When most people picture mining what do they see? What words pop into their head?
Dark. Dangerous. Gritty.
For those that work in the mining industry they might think: graft, precautious, labour, struggle.
A dangerous unknown underground world filled with darkness, dirt, and damp that could give way to explosions or caveins.
Big bulky heavy noisy machinery that takes a lot to handle and one slip up can cause dire consequences.
Workers with dirt on their face and hands, that never seems to come off, working in almost constant darkness and uncomfortable conditions.
Striking oil or gold. With the word from a known few who can only hope they've planned it right.
It is only now that we are seeing big changes permeating this age-old industry. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, automation, VR and AR are transforming the mining industry at an accelerating pace achieving major improvements in performance, safety, costs, and sustainability.
Drones are used to take aerial pictures packed with data to the pixel, sensors monitor the slightest degree of change in airflows, trucks are becoming driverless, equipment is maintained remotely - all of these technologies rapidly changing the mining industry as we know it.
Now with technological advances and digitalisation, a lot of the uncertainty and even more of the risk is being removed from mining each and every day with the implementation of these new technologies.
The mining industry is more prepared than ever to deliver a dynamic and transformative mine environment that addresses mine safety, productivity, and efficiency, while possibly exceeding customer expectations and global sustainability initiatives.
Let’s take a look at some of the mining industry’s latest technological innovations:
- AI & automation
- Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
- 3D Modelling
- Virtual Reality (VR)
- Augmented Reality (AR)
Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Automation In Mines
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has in recent years become a major player in the mining industry, - increasing efficiency and effectiveness as well as addressing safety and environmental concerns.
In the mining sector AI is often the use of machines to perform tasks that humans would typically perform, lending to the idea that machines can copy certain aspects of human intelligence - therefore it is an artificial intelligence.
With AI you also have machine learning. This is where the machines take data and learn from it in order to conduct another connected task. This process enables a systematic and intelligent response to the new data presented through the use of the learned algorithms and statistical models used.
One of the ways the mining industry is utilising AI is within mineral processing and exploration. Using it to more precisely map and predict areas to mine, though the use of pattern matching, predictive analytics, all before having to break any ground. This can see huge returns on costs and a vast increase in efficiency.
Another common use for AI to date has been with autonomous vehicles and machines. Mine sites have been using autonomous vehicles in their pit-to-pit operations for years now. Autonomous mining equipment is able to work around the clock increasing production and making a huge difference to ROI.
Howden Uptime is a unique and innovative platform for gathering, interpreting and analysing any kind of rotating equipment data. It uses built-in AI capabilities and machine learning to predict the equipment behaviour allowing proactive and preemptive action to be taken to avoid equipment failure.
Drone Use In Mining
Drones are one of the more common-place autonomous technologies on this list that have been making a mark across numerous industries and now finally making headway into mining.
In mining accurate geospatial data is key to optimising the management of your site.
Drones are one of the most effective tools used to source this data. Drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are equipped with a camera that captures images of a site from different vantage points during an automated flight.
From these georeferenced images, a photogrammetry software can quickly transform these into a precise 3D copy of the site from which you can track inventory, perform site surveys, optimise traffic management, design road layouts, blast planning, and optimise collaboration.
Not only do drones increase efficiency, they are normally much less expensive than the helicopters traditionally used for this type of data capture, but they also increase the safety of survey staff who no longer need to be in high-risk locations.
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) In Mining
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are designed to store, analyse, and display vast amounts of geographical (geospatial) data that has been collected.
Replacing paper surveys GIS can provide a clearer and more thorough bank of information to more readily and easily assist with mine management and operations.
Often used to gain insights within:
- Mineral exploration
- Mining conditions
- Geochemical and hydrology data
- Report generation eg mining permits
- Facility and policing management
- Assess environmental impact
- Process closures
- Improve community education
From providing in-depth map databases to targeting mineral potential, monitoring assets and risk potential, to reducing environmental impact - using GIS can vastly increase productivity, reduce risk from human error, and ultimately cut costs along the way.
3D Modelling In Mines
Using the IIoT it is easier than ever to get a visual and true insight into your mine in real-time.
LINK TO IIOT ARTICLE IF PUBLISHED
Using digital mining software such as Howden’s Ventsim DESIGN an accurate three-dimensional (3D) simulation of your mine can be created for you on screen. This simulation displays digital representations of many of your key mine aspects such as airflows, pressures, heat, and gases as they travel and operate through your mine in real-time.
3D modelling allows for a clear and visual impression of your mine that easily shows the complexities much more efficiently while providing you with actionable insights for increased optimisation. For example, with Ventsim DESIGN it is now possible to select a fan directly from the Howden fan database which you will then be able to get a visualisation of the full performance details.
Not only can you get a visually rich true to life functioning 3D model of your mine, but using further technologies within IIoT you can action tasks and controls from your remote-location or implement an autonomous response.
Learn more about Howden’s Ventsim mine ventilation simulation software
Virtual Reality (VR) In Mining
Virtual reality is a fully immersive experience that creates a digital environment with which you are situated inside using real-life data to support.
It is normally accessed through head-mounted devices or immersive rooms that removes visual access of the real world to provide an entirely immersive experience into the digital environment generated.
As the user moves their head it is monitored and fed back to the device so the objects within the digital environment act as they would in real life by staying stationary.
VR presents an enhanced impression to help miners experience what it’s like working in a mine or planning a new mine without being out in the field. This helps with safety risks and also can dramatically reduce costs.
Augmented Reality (AR) In Mines
Augmented Reality (AR) was once something only seen in the movies, but it has now permeated the mining sector and provides exciting advancements across the value chain specifically in training and customer support.
AR works by overlaying a digital visualisation on top of your real-world environment.
The digital visualisation can show computer-generated graphics, sounds, animations, and videos to give a deeper and more stimulating understanding of what is being shown - whether that is a mine environment, vehicles, or equipment.
AR will transform how associates learn, make decisions, and interact with the physical world. It will also change how a company serves its customers, trains employees, designs and creates products, and manages the supply chains. And ultimately - how it competes.
Howden Uptime uses AR to create experiences for the full spectrum of the screw compressor manufacturing process - Download the whitepaper on Augmented Reality.
By implementing these new technologies effectively, the mining industry can steadily advance towards a more sustainable future for mining. One where it is possible to virtually construct mines and plants all before breaking ground, one where autonomous machines carry out the strenuous operational tasks while employees monitor, and cutting-edge technologies provide insights from calculations far beyond most human minds.
Digital technologies are providing the mining industry with a fantastic opportunity to increase productivity, reduce costs, and herald a new era for mining.
Find out more about the amazing technology developed at Howden and let us show you what we can do to help your mine drive towards this digital future - Ventsim Mining Software