Shaw Business partners with Teck and Nokia
Shaw Business has announced the deployment of Western Canada’s first industrial-grade Private LTE network for mining systems for Teck Resources Limited (Teck) – providing significantly greater coverage and connectivity at Teck’s Elkview Operations in British Columbia.
Developed by Shaw in partnership with Nokia, Western Canada’s first Private LTE network for mining systems was created to support the deployment of Teck’s RACE21 program designed to transform how the company mines by harnessing technology and innovation.
Shaw Business’ industrial-grade and 5G-ready Private LTE network built exclusively for Teck will provide greater coverage and reliability as compared to the traditional, non-dedicated wireless networks currently offered by competitors in the marketplace. Additionally, this new Private LTE network will help Teck deliver significant value and efficiencies at their Elkview Operations. Teck is also looking at opportunities for using 5G-ready Private LTE network technology at other operations.
“Teck’s RACE21 program aims to generate new value, reduce operating costs and significantly improve safety, sustainability and productivity at our operations, and improving network infrastructure will support achieving those goals,” said Andrew Milner, Senior Vice President and Chief Transformation Officer, Teck.
Shaw Business leveraged its licensed spectrum portfolio and experienced technical staff to build the 5G-ready Private LTE network that provides the coverage, mobility, security, and reliability required to optimize the modern digital mine. The network is based upon Nokia’s industrial-grade Private Wireless solution.
As this network solution is fully private, Teck can operate mission critical applications without the conflict of any outside IT and operations constraints that are prevalent in similar non-dedicated wireless networks.
“The global economy is on the verge of the next industrial revolution — a change that will be driven entirely by 5G and other advanced connected technologies,” says Katherine Emberly, President, Business, Shaw Communications. “Through this project, we were able to combine our spectrum assets with our deep industry knowledge and sector expertise to help Teck boost productivity, efficiency, and improve safety while transforming their network infrastructure to deliver significant operational value.”
“This first-of-its-kind Private LTE mining network solution built by Shaw is a giant step forward for global 5G innovation,” said Jeffrey Maddox, President, Nokia Canada. “In partnership with Shaw, we are deploying our Industrial-grade private LTE networking solutions to provide the powerful, scalable, and flexible capabilities of a private, dedicated network to Teck. Nokia’s 5G-ready private wireless portfolio enables Teck to be future-proofed for years to come - allowing for significant digital transformation in the mining industry and beyond.”
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.