smart mine technology

Welcome to the Age of the Smart Mine

An industrial digital transformation is underway in the mining sector, driven by a relentless need for improved performance and productivity. Mining operations are hugely expensive to run, so any innovation that can save on time and improve on output will have big positive effects on their bottom line.

This is where modern technology comes in, with many mine sites around Australia turning into ‘Smart Mines’, such is their commitment to a digital agenda. For these mines, it’s not just the uplift in productivity and the impressive ROI the new tech delivers – there are a whole host of other benefits relating to sustainability, health and safety, efficiency and equipment maintenance.

We’re going to explore those today, as well as looking at the backbone of a smart mine: seamless and fast internet connectivity distributed all around the site. Without a powerful network, there is no smart mine, as it enables the data collection, automation and smooth communications required by the products and applications in use on site.

First, here are some of the benefits of a smart mine.

Smart Mines are More Environmentally Sustainable

While not always associated with environmental sustainability, most mining operators are on the lookout for ways to improve their track record in that record. They’re getting much better, with digitisation providing a massive boon in this regard. Smart mines have the opportunity to vastly improve their sustainability if the technology is used correctly.

Water is an essential and widely used raw material on mine sites. Often its difficult to get enough water to a mine site, and often local water sources can’t provide enough to support the site. Digital technologies allow a mining operation to enjoy more effective water management, optimising the use and even creating water recirculation systems to allow for reuse.

As well as water management, digital technologies can help optimise and minimise energy usage, streamline transportation methods and reduce landscape disruption with precision drilling techniques.

Smart Mining Lowers Operational Costs

According to one study, digital technologies can improve profits by 20 to 45 per cent within two to three years.  Much of this is realised through the lowering of operational costs. Machinery is connected through wireless sensors to a network where it’s usage can be optimised and maintenance schedules become more predictable. The results are less breakdowns and downtime, plus less pressure on the operations team who can focus their efforts on increasing productivity.

This proactive approach to maintenance also extends the lifespan of equipment. Fleet capacities can be optimised for maximum throughput, repetitive manual tasks can be automated and labour reallocated elsewhere, and the usage of consumables can be fine-tuned.

It’s not just machinery either – there are other large assets and structures in mining, such as dams, that can be monitored and maintained more effectively with digital technology.

Enhanced Decision Making

Improved data collection from around the mine site allows daily operations to be more closely aligned with the strategic objectives of the mine. It’s not just about collecting the data, its about leaning on powerful AI technology to analyse it and identify trends and patterns that can inform decisions made by management.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) provide data that helps identify mineral deposits, while also gauging the impact of mining activities on the environment. Combined with real time monitoring, these systems provide valuable data on the quality of materials being mined. This is the kind of information that provides smart mine management teams with a competitive edge when it comes to making production decisions.

Improved Health and Safety

This is a big one, because mine sites are hazardous environments where the health and safety of workers is always a priority. Smart mines can have advanced monitoring systems in place that provide real time data to help predict and prevent hazardous situations from occurring.

Increased digitisation on mines has also seen an uptick in the use of wearable tech by mine workers. This tech not only captures, assesses and transmits body vitals from team members, they can monitor the surrounding environments for changes that humans wouldn’t necessarily pick up on, like the introduction of noxious gases. Fatigue related incidents decrease, and all data collected can be used for future training purposes.

The rise of automation and remote-controlled machinery means humans can remove themselves from hazardous work situations and let machines do the job instead. This reduces the exposure of entire teams to dangerous conditions.

To top it off, a smart mine is going to have an infallible and fast connectivity network that allows for speedy activation and response of emergency systems. The faster crises are dealt with, the more successful the harm mitigation and minimalisation is.

Digital Connectivity: The Backbone of a Smart Mine

Robust digital connectivity is the basic foundation that a smart mine is built on. Without it, digitalisation is simply impossible. Creating a network that is sufficiently fast and has enough bandwidth to support an entire mine site is one of the biggest hurdles mining companies operating in remote regions face. They need to get a solid internet connection into the mine, and then it needs to be accessible around the entire mine site.

Smile IT are remote communications experts, providing advanced solutions for connecting worksites in far-flung parts of Australia. We work with many clients to take this one big step towards digitisation, implementing a network that allows them to enjoy all the above benefits we’ve spoken about.

Get in Touch with The Remote Network Experts

If improving health, safety and environmental sustainability while also seeing increases in productivity and profitability sound like positive steps for your mine site, Smile IT wants to help you make it happen. We’ll implement and maintain the critical infrastructure necessary for the digitisation of your site, so you can enjoy the benefits of smart mine capabilities! The industry is evolving, the tech is surging ahead, and we want you to be at the forefront of it. Get in touch today here or give us a ring on 1300 766 720.

peter drummond

When he’s not writing tech articles or turning IT startups into established and consistent managed service providers, Peter Drummond can be found kitesurfing on the Gold Coast or hanging out with his family!