Seequent’s new insights paper, Beyond the Hype: How technology can drive mining operations’ performance, reveals how effective data management is the key to successful mining operations. Pieter Neethling, Seequent Segment Director, Mining Operations, shares the data management issues the industry faces and highlights the paper’s key findings.
The insights paper brings together thought-provoking and insightful contributions from leading industry experts from AngloGold Ashanti, Hecla Mining, IntelliSense.io, RockMass Technologies and Seequent.
“It examines technology’s role in helping to make mining operations safer, smarter and more sustainable” says Pieter.
“But for me, some of the most interesting aspects relate to data management as the cornerstone of high-performing mining operations.”
The challenge of data
How to put data to good use remains a major challenge for mining. In data, there lies a powerful potential to deliver a much more complete picture of what you’ll encounter below ground. Insights derived from such data predict orebody, help streamline costs, maximise efficiency and reduce waste. Data also allows the creation of more accurate geological models that add real value to both exploration and grade control practices.
However, practice shows that geologists, who should be spending their time on geoscience, often find themselves pouring hours into reformatting data, just to make sure they can integrate it, or get closer to the decision point they need.
While many companies collect data intended to inform business decisions, the right data and insights aren’t always readily available to decision-makers at the right time.
A problem looking for a solution
Implementing sound data management practices to better understand the geological controls on orebodies and optimise mine planning can be transformative.
Data is at the very heart of modern mining and its use is critical to smooth operations. At every stage of mining operations, it’s imperative that each expert can easily share, interrogate and interpret data from their unique perspective. Seequent’s insights paper reinforces that mining organisations should clearly ascertain the goals they want the data to achieve and then look at the solutions that are available.
One of the paper’s most insightful comments comes from Dr. Grant Kopec, VP of Global Field Operations at Intellisense.io. “Our experience is to look at the scenario and then apply the data capture to drive the solution. This requires working very closely with the miners and their data analytics to make sure we all have the same data model, the same definitions, and that we’re fixing data issues at the root source.”
New technology delivers stronger data management practices
The application of geological data is fundamental when building models to assist crucial decision-making. Without the latest information about the face, the model will be flawed which could compromise the cost of extraction and the safety of the operation. Any future models of geology must be easy to create, be repeatable and respond to the demand of the operational decision-making process.
Thought leaders referenced in the paper mention exciting recent developments in technology, such as LiDAR scans of underground excavations. These create 3D, high-resolution, georeferenced images of the workings. The scans deliver extremely accurate face profiles and structural data. This allows better grade control, cuts costs, increases productivity and improves safety. The data is formatted in industry standard files that are virtually software agnostic, thus enabling their usage across all mine departments through collaborative connected workflows.
The power of your people
While the benefits of new technology are powerful, it is important to state that people are a critical part of any successful data management practice. Mining companies that enjoy the best outcomes are those who invest in training their teams on data.
Many companies are investing heavily in optimising the physical side of their operations, such as autonomous vehicles and drone technology. These are all important investments, but equally important is investment in people skills and alignment of roles to new practices that deliver visible benefits in terms of operational agility and immediate cost savings.
What is important is that companies digitise their data management and workflows too. An imbalance will lead to physical operations becoming so efficient that ore information cannot keep up. The two must be in line so that ore body data (digital mine) can be produced quickly and accurately to feed into the physical process and keep end-to-end operations optimised. With digitalization and autonomous systems having become the new paradigm, it is still the people that will drive this change.
The industry is ready for change
“I believe one of the most positive messages of the paper is that the mining industry recognises the importance of the implementation of new data practices,” says Pieter. “
It is time to speed up implementation to ensure the sustainable and efficient running of operations today and into the future. “