The Asia Miner

SEP-OCT 2014

The ASIA Miner - Reporting Important Issues to Mining Companies in the Asia Pacific Region

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54 | ASIA Miner | September/October 2014 TO combat declining productivity, miners, researchers and technology companies need to come together to develop tech- nologies that allow real-time, whole-of-life management of our resources. It is clear that as we grapple with challenges relat- ing to grade, quality, depth and safety we have reached, or are about to reach, the limits of traditional technologies deployed in the mining industry. Australia's mining productivity is declin- ing and the reasons for this are complex. However, one truth that we cannot es- cape is that many of the next generation of deposits are lower in grade, more com- plex and more challenging to mine than ever before. Fortunately, there is a new wave of technologies born out of the global digital revolution that are bringing together the real and virtual worlds in ways that we have not seen before. These technologies will enable the mining industry to manage inputs and outputs in a much more structured way, as real-time information becomes available throughout the mining process via new sensing technologies, cheap and effcient computer systems and an ability to deal with interconnecting, compli- cated datasets. This real-time data allows us to think about the fow of materials, from resource to product, in much the same way as manufacturers think about their process, from raw material to manufactured product. The mining industry hasn't been able to make full use of these digital technologies because they, and the integration platforms, are only now being developed and commercialized. Those that already exist have to be adapted to be resilient enough to withstand the harsh mine environ- ment and they also need to be better integrated, rather than be 'point solutions' for specifc issues – this means shared data standards and control systems. This will dramatically change the way we mine – in terms of optimizing performance of individual unit operations, but more importantly, for opti- mizing a whole system, from the ore body through to mining strategies, process control and environmental outcomes. Miners will increasingly take a holistic view of the resource and the downstream implications. It will drive an iterative mine planning process that will assess the triple bottom line benefts to provide better pro- ductivity, better long-term outcomes and new opportunities to manage evolving risk profles through the life of an operation. Areas where these sensors will be most crucial are in process pro- ductivity, rapid resource characterization, and intelligent mining and ore management. Of course, these are all sequential parts of the value chain, but the real opportunity is integration across all three. Once we have this whole-of-life, real-time view of a mine, then we can start questioning the fundamental technologies we currently use. This may mean a move towards new mining technologies, more sophisticat- ed processing techniques or alternative sorting strategies that, in turn, allow different transport and waste strategies. In the short term, a new 'forensic' approach to system optimization will have a positive impact on productivity. In the longer term, it could drive a whole new approach to mining that is lower in impact, more productive and, most importantly, allows us to mine resources that can't be mined today. The momentum for change is unstoppable – all enabling pieces are there but they need to be brought together, focused and applied. To do this we need collaboration at every level. Necessity will compel the industry to work together in the development of technology, which they have traditionally done in competition. Real competitiveness lies in the use of these technologies to drive optimal outcomes rather than in a multitude of protected, poorly inte- grated solutions. One thing is certain, the necessity for change is here and Australia is well placed to lead the revolution. - From CSIRO's resourceful magazine The necessity for change is upon us By CSIRO Minerals Down Under Flagship director Jonathan Law Jonathan Law. RIO Tinto has partnered with CRCMining, Newcrest Mining and El- exon Electronics in the development of a cutting-edge real-time cave fow tracking system of caved material within block caves. The ground-breaking cave tracking technology uses unique 3D position systems to enable real-time monitoring of sensors in the block cave, which move along with the ore, optimizing the fow of caved material and minimising ore dilution. "The Cave Tracker system is a step-change technology that will de- liver signifcant benefts to the mining industry. It will enable real-time mapping of cave material movement, which can be used to minimize dilution and maximize recovery from caves," says CRCMining's Hard Rock and Surface Mining Program leader Dihon Tadic. "Monitoring the material fow in block caves has not been possible previously, leading to poor control of block cave operations and sub-optimal outcomes. "The technology will assist in development of improved caving mod- els, which will enable miners to design better cave layouts, ultimately improving mine safety and productivity." Rio Tinto's general manager of Geotechnical Engineering and Cave Management for the Copper Group, Andre van As, believes there is value for the caving industry and the mining industry as a whole. "We now have a way of remotely and wirelessly tracking rock mass move- ments in real-time, and preserve the integrity of the resource. It has application in every method." He says, "The real value is in preserving the security and integrity of the resource. By monitoring the fow of material in real-time we can potentially minimize the dilution in recovering ore from the block cave, thereby improving performance. The technology will also signifcantly improve safety, and enable better management of the mine." Rio joins forces on cave tracking system

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