Minex Russia 2019 - Digitisation
Updated: Oct 29, 2019
Minex Russia 2019 included significant coverage around the future of mines, in particular, the use of data and technology. Now in its 15th year, it is one of the largest mining industry event in the CIS region saw record attendance for Forum participants, up by 37% on the previous year, with some interesting talks and panel discussions from a wide range of people across the mining world.
MTS was invited to present at the Masterclass sessions by SRK Consulting, alongside Vostochnaya Technica, the Caterpillar dealer for Central/Eastern Russia. The session was entitled ‘Digital Mining - What does it look like and the steps needed for success’ - (Session video here - Use auto-translate on subtitles to see English language).
SRK Consulting presented strategies and approaches which can be used when moving towards Mining 4.0. This focussed around practical applications, ensuring there is a clear plan and return of investment/effort.
Vostochnaya Technica showed off the latest from Caterpillar and how they can be used in a modern mine. Of great interest to the audience were both the autonomous haulage trucks (we’ve discussed in a previous blog) and fatigue monitoring systems like the Driver Safety System (DSS). The latter has been heavily implemented by several major mining companies - Newmont Goldcorp has seen an 87% reduction in driver fatigue using this technology.
MTS focussed on areas which are critical to smooth operations but often overlooked; the backbone architecture required to run a lot of the new technology, and the use of all the output data created.
Some key messages from our session included the below:
Get the basics right first - for the best results in the long run
It may sound obvious, and it may not be as flashy and cool as a new autonomous haul truck, but getting the basic infrastructure right, to begin with, will help to ensure you get the most out of your new technology.
This means making sure you have the core elements in place and working well. Like a reliable radio network that covers the whole of the operation; or a stable database environment that can handle the increase in data requests.
Think who, what, what, where, when, how and why
The digital age brings with it vast amounts of data.
“There are 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created each day”
With great amounts of data comes great amounts of responsibility. It is important to not overload people with large amounts of information created overwise they can become ‘big data fatigued’ - and the data becomes useless. Getting the right information to the right people is key.
Who requires this data? - Does the fleet maintenance manager need to know grade recovery at the plant has dropped?
What information is required? - Think granularity. Should you report tonnage per individual truck or by fleet?
Where should this information be displayed? - Is a busy corridor the best place to put a dashboard?
When do you require this information? - Is it useful to know how many fatigue events you had at the end of the month or as they happen?
How is the data going to be displayed? - Is printing out an Excel spreadsheet the best way to show shift performance, or is a live automatically refreshing dashboard better?
Why is this data required? - What is the end goal of using this data? Is it linked to a KPI or are you just displaying it for the sake of it?
It is clear that the technological revolution of the industry is continuing to gather pace. One place where this is apparent was walking through the exhibition stands. Gone are the days, where a simple shiny new drill rod on a stand would be a guaranteed talking point; now a large majority of the stands were displaying some sort of software or technologically advanced solution - this really shows the way the industry has developed and the direction it is heading.
Here are some of the key takeaways:
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
The use of AI is becoming more widespread across the industry. Polymetal, in particular, have embraced the new technology. Implementing it in there processing mill and with further plans to use it for exploration projects by geotagging data to create a self-learning database. Although initial results have been mixed, it is important to remember, the greater amount of data AI receives the greater decision making it can make. Therefore, this process should improve with time.
One of the key risks to the industry, identified in a panel discussion of some top players in the CIS mining world, was the increase in living standards across the region; with many worried this would drive up operating costs. Automation was discussed as a potentially viable solution. It will be very interesting to see how the use of automation is adapted in the coming years, especially in the more remote regions.
Another hot topic discussed was the use of digitisation within the mining industry. A great example of this is the progress being made by the Russian Government (Rosnedra) to fully digitise licencing and resource maps across the whole of Russia - this is no mean feat, considering Russia makes up >10% of the world's landmass! Also impressive was Kinross’s use of their ‘Geobank’ database that harvested information from 26 software programs in order to make clear decisions on their projects.
A divisive issue not just in the mining world, but in popular culture at the moment is the environment. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that this was a topic at the forefront of many of the discussions at MINEX. The woman of the moment, Greta Thunberg’s, name was mentioned several times in relation to the new challenges the industry faces to reduce their environmental impact. One such solution was the use of battery technology to create emission-free operations in underground mines.
To summarise. MINEX provided an excellent opportunity to learn and share new ways in which technology can benefit the mining industry.
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