Engineering & Mining Journal

NOV 2017

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DATA NETWORKS NOVEMBER 2017 • E&MJ 47 www.e-mj.com "Another project involves creating a new spatial platform. This is going to al- low the kind of data that we deal with in our software, such as large block models, triangulated data structures, grids and big laser scans, to be efficiently stored and communicated between machines. "Once you put those two concepts to- gether, you can start getting data from dif- ferent disciplines, or different machines, onto the one machine and into a range of software," he explained. This enterprise connectivity allows multiple users to share data for multiple functions across multiple applications, which enhances collaboration, efficiency and accuracy." Internal Sources It's not uncommon for producers, partic- ularly larger companies with dedicated resources, to develop specialized data management apps in-house, generally using corporate IT personnel; however, even nontechnical workers with talent, basic programming skills and an interest in improving productivity have made im- portant contributions. Rio Tinto has ben- efitted from both sources: For example, Bold Baatar, chief executive–energy and minerals for Rio Tinto, told an audience at the Natural Resources Forum held in London in July that "…one of our haul truck drivers with a passion for computer development used his self-taught skills to develop an integrated real-time digital monitoring system for the entire pit. This brought together all the existing streams of data in a highly useable, 3-D touch- point, visual platform — integrating drill, dig, load and haul data, equipment per- formance and availability as well as safety management all in one place. Baatar continued: "An example of an outcome [of this project] would be an increase in speed and decrease in haul cycle time, which means we can park a truck and still achieve the same volume." This kind of employee and manage- ment initiative, he added, was "central to our plan to deliver an extra $5 billion of value through productivity over the next five years. Productivity is about sweating our assets — bringing them to peak per- formance. We can only do this if we un- derstand where our performance is best in class so we can replicate it." Earlier in the year, Chris Salisbury, Rio Tinto's chief executive–iron ore, described to an audience at the Austmine 2017 conference the scope and rate of advance the company needs to maintain to develop digital solutions for its Western Australia iron ore operations. The scope is massive: "It has cost us $40 billion to build our iron ore export machine — a flexible set of 15, soon to be 16 mines, an integrated privately owned rail and port network and a cutting edge operations center in Perth that controls our operations. And, at the next level, 370 haul trucks, 50 produc- tion drills, 200 locomotives, 450 kilome- ters of conveyors and 1,700 kilometers of rail — the list goes on." Conceding that "Rio Tinto is a big or- ganization, and at times we have been slow to move," Salisbury said that, never- theless, the corporate culture is changing: "What if I told you that I've got a mine site in the Pilbara with a crusher that is now capable of calling trucks to maximize throughput? What if I told you a team of six people delivered this capability within two weeks? You might be surprised. But, having a crusher calling trucks to improve productivity is exactly what we achieved last month at Hope Downs. "This new system analyzes real-time data being captured at the crusher such as bin levels and run-rate, and overlaid real-time truck data such as location, payload and grade. The end result is con- tinuous optimization of equipment utili- zation," he said. "We now plan to replicate the crush- er capability at Hope Downs across our business. As you can imagine, there are many thousands of points within the op- erational footprint where some type of im- provement could be made. And, each day, I want my 11,000 employees to think about how improvements can be made to their area of the business. "Operators and tradespeople have the opportunity to say, 'look, we're wasting money on this,' or 'this particular bit of gear doesn't run well,' or 'if I could have a bit of money or time to fix this, I could improve our productivity.' We have 2,000 of these new ideas in the pipeline and re- cently I was briefed on the top 50. I have a live dashboard on the status of each." Driving Digital Initiatives On the other side of the globe, Barrick Gold essentially committed itself to a digital future in 2016, when John Thorn- ton, the company's executive chairman, announced that Barrick would partner with networking giant Cisco for the "dig- ital reinvention" of Barrick's business. The first step of that collaboration is de- velopment of a flagship digital operation at its Nevada, USA, operations. During a June investor tour of the Nevada facilities, Barrick pointed to the complexity of deci- sion-making required to run those facili- ties efficiently after combining the Cortez and Goldstrike mines. The need for deci- sion-making speed and clarity to manage processes and assets across the expanded site was an important driver in the compa- ny's move toward a digital-first philosophy. Leading the list of Barrick's digital initiatives for the Cortez complex are: • Underground short interval control, • Underground automation, • Digital maintenance work management, • Digital processing, • Predictive maintenance, • Consolidated data platform, • Analytics and unified operations center and • Integrated planning. The estimated productivity boost of just the top two or three items on the list, according to the company, is significant — Short Interval Control in the underground operation is expected to add roughly 260 t/d in 2018, and Automated Process Con- Software developers at Barrick Gold's Codemine hub in Nevada work closely with operational personnel to develop in-house technological solutions at a pace that often can't be matched by outside vendors.

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