The well connected mine

Cloud storage and processing has enabled an ‘Internet of Things’ approach to mining production and performance information for more effective data interaction.

Mastering the complexities of the performance, efficiency and profitability of a mining operation remains a significant challenge for the industry.

This does not mean that various parameters around the execution of mining operations cannot be measured, or that analysis of the data which is available is particularly difficult. The challenge is to do this in a timely and relevant manner. The information and analysis must be leveraged and made accessible precisely when it can make a difference.

Collecting meaningful performance metrics within the mine operation and using this information to drive near term improvement and adherence to plan and schedule can be complex and expensive.

Disparate or isolated systems, and unreliable or incomplete communications infrastructure lead to expensive systems integration efforts, lack of confidence or consistency in data collection and an inability to deliver decision support results to the right people and places.

The challenge has been too difficult for many mining companies.

Maptek is solving this, partnering with Minlog to enable production management and performance data, together with mine planning and design information, to be shared across an operation.

Processes and decision support on both sides of the planning divide will benefit from real-time, validated and contextually correct data from resource model to shipping information.

The Minlog MineSuite solution has introduced enabling technologies to make this possible. MineSuite is a production management information system used in the mining industry for over 20 years. New technologies and recent data handling paradigms have led to a complete renewal of the underlying system architecture, revolutionising the possibilities in this space.

MineSuite leverages cloud data storage and processing to enable an ‘internet of things’ approach.

All processes, locations, systems and equipment can be modelled within the MAS (MineSuite Application Server) in the cloud.

Any connected device in the mining environment can feed data to that server, which interprets the context and relevance of each piece of data and stores it for use on demand.

Similarly, any connected device or service (such as reporting engine or dashboard) can retrieve relevant validated data by referring to the operational model within the MAS, which then returns the appropriate detail from the cloud.

The enabling architecture is more commonly used in industries such as banking, where high volumes of asynchronous transactions must be handled independently within a well-defined, secure context. With all connections via a standard interface model on a service bus, the system becomes very flexible.

MineSuite can be easily configured, maintained and adapted to model virtually any type of mining operation.

It can monitor, measure and report on any combination of fixed and mobile plant, fleet (including interaction with existing fleet management systems), laboratory and sample data, and manual data entry in the office or by equipment operators. Provided these are able to connect to the MAS, they can contribute data.

Communication and connectivity issues form another major challenge. Particularly in underground mines, complete coverage and reliable up-time for wireless communication can be prohibitively expensive, even unrealistic, expectations.

The lack of timely measurement data around the complete picture of mine performance is a key source of inefficiency and loss.

In response, MineSuite has developed DSF (distributed store and forward), an innovative technology using 802.11 wifi hardware with proprietary software to effectively create a neural network for transporting data. Fixed and mobile nodes each contribute unique information.

The result is an up-to-date full set of data for every piece of equipment being monitored, available within minutes, at a fraction of the cost of conventional communication solutions.

Real-time data, validated and referenced against an operational model, is now available for generating reports, data cubes and dashboards. The MAS can be treated as a service by other systems. Being in the cloud means it can be done anywhere.

MineSuite provides a feature-rich set of user interfaces for presentation, communication and interaction with data. Equipment operators, maintenance managers, production managers and mine managers can all interact with, and contribute to, the same set of operational data, and discern the applicability to the overall mine performance.

This system is delivering results at some of the world’s largest underground mines.

Importantly, it can be delivered at a cost to suit even small miners motivated to automate data collection and gain accurate detailed performance data.

Extending this capability, Maptek will connect the planning and execution environments, and build closed loop information flows around different workflows and disciplines to allow continual improvement in operations.

Huge benefits can be realised in accessing measured data in planning cycles, and also being able to refer to planning detail at the point of execution in a production environment.

This really is an ‘internet of mining things’. Maptek, with our partner Minlog, is the only company able to build and deliver this total ecosystem of mining data.