By Jeanne Els, Regional Director: Hatch

The mining industry needs to embrace big data to develop models capable of describing operations and processes which, in turn, can predict outcomes such as potential failures, expected recoveries in metallurgical circuits, or equipment utilisation in a supply chain.

The mining industry can evolve to the point where big data can be used to inform real-time decisions, rather than decisions informed by the subjective experience of people. The estimated benefits run into the hundreds of billions of dollars in improved efficiency and reduced maintenance costs.

These benefits encompass the cost of maintenance, safety outcomes, productivity, efficiency, and energy efficiency. While the mining industry has been slower than others to embrace big data and analytics, there are powerful examples where it has adopted innovation, such as autonomous haulage and drilling.

“The focus of the mining industry in the last decade was getting tons out, which was key to leverage the commodity super-cycle. It was no mean feat for the mining industry to realise these tonnages,” Els comments.

However, with the significant drop in commodity prices five years ago, the focus changed to urgent cost reduction, as suddenly there were more pressing concerns for the mining industry to contend with.

“Today the mining industry comprehends that innovation is essential in achieving the next step change in performance. Indeed, many realise that the Digital Age is critical to that, and have very forward-thinking agendas to leverage these opportunities,” Els elaborates.

The aim is for the mining industry to become “algorithm intensive rather than people intensive.” Els stresses that significant parts of the mining value chain must be codified as a result. “This is simply too large a task for one organisation to attempt. In addition, you need the combined knowledge of operators, engineers, OEMs, and research organisations to help achieve that vision.”

What is required is an open digital platform where people can collaborate, something akin to an app store for the mining industry. “What gives me hope is that there are mining companies looking actively for partners rather than contractors to walk the digital journey with them,” Els concludes.

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