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The Digital transformation era has seen a seismic shift in the mining industry strategies. But, how do mining operations take advantage of these emerging technologies? How can digital transformation help mining companies to keep pace with other industries whilst at the same time addressing its challenges? One model of Digital Transformation in Mining is based on five key pillars: Visualization and Alerts, Analytics and Dynamic Scheduling, Digital Twins, Integrated Automation and Cognitive Network. To seize the opportunity, miners are embracing digital tools and capabilities, which include artificial intelligence (AI), cloud-enabled mobility, big data-powered analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Several Silicon Valley startups and many others across the globe have become the epicenter of mining technological innovation, a move that has given some green life to the exhausted mining operations in a bid to improve planning, data handling, analysis and application; productivity, safety and overally well understood costs structures. This has enabled proper planning and derivation of mining solutions with great accuracy in predictability. Leveraging on this need, Datacloud has come up with novel high-resolution ore body imaging and data acquisition infrastructure for rock mass characterization and, drill and blast operations. “We’ve combined geoscience expertise with a user-friendly rock mass evaluation platform that provides valuable subsurface insights and significant productivity improvements.”, Thor Kallestad CEO- Datacloud International was quoted.
Datacloud system has IoT sensors and edge computing devices entail the first part of the Datacloud Platform. These devices are the hardware that are installed on Drill & Blast (D&B) drills. Collectively, this D&B measurement kit is known as RHINO, and it is used to make multiple independent vibration measurements of the rock that is being drilled. Vibration signatures in the drill steel are acquired via IoT devices and wirelessly transmitted to an edge device installed in the driller’s cab. Initial processing is performed on the edge device, prior to compressing the IoT data and streaming it to the cloud via cellular or WiFi networks in real-time. The RHINO data that streams to the cloud from edge device in the driller’s cab, lands in MinePortal, which is the second part of the Datacloud Platform. MinePortal is a shared earth model that is accessed via browsers or mobile devices.
This software performs geospatial interpretations on the RHINO data to provide clients a high-resolution, real-time understanding of their recently drilled patterns. Depending on a variety of factors, rock mass characterization data MinePortal can make available to clients includes the following: Ore and waste boundaries Fracture identification, rock quality designation, and block size distributions Uniaxial compressive strength Hardness Poisson’s ratio Young’s modulus Bulk modulus Installation of the system involves a one-step deployment onto the drill with all subsequent workflows taking place in cloud.
The streamed data allows rapid update of block models, shape delineation of ore/waste boundaries and delivering rock mechanical properties at centimeter level thus drastically reducing the need for assaying, turnaround time and associated costs. The ability to deliver real-time lithology measurements can accelerate client decision making timelines and reduce their uncertainty around ore control. Thor oversees DataCloud’s long term vision of giving client’s the competitive advantage in extraction efficiency by focusing DataCloud’s mission. He is also responsible oversees sales and marketing and contribute to product strategy.
Due to its capital requirements, the mining industry could not have been a “first mover” in terms of adopting these new technologies. However, because it is so capital intensive, these new technologies will have a very large and positive economic effect on the mining industry. Additionally, by not “going first,” mining companies will be able to learn from other industries as to how best to apply / incorporate things like IoT, AI, cloud, etc. This is indeed a giant opportunity for the mining companies and their suppliers / vendors. The Seattle based tech company has recently raised US$4 Million in new financing to support its growth. The real question is, can this type of technology be also availed for underground mining operations where significant value can be yield especially in narrow vein ore mining.