The mining industry has experienced many challenges the past few decades. A new solution is called for to get things on track — and that solution is digital technology.
Declining productivity, market fluctuations and increased difficulty of resource extraction have resulted in mining companies feeling the strain of change. They operate in far-flung locations where personnel and equipment must be transported, the work is dangerous and labour intensive and the toll on equipment means plenty of breakdowns and repairs.
Digital technologies built specifically for the mining industry are promising to provide a much-needed boost for the sector. Tech companies are developing ways to optimize production and improve working conditions through predictive analytics, graphic visualization, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, drones, and other digital tools.
Digital innovation will aid every level of planning and operations for mining operations. When supervisors can see a three-dimensional model of a mine interior on screen and the real-time location of people and personnel, better, more well-informed decision-making and calculations are possible. Equipment sensors and performance data can determine a maintenance schedule that will prolong the life of equipment. “Smart glasses” can provide real-time data to workers.
For planners and schedulers, digital tools make location planning and exploration easier. Better data and statistics improves targeting for drilling and identifying rock properties. Data analytics increase productivity through more efficient analysis and decision making.
As these high tech and easy-to-use tools are adopted by the industry, mining companies will be able to collect, analyze, and act on information to boost efficiency, safety and profits. As processes are optimized, they will become more proactive and adaptable in these unpredictable times.
The topic of this article is covered in the curriculum for the Schulich ExecEd course Data Analytics for Mining Industry Business Case Development (starting March 6, 2019). The program is designed as an introduction to the analysis, interpretation and communication of mining industry data for mining leaders managing current issues such as productivity, efficiency, safety and environmental monitoring.