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Data and digitisation spur on innovation in the mining industry
18 July 2017
Data and digitisation spur on innovation in the mining industry

Big data and analytics stand to play an increasingly important role in the future of the mining industry as latest trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT) spurs on continuous innovation.

Only 1% to 5% of the data generated by the mining industry is actually used for prediction and optimisation, said Jeanne Els, Regional Director, Digital Mining Australasia at the Hatch Intelligent Mining Conference 2017 at the Indaba Hotel in Johannesburg recently.

Typically, not all the correct data is being collected, and neither is it being stored properly. If it is stored at all, then it is invariably difficult to extract and use to perform analytics. Data is also unavailable in real-time, making the actual decision-making process more challenging.

“The bottom line is that there are tremendous opportunities to use data in the mining industry, and much of it is low-hanging fruit,” Els said. A paradigm shift is being driven in the mining industry by the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the advent of the IoT, which promotes connectivity, modularity, and reuse of sensors, data, networks, and platforms.

Advances in technology offer the mining industry the opportunity to develop sophisticated models to simulate processes and systems that can then be used for prediction of outcomes and optimisation. “Once this is done in real-time, you then have the ability to close the loop and introduce automation,” Els pointed out.

“The aim is to transform mining from a people-intensive industry to an algorithm-based industry, to get to a place where we have codified processes and real-time information to make real-time decisions – that is really powerful.”

The first major benefits are decreased variability and increased predictability, which means less unplanned events such as unforeseen stoppages. “Therefore, we have better health and safety outcomes, and improved productivity and efficiency. We are also actually unlocking new ways of doing business.”

However, the biggest challenge for the mining industry was not technology, but being open to collaborative ecosystems and open platforms to drive such innovation. “What is required to apply digitisation in the mining industry, and to really exploit data, is not a small task. A single mining company cannot do it alone.

“We have to get to a place where we encourage different companies working together on open platforms to develop new applications, and new types of sensors, for example, that will ultimately unlock this kind of value for the entire industry,” Els concluded.

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