3 Benefits to Digitizing Your Mining Operations

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July 22, 2020

3 minute read

Two of the most popular—and important—trends today are automation and digitization. They have merged to change how we live, work, play, and deliver. Additionally, they are helping accelerate the transition to the 4th industrial revolution.

Today, technologies that enable digitization and automation are being implemented on a large-scale across industries to create new opportunities for companies of all sizes. Moreover, they are being combined with IoT to enable Industry 4.0 and revolutionize every aspect of the industry. According to a Mckinsey study, the majority of the heavy industry sectors are at the middle stages of digital maturity. This means that they are enabled either by a digital control system or advanced process control. However, to truly modernize their operations, these sectors will have to get to the highest stage of digital maturity, which is the AI-enabled Digital 4.0 revolution.

The good news is that, according to a 2018 survey by Gartner, digitalization is one of the top 10 priorities for businesses across several industries. The mining industry is one of them.   For most mines still using outdated technologies and experiencing the increasing need to push operations deeper underground, it is becoming harder to attain easily achievable savings in costs and productivity. 

At the same time, market forces require the mining industry to be more innovative in areas where automation and digitalization are needed. Greater digitization and automation of mining operations will allow companies to overcome both challenges. To make this happen, mining companies will need to transition from digital 2.0 and digital 3.0 to the AI-enabled Digital 4.0.

What is the benefit of this? AI provides a wide range of benefits to mining companies that helps them deal with the challenges the industry faces. For example, AI can help mining companies to identify and extract resources. Not only can AI collect and analyze data from multiple sources for this, but it can also identify areas to explore using machine learning (ML) algorithms. It is also useful in water and wastewater treatment.

Additionally, with end-to- end visibility enabled by AI technology, mines can identify and maximize efficiencies throughout their operations to reduce expenditures and increase profitability.  If you’re still on the fence about digitizing your mining operations, then you may want to consider the following 3 benefits of doing so.

1. Creating Smart Mines to Minimize Operational Costs

One of the biggest advantages of digitizing your mining operations is creating ‘smart mines’ that allow you to reduce your operational costs. Smart mines are mines where the major assets are digitized via embedded sensors that transmit data to a centralized location through a wireless network. This allows operators of mines to save money not just on labor—since human workers are no longer needed to perform data readings on site manually —but also on cable maintenance because the need for expensive cabling is eliminated.

However, the biggest benefit comes from the use of AI as it allows you to optimize the major assets that are connected to a centralized location through wireless network and embedded sensors. AI allows you to link your daily operations to the objectives of your company and goals specific to the mining site that you can easily monitor and predict.

Another major benefit of AI’s use in mining operations is minimizing the ecological impact of mining operations. Incorporating AI technology into pre-existing mining operations allows the sector to minimize its energy requirements and lower the environmental footprint. Additionally, ML can predict peaks in energy to allow companies to take appropriate precautions.

Lastly, AI can track environmental parameters such as temperature and groundwater to help assess the impact of your mining operations.

2. Efficiently Monitoring Operational Assets

Predictive maintenance and wireless monitoring, facilitated by operational intelligence (OI) solutions, enables companies operating mines to track operating assets, such as dams, remotely and continuously to ensure that they are not damaged.

The use of technology that allows capturing data digitally and in real-time is slowly but surely replacing the costly readings of key operational data that take place manually. An example of this key operational data is Pore Water Pressure, the amount of which can have a major effect on the resources within a very short timeframe. If the pressure of pore water unexpectedly increases, a dam can split very quickly. This is where intelligent and automated water management in mining can help.

Operators can constantly monitor the pressure levels of pore water using digital real-time readings. This increases the ability of the operators to incorporate measures to lower the pore water pressure levels, and in turn protect their major assets, and their workers from any immediate threat.

Critical decision related to mining operations no longer need to be made by operators themselves after a careful analysis of complex parameters. Instead, they can use AI for this purpose. Whether you need to determine the right time for turning pumps on or off, come up with the right amount of chemical dosages, or find out the frequency with which assets need to be maintained, AI can provide you with intelligent recommendations driven by machine learning.

3. Effective Water Management in Mining

The primary use of water in mining is to transport slurry, suppress dust, process minerals, and meet the needs of onsite workers. This need for water is met in mining operations through commercial water service providers, groundwater, lakes, streams, and lakes and rivers.

However, mine sites are often situated in locations where water is already limited and where local people and officials, unsurprisingly, try to stop mines using water from these sources. In addition to the procurement of water, extracting water sustainably is also a problem for mines.

The good news is that digitization of the mining industry is helping to overcome this problem. For instance, emerging mining treatment technologies are allowing operators to recirculate process water to minimize water intake, tailing storage, and effluent discharge volumes.

By enabling intelligent water and wastewater operations, AI can save up to 30% on operational expenditures (OPEX). It can do this by minimizing energy costs, optimizing the usage of chemical for treatment, and ensuring the efficient management of assets.

At Innovyze, we make water management in mining a breeze through AI-enabled technologies that not only facilitate water conservation in mining but also enhance mining water management performance to ensure sustainable mining operations. Get in touch with us today to know more about how we can help you.

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Tags: Water management in mining, digitizing your mining operations