South Africa-based mining project management and engineering company DRA has developed a software solution, Mine Operations Management System (MOMS), which the company believes will revolutionise the mining industry in the next five to ten years.
“MOMS enables mining companies to have better control over their supply chain, as well as improved control and management of their process plants. It also ensures that their assets are delivering increased efficiencies, uses and availability,” says DRA electrical engineer Johan de Villiers.
He notes that the biggest challenge for mining companies is to meet high demand by increasing ore throughput while maintaining quality and reducing costs, adding that identifying the causes of downtime and measuring it are other important contributions that MOMS can make.
Further, MOMS supports processes in the production chain. For example, during the ore beneficiation phase, MOMS can focus on data collection and reporting, says De Villiers.
He explains that data from the local programmable logic controller (PLC) and supervisory control and data acquisition systems is collected and archived. This information is then used to report on production efficiencies, stoppages, yields and quality. This data forms the baseline for continuous improvement efforts.
De Villiers adds that, owing to varying ore quality, other programmes have to pay special attention to the efficiency of the processing plants. For example, there can be a sudden decrease in performance during the grinding process, owing to changes in the ore quality.
MOMS not only detects these changes but also tracks and records the activities and processing results, after which it alerts automated systems that a new control strategy should be deployed.
De Villiers points out that blending expensive stockpiles of material into the mix is a far more economical approach to maintaining quality.
He further points out that MOMS also plays a significant role in managing downtime and root-cause analysis. When connected to a PLC, the system can detect the start and stop times of equipment and register the causes of the problems. This helps operation managers to identify and mitigate problems and, ultimately, to improve throughput.
De Villiers adds that scheduling on a mine is another complex task that can be improved using MOMS. He points out that mine and supply chain schedules need to be synchronised, but that these are typically managed on separate specialised systems – one for mining and the other for logistics.
He tells Mining Weekly that improving these operations is very complex, but that this typically provides large returns. He believes MOMS is the key to this cross-system coordination process.
Mines often use trucks to transport ore from the pit to the run-of-mine stockpile, while various on-board systems monitor the fuel consumption, payload and tyre conditions of the trucks.
MOMS collects the data from these systems for the maintenance management of fleets and the condition monitoring of heavy plant equipment.
De Villiers points out that this requires effective communication networks, as connections have to work optimally in all weather conditions.
Another significant advantage of MOMS is the ability to interface with the enterprise resource planning systems and exchange the relevant data. MOMS will use this data for key performance reporting.
Further, telemetry infrastructure must be able to cope with geographical changes of the mine pit, routes and mobile fleet, he concludes.