Mining companies continue to face volatile commodity prices and challenging economic conditions, primarily owing to lacklustre global demand, but the industrial Internet could be the solution, states diversified conglomerate General Electric’s (GE’s) mining solutions division, GE Mining.
GE managers will present two educational sessions at the quadrennial 2016 MINExpo International event, in Las Vegas, to highlight the benefits and potential of using the industrial Internet for mining applications. The event, where GE will also exhibit its mining product offering, runs from September 26 to 28.
“Following an extended period of massive capital investment, the mining industry is now firmly focused on improving productivity and sustainable cost management. Additional pressures from lower commodity prices support a stronger push towards evolving technologies that can continually improve mining efficiency,” GE Mining CEO Scott Phillips tells Mining Weekly.
As a result, there has been renewed emphasis on digital asset and process management, as these methods have enabled industrial companies to achieve high levels of efficiency through increased asset availability and enhancing the effectiveness of processes.
Phillips explains that the industrial Internet is “the convergence of the global industrial sector with big data and the Internet of Things”, adding that this convergence has the potential to dramatically alter the competitive landscape for many industries within the next few years – including mining.
“The industrial Internet encompasses myriad amounts of the complex physical machinery and processes that make our world work. It costs trillions of dollars each year to run these intensive systems. That’s why improving operational efficiency by just 1% can save millions of dollars in costs for many mining operations.”
He notes that, within the global mining industry, the combined operating expenditure for the top 40 miners in 2014 was $531-billion. “Just 1% of that equates to $5.3-billion in potential savings that could be achieved through increasing operational efficiency.” For example, consolidating all mill asset and process information in a common platform would provide mine production managers with line-of-sight of everything pertaining to their facility, thereby enabling them to advise their teams to focus on specific areas to improve the throughput, recoveries and quality of operations.
Phillips explains that the combination of technologies – including machine sensors, connectivity, data capture, visualisation and big data analytics – can support asset life-cycle management, remote monitoring, condition-based and predictive maintenance, and real-time operator intelligence. “While significant efficiency gains have already been realised in other industries, the power of the industrial Internet is only beginning to emerge in mining.”
There are many potential gains from using the industrial Internet for mining applications, Phillips states. He notes that technical mining solutions provider GE Digital Mining – which forms part of GE Mining – has improved asset performance in mining situations, enhancing throughputs by 10% and increasing equipment uptime by 15%.
“In terms of improving operational efficiency, mine sites have been able to better their mineral recovery by 1% to 3%, resulting in significant savings for the operation, while enjoying less equipment failure by embracing the industrial Internet and going digital.”
Additionally, he points out that the industrial Internet can help GE’s customers get closer to realising the shared visions of a zero harm industry, leading to positive financial gains and reducing downtime owing to safety-related incidents.
GE Mining will showcase solutions that enable stakeholders within the mining industry to address challenges and capitalise on opportunities. “We will display products ranging from electric propulsion drives to a 7 t battery-powered load-haul-dump loader, a modular E-house system and digital productivity solutions.”
The company will also feature its alert remote-monitoring and diagnostics solution – a product of GE’s investment in the industrial Internet and its industrial cloud-based platform Predix.