Sustainable mining operations through advances in information management
It is no secret that mining operations have created serious environmental problems over the years. Today, there is significant pressure on the mining industry to swiftly and efficiently resolve any existing or future foreseen environmental problems. As a result, sustainable mining is high up on most mining corporations’ corporate boardroom agendas.
At Mobilaris we are building products supporting information-driven mining operations. Our product suite Mobilaris Mining Intelligence™ (MMI) is an information management platform that gathers information about where people, equipment and vehicles are at any given time. The machine operators can indicate if the work they are supposed to perform has begun, completed, or stopped due to unforeseen events. It is integrated to sensors systems in the mine and on the vehicles that, together with powerful analytics, give clear insights about the state of the mining operation.
We believe that efficient information management is a prerequisite for sustainable mining. Decisions and execution of activities must be based on fresh and accurate information. Here are a few examples of some of the benefits we are already seeing.
- Information about the state of work, location of people, equipment and vehicles, distributed in real-time to the people who need it, allows you to be more efficient. Driving around searching for equipment, people and controlling the state of work is a thing of the past. A straight-forward solution that saves time and cuts energy consumption.
- Transports in mining operations are one large source of diesel consumption. Electrification is perhaps the end target, but before we are there, information management can help to optimize energy consumption. Mobilaris Onboard™ is a navigator solution that allows drivers to plan routes beforehand and, very importantly, gain traffic awareness, thereby preventing vehicles from meeting in narrow passages and other traffic congestion situations. Analytics of the data gathered from vehicles gives information that can be used to further optimize work flows and traffic flows.
- Automation that uses information to make clever decisions about when systems should start operating saves energy. One example is ventilation on demand in mines. By combining information about which zones the ventilation serves and information about where people and vehicles are, the ventilation system can be turned up to full speed only when needed. We have implemented this at Boliden and the results show a 54% decrease in cost of ventilation. As an added bonus, the use of propane is reduced (propane is used to pre-heat the incoming air).
- Implementing information technology to e.g., do short interval control of the ongoing mining operation, should in many cases raise overall productivity. Higher productivity basically means better utilization of the deployed machines. Thus, fewer machines are needed and less maintenance is required. MMI is an open system that allows for integration to all machine/vehicle vendors’ systems, allowing mining companies to have mixed fleets of machines/vehicles and still be able to gather information into one information management system.
In the future we will see more autonomous vehicles and machines that are in many cases electrified and battery powered. This will be a great step towards making mining operations even more sustainable. Our assumption is that the need for information-driven operations will also increase in the future. Both proactive measures like battery exchange/charging of the autonomous vehicles, and reactive measures like sending maintenance personnel to mend vehicles when they break down with no warning will both be dependent on up-to-date information given to the relevant people.
Decision support and information management will be key for sustainable mining operations. Check out our approach for Mobilaris Mining Intelligence™ (video): https://mobilaris.se/mining-civil-engineering/our-approach