May 17, 2020

Dassault Systèmes: Futures. Laid out. Virtual Reality.

Virtual reality
Mining technology
Dale Benton
6 min
Dassault Systèmes: Futures. Laid out. Virtual Reality.
How one company plans to revolutionise the way the mining industry operates, all in a world of imagination.

Imagine a mining industry where you could r...

How one company plans to revolutionise the way the mining industry operates, all in a world of imagination.

Imagine a mining industry where you could remove risk, remove uncertainty, improve health and safety and above all, create the biggest and most elaborate mine sites in the world all without spending a penny.  Sounds too good to be true.

Well, with Dassault Systèmes and its 3DEXPERIENCE, this fantasy could very well become a reality. That’s the plan at least.

“Dassault Systèmes is a company whose roots centre around Computer Aided Design (CAD), but really the company has become focused more on developing innovation and creating what we describe as “3DEXPERIENCE,” says Marni Rabassó, Vice President Natural Resources at Dassault Systèmes.

Dassault Systèmes works to provide businesses from a wide number of sectors across the world with virtual universes to “imagine sustainable innovations.”

Created in 1981 to design products in three dimensions, Dassault Systèmes has evolved to offer its 3DEXPERIENCE platform to 12 industries including the Financial and Business Services sector, Aerospace & Defence, Engineering & Construction, Transportation and Mobility as well as Consumer Goods, and over the course of the last five years, moving into the Natural Resources sector with mining and oil and gas customers.

Rabassó leads a Natural Resources group designed to leverage the level of digital transformations that the company has achieved from other sectors and bring that into sectors including mining, upstream oil and gas, water, and agriculture and forestry.


“Looking at mining, it is pretty obvious that in terms of technology adoption they are lagging. So, there is quite a push to look at other industries and understand their best practices and tools and how to leverage those into the mining space,” says Rabassó.

In 2016, Dassault Systèmes announced the launch of Perfect Order, an Industry Solution Experience that helps mining companies improve supply chain efficiency and profitability through the integration of logistics.  This solution promises to offer mining companies a clearer view of shipment forecasting as well as logistics planning that allows seamless integration of market demands and changes. The solution also provides real-time key performance indicators on the impact of planning decisions that can allow rapid adjustments to maintain deliveries, specifications and budgets on track.

“It really is a powerful industry solution that takes all the inputs and connects to which trucks are available, which loads are ready to go and uses this information to calculate the best schedule in which users can really understand what the implication of any changes to that schedule would be,” she says.

The solution’s capabilities are very unique compared to other software solutions around the world. The 3DEXPERIENCE platform acts as a design, visualization and collaboration platform for the development of innumerable products around the world from aeroplanes and cars, to laptops, plastic bottles and other high-tech and consumer goods. Break down the product life cycle and you are left with a large number of production scheduling logistics with regards to getting that product from design to market. With the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, you are presented with a seamless way to approach that entire process, from start to finish with the product in the hands of the customer. In the mining sector, that would be the raw material.

In the current mining industry, with recent downturns in commodity prices, the pressure for mining companies to become more productive and increase efficiency is growing. More and more companies are investing in a lot of ways of achieving this and delivering value to shareholders and Dassault Systèmes solutions for mining, including Perfect Order, target exactly that space.

The feedback from the industry highlights that now is the right time for the industry to invest in innovation.

“It is the time to take on technology and of doing things differently, and we are trying to do just that,” says Rabassó.

With technological innovation adoption comes risk and the mining industry is no different. Through investment in universally accessible 3D technology companies can transform themselves into connected and fully collaborative extended enterprises that use a single unified source of data for all operations. This allows them to innovate, control and efficiently manage their businesses. It is this level of transformation that Dassault Systèmes is hoping to deliver to mining customers, but it is a process that takes time.

“It’s a big thing to do and it’s scary. You are trying something that has never been done before. It takes time and conversations, but it’s something that the industry is ready to do. It’s a lot easier to do things as you always have, so now is the right time for change,” says Rabassó.

Establishing a presence in the mining industry is crucial as Dassault Systèmes enters the Natural Resources sector. Coming off the back of success after success in other industries is one thing, but being able to demonstrate value in this industry is another. With this in mind, what better opportunity to show what the company can do for mining leaders than attend MinExpo 2016 in Las Vegas.

“We were presenting not just our Natural Resources solutions but also our Industrial Equipment solutions and using our unified enterprise platform approach we were able to demonstrate to equipment manufacturers and mining companies that they could collaborate through this platform,” she says.

One shining example of the what the 3DEXPERIENCE platform can achieve has been the work with Dundee Precious Metals and the “Taking the lid off” initiative at the Chelopech mine in Bulgaria. The challenge was for Dassault Systèmes to assist in doubling production while reducing costs at the underground mine by deploying the 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

Dassault Systèmes’ Mine Production Management and Mine Planning industry solutions were employed to form key components of the technology backbone at Dundee Precious Metals’ Chelopech mine. By integrating with other vendors’ systems, mining equipment, and an underground Wi-Fi network, the mine is able to visualize its operations in real-time.

Through this, Dundee Precious Metals saw an increase in production and a significant 44 percent decrease in running costs, all without the need for additional equipment.

“Having an example where people can see what it means to do things differently generates huge transformations,” says Rabassó.

“A lot of mining companies have gathered executives and visited the mine in Bulgaria to see it for themselves. It gives them confidence that this can be done and then take the next steps in making it possible for them. We are still at the beginning of this snowball effect, but it is a snowball.”

Looking to the future, Rabassó has a clear vision of where she wants to see the mining industry go and Dassault Systèmes plays a key role in achieving that.

“We have the possibility right now to do something fundamentally different that will make mining more efficient and a better environment for the people who work within it,” she says.

It all circles back to the shifting mindset of the mining industry. Rabassó feels the industry is lagging in adoption of innovation through the very nature of an industry plagued with risk. Risk in three categories, financial risk, the cost of life and of course environmental impact. With the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, the creation of a virtual world could present businesses, mine operators and stakeholders with the ability of foresight. It will bring a whole world of freedom, to see the implications of an action long before any person or machine even touches the ground. This is a world which Rabassó knows is one that will excite the minds of business leaders, and all it will take is a little imagination.

“If we can create a virtual world where we can literally try out anything we want just to see what the implications could be, imagine the level of innovation we could leverage from this?”

“We can take chances that we couldn’t and wouldn’t want to do in real life through risk. I think the 3DEXPERIENCE platform will open up the possibilities of things we can do for the mining industry.”

Share article

Jun 16, 2021

Rio Tinto partners with ARENA for green hydrogen research

Rio Tinto
Green Energy
3 min
Rio Tinto and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will study using hydrogen to reduce carbon emissions in alumina refining

Rio Tinto has partnered with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to study whether hydrogen can replace natural gas in alumina refineries to reduce emissions.

Rio Tinto and ARENA partnering for green energy push

Rio Tinto will conduct a $1.2mn feasibility study, equally funded with ARENA through a $580,000 grant, into using clean hydrogen to replace natural gas in the calcination process of refining at the Yarwun alumina refinery in Gladstone.

The study program includes work to be done at Rio Tinto’s Bundoora Technical Development Centre in Melbourne, where Rio Tinto’s in-house development capability has now been extended to hydrogen.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller commented: “If we can replace fossil fuels with clean hydrogen in the refining process for alumina, this will reduce emissions in the energy and emissions intensive refining stage of the aluminium supply chain. Exploring these new clean energy technologies and methods is a crucial step towards producing green aluminium.

“This study will investigate a potential technology that can contribute to the decarbonisation of the Australian alumina industry. If successful, the technical and commercial lessons from Rio Tinto’s study could lead to the implementation of hydrogen calcination technology, not only in Australia, but also internationally.”

Rio Tinto Aluminium Pacific Operations acting managing director Daniel van der Westhuizen added: “We see the ARENA and Rio Tinto-funded study as a step towards reducing refinery emissions and one that has the potential to play an important part in Rio Tinto’s commitment to decarbonisation.

“We’re investing in work that needs to be done, not only to decarbonise one of our sites, but also to help provide a lower-emissions pathway for Rio Tinto and the global aluminium industry.

“We recognise we are on a long road towards reducing emissions across our operations and there is clearly more work to be done. But projects such as this are an important part of helping us get there.”

Can hydrogen replace natural gas in alumina refineries?

The study comprises two distinct work packages:

  • Preliminary engineering and design study conducted to understand the construction and operational requirements of a potential demonstration project at the Yarwun alumina refinery.
  • Simulating the calcination process using a lab scale reactor at the Bundoora Technical Development Centre.

Once complete, the study will inform the viability of a potential demonstration project. Rio Tinto has lodged patents for the hydrogen calcination process.

Rio Tinto aiming for net zero by 2050

Rio Tinto is aiming to reach net zero emissions across its operations by 2050. Across the company, it is targeting a 15% reduction in absolute emissions and a 30% reduction in emissions intensity by 2030, from a 2018 baseline.

Aluminium is found in everything from cars to phones. But one of the challenges of producing this essential material responsibly is finding ways to decarbonise the process.

Part of the reason is creating alumina – the main ingredient in aluminium – takes a lot of energy, which in turn creates greenhouse gas emissions. New technologies will be essential to helping reduce emissions, but many haven’t been proven. And some not yet even discovered. Rio Tinto's transformation is being driven by innovation and its partnership with ARENA is a positive step towards these goals.


Rio Tinto Yarwun aerial



Share article