Mining is a well-established industry with clearly defined processes, yet new strategies – and technology innovation – can help to maximize outcomes, says Nicky Kearns, global account executive and co-founder of Turnium.com, an industrial SD-WAN software-only solutions provider.
Three key business drivers can determine the success of a mine: one, optimizing large asset utilization to achieve a higher return on assets; two, mitigating big capital risk by maximizing reliability and efficiency at every stage of the operation; and three, enhancing social licence and safety.
Mr. Kearns believes all three can be enhanced through technology adoption, where the basic value chain for mining operations inspires the establishment of a “digital twin, where performance can be analyzed in real-time.
“The resulting data can be used to continuously update the resource model to understand planned versus actual outcomes, develop better predictive capability and gain actionable insights that can then inform business decisions.”
The essential components required to create such real-time models include IoT (telemetry, sensors, supervisory control and data acquisition, etc.), network and compute/storage, Mr. Kearns proposes. “IoT and compute/storage are well understood. The weakest link in modern mines is the network or, in other words, how to access the sensor data quickly and reliably so it can be analyzed and acted upon.”
In many cases, this is complicated by the fact that different asset providers want their data to be private and analyzed separately, he explains. “That’s why it is key to offer secure and robust networking solutions to mining service providers, including asset-to-asset connectivity and people-to-asset data. When implemented properly, network can enable a whole new generation of real-time mine management.”
Mining trucks, for example, are large and expensive assets that need to operate as efficiently as possible, says Mr. Kearns. “Every aspect of these vehicles can be monitored, including their health, load, speed, location, etc. For example, real-time monitoring of tires can result in timely maintenance and avoidance of costs.”
There are a number of ways of connecting a mine – plus the IoT devices within a mine site – to the outside world. However, this connectivity can bring significant complexity and inconsistency that can lead to reduced reliability, says Mr. Kearns. “Furthermore, security is a top consideration, and with such a smorgasbord of technologies, it is far too easy to leave communications open to risk.”
In researching mining operations, Mr. Kearns sought to determine technology requirements that enable operational improvements. As an over-the-top virtual networking solution that is independent of both the access and the core networking technologies available to a mining operation, Turnium potentially fits the bill, he says. “It allows a consistent, reliable and secure virtual network to be delivered as a service over top of any underlying connectivity. And using unique per-packet link aggregation helps to avoid dropped connections from network convergence issues.”
In the truck example, the vehicle moving through a mine site can therefore maintain reliable connectivity across a mix of technologies, making the truck telemetry available in real-time for analysis along with other data sources. What’s more, a multi-tenant approach enables individual interest groups to access data via the same reliable and secure virtual network, he adds. “A mine drill-head may have telemetry of interest to the manufacturer and the site operator all at the same time. These networks can securely and reliably transport that data back to multiple centralized points for analysis and monitoring.”
Beyond enabling the integration of IoT and telemetry, these virtual networking solutions can provide next-generation real-time voice and video connectivity across a variety of mining applications, remote support, training, AI image analysis and more, notes Mr. Kearns.
“There are so many ways a mining operation can be optimized through the addition of simple, reliable and high-performing virtual networking. This digital transformation will help to redefine how mines are operated.”
Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications with the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.