ADVANCES IN MINE ENGINEERING TO ENABLE INFORMATION MOBILITY FOR ‘INTELLIGENT MINING’
“Intelligent mine” conjures up a futuristic image of unmanned extractors and loaders working in harsh conditions in a remote lunar landscape. The promise of increasing mine fleet productivity and solving the problem labor shortages in mining regions can certainly be achieved today through remote controlled extraction and automated hauling. The technology is available and it doesn’t seem to be so much science fiction when Google’s self-driving cars hurtle down the freeway.
“Intelligent mining,” on the other hand, implies the application of information technology at every phase of the mining value chain, from exploration and geological modeling to equipment, operations and maintenance, and logistics and transportation. These are really industry-specific, enterprise-class software solutions focused on using information technology to support the business processes of mining and make them more efficient and effective.
Overlaying the physical world with the digital or virtual world enables us to model and simulate our assets, giving us the ability to effectively design, build, and ultimately optimize the performance and reliability of our assets throughout the lifecycle. The digital asset, often a 3D model, is created initially during the engineering and construction phase, and is handed over to the operator before the mine goes into operation. Combined with geospatial or geographic information systems, the operator has a complete digital representation of the physical world, which forms the foundation for risk and performance management, along with compliance and regulatory reporting. Laser scanning and positioning technology can be used to create point clouds – information models consisting of millions of data points – which enable the visualization and representation of the “as-operated” reality.
But consider that once the mine is in operation, it throws off an endless stream of data in the form of performance and condition data from sensors and monitoring devices on fixed and mobile assets through networks, servers, and services. This “big data” can be processed and analyzed to spot trends, help predict events, and formulate reliability strategies as early as the design stage (e.g., reliability-centered design). “Intelligent mining” implies that massive amounts of data augment the reality of the physical mine, plant, and equipment. This embedded intelligence can be used to optimize operational efficiency, increase asset availability and utilization, improve safety and environmental integrity, and maximize return on investment.
Lastly, the sweet spot for intelligent mining is seen in the convergence of consumerization and industrialization. The application of “consumer” technologies that we use every day on our iPhones and Android devices, such as cameras, motion sensors, and positioning in an industrial context, are producing “immersive” experiences. Overlaying the digital world on the physical world and connecting them accurately through intelligent positioning results in “intelligent infrastructure,” which is safer and more sustainable.
Bentley Systems works with many mining companies and engineering, procurement and construction companies involved in all aspects of mining infrastructure development. In fact, 10 of the top 20 mining companies ranked by market capitalization are users of Bentley software, including all of the top five. In addition, Bentley provides software solutions to the world’s leading engineering, procurement, and construction companies, as well as owner-operators, who design, build and operate the world’s infrastructure.
Bentley’s solutions for mining and resource extraction industries help increase the efficiency of capital projects associated with the design, procurement, and construction of mines and processing plants, as well as the operation and maintenance of mining fleet and equipment.
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