Rio Tinto and Palantir Technologies sign enterprise deal
Palantir Technologies Inc. has signed a multi-year enterprise agreement for its Foundry Platform with Rio Tinto, enabling frontline and office workers to make decisions based on operational and transactional data.
"This partnership is an important step in our digital transformation; enabling fast-paced, forward-looking decision making across our operations leading to improved results in safety, cost and production,” said Fay Cranmer, Rio Tinto ’s CIO. "We are excited to work with Palantir in the collaborative delivery of digital products, with best-in-class data technology."
Shyam Sankar, COO of Palantir, said it was a significant partnership for the software company. "Our Foundry Platform has been used extensively to accelerate delivery and optimise value chains across a number of market sectors where safety matters."
Palantir Foundry is described as a platform "that reimagines how people use data by removing the barriers between back-end data management and front-end data analysis". Foundry enables users with varying technical ability and deep subject matter expertise to work meaningfully with data. "Anyone can source, connect, and transform data into any shape they desire, then use it to take action," the company claims.
The new multi-year partnership builds on a number of successful data integration projects explored last year across various business units including: transforming Borates to a digital business across the value chain; connecting people with data in Rio Tinto’s underground operations; and assisting the company with the safety and well-being of its employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rio Tinto’s 'Mine of the future' programme, dating back to 2008, aims to equip frontline employees with intelligent tools that allow them to make decisions that improve performance based on contextual knowledge.
Driving its next phase of digital transformation is Rio Tinto's ambition to be net zero by 2050. "We have committed by 2030 to further reduce our absolute emissions by 15 percent and emissions intensity by 30 percent, on the back of a 46 percent reduction in emissions since 2008. This is a massive undertaking. And we will need new technologies and partnerships to deliver it," said Xavier Chalbot, Rio Tinto’s Head of Strategy.
Smarter Technologies: transforming operations with IoT
Digital technology has become a key enabler of margin improvement and an enhancer of competitiveness in the mining sector. Although the majority of the top mining businesses have already started their digital journey in some capacity, many of the smaller players are lagging behind when it comes to digital transformation.
Smart Mining with IoT
Recent analysis by Allied Market Research, which estimates that the global smart mining industry is projected to reach $24bn by 2027, relays fears that those that don't join the big players in the digital uptake of solutions like IoT, will be left behind.
“As a traditionally risk-averse industry, many mining sector stakeholders struggle to invest in new technologies without a guaranteed return on investment (ROI),” explains Matthew Margetts, Director of Sales & Marketing at Smarter Technologies – suppliers of IoT solutions to the UK’s Ministry of Defence and the Royal Air Force. “Innovative miners at all levels are using new technologies to make mining operations safer, more productive, and more cost-efficient.”
Mines are often dangerous places to work, and worker health and safety are top priorities for mining operations. Smart Mining Technology keeps track of your assets and has the potential to improve mine safety in several ways: locate people, recover machinery and reduce the risk of serious injury.
Autonomous mining vehicles have been around for nearly two decades. During this time, these vehicles have revolutionised mining by allowing humans to communicate with and control machinery remotely. In this day and age, the focus has shifted from the original autonomous mining vehicles to autonomous mining systems, which can carry out a series of integrated tasks automatically. Removing the need for humans to be on-site increases workforce safety.
The benefits of autonomous mining functions include:
- Improved safety
- Decreased incidents
- The ability to work in areas that would be too dangerous for humans
- Increased productivity
- Reduced labour costs
Predictive analysis and insights
When mining assets are connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) and a central management system, this enables operational intelligence. By analysing operational data, mining operators are better equipped to foresee and prevent any dangerous incidents from occurring. The ability to conduct predictive maintenance also means a lower risk of mechanical breakdown and failure.
Wearable technologies have become more advanced and non-invasive, making it easier to track the mining workforce, even deep underground and in remote locations. With real-time visibility of all staff, key workers can be located instantly. In the event of an emergency, response times and recovery rates are significantly improved. Along with improved safety, workforce tracking data can also be used to monitor staff attendance and identify where productivity can be increased.
A series of smart IoT sensors can measure virtually anything - from pressure to humidity, temperature, air quality, gas levels, sound and more. If the conditions in a specific area change in any predefined way, instant notifications can alert teams of potential safety risks and potentially prevent incidents before they occur.
Increase efficiency and reduced operational costs
Making mines “smart” has the effect of lowering operational costs. In a smart mine, key assets are digitised by embedding smart sensors that report data to a central system via a wireless network. Many of the same use cases of smart mining technology mentioned above not only improve mine safety, but also help to reduce operational costs.
Wireless monitoring systems that relay real-time data lower operational costs in a number of ways:
- Reduced reliance on paying human resources
- Reduced reliance on vehicles and petrol costs for data and asset collection
- No need for expensive cabling and system maintenance operations
- Maintaining critical assets more effectively increases return on investment
Having real-time visibility of mining assets allows you to track the location of your mining equipment when you need to use it. This is especially useful as self-driving machinery becomes more widely adopted in the industry. Instead of wasting time searching for various assets, you’ll be able to optimise productivity and profitability by streamlining your operations from your central management dashboard.
Automating the data gathering processes using smart technology reduces the need for time-consuming and potentially dangerous data collection. Access to real-time data is critical to optimising efficiencies and reducing costs. In contrast, by the time a worker has collected information and returned to the office, the data they have gathered is already outdated.
Maintenance and management
With real-time data connectivity and data analytics, you can optimise your mine’s maintenance schedules and production rates dynamically. With predictive analytics enabled by smart tracking and condition monitoring, you’ll be able to quickly identify required changes to predefined maintenance schedules to keep your equipment running efficiently and safely. This too avoids potential incidents that can disrupt or halt operations for weeks or months, in turn keeping the mine running and generating profits.
Although there are barriers to mines adopting new technologies, these must be overcome in order for mines to remain competitive and successful in an increasingly digital age. From improving safety to enhancing productivity and efficiency, smart mines are the future of the industry.