability, it is paving the way for a more advanced and optimized mining future. By harnessing connectivity, data analytics, and automation, this novel technology is transforming mining operations into agile, intelligent systems. All in all, the future of mining is connected and free from perils for workers.

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