Even in a legacy industry like mining, data is transforming day-to-day operations, providing greater insight into activities and enabling project managers and operatives to refine their approach.
All kinds of industries, all over the world, are changing how they work to incorporate data collection and analytics into their infrastructure to streamline processes, and inform better decision making and forward planning.
Analytics and data are not new to mining, but faced with rising costs, the scarcity of materials and rising pressure and greater demand from clients for supplies, the sector is increasingly turning to data to improve operations.
And as technology continues to advance, and the methods of data collection and analysis become more sophisticated, it is now possible to analyse every aspect of a mining operation, ensuring complete efficiency and, more importantly, operative safety during the mining process.
Real time monitoring
The emergence of machine learning and more sophisticated and smarter analytics means that everything within the mining project can now be reviewed and understood in real time.
In terms of equipment efficiency and safety, real time monitoring systems, combined with machine learning algorithms, can assess machine and equipment history, and predict and prevent downtime. Supervisors and operatives can be alerted immediately when a machine needs maintenance, ensuring any issues can be dealt with quickly, while also protecting operatives from the risk of injury due to equipment malfunction.
Having this data to hand means that operations can be enhanced and down-time greatly reduced, increasing the prospect of projects being completed on time, within budget and without any unforeseen disruption.
In the past, much of the equipment used to monitor mining activity and the environment was cumbersome and static, making it difficult to move around – particularly in confined spaces – which meant monitoring new environments as the project progressed was a time consuming and riskier prospect.
Now, however, as mobile equipment has become more common, it is possible to employ rapidly deployable and easily scalable monitoring systems, which can be easily installed anywhere within the mine and be instantly operational.
Having this scalability means mining operations have become safer for operatives, as new and previously unexplored areas can be more easily investigated using mobile equipment, with new monitoring systems set up and ready to use much faster.
Internet of Things and connected devices are also revolutionising mining operations, as monitoring systems can be set up in a remote point, with data being fed into these devices from anywhere within the mine.
This type of scalability means operatives are kept safer as areas can be investigated much quicker and any risks identified sooner, while the efficiency of the operation is also greatly increased with equipment able to set up or redeployed much easier – giving end-to-end visibility of operations at all times.
While data and analytics has undoubtedly improved the mining industry from an operational efficiency aspect, its main benefit has been in vastly increasing employee safety by reducing the time it takes to identify risks, and ensure that operatives can be tracked in real-time, wherever they are within the environment.
The use of wireless personnel tracking has been one of the biggest benefits to mining when it comes to operative safety. In the past, project leaders could only monitor where an operative was within the environment based on the agreed area they would be working in that day.
Monitoring their location in real-time was next to impossible.
Personal, wireless, systems mean operatives can now be tracked at all times from a central location and instantly report to changes of circumstances.
Portable and wireless machinery, like methane monitoring systems and other gas detection solutions also means operatives can track environmental changes and identify risks immediately, which is essential when investigating new areas of a mining operation.
The connectivity of this equipment also means that any changes to the environment, or if any other problems occur, supervisors can be alerted immediately and take any necessary action to keep their workforce safe.
Mining and industrial operations remain among the most hazardous and dangerous environments to work in. But connected technology and the increasing use of data and analytics are keeping operatives safe, and making environment monitoring far easier and more efficient - improving the delivery of projects in the process.
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