Jamshedpur, May 12: “Mining 4.0”, “Digital Transformation”, “Smart Mining” are terms that have been coined to describe the growing adoption of digitization in mining. Indeed, the trend in this regard has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Competitive advantage in the mining industry will increasingly be dependent on the ability of a company to utilise its resources through sustainable mine planning enabled by digital means of mine monitoring, ensuring compliance to plan and leveraging automation to reduce man-machine interface to the bare minimum.
An integrated supply chain requires rigorous monitoring and control, from operations to beneficiation to stacking and transportation to customers’ premises, through digital means.
Digital interventions provide visibility and integration across many mining verticals and this helps in real time decision-making, which is the key to greater efficiency and higher productivity.
There are several advantages of digitization in mining. These include Higher Mine Safety, Longer Mine Life through better Mine Planning and Mineral Resource Visibility. Digitization helps in developing targeted strategies using real time data and data analytics, provides visualization and decision matrix tools to predict failure, helps optimising scheduling and material flow and improves the capability of beneficiation plants through online monitoring of quality data.
It also helps in improving productivity through real time monitoring of equipment, plant and operator performance and sweating of capital-intensive mining equipment. Digitization also facilitates compliance to statutory requirements through accurate land use plan and visibility and accurate volume measurements using drone/scanner technologies, etc.
Some of the technologies used for digitization of mines are as follows:
1) Automation, robotics and operational hardware
2) Digitally-enabled workforce
3) Integrated enterprise, platforms and ecosystems
4) Next-generation analytics and decision support
5) Integrated Mine Planning,
6) Digital mine mapping through drone survey, remote sensing and GIS-based technologies.
Tata Steel has also taken several initiatives in the domain of automation and digitization of its mines and beneficiation plants as well as logistics. Some of the initiatives taken by the Company are as follows:
- Improved bandwidth of LAN/WAN for digital communication and data transfer
- IT in mines safety through e-permits, Suraksha Card, video-analytics, online safety management system, online safety management plan, etc
- Digital Data Capturing and Integrated Online Reports for safety, production, quality and supply chain
- Automation/Sensorization of plant equipment and mining equipment for automatic capturing of data using IOT or digital data transmission using OFC
- Remote controlled operations of equipment like conveyors and pumps
- Centralised monitoring of operations of plant and mine
- Fleet Management System for real time capturing of mine equipment performance and operator performance
- Digital mine mapping using drone survey and GIS-based technologies
These digital/automation initiatives have helped the Company to make a quantum improvement in information flow, data transparency and decision-making. These initiatives have helped in improving efficiency, productivity and safety. The efforts taken so far needs to be further refined and replicated in all the mines. Data Mining using AI and ML to make sense of voluminous data captured online by various sensors and instrumentation needs to be stepped up in future. The ultimate aim would be to have remote-controlled mines that can be monitored from anywhere for more safe and sustainable mining operations. While managerial skills will continue to have their relevance, the software and analytical skills will become increasingly important in future from the HR perspective.