The Global Mining Guidelines Group’s (GMG) Chair Michelle Ash discusses the challenges facing the industry and how the GMG is supporting safety and sustainability while promoting education around digitisation.
The Global Mining Guidelines Group (GMG) is a network of representatives from mining companies, OEMs, OTMs, research organisations, consultants and regulators around the world who collaborate to tackle challenges facing the industry. Founded in 2013, its original goal was to urge mining companies to come together to consider comminution technologies, reduce energy and improve their sustainability efforts. Joining together with SMART, they started the conversation around automation, interoperability and safety; becoming a hub for collaboration and innovation focused on technology enablement.
“How do we get the mining ecosystem to work collaboratively? What does interoperability in test automation mean?” GMG Chair Michelle Ash remembers the big questions facing the industry at that time… “I think the challenge for the organisation at its inception was most probably a little too early, because automation technology was still the domain of the major mining companies, while others were still playing catch up.” She recalls that members’ needs at that time were focused on the emergence of electric vehicles and the battery metals required. “It was a topic that got mining companies to start collaborating on setting guidelines for our supplier community, to try to get some of this technology into our mining sites and make an impact on sustainability performance, reduce diesel usage and improve health outcomes for our industry’s employees.”
Guiding the industry
Gathering a head of steam, the organisation has since released several guidelines covering battery electric vehicles, communication systems and automation. “We’re just through launching guidelines on functional safety and interoperability,” Ash says. “We’ve matured a lot as an organisation to the point where we can address our main aim and get the mining ecosystem to embrace collaboration.”
The GMG looks at how technologies such as IIoT, predictive analytics and AI can transform the industry, how they might be implemented and what the business case looks like. “We aim to fast track their implementation and therefore speed up the rate of transformation across the sector,” confirms Ash. “We’re expanding our reach and are able to talk about these topics across North and South America through Europe and Australasia because we’ve got members all over the globe with a diverse range of companies active in our ecosystem.” Prominent leadership members include the likes of mining majors Barrick, Anglo American and BHP with newcomer Inmarsat (a leader in global, mobile satellite communications) who, along with Komatsu, Caterpillar and others, can vote on the release of GMG guidelines and take part in summits to steer the strategic direction of the organisation on key topics such as the workforce of the future, climate change, interoperability and functional safety.
However, the four grades of membership on offer ensure that voices across the industry spectrum are heard, with the first level open to all who wish to participate in workshops, seminars and communities of practice, without having to contribute financially. Ash believes its vital to encourage juniors and tech startups to join the innovation conversation and support growth in the sector.
In her two years as Chair of the GMG, Ash is proud of the progress made increasing collaboration as the organisation has widened its global reach. “We're now starting to get regulators wanting to be part of GMG,” she adds. “We've established a regulators subcommittee so they can learn from each other and some of the technology implementations in other jurisdictions. The membership expansion and participation, at all levels, has been quite phenomenal.”
The GMG is “collaboration native” and benefits from alliances with many of mining’s leading institutions such as AusIMM (Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy), CMIC (Canadian Mining Innovation Council) and the ICMM (International Council on Mining and Metals) with its focus on supporting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. “These are important conduits through which we connect their members to our work and further promote collaboration,” confirms Ash, who also highlights the GMG’s commitment to education through its working relationships with the likes of Curtin University (one of Australia leading mining schools) and Canada’s University of Alberta. “Not only do we engage their students, we run workshops at their facilities, making connections to different parts of the mining ecosystem through academic research and a focus on the new technologies coming through that will inform future guidelines,” explains Ash.
Reacting to trends
The GMG is alert to the changing landscape of issues affecting the industry. Prominent among these is concern regarding cybersecurity. “It’s a topic that's really only started becoming the remit of mining companies over the last couple of years,” notes Ash. “The leading mining companies have audit risk committees briefing their organisations on their in-house capability but, I'm really proud that over the last 18 months we've established a cybersecurity working group at GMG to offer those learnings to all of our mining community.”
Tailings management is an issue that has dominated headlines across the sector this year following the tragic dam collapse at Brumadinho in Brazil. “Tailings dam design, management and ultimate eradication is something we at the GMG take very seriously,” says Ash. “We’re taking a collaborative approach to finding solutions and have provided detailed information of the publicly available projects for our members and the wider mining community through our website. From there, we can find the space for that collaborative work to flourish. We’re currently working at a strategic level with the ICMM’s independent review of tailings dam storage facilities.”
The GMG also monitor health trends affecting the industry with particular attention being paid to the eradication of diesel equipment from underground operations. “That’s why battery electric vehicles are so fundamentally important to the electrification of our operations,” maintains Ash. “More broadly we’re looking at ways the industry can dramatically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.”
Ash sees it as the industry’s mission to not only create wealth for mining companies and governments but for the communities it serves and operates in, and asks: “How do we leverage technologies to create greater social and community wealth for those communities that we work with?”
The GMG’s quest for answers to questions like these starts with its main goal for 2020 - expanding membership to push participation levels so it can keep driving the innovation conversation. “We want to publish initial guidelines for continued education programmes around developing technologies,” reveals Ash. “We want to support mining companies with their digital transformations and help them understand the potential that lies in up-skilling today’s workforce while training the workforce of the future.”
GMG member spotlight: Inmarsat
Inmarsat is a high-profile addition to the GMG family, recently becoming its 25thleadership member. A world leader in satellite communications, it has a lot to offer the mining industry. In collaboration with Knight Piésold UK it is delivering remote tailings dam monitoring with real-time analysis. Inmarsat’s satellite-enabled IoT (Internet of Things) solution collects data from a range of industry standard sensors via edge connectivity such as LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network), before it is transferred across Inmarsat’s L-band satellite network to a single cloud dashboard. This enables mining companies and national regulators to gain a comprehensive view of the status of their dams with granular metrics such as pond elevation, piezometric pressures, inclinometer readings and weather conditions displayed in one place, no matter where the mine is located. The solution also features sensor-agnostic capabilities, so it can work with both existing sensors and new devices. “They offer support for even the smallest, and most remote, mining companies to consider the benefits of tailings data management and enhance safety across the industry,” confirms GMG’s Chair Michelle Ash.