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Mining has traditionally been depicted with pack mules, pickaxes, and rugged prospectors.
However, it may surprise you to learn that today’s mining industry is precisely the opposite in almost every respect. It’s high-tech, efficient, and safe.
This is partially because modern mining companies are deploying the latest in sensor and cloud technology. These connected mines are improving the extraction process and workers’ safety while also boosting productivity.
Today’s infographic comes to us from Natural Resources Canada and discusses how this sensor and cloud technology can be integrated into the extractive process.
What is Smart Mining?
A connected mine uses data from sensor technology to effectively manage underground and pit mining operations.
“Any mining operation today will have in the thousands or hundreds of thousands of sensors capturing in real time a vast swath of data.”
– Mukani Moyo, McKinsey Senior Expert (Source)
From a single application on a mobile device, supervisors at mine sites can now receive alerts via SMS, email or in-app notifications. This helps them react to critical problems in real-time and maximize productivity.
In addition, advanced data analytics can be applied to the raw data to create insights, visualizations, and recommendations. This information is delivered to mine managers and employees in real-time on their mobile devices.
Case Study: Smart Solutions in Practice
Dundee Precious Metals was one of the first companies to bring wireless networks into an underground mine. The company used RFID and Wi-Fi to monitor the location of equipment and people. The networks also allowed personnel to stay connected to the surface.
Once the networks were installed, communication was reliable and instantaneous – even almost 2,000 feet underground at the bottom of the mine. Workers could bring laptops and smartphones into the mine to stay connected to personnel and software on the surface.
With an RFID chip on every vehicle, machine, and person, managers can see the location of everyone and everything in the mine. This helps prevent accidents and breakdowns, and streamlines operations in real-time.
There are also environmental and cost-saving benefits. Using location data, an automated ventilation system can respond and minimize energy consumption.
Fans turn on and off as miners enter or leave an area. In addition, fan speeds adjust when machines or vehicles are running nearby to ensure that emissions are properly vented. This could drastically reduce a mine’s energy requirements.
Changing the Nature of Work: Remote Working
These smart mining solutions are reducing the risks miners face and creating new opportunities for a tech-savvy generation.
Remote mine locations that revolve around shift work can place stress on workers and their families. With a connected infrastructure, mine employees and managers can monitor operations at a distant office.
There will always be a need for workers on site, but connected technology can create some town-based career opportunities and help stabilize families.
A Sustainable Future for Mining
This is just the beginning.
Over time, data from sensor technology and cloud software, will reveal insights that could help develop sustainable mining operations.
By minimizing their negative impacts, mining companies will be able to responsibly deliver the materials the modern world needs.