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Industry 4.0 applications in the Mining sector


What Industry 4.0 in mining looks like.


The fourth industrial revolution - where businesses build upon their use of computing power and automation with the adoption of intelligent, autonomous systems that can leverage complex data sets and machine learning to deliver AI-driven enhancements in real-time - will have an enormous impact on the mining sector.

There are a vast number of opportunities for miners to transform - both operationally and strategically, via IT and OT - and their ability to do so will play a key role in enabling success in the present whilst plotting a profitable, long-term future.

McKinsey estimates that by 2035 autonomous mining using data analysis and novel technologies like AI will save the mining sector between US$290bn - US$390bn annually* and, compounded with the benefits of other technologies, investments in these new solutions are fast becoming financially prudent decisions.

Whilst it’s possible to overhaul your entire operations once, it’s likely to be far too costly, risk-laden, and not give you sufficient time to conduct an effective change management exercise, meaning that Industry 4.0 status will never be achieved.

No, Industry 4.0 status in the mining sector will be reached with the successful application of new transformational technologies incrementally by adopting a suite of use case-specific sustainability solutions that can be deployed and then integrated with one another piece-by-piece, providing both strategic and operations leaders with what they need to do their roles better on a function-by-function basis.

Successful transformation is about finding better ways of doing things by recalibrating ways of working, improving the way that data is used, and enhancing how people interact with it and each other - it's not about the technology per-se, rather reengineering how you function using it to achieve business goals.

One thing that will be critical to this, however, is a new piece of new technology upon which these sustainability solutions sit: a Sustainability Performance Platform (SPP). This platform will be critical, as it’s the central place where all of an organization’s data (both historical and real-time, from any system, sensors or data store) can flow through, where machine learning algorithms can be leveraged, and where cross-functional decisions - made by human or AI - can be orchestrated and executed: an organization’s brain.

Industry 4.0 technology applications in the mining sector.

Industry 4.0 technology will enable the mining sector to achieve zero goals, improve productivity, increase efficiency, uncover optimizations, create better workplaces and allow themselves to scale to meet the challenge of energy transitioning, unlocking sites and workforces’ potential in the process. Here's 10 potential applications:

  1. Enabling remote, real-time operation oversight. Industry 4.0 technology enables miners to integrate every data source (IT, IoT and OT) into a single platform through which adaptive and predictive analytics can be applied to uncover optimizations and enable better in-field (and strategic) decision-making, as well as enabling the application of AI-led control to prevent adverse events.
  2. Autonomous vehicles & plant enhancement. Autonomous vehicles have been operating in mines for some years now. In that time, they’ve demonstrated fuel efficiency savings and kept workforces out of harm’s way, but there are numerous assets and plant that are yet to be transformed. Offering productivity, safety and real-time monitoring benefits, autonomous assets present the sector with multiple opportunities to enhance their bottom-line results.
  3. Adopting predictive maintenance. Industry 4.0 technology and sustainability solutions enables miners to implement predictive maintenance regimes that maximize asset and plant uptimes, reduces maintenance costs, and prevents catastrophic failures that can cause considerable harm to both operators and the machines itself.
  4. Enhancing mineral processing. Using sustainability solutions, it becomes easier to identify valuable extracted products from low yield rocks. The result is that it takes less processing to turn the minerals into desired concentrated end-product, reducing processing times and fuel usage.
  5. Real-time monitoring and mitigation of social & environmental harms. Industry 4.0 technology enables miners to develop more accurate impact plans, find better ways to mitigate them and then monitor critical environmental measures in real-time to prevent breaches and harm from occurring via manual or AI-led automated interventions. Should the worst occur, the technology can also direct miners to rapid, effective clean-up work based on previous learned performance of mitigation efforts and the sites own individual circumstances.
  6. Enabling real-time plant monitoring. Through sensors monitoring different aspects of plant performance, miners can not only track how it’s performing and its efficiency, but also to pinpoint under utilized machinery, judge asset classes, improve maintenance regimes and reduce total cost of ownership.
  7. Cheaper, more efficient mineral exploration. Industry 4.0 technology and purpose-built sustainability solutions can provide miners with efficient, effective means to find, assess and explore new sites. This saves time and money, enables better assessment as to potential, and enables miners to be more accurate in excavation and predicting potential side effects of operations (plus how to mitigate them).
  8. Achieving workforce safety zero targets. Beyond taking humans out of potential harm’s way, sustainability solutions built on an SPP enables miners to leverage a vast array of real-time data sources to assess workforce safety at any given moment, giving you the means to develop real-time safety controls and accountability scores, identify employees who may need retraining, and predict and prevent injuries from occurring.
  9. Uncovering & seizing production improvement. Advanced Industry 4.0 technology has been in use in the manufacturing sector for sometime and much of the technology can be readily employed in the processing and refinement portions of the mining and metals sector. Using the technology, it’s possible to analyze real-time production and processing performance, get real-time OEE measures, accurately predict yields and use machine learning to prevent production losses.
  10. Facilitating digital twin modelling. Creating a digital copy of operations, miners can model the effect of operational and strategic changes, measure their likely success, as well as apply machine learning to find optimal approaches. This can be done in real-time and historically, allowing miners to maximize productivity at any given moment.
  11. Bespoke solutions. Mining operations, goals and organizations are unique. Sustainability solutions are easy to use, customise and optimise; facilitating mining companies to develop the digital mining solutions that they need in-house.

I4 Mining is a sustainability technology provider to the mining sector, offering ready-to-deploy ESG solutions that help miners to succeed both strategically and operationally without ever getting in the way of good business.

Our solutions enable you to easily develop strategies, deliver accurate sustainability metrics and reports in real-time, improve sustainability and business performance, as well as make predictive analytics and forecasts part of your everyday so that you can reduce risks and optimise from mine-to-market.

Speak to us today to book a demo and discover how you can get started on your digital sustainability journey.


*  Source: McKinsey: Beyond the Super cycle: How technology is reshaping resources


Phillip McBride

CSO & Technologist @ Rayven


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