Examining the Internet of Things and its impact on the mining industry in 2016
Pressed for profits and low prices, mining companies are investing in data-based technologies to change their business for the better. Here are five ways the Internet of Things (loT) will revamp the mining sector in 2016.
Because IoT makes sense of large amounts of data captured from machines, it uncovers valuable insight into the health and performance of equipment and infrastructure. For example, General Electric is developing a sensor network based on the principles of loT to monitor turbines constantly in order to reduce downtime.
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Mining companies can measure in real-time things like fluid temperatures, levels, pressures, contamination; bearing rotations, temperature, and vibrations; frame rack, bias, and pitch (affected by load and road conditions); engine speed and gear position; brake pressure and temperature; drive train performance; and vibrations at various locations in the truck (especially bearings). These predictive analytics help identify impending problems early in order to avoid unexpected downtimes or failures.
New chapter in efficiency
The Internet of Things will allow companies to improve efficiency and service by enabling physical objects like haul trucks--embedded with electronics, software and sensors--to exchange data with manufacturers and other machines and connected devices. Think about it: giant trucks on programmed and responsive routes hauling ore autonomously, while drones monitor and measure surface operations and equipment is located, scheduled and monitored with adaptive feedback loops to maximize production.
By improving truck availability or reducing downtime, and improving the diagnostics and troubleshooting capabilities of the mine operations and maintenance teams, companies can greatly enhance the efficiency of mine operations.
Mining is an inherently dangerous profession and safety concerns are at an all-time high. All that will change in the future.
Along with incorporating location/proximity sensors and warning technology in mining equipment, companies will use the Internet of Things to integrate “people tracking, communications, video surveillance and analytics, and real-time personal health management. Simply put, the Internet of Things will enable companies to continuously improve its safety by analyzing hazards, incidents, near misses and safety observations. By connecting machines, data and people together, companies can not only perform better, faster and more reliable but safety risks are a thing of the past.
The Internet of Things is expected to be a catalyst to intelligent decision making in the mining sector and will overall improve how traditional processes and activities are done. For example, GPS tracking of material movements, as well as camera views of production, further improve the planners’ decisions, providing all production information, including materials, logistics, schedules, and energy, across the plant supply chain. The loT has the ability to streamline the flow of information, enable real-time decisions and open new opportunities in mining by simply connecting people, machines, items, and services.
The mining industry is already leveraging the Internet of Things in wireless mining automation and connected mines projects. Since 2008, Rio Tinto has been using autonomous, self-driving mining trucks in Western Australia and Fortescue Metals Group began their journey with Caterpillar in 2012 when the miner implemented Cat’s MineStar technology in the first phase of their Solomon iron ore mine in Australia.
By integrating the Internet of Things with all of its automated activities, mining companies can create real-time multi-dimensional models from a variety of data sources including the sensors on the equipment as well as geological and other data. Therefore this system can then be used to optimize the mine’s layout, operation, vehicle paths, and so forth, coordinating all the moving pieces for the most efficient operation.
Rio Tinto and Alcoa begin construction with ELYSIS tech
Eliminating all direct greenhouse gases from aluminium smelting has taken a major step forward with the start of construction on the first commercial-scale prototype cells of ELYSIS’ inert anode technology, at Rio Tinto’s Alma smelter in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec.
ELYSIS has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of aluminium production
ELYSIS is a joint venture company led by Rio Tinto and Alcoa that is developing a new breakthrough technology, known as inert anode, that eliminates all direct greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the traditional smelting process and instead produces oxygen.
The technology has the potential to transform the aluminium industry, with a significant reduction in its carbon footprint.
The inert anode prototype cells will operate on a commercial scale typical for large modern aluminium smelters, using an electrical current of 450 kiloamperes (kA).
The Honourable Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry joined representatives from ELYSIS, Rio Tinto and Alcoa to mark the start of construction and announce a further CAD $20mn financial contribution from the Government of Canada to support the project.
The federal government's financial support will enable the creation of a unique commercial size inert anode technology showroom for future customers and will help develop the supply chain by involving local and regional equipment manufacturers and suppliers in the project.
ELYSIS is working to complete the technology demonstration by 2024 followed by the commercialization activities.
ELYSIS technology at a glance:
- The ELYSIS technology addresses the global trend towards producing low carbon footprint products, from mobile phones to cars, planes and building materials.
- The new process will reduce operating costs ofaluminiumsmelters while increasing production capacity. It could be used in both new and existing aluminium smelters.
- In Canada alone, the ELYSIS technology has the potential to reduce GHG emissions by 7 million tons, the equivalent of removing 1.8 million cars from the roads.
- ELYSIS will also sell next-generation anode and cathode materials, which will last more than 30 times longer than traditional components.
Alcoa and Rio Tinto will continue to support the ELYSIS development program alongside the Governments of Canada and Quebec.
ELYSIS is working closely with Alcoa's Technical Center, where the zero-carbon smelting technology was invented, and the Rio Tinto technology design team in France.
Alcoa's Technical Center supports ELYSIS in the manufacture of proprietary materials for the new anodes and cathodes that are essential to the ELYSIS process. The Rio Tinto technology team in France is creating commercial scale designs for the ELYSIS technology.
Vincent Christ, CEO, ELYSIS commented: “This is a great day for ELYSIS. It means that we are becoming the first technology company in the world to build commercial-size inert anode cells. While we refine the technology in our R&D Centre, we start the construction of our prototype cells. This shows our confidence in our process and in the know-how of our team. The combination of ELYSIS' zero CO2 technology and Quebec's renewable energy will be great competitive advantage for the future. I would like to thank the government for its support and all the partners for their commitment.”
Samir Cairae, Rio Tinto Aluminium managing director Atlantic Operations and ELYSIS board member added: “Today marks a real step towards the future of the aluminium industry, by progressing this breakthrough technology to cut carbon emissions. Rio Tinto is committed to supporting its ongoing development here in Quebec where we already use clean hydropower to deliver some of the world’s lowest carbon aluminium. Combining this technology with renewable hydropower holds the promise of zero carbon aluminium smelting.”