Thursday, 3 December 2020
Industry Q&A: Achieving Visibility and Control over Mining Operations
Austmine Limited
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Industry Q&A: Achieving Visibility and Control over Mining Operations

The mining industry is on the cusp of a new era of how day-to-day operations will be undertaken. Advanced technologies and the use of data will lead to more predictable, stable and controlled operations that will increase productivity, efficiency and safety at mine sites all around the world. Austmine recently caught up with Adrian Hale, Natural Resources Director, Asia Pacific South, Dassault Systèmes to get his view on the changing nature of the mining industry. Adrian touches upon a range of issues in this interview, including the importance of visibility over operations, lessons from other industries such as motor vehicle manufacturing and the impact that digital technologies will have on the sector’s social licence to operate.

1. What are the benefits of increased visibility of mining operations and how is this being achieved? What role do digital technologies and innovations play here?

Identifying the different levers of the mining operation is the first step to stabilising the operation – by uncovering the areas of operational improvement that increase business profitability. The role of digital technologies and innovations is to help identify opportunities, enabling qualified and senior resources, to better manage this process rather than simply marshalling vast amounts of siloed data.

2. Predictability and standardisation have been challenges for the mining sector for a long period of time and would significantly enhance efficiency if achieved. What breakthroughs have you seen in this area and what will drive the push towards these?

One of our customers, Rick Howes, CEO of Dundee Precious Metal (Chelopech Operation), took an approach he called “taking the lid off”. With the implementation of our mine production management solution, the company was able to have greater visibility into the real-time activities of its operation.

This capability enabled Dundee to stabilise and better manage the activities of the operation to identify opportunities that led them to double production and lower the cost of production by 44%.

This visibility is missing from most mining operations today where they are driving the car looking only in the rear-view mirror (with daily reports). The desire is to now shift the view to a “cockpit” of information in the central control room.

3. How important is it for the mining industry to drive excellence through continuous improvement? How is this achieved? 

As mining company profits continue to be pressured by the uncertainty that remains in the global economy, the industry is on a quest for innovation to help increase productivity.

To understand where mining companies can look for innovation, it is useful to examine what has led to successful transformations in other industries. Take, for example, Toyota - it became the world’s largest and most successful producer of automobiles by becoming an agile business – one that rapidly adjusts itself in light of changing demand and economic conditions. In essence, it put the framework in place to become a much more sustainable business. It started at the very bottom of its business by establishing operational stability to gain better control over manufacturing processes.

To become agile and sustainable, mining companies need to achieve operational stability – the predictability of expected mine production, costs, and performance levels. This requires mining and plant processing activities to function at higher levels of productivity and efficiency so that conformance to plan is always realized.

The quickest avenue to improved operational stability begins with reducing the variability in the planning and execution of mining and processing, which requires comprehensive planning, optimized scheduling, and disciplined work management.

I’m excited about the possibilities that the virtual world will unlock for collaboration and communication. Not only will virtual versions of mining operations provide people with a better understanding of how their operations work, and how they can be improved, but they will spark a lot of really interesting conversations that will trigger innovation. The virtual world also has a role to play in facilitating dialogue between the communities and governing bodies in which mining companies operate, so a clearer picture of the benefits and impacts of a project can be better understood. The virtual world will allow for a better understanding of what a mining project will look like, and what its impact will be on the environment throughout its lifecycle through to its ultimate closure.

Mining companies already collect a tremendous amount of data through sensors and can leverage this data in the virtual world to make operational decisions quickly and easily. Thanks to this, our customers will gain new insights into their businesses and the processes that drive them, for continuous improvement.

4. What role will advanced technologies play in mitigating environmental issues in the mining sector and ensuring social licence to operate into the future?

Environmental sustainability continues to be a top priority for the mining industry, and our technology is a huge part of ensuring that we are finding more effective ways of mitigating the environmental impact of mining operations and communicating these plans.

With the right technology and software, mines can schedule waste more efficiently during mining, design improved waste dumps, monitor water usage, record environmental activity in real-time and develop effective mine closure plans.

This all starts with putting in place the correct processes, such as conducting baseline studies, evaluating site specific conditions and demands on functionality, conducting risk analysis in the operational phase and long-term phase, and coming up with alternative tailings/waste-rock management strategies throughout the mine’s life cycle.

Lastly, socialising the mine plan and showing the actual impact of the environment through 3D imaging can help with attaining buy-in from within the organisation and/or key stakeholders.

Dassault Systèmes provides end-to-end solutions that enable the planning, acting and recording of environmental mitigation measures, as well as production management software to drive operational excellence. For more information, visit http://www.3ds.com/industries/natural-resources/ or www.geovia.com.  

GEOVIA blog: http://www.geovia.com/blog/achieving-visibility-and-control-over-mining-operations 

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