Rio Tinto: Innovation is the key to transformation
Rio Tinto was founded in 1873 when a multinational consortium of investors purchased a mine complex on the Rio Tinto in Huelva, Spain. The Anglo-Australian company is the second largest diversified mining and metals company in the world. From pioneering land agreements with Indigenous people in Australia in the 1990s, to being the first company in the world to have its aluminium certified as responsibly produced, to building one of the world’s largest robots: its pioneering spirit and innovation keep it moving forward.
Mine of the Future
Last year, Rio Tinto approved a $2.6bn investment in the Koodaideri iron ore project in Western Australia. The ‘Mine of the Future’ will serve as a production hub for the company’s world-class iron ore business in the Pilbara region, with a processing plant and infrastructure that also includes a 166km rail line. Construction is well underway with production set to begin later this year targeting an annual capacity of 43mn tonnes.
Featuring autonomous trucks, trains and drills, Koodaideri has more than 70 design innovations in scope. Last year, the company partnered with Caterpillar to supply and support mining machines, automation and enterprise technology systems. Rio Tinto chief executive J-S Jacques commented: “Koodaideri is a game-changer for Rio Tinto. It will be the most technologically advanced mine we have ever built and sets a new benchmark for the industry in terms of the adoption of automation and the use of data to enhance safety and productivity.”
Koodaideri will use fully integrated mine operation and simulation systems, such as digital twin technology. Pioneered by NASA, digital twins are virtual models of a physical environment – like a space station – that let you quickly test different situations. These twins combine data from actual processing plants with historical information – about things like design and production.
This gives Rio Tinto’s team in the field and at remote operations centre the ability to access the same information and make decisions, based on real-time data, in seconds instead of hours or days. The approach can also safely test ways to increase production without breaking parts or disrupting operations.
Automation has been a feature at Rio Tinto for more than a decade, helping run safer, more efficient and low-cost operations. The company is removing driver error and improving safety by increasing the automation of trucks, drills and trains.
Rio Tinto’s iron ore operation features the world’s first fully autonomous, heavy-haul long-distance railway system – AutoHaul™ – which has so far travelled more than 7 million kilometres across Australia.
Rio Tinto also deploy remotely operated land rovers and drones to do risky jobs to keep its people safe – such as checking high walls in open pits and parts inside big machinery.
Data is an increasingly valuable asset – each day across Rio Tinto’s operations automated drills, trucks, shovels, conveyors, trains and ships produce huge amounts of valuable data. By combining this data with clever analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation, operations can become safer and more productive.
Rio Tinto is turning data into operational insights with its Mine Automation System (MAS). It essentially operates like a network server application, pulling together data across 98% of Rio Tinto’s sites, and mining it for information.
MAS provides this information in a common format, using sophisticated algorithms. It can be displayed visually using RTVis™ – Rio Tinto Visualisation – or through more conventional operational type dashboards with graphs, charts and tables.
Mining operations generate vast volumes of data – an ocean of numbers, each with their own meaning and importance. With so much data now accessible, Rio Tinto uses Artificial Intelligence to leverage actionable insights to improve safety and efficiency. AI can perform a range of tasks – from generating orebody models to organising equipment dispatch to predicting maintenance needs. Rio Tinto’s MAS fleet is being deployed to see into the future for the Mine of the Future and:
- Simultaneously manage everything from loaders to haul trucks to rock crushers
- Make sure equipment is in the right place at the right time
- Ensure equipment meets the day’s production targets
- Respond to disruptions like breakdowns or delays
Partnering to Innovate
To maintain its pioneering spirit Rio Tinto continues to forge innovative partnerships with technology partners, local suppliers, governments, community groups, industry leaders and NGOs.
In 2018, Rio Tinto announced ELYSIS an alliance with Alcoa, supported by Apple and the governments of Canada and Quebec. This joint venture will further develop a revolutionary process that eliminates direct GHG emissions from the aluminium smelting process, replacing them with pure oxygen. The technology will be developed and licensed for use in both existing and new smelters and is expected to be ready for commercial sale in 2024.
Rio Tinto, in association with AustMine, is also partnering with BHP and Vale to tackle climate change with the launch of the ‘Charge On’ Innovation Challenge. The goal is to cut diesel use and emission across the industry by finding new ways to electrify mining truck fleets.
NormCyber: enterprise-level cybersecurity for the midmarket
As the digital transformation of organisations across every sector increases, so too does the cyber threat landscape and risk of a serious data breach. The adoption of new and innovative technologies, the greater use of data and, more recently, the shift to remote working as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, mean that the development and implementation of an enterprise-level, robust cyber security and data strategy is crucial.
This is where NormCyber enters the equation. The business, which was founded in 2013, offers a leading portfolio of Cyber Security and Data Protection as a Service products for mid-market businesses. These services are driven by three core ‘protection pillars’: people, process and technology. Pete Bowers, is Chief Operating Officer (COO) at the company, having joined at the start of 2020. Prior to this, Bowers accumulated a broad scope of cybersecurity and technology experience that enables him to drive the NormCyber proposition.
The approach to security and data protection has grown exponentially across the board, he explains. “Over my career I’ve spent time on both the supplier side - so, working for a managed network services business providing technology solutions - and the customer side, running a small consultancy. It made me aware of the gaps that exist between what service providers want to sell and what customers need or consume. I saw NormCyber as a great opportunity to put that knowledge into practice, having that experience of multiple businesses and the deployment and strategy around technology verticals was invaluable.”
NormCyber provides its services across two areas: Cyber Security-as-a-Service and Data Protection-as-a-Service. On the former, Bowers explains that “we offer a comprehensive proposition for mid-market customers that meets all their cybersecurity challenges. The cyber threat is exploding, particularly over the last three or four months, and businesses in the mid-market – with a turnover of between £10mn and £250mn - are typically under provisioned both from a technology and cyber security perspective. Cybersecurity skills in particular, such as those that we offer, are often pretty hard to come by and can be expensive for these companies.
“With that in mind, we offer a holistic solution that addresses all areas of cyber security and protects businesses across the three pillars of people, process and technology,” he continues. “It’s a single solution that certifies businesses to crucial security certifications, we train and test employees to build out the ‘human firewall’ to enable them to be more cyber aware, and we deploy technology solutions that highlight vulnerabilities and provide real protection across the business wherever its IT assets may reside. It’s a service that overlays any existing technology investments, which is really important when businesses are going through rapid digital transformations. We don’t change any of those broader, strategic decisions, we sit around them and act as the eyes and ears. Customers can take the service as a whole package or as modules on a subscription basis for as long as they want. On the data protection side, we work with customers to ensure they operate within the GDPR regulations, that they are compliant but also to help them to grow by developing and implementing good data protection standards that allow a business to demonstrate that it can be trusted with customers’ private and personal data. We bring all these components together through our multi-level reporting and online Visualiser to clearly demonstrate to a Board, management team and technical team how protected the business is and where it can improve.”
These two areas are becoming increasingly important to businesses largely due to three key drivers, says Bowers. There is, for example, increased pressure from regulators, investors and customers to ensure that businesses have effective measures in place. Businesses are also becoming increasingly aware of the threat and potential impact of an attack. They therefore want to protect their business but also grow it by demonstrating that they can be trusted with confidential data and that they take information security seriously. Or, unfortunately some businesses, particularly recently, only realise after the event that they need to address the challenge. Which means that they have suffered a cyber breach, and therefore need to implement the necessary measures and controls to mitigate and manage not only the current impact but the possibility of it happening again.
NormCyber works with clients across a broad range of industries, including CRU Group, a leading business intelligence provider in mining, metal and fertiliser commodities. “We’ve been working with CRU for over three years,” says Bowers, “and they are very much a business focused on developing innovative products and services which are founded upon technology. Having that focus means that any supporting or operational activities, such as those services that we provide, are commissioned out to experts in their respective fields. We provide a fully outsourced cyber security and data protection service that addresses every aspect of CRU’s cyber strategy, including user training, network, cloud and endpoint protection, ongoing penetration testing and vulnerability management, as well as data protection services. For a company as geographically dispersed as CRU is, and which needs to maintain control and have visibility over so many endpoints, having the peace of mind that we provide is essential.”
Understandably, providing such an essential service requires the fostering of a close, collaborative relationship, says Bowers. To this end, NormCyber acts as a trusted adviser, he notes, which extends to providing expertise and knowledge more broadly where appropriate. “We work with CRU on providing cyber security and data protection services, but also on digital transformation in a wider sense. When you work in cyber security, and you look at the technology experience across our business, then you’re able to provide guidance and advice on certain business decisions and considerations, which means we can give added value to customers too.”
Such an approach stands NormCyber in good stead for both continuing to strengthen existing relationships, such as that with CRU, and to take advantage of opportunities as the market develops. On the first, Bowers believes the relationship with CRU will continue for many years. “For us, it’s all about ensuring we are with customers at every step of their journey, bringing in the right services when they are needed and protecting the business into the future. More broadly, I think that we’re well placed to deal with any disruption or change brought about by COVID-19, both for us and our customers. We’re able to bring the right services when they are needed, and we’ll continue to develop that package further to meet future needs.”