Mining gets digital: why creating a digital supply network will unlock the future for mining.

The role of technology in mining is changing. In the past, we witnessed changes in mining and processing technologies; mining equipment became larger and new mines more isolated as ore is depleted and mineral grades decrease. While these changes have been significant, they have been gradual. The approaching wave of technological changes to our industry promises to be faster and more disruptive as mining companies seek new performance levels for efficiency and mineral recovery.

Mining companies across the globe are under pressure from capital markets to provide returns that can compete with industries in very different investment groupings. As automation and big data enter the arena, corporations are competing to leverage these approaches for greater return on investment.

Automation has brought us 3D, 4D and 5D processes, bringing current planning and future scheduling into the industry with the further possibility to work in parallel across continents – this has lowered project costs and reduced risks. The next wave of digital innovation will not replace these technologies or specialists – it will integrate them.

We have been automating workfaces for decades: in nuclear, automobile manufacturing, oil and gas, and of course mining.

Global equipment and control systems manufacturers are supplying modular components that are easier to add to overall control systems, and as automation spreads across workfaces, a need has become apparent: the role of the main automation contractor (MAC).

Wood’s mining and minerals solutions previously supported mining operations and mineral processing; innovation from automation and control along with our broader capability across maintenance, operations and environmental services now makes it possible for us to offer deeper support to customers in their drive to the future mine. As our expertise grows, further horizontal integration of our services will become possible – this means greater savings and increased earnings for our mining customers.

Customers can draw on this to implement intelligent operations that optimise production, reduce costs, increase efficiency and improve safety. Digital technologies will help transform core processes, manage maintenance to reduce downtime, improve administrative support processes and enable more informed decision-making.

The next step is to make more efficient use of these systems, as well as the data they provide, to drive tangible improvements in the performance of the processes, while taking advantage of the total value of the data and previously undetectable correlations within. Data points under the traditional magnifying glass may have no relation, however, when advanced data analytics techniques are applied, process modifications are detectable and can be implemented to improve performance.

The ability to act on the data, applying advanced algorithms and automation to translate decision and actions from the digital world into movements in the physical world helps deliver measurable value.

According to a recent paper from the World Economic Forum and Accenture, digitisation could bring more than $425 billion of value for the mining industry, customers, society and environment by 2025. Customers use the insights from data analysis to reduce capital expenditures, respond to changing project requirements on the fly and optimise mine planning to integrate real-time changes.

The technologies to make the digital mine a reality are within reach. To thrive in the future, the conversation between mining companies and their EPC/M providers must move to a more collaborative footing. The exciting challenge for tomorrow is how to design, build, integrate and embed systems that will future-proof the next generation of mining.

Find out how we can help. julian.sparks@woodplc.com