Digital platform improves zinc miner’s operations

1st November 2019 By: Darren Parker - Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online

Digital platform improves zinc miner’s operations

MOUNTAINS OF DATA The Black Mountain Mining operation will now be able integrate relevant operational and maintenance data into one source

Global engineering group Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology is commissioning a comprehensive data analytics and information management system called OptiMine for base metals miner Vedanta Zinc International’s Black Mountain Mining (BMM) operation, in the Northern Cape.

The OptiMine platform will assist BMM in accelerating its data-driven operation to achieve higher levels of safety, efficiency and productivity.

The original-equipment manufacturer independent suite of digital tools analyses and provides meaningful insights into production and processes. It integrates all relevant operational and maintenance data into one source, delivering real-time and predictive insights to assist production teams to improve operations. It is open and scalable, providing flexibility to expand as needed, and can incorporate other equipment, systems and networks.

“The OptiMine short interval control modules help acquire real-time telemetry and production information from the equipment, visualise locations of equipment and feedback on progress of production or any other tasks so that quick decisions can be made for the realignment of tasks if need be,” explains Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology Southern Africa business line manager: automation Neil McCoy.

He adds that the operators can be communicated with instantly, thereby negating the need to wait for the end of a shift before correcting or adjusting tasks.

The data analytics capabilities also provide predictive insights into machine health and other potential issues that may affect overall equipment efficiency. These insights are based on information gained from multiple sources including the state of equipment, maintenance efforts and operator behaviour.

“The OptiMine platform will help improve the overall efficiency of equipment by considering the entire mining cycle and all the factors that might impact on equipment efficiency. It provides a much more holistic view than is traditionally possible,” McCoy tells Mining Weekly.

The OptiMine platform includes equipment location tracking through Visualizer, planning and task management through Task Manager and Scheduler, telemetry and production reporting of equipment through Remote Monitoring – including truck, drills and loaders – and operations.

BMM’s operations comprise two underground shafts – Deeps and Swartberg – and a processing plant. Vedanta Zinc International has also developed the Gamsberg project, which was opened by State President Cyril Ramaphosa at the end of February this year.

The Deeps shaft produces copper, lead and zinc, with silver as a by-product. Production is about 52 000 t/y of metal-in-concentrate, and is currently scheduled to cease in 2023. The digitalisation project was initially focused on the load and haul fleet at Deeps. It was expanded to include the longhole drill rigs.

The Swartberg shaft produces primarily copper and lead, with silver as a by-product. Production is about 23 000 t/y of metal-in-concentrate. Plans are well advanced to deepen Swartberg, which will increase production to 1.6-million tonnes a year of copper and lead ore, and between 60 000 t/y and 70 000 t/y of metal-in-concentrate.

Further ramp-up is planned for the future, taking copper and lead ore production past two-million tonnes a year.

Vedanta Zinc International is one the largest private-sector employers in the Northern Cape, with about 1 500 people currently employed at BMM. Gamsberg Phase 1 employs around 850 people – and the planned Gamsberg Phase 2 and Smelter projects could see more than 3 500 jobs created during construction.

About 80% of BMM’s employees are from the Northern Cape, of whom 60% are from the Namaqua district, including the Khâi-Ma and Nama Khoi municipal areas.

Gamsberg’s project is a new zinc mine aimed at exploiting one of the largest known, undeveloped zinc orebodies in the world and comprises an openpit mine and a dedicated processing plant.

The project’s current resource is about 214-million tonnes, with a life-of-mine (LoM) estimated at 30 years.

In Phase 1, which has an LoM of 13 years, four-million tonnes a year of ore will be processed, producing 250 000 t/y of zinc-in-concentrate will be produced from its concentrator plant. First production began in mid-2018, and the project is now fully operational.

Amid Vedanta Zinc International’s expansions, it was important for BMM to minimise downtime and maximise resource allocation, hence the adoption of OptiMine, which enhances the profitability and cost effectiveness of all ongoing and new operations.

“The platform forms the basis of our digitalisation journey. Having visibility of real-time data allows for proactive decision-making at the right time and the right level of management throughout the value chain,” concludes BMM acting strategic business unit director Sean Jenniker.