The mining industry is going through an intense period of change, making mining companies’ ability to innovate and improve indispensable. Emerging technologies are set to change the way miners operate over the next decade. Internet of Things (IoT) is one of them, leading the way in bringing about positive change in the mining industry.
What is the Internet of Things?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the connection of objects such as computing machines, embedded devices, equipment, appliances, and sensors to the Internet. This emerging network technology can potentially transform the mining industry by creating new ways of maintaining mine safety and improving productivity. The technology involves connecting equipment, fleets, and people based on radio frequency identification device (RFID) and sensor technologies.
How can IoT help the mining industry
- Automate maintenance and operations of machines – Leads to creation of newer collaboration models with OEMs for monitoring via cloud connectivity and networks.
- Standardize processes – Helps build newer business models and highly agile processes at the operations level.
- Improve traceability and visibility – Lets users automatically transfer and receive data over a network without requiring human intervention. Moreover, remote monitoring of operations ensures maximum efficiency, improved safety, decreased variability, and better identification of performance issues.
- Ensure safety of people and equipment – Integrates mine automation system with automated physical elements to create a real-time, multi-dimensional model from a variety of data sources including the sensors on equipment as well as geological and other data. The system can then be used to optimize and coordinate the mine’s layout, operation, and vehicle paths to ensure high efficiency and safety.
- Move from preventive to predictive maintenance – Prevents equipment failure using M2M sensors that can detect the status of the equipment (like temperature, pressure, vibration, speed), collect maintenance history, and determine external weather conditions. Provides analytics to predict failures before they occur, giving the ability to react at the right time. Spare parts can also be ordered well in advance, avoiding express shipping costs.
- Get real-time data and analytics – Uses visualization tools to provide 3D displays of the mine and other related data for use by pit controllers, geologists, drilling/blasting teams, mine planners, and supervisors. Mining vehicles have built-in sensors to measure oil temperature, contamination, tire pressure, bearing rotation, vibration, frame rack, bias and pitch, engine speed, and brake pressure. The data is transmitted remotely and used to recommend maintenance schedules and alert teams about potential trouble before it takes place.
Current IoT usage
Mining majors like Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton have set up their integrated remote operations center in Perth, Australia, for monitoring operations in the iron ore mines of Pilbara, about 1,500 km away. Rio Tinto also opened a processing excellence center in Brisbane to monitor and analyze the processing data in real time from seven of its operations in Mongolia, the United States, and Australia with the help of huge, interactive screens. From the data collected, a team of experts in mineral processing suggests solutions for optimizing mineral processing at these seven sites.
Leveraging IoT to drive bottom-line growth
The IoT-led journey towards business transformation in mining has just begun. By making mining safer, more efficient, and more automated, IoT is making mining jobs more high tech and allowing people to work remotely, with fewer workers in hazardous roles at the mine site.