Here at Orion, we certainly get involved in some interesting projects providing essential connectivity so mining businesses can get the best from their projects. And more and more we are seeing that those are involving digitally led innovations.
“Digital technologies have transformed the mining industry considerably in recent years, and this trend is only gaining pace,” said Christine Gibbs Stewart in this article in Australian Mining magazine.
“Many companies around the globe are providing powerful software, systems and processes to create safer, smarter and more productive mining operations.”
We appreciate the hesitation some mining companies feel with regards the use of technology above humans and what that means for the mining industry. Which is why we wanted to explore the true benefits of the digital mine and help you decide if this is something you want to adopt.
And in this next and final instalment in this digital mine series of articles, we are going to take a closer look at some of the most prominent digital transformations in the mining industry – and more specifically, the areas in which they will be utilised.
How digital advances can equate to better mining
1. AI and Machine Learning mean making decisions with ease
Through machine learning, you can get deep, well-crafted, and precious insights into your mining operations – this hugely decreases time spent analysing data and decision-making.
We think this is such a compelling aspect of the digital mine, we explored it in our earlier article on AI and ML – take a read here, if you missed it. But tied in with machine learning and artificial intelligence practices are some other cutting edge digital systems that are evolving mining beyond sensors and real-time data.
2. IoT device takeover
Data and how we use AI and ML is also being enhanced by the growth of the Internet of things (IoT).
IoT has been steadily growing these past couple of years, and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Even as early as 2025, it’s estimated that there will be more than 21 billion IoT devices in the world.
To put this in context, in 2016, there were “only” 4.7 billion IoT devices in the world, according to IoT Analytics.
That’s an estimated increase of 16.3 million of these devices!
So, how does this affect the mining industry?
This explosion of IoT devices has coincided with the increasing digitalisation of mines. These devices will be used daily to perform tasks like anticipating breakdowns of machines and vehicles, demonstrating how important it is to have a reliable connection at a mine site, to facilitate this productivity.
“Let’s say you have an engineer who is an expert in water or energy usage at the head office. That one expert can monitor multiple sites from a single location. They keep an eye on the data coming in from the various sites and can perform, remotely, actions to make a change to bring the relevant system to within agreed performance parameters.”
3. Create twin mining sites!
No, you’re not seeing double – but some mining companies are and are benefiting from their virtual doppelgangers.
Around the globe we are seeing several mining companies creating a virtual twin of the mine site. It is digitally configured and then used as a virtual model to mimic the operation of a mine.
These computer generated models are run through AI and ML and allow mining businesses to analyse and monitor operational performance outside the mine.
By creating a digital ecosystem for your autonomous mines, your team can then use this to visualise and evaluate different elements of the project such as space requirements – often with near pin-point accuracy.
“The value that Digital Twinning can bring to mining is difficult to quantify because every mine operation is unique. However, mine operators will certainly be able to use data from these monitored processes to analyse the improvements such systems make to the overall performance of the mine after they’re installed”.
4. From virtual modelling to augmented reality (AR)
Just as cutting-edge as IoT devices and 3D design, is the field of augmented reality, which blends real-life imagery with virtual images generated from a computer.
The result is a modified yet accurate depiction of the real world.
With augmented reality, visitors can view a mine virtually through an AR headset and witness some of its functions as if it was happening in real life. But because it’s a faux setting, the risk of catastrophic error is reduced, making it the perfect set-up for training.
Mining businesses are starting to use augmented reality to train technicians in carrying out repairs. While the AR headset helps them visualise a real-life scenario, it can also help instruct them or give them tips – thereby streamlining the training process and simultaneously improving maintenance and safety.
5. Reduction of the environmental impact of mining
Productivity, health and safety and cost-reduction are some vital benefits of the digital mine. But as we touched on in our previous article, there is also the benefit to the environment.
Within the territory of a mine, unfortunately, so comes a strain on the environment around it, and one of the outcomes of digital transformation the reduction on the environmental impact of mining.
Are you planning digital transformation in your mining project? Orion knows mining and are the experts in critical remote connectivity. As an infrastructure owner and operator, we offer you excellent flexibility and scalability that most other providers cannot.
A network connection and provider that can support your project needs, allowing you to quickly and easily make changes to your service through a self-serve portal is just one of the ways we enable our customers to take control. Our expertise means that whatever level of digital innovation you are comfortable with, we can support you. Get in touch today.