I was recently invited to speak at the Future Mining Summit 2017 under the auspices of the International Organization for Mining Standards (GMSG).
The location of the congress was well suited to its theme: 20 meters below ground level in the Epiroc test mine, Stockholm, Sweden.
In addition to me, the congress was attended by representatives of mining companies from all over the world, as well as equipment suppliers and respected experts. Speakers spoke about the major trends they see in the mining industry and opportunities for growth and improvement.
Machine utilization rates at depth are 50-60%, relatively low compared to 80% in open-pit mines. Hence the urgent need to better monitor and optimize the operation of machines underground.
Every automation and manufacturing equipment provider offers its own cloud for data processing. In this environment, companies in the industry have difficulty both gathering information from different systems and identifying trends. The mining industry is interested in open source systems that will allow them to improve their use of data.
Blockchain doesn’t apply to mining today, but it could potentially improve process traceability, quality of event recording, and security of supply chain operations.
As mining companies reduce their environmental footprint, the use of battery-powered equipment is gaining momentum.
Mining companies are seeking greater mobility and adoption of wireless technology at the mine, thereby trying to improve worker safety and streamline the production process.
I was also given the opportunity to share my ideas about the future of the mining industry. These ideas were a summary of my observations of leading market trends and discussions with our customers.
Idea #1: There’s no point in collecting more data, you need to collect the right data
In-process control, we can expect only a limited number of possible variations and meaningful correlations of data, and we know most of them. In addition, we know that some groups of data will never be combined or correlated. To avoid overloading systems with useless data, miners are beginning to look for ways to pre-analyze that allow them to sort through redundant information upfront and only send what’s really relevant to the cloud.
As equipment manufacturers make their machines more and more intelligent, pre-analytics will become possible very soon. For example, one of those manufacturers, our mining partner Metso, has already begun developing stone crushing machines with analytics capabilities. Metso’s machines only send key groups of data to the cloud for comparison with other rock crushing equipment. Mining companies will now have the ability to optimize processes by measuring performance at multiple sites at once. And just as importantly, they will no longer have to dive into an ocean of useless information.
Idea #2: In the future, analytics will become distributed and allow for scalable calculations
Data analytics can be performed in the cloud, either at the server level or directly at the equipment level. In the future, mining operations will need strategies to tailor analytics capabilities to meet specific challenges.
Idea #3: Physical and information security are inseparable
Potential threats are increasing in frequency and severity, which means that physical and information security must be perceived as one. In my observation, this trend is common across all industries. Companies should design internal processes with as much attention to virtual mining security as to physical mine security. This topic sparked a lively discussion, and GMSG decided to create a working group to make recommendations for designing and integrating physical and information security systems.
Changing our approach to data collection and analytics will have a big impact on the mining industry. And as more and more data moves from device to device and on to cloud storage, it is clear that the growing need for information security will also change the way we look at employee and company security as a whole.