Reducing Energy Consumption In The Mining Industry With The IoT

Jennifer Scholze

Without the mining industry, our lives would come to a screeching halt. Mining operations allow us to harvest natural raw materials from the earth. We pull out precious and non-precious metals and minerals that can be used to make parts and products. In addition, the mining industry also reaps natural resources such as crude oil used for fuel in our lives and businesses.

Unfortunately, ore deposits that were once mined closer to the surface are no longer available. They have become significantly depleted. This issue has led mining operations to dig deeper for minerals, metals, and fuel resources in more remote locations. As miners go deeper, they are using tremendous amounts of energy to run equipment, operate trucks, and monitor worker safety to minimize accidents. Using more energy can lead to wasteful and inefficient operations that drive up costs.

If energy usage spirals out of control, mining companies can find themselves spending more than they will recoup when selling raw materials. In the end, many mining operators are closing their operations or selling to bigger corporations to cut their losses.

In an effort to control energy consumption, mining companies need more understanding about their operations. They need to analyze equipment, workers, and processes to uncover inefficiencies and establish parameters for greater energy control. The Internet of Things (IoT) is helping these operators spearhead better strategies to increase productivity while preventing their their energy consumption from getting out of control.

IoT analysis providing valuable energy consumption data

The Internet of Things is a heavy topic of conversation among thought leaders, experts, and analysts in a range of different industries. As the world becomes more digitally connected, it has opened the doors for greater amounts of data collection and real-time information that can be used instantly in a business environment.

The IoT basically involves the use of vast networks of uniquely identifiable endpoints, often called “things” as they can consist of a range of different equipment, systems, machinery, sensors, and even AI. These networks are connected via Internet protocols (IP) to share data and information without human interaction.

Having a steady flow of real-time data has changed the way mining companies operate. IoT has enabled more accurate data collection to create better business strategies. When combining IoT with energy consumption analysis, mining operations can implement cost-effective energy management procedures to cut back on waste while optimizing daily processes.

IoT in key aspects of mining

There are numerous processes involved in mining operations, from exploration activities that discover ore deposits and strike lengths on rock formations to mining the ore from underground pits and exporting it to processors and manufacturers. IoT can analyze machinery and processes to record normal energy usage parameters and anomalies in consumption.

Following are some of the ways IoT can be applied to energy management strategies in the mining industry.

Operational optimization

Most energy use occurs during the normal course of operations. In an effort to reduce usage, key performance indicators (KPIs) can be established for each process. IoT allows mining operations to gather data from other mining industry operations and create benchmarks for average energy consumption. These benchmarks can then be compared to actual energy consumption data in current processes. Equipment and systems connected through IP networks can constantly send this information to operators for analysis so energy efficiency policies can be established.

One operational process that can be improved with IoT is stopping machinery, such as scoop trams, from sitting idle while workers are performing other tasks. Sensors placed on the motor and inside the driver compartment can detect whether the driver has stepped out of the machine and the engine has been left on. This data can be relayed to controls that will automatically shut off the machine remotely.

Maintenance

Mining equipment and system failures can play a big factor in energy consumption. Malfunctioning equipment that can no longer efficiently use fuel resources can waste energy. In addition, shipping replacement equipment in short order when machinery breaks down increases energy costs.

Sensors and monitors on equipment can analyze system operations and identify lower levels of operation. Real-time IoT data increases the chance that an operator can predict when a system or piece of equipment is about to fail. Processes can then be moved to backup equipment without interrupting mining operations. Meanwhile, mining operators can perform needed maintenance on other systems to bring them back online to their highest efficiency levels.

Safety

Mining operations harbor many risks to equipment and workers. Hazardous gases can build up in mining tunnels without accurate ventilation. Rising temperatures can harm equipment, miners, and drivers. In addition, weather conditions and driving accidents can slow operations and increase energy usage.

IoT enables operators to track environmental and workplace situations for safety hazards. Sensors in underground mines can monitor air quality and analyze the types of gasses in the air. Using IoT, these sensors can switch on ventilation fans and controls to bring in more fresh air to workers. They can also send out instant alerts when the air quality has become so poor that workers should evacuate through designated escape routes.

IoT can also increase driver safety when moving mined ore deposits. Sensors on trucks can track tire pressure, ground conditions, weather, and speed to reduce accidents and increase safety protocols.

The mining industry adopts IoT for better energy use

To compete in the mining industry, companies must decrease operational costs while increasing mining production. Using IoT to lower energy usage is a vital step in increasing productivity and reducing energy waste. Mining operators will be able to optimize systems, network equipment, and workers to reduce energy consumption and increase safety at the worksite.

Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation by downloading The IoT Imperative for Energy and Natural Resource Companies. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today by reading Industry 4.0: What’s Next?


About Jennifer Scholze

Jennifer Scholze is the Global Lead for Industry Marketing for the Mill Products and Mining Industries at SAP. She has over 20 years of technology marketing, communications and venture capital experience and lives in the Boston area with her husband and two children.