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How to boost operational efficiency in mining

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article image Get a single view of the truth with integration of systems.

Most mining companies have been facing the challenge of declining productivity for a while. As mineral reserves closer to the surface are depleted, remaining deposits tend to be of a lower grade, in more remote locations and / or are deeper in the ground, making extraction more difficult and costly. 

The leading mining companies have been taking advantage of technology to address this productivity challenge.  

There are three components of operational efficiency: Visibility of operations; Correct presentation of information; and Improved decision making. 

Visibility of operations. Adding visibility into your operations and business enables the management team to ensure that capital resources and processes are performing to plan. Finding timely, accurate and relevant information to facilitate the effective management of capital equipment efficiency from the flood of operational data can be a challenging task and it is important that the correct software systems are in place to manage this. Such systems provide a transparent route to production and business application layers that enable management staff to make effective and timely decisions based on a single version of truth. 

Correct presentation of information. Information must be presented in the right place, at the right time and in the right context. At the production level, information must be integrated, collated and summarised from many sources. Easy to read dashboards covering overall enterprise performance enable continuous monitoring and fast reaction to changing conditions, while ad hoc drill down reporting enables management to explore production dynamics and quickly identify root causes.

Improved decision making. Running a complex mining enterprise means making business decisions in a potentially volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment. Made in isolation from other process data or based on limited information, there can be unpredictable repercussions for the operations. 

Today's intelligent mining solutions gather data from the whole business in context, reducing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity - therefore helping to make better decisions.  
The three systems which improve operational efficiency are: 
• Operational intelligence to optimise your mine's performance - Mine Execution System (MES) 
• Mine-to-Port Logistics - Integrated Planning and Optimization System 
• Energy Management - Energy visibility, prediction of use and minimising consumption  

Mine Execution System. Imperfect information, changing conditions, inconsistent mine geology and chaotic mining processes make delivering optimum performance a challenging task for mine managers. As such, accurate and timely operational intelligence is essential to addressing this challenge. Mine managers need a system that can continuously monitor asset performance in real-time and can identify opportunities to optimise production, reduce operating costs, increase first-pass quality and decrease waste. Mining companies are moving towards a mine execution system (MES) to bridge the gap between their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system and the plant floor. 

Mining-to-Port Logistics. Mining companies often have many disparate systems and repositories of data in their organisation for planning and scheduling outbound mining supply chains. The mine logistics planning staff coordinate a complex series of activities to ensure production forecast accuracy. Sales and marketing staff negotiate and execute complex contracts often with disconnected and limited visibility of production forecasts, quality, and variability with little ability to accurately market potential product specifications over a longer time period. To optimise and streamline aspects such as ore quality, throughout transport logistics, scheduling and delivery to contract, planning and logistics staff need to accurately model and manage the value chain and achieve a consolidated, enterprise view of operational performance.  

Energy Management. Energy Management (EM) solutions are increasingly being installed in mining and minerals processing companies to provide information for tracking and forecasting operational consumption and providing information around energy quality. The information empowers people to make decisions to improve business outcomes related to the cost and availability of energy. 

When combined with automation, energy management bridges the gap between process optimization and energy efficiency, enabling automation systems to make better decisions and set process variables based on information gathered from energy monitoring systems. 

The integration of energy management with mine execution systems to form a Production Energy Optimization (PEO) system provides a solution with timely and automated information gathering at a granularity that facilitates the identification of energy efficiency opportunities.  
[Vinod Kandoi is Segment Manager, Mining, Minerals & Metals, Schneider Electric.] 

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