First published in the Digitalist by Ruediger Schroedter
Digital business is all about streamlining. Every organization collects data, but not all know how to use it. At their best, data and analytics help businesses make smarter decisions. The key is knowing what to measure—and who to share it with.
Today, new enterprise software is revolutionizing mining. From predictive software to 3D printing, the future of mining is here. But to harness its power, companies must first reimagine their business processes.
Predictability is bliss
Everyone can agree that the fewer unexpected disruptions, the better. But how can mines reduce unwelcome surprises? The answer, in a nutshell, is to measure everything.
Digital tools help employees to track alerts and interruptions in real time. And through predictive sensors, operators know which machines need repair—and when. This powerful technology keeps all site teams informed and in the loop.
But what about the safety of the site itself? Whether in metals or coal, no site is free of risks. In the past, determining reserves and ore quality took a lot effort and manpower. But new sensor-based tools are expediting the decision-making process. Thanks to geomodeling, determining project viability is now more accurate—and more cost-effective.
With the site developed, companies can now maximize its potential. At AngloGold Ashanti, they use geomodeling to identify high-grade ore bodies. Then through half-level mining, they can target the ore and avoid the waste. Through digital transformation, AngloGold shanti’s metals extraction processes are more precise, predictable, and profitable.
Prioritizing sustainability and safety
Sustainability is more important in mining than ever before. Today’s mines must meet strict goals without losing productivity. Meanwhile, renewable energy is becoming cheaper and more practical. New mines will depend on these resources and use real-time analytics to track output. Embracing sustainability now may help attract capital and create new revenue streams.
Just as important to digital business is safety. But how can digital tools help? A survey by The Economist found promise in mobile applications. Almost half of organizations used mobile to communicate in the field or underground. Many also used mobile to track on-site hazards as they develop.
For example, at Codelco, underground workers wear bionic jackets with safety sensors. These tools provide real-time monitoring of location and crucial environmental factors. By tracking light, sound, and oxygen, mine workers can expect and avoid potential danger.
3D printing and the supply chain
How can businesses create a more efficient, cost-effective supply chain? Digital transformation thrives on collaboration and customization. And with 3D printing, warehouses of spare parts and stock piles will be a thing of the past. These powerful devices will speed up repairs and reduce remote shipping costs.
Here’s an example: Mines rely on topographic maps for safe and effective resource extraction. Two-dimensional maps may be the standard, but 3D maps are proving far more reliable. Not only do these maps improve planning, they also help investors analyze site potential.
In fact, 3D printing may have other benefits to the metals industry as well. Many 3D printers rely on titanium oxide for production. This powder uses titanium, steel, cobalt, and other raw materials. With resources in demand, many hope that 3D printing will help stabilize market prices.
The benefits of digital transformation are everywhere, from smarter mine modeling to sustainable sourcing. This allows for real-time responses and decisive, efficient action. The net result? A more powerful, productive digital mine—and a safer one.
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