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How IIoT Is Changing Mining

Dec. 27, 2018
The opportunity to mitigate risk on hazardous mine sites is particularly appealing.

The mining industry is shaping up to be a significant player in the IIoT space. According to the MineLens productivity index, mining productivity has declined by 28% over the past decade. The mining industry is facing an upward cycle, and IIoT presents opportunities to maximize profitability.

While IIoT use within the mining industry is still in its early stages, it has already been used in a number of scenarios to positive effect.  For many companies, the opportunity to mitigate risk on hazardous mine sites is particularly appealing.

Here are some ways mining companies are using IIoT:

Fortescue Metals Group’s mobile view of how much ore their trucks are carrying, and whether they are full, allows operations staff to contact a driver if a truck is not operating at maximum capacity so that yield rates can be increased, boosting revenue.   

Rio Tinto’s fleet of driverless trucks hauls ore between mines and processing plants, and the company has plans to automate trains and diggers.  

Goldcorp’s tracking devices are fitted into the helmets of employees to monitor their real-time locations. In addition, the company also developed an an IIoT solution to regulate air flow in mines.

Processing equipment manufacturers’ IIoT platforms integrate across multiple processes, collect data and provide operators with insights into equipment functionality. This technology can be used to predict issues for downtime prevention and predictive maintenance, as well as optimize machinery for enhanced performance and throughput.  

While autonomous drilling has been available for some time, mining companies now hope to use IIoT to expand their extraction capabilities. Autonomous machines are in development that can detect materials and boundaries and have an automatic guidance system for cutting.

Other Benefits

IIoT technology is becoming more widely available and more affordable on a large scale. It can provide mining operators with a deeper understanding of the resource base, reducing uncertainty with multiple sets of exploration data and modelling to help target further drilling.  

IoT-enabled machinery can help optimize material and equipment flow for increased efficiency and yield and help anticipate equipment failures.

The increased automation of plant equipment and vehicles enhances safety while reducing costs, removing employees from hazardous situations. Through IIoT, drilling and blasting can be optimized, leading to improved mine and logistics scheduling. Integrating IIoT technology into a complete mine operation can expand ROI by boosting throughput and reducing expenditures.

After assessing the uses and benefits of IIoT to the mining industry, the significant investment of many resource companies in this technology is easily justified. As IIoT rapidly develops, mine sites are becoming more productive.  While mining has long been subject to boom and bust cycles, IIoT may create safer, more consistent operations for increased growth and security.

Alasdair Monk is IoT product management director for the Weir Group, a Glasgow, Scotland, based engineering firm.

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