Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming business operations across the globe. Ten – or even five – years ago, the prospect of business applicable AI was a pipe dream! Now, however, AI is used across a number of industries, including: healthcare, science, manufacturing, retail, finance, customer service and – most recently – mining.
Despite being somewhat late to the AI party, artificial intelligence in the mining industry holds tremendous possibilities. With AI at the helm, operations can be automated, environments can be monitored in real time, machine degradation and failure can be predicted before it occurs, and operations can be streamlined – and these are just a few possibilities.
Improved safety and operational efficiency
What if you had a machine monitoring solution that could identify the signs that a piece of equipment is about to fail and flag it for inspection/repair days in advance?
More often than not, when a piece of equipment is about to fail, it exhibits certain signs – excessive vibration, irregular noises or lower output, for example. However, with AI (particularly machine learning) and sophisticated sensors, those signs can be monitored and identified in real-time.
Most mining operations today utilise a wide array of sensors to gather information on machinery, but while all the information is useful, compiling it and extracting insights in real-time is difficult.
With machine learning algorithms, that data can be analysed at scale and in real-time to assess machine performance and health. For example, the machine learning algorithm can use historical equipment data, environment status, weather and current usage to predict when a machine needs maintenance or might fail.
The benefits of this level of analysis are twofold: not only are operatives protected from catastrophic machine failure that might compromise safety, but operations suffer less downtime as maintenance can be scheduled in advance and new equipment brought in to cover. This leads to lower overall costs (as maintenance is planned for) and greater performance.
And this technology is not just applicable to machine monitoring – but also to every aspect of the mining operation.
Reduced costs and streamlined activities
Mining is incredibly expensive.
The sheer amount of moving parts, in terms of both manpower and machinery, along with the infrastructure, maintenance and other associated expenditure mean mines can cost in the tens of millions to operate.
With activities going on 24/7, productivity, operative health and efficient machine capability are absolutely essential. Any inefficiencies or concerns within the operation will lead to further costs, wasted resources and risks to employees.
But what if activities could be streamlined and optimised to ensure maximum productivity and capacity without wasting resources or compromising employee safety?
This is entirely possible. There are already sophisticated mine monitoring solutions available but the next logical step to drive efficiency is to combine mine monitoring with AI. As it stands, mine monitoring solutions enable mine managers to protect, monitor and assess every aspect of the mine operation – from equipment status and environment monitoring to personnel health and wireless tracking.
However, by integrating AI with mine monitoring solutions, operations go beyond simply monitoring and can start to analyse activities and quickly identify areas for improvement. Thanks to low-cost sensors used across mining, there is a plethora of data available for AI to utilise to better understand how mining operations can be improved. For example, mine monitoring solutions can monitor airflow within the mine and AI solutions can then evaluate airflow against machine conditions (whether they are exposed to possible degradation hazards) and operator health to identify optimum air levels. This results in more efficient usage of air, and dust suppression systems, and protects equipment, reducing costs overall as maintenance is less frequent.
Right now, mine managers have access to huge amounts of real-time monitoring data – the challenge is to use it quickly and effectively to make a difference. And that is what AI delivers: a new level of insight available in real-time that can transform operational efficiency and workforce safety.
As mining operations become more data-driven, artificial intelligence in the mining industry will become more prevalent. With the ability to help optimise processes, safeguard operatives and reduce costs, AI is a cost-effective, scalable and powerful solution that should be considered by mining operations around the world.
To guarantee the safety and protection of miners, sophisticated connected technologies and real-time monitoring solutions are vital. Discover more about the role of AI in hazardous industries by downloading our latest eBook: