Internet can offer underground mining a quantum leap in productivity
THE industrial internet-of-things offers huge benefits for underground mining if challenges to adoption can be overcome, according to Nautitech Mining Systems engineering and business development manager Murray Bell.
Many minesites already have network technology systems which can be developed to deliver further improvements in productivity and safety, he told the Longwall 2018 conference in the Hunter Valley.
One of the major benefits of a mine site that is equipped with the IIoT is access to real-time data, he said.
"The benefit is the timely distribution of data," he said.
"Electronic format feeds directly into automation."
Sensors are key to IIoT as is a robust network connection.
"The use of advanced sensors and processing can reduce burden on networks," Bell said.
Mine sites need to plan about the number of sensors by analysing existing data to identify needs.
One of the key drivers in implementing IIoT and improving connectivity and communications in underground mining is the potential improvements in productivity.
"It can implement improved methods, measure performance, improve decision making, identify bottlenecks, optimise operations and prove up systems before investment," Bell said.
Mines can also engineer productivity improvements through global optimisation by analysing global data and big data analytics, he said.
In the area of maintenance, the IIoT can facilitate real time condition monitoring.
"The will allow mines to monitor critical equipment and processes," Bell said.
"It is continuous, can collect historical data and react in time to save time and money.
"It can also monitor personnel and an analysis of health data can identify improvement."
The other big driver for IIoT in underground mining is safety.
"It can remove personnel from potentially hazardous areas," Bell said.
" It can continuously monitor potentially hazardous areas, processes and equipment, and it can detect personnel and control access."
Apart from these obvious safety benefits IIoT offers other benefits through facilitating remote control including increased operator safety.
"A network connection allows physical separation of machine and operator," Bell said.
"Full remote control requires a suite of sensors."
However, some remaining challenges to adoption of IIoT and new network systems remain.
"There is the cost of new technology, disruption to existing production and uncertainty about new technology," Bell said.
"Mining can be a conservative industry and there is a resistance to down-sizing."
The workforce also needs to change as new technology requires IT specialists and training is needed for existing workers.
The challenges to adoption of new networks are concerns about security and barriers to technology migration, Bell said.