Mining operations require numerous steps and multiple operations, which are affected by precedent activities and also affect subsequent operations. Many mining operations have a need to collect, report, and share data on various aspects of the operation for environmental, safety, or production reasons. The application of information technology is happening at every phase of the mining value chain, from exploration and geological modeling to equipment, operations and maintenance, and logistics and transportation. The information has to be accurate and it has to be the right information; it needs to be easy to access and needs to be available fast.
For a mine in operation, an endless stream of data in the form of performance and condition data from sensors and monitoring devices on fixed and mobile assets through networks, servers, and services. This “big data” can be processed and analyzed to spot trends, help predict events, and formulate reliability strategies as early as the design stage (e.g., reliability-centered design). This embedded intelligence can be used to optimize operational efficiency, increase asset availability and utilization, improve safety and environmental integrity, and maximize return on investment. “Intelligent mining” implies that massive amounts of data augment the reality of the physical mine, plant, and equipment. Mines using standardized information technology throughout mining life cycle (called as smart or intelligent mine) could help restore the reputation of the industry and align interests of investors, environmentalist and the communities in which mines operate.
From blasting to noise to water monitoring, remote monitoring systems can save users operational time and resources by getting data to mining project personnel without requiring them to spend hours in the field. Automatic information gathering, analysis helps mines to save on operating and maintenance costs and extend asset life, while at the same time complying with stringent regulatory and safety requirements. Innovative hand held units allow field data to be captured and automatically downloaded when the unit is docked, eliminating human error during data transfer.
2. Mining Data Management and Reporting Software
Mining operations are generating so much data and so many numbers that it can be difficult for an operator or manager to keep track of everything that is happening in the operation. Several mining-specific software are available that helps to organise and report on any and all data in one central place. Such software basically brings together all the data from right across a mining and processing operation. No matter what form the data comes in, how it is captured, or what current system it comes from, software apparently can handle it. The main aim of the software is to capture, assemble and report data on things as diverse as production, operating hours, delays, machine conditions, water flows, power, and conveyors. It will even capture and display rail and port data.
In such a software the database is able to pull in data, numbers and information from nearly any source. It already matches in with most of the common monitoring and information systems on site, and can also tie it in to nearly any type of system. It can also accept manually entered data from shift reports etc. Even have their rail information coming in from their external supplier at one of their sites, and are looking at extending this to include data from the port. The system can also link in with tablets etc for real time data entry in the field to support the automatic data gathered from equipment. Advantage of having the one central database is that everyone can access the same data at the same time, and only have to go to the one place to get it.
The software’s interface system looks like a “dashboard”. Each different manager on site can have their own custom dashboard showing the data and trends relevant to their area. The dashboards can run on desktop computers, portable tablets, or on monitors in public areas around the mine. The dashboards can show graphs, dials, colored lights, sliders, clock-faces and many other types of visual displays – whatever is best suited to the type of data being displayed. Custom PDF or printed reports are setup within the system, and can be scheduled to get sent out at the same time each day or week to specific people or groups on the site.
Overlaying the physical world with the digital or virtual world enables us to model and simulate our assets, giving us the ability to effectively design, build, and ultimately optimize the performance and reliability of our assets throughout the lifecycle. The digital asset, often a 3D model, is created initially during the engineering and construction phase and is handed over to the owner-operator before the mine goes into operation.
Combined with geospatial or geographic information systems, the operator has a complete digital representation of the physical world, which forms the foundation for risk and performance management, as well as compliance and regulatory reporting. Laser scanning and positioning technology can be used to create point clouds information models consisting of millions of data points – that enable the visualization and representation of the “as-operated” reality.
Overlaying the physical world with the digital or virtual world enables us to model and simulate our assets, giving us the ability to effectively design, build, and ultimately optimize the performance and reliability of our assets throughout the lifecycle. The digital asset, often a 3D model, is created initially during the engineering and construction phase and is handed over to the owner-operator before the mine goes into operation. Combined with geospatial or geographic information systems, the operator has a complete digital representation of the physical world, which forms the foundation for risk and performance management, as well as compliance and regulatory reporting. Laser scanning and positioning technology can be used to create point clouds information models consisting of millions of data points – that enable the visualization and representation of the “as-operated” reality. Maintaining an information model of the mining operation allows owner operators to demonstrate their compliance with regulations and optimize the performance of their assets.
Figure 1: Geological Database system
The advantages of information modeling are self-evident in this large-scale mining project:
Maintaining an information model of the mining operation allows owner operators to demonstrate their compliance with regulations and optimize the performance of their assets. Kumba Iron Ore, a leading value-added supplier of high-quality iron ore to the global steel industry, illustrated this at Be Inspired 2012 when it presented its environmental monitoring system. Kumba Iron Ore developed an integrated environmental monitoring data management system for the Kolomela Mine in Postmasburg, South Africa. The system saves time on the ZAR 1 million project by providing a one-stop shop for environmental monitoring data, such as water, dust, and biodiversity. An innovative hand held unit allows field data to be captured and automatically down loaded when the unit is docked, eliminating human error during data transfer. Building on Bentley’s MicroStation platform for cadastral and survey data, Kumba used Bentley Map as the source for GIS-related features. Bentley Geo Web Publisher was implemented to share geospatial and attribute data with other departments in the mining operation. Using the GIS tool to build an integrated Mine Closure Plan also allows Kumba Iron Ore to track progress on managing closure liabilities and rehabilitation projects.
Web Based Monitoring and Data Management Solutions for Mine Management
A fully automated monitoring system with web-based data access is available for blasting, an operation which affects all subsequent operations and costs. All of the activities – blast location, design a pattern, design charge, select a charge, mark up to drill, charge and stem, decide on initiation and tie and safety precautions and blast -- are linked in a sequence because they must be carried out in a certain order. While carrying out blasting process there is no measurement and control at different stages. There is often difference in designed and actual drilled hole locations in the field, charging and tie-up. Though all precautions are taken, however compliance audit of execution is often absent as only some steps are checked. Key point being that by using predictors the blasting team can alter the blast charging, initiation sequence and tie-up at that point in the field to improve results.
The drilling and blasting component at most mining operations generates a large volume of data from a single event. One blast event can generate reports on blast design, drilling logs, seismic records, blast video, weather data, complaint information, and production analysis to name a few. Typically, this information is collected and then filed unless a specific problem occurs to warrant a deeper evaluation of the collected information. Given the level of effort taken to collect this data, a proactive evaluation of the information would be more beneficial to a mining operation rather than a reactive response.
Remote vibration monitoring system can be tied up with web-based data management. This service provides efficient, cost-effective data collection while placing the responsibility of gathering quality data in the hands of third-party experts. The monitoring system provides turnkey monitoring, analysis and reporting of ground vibration and air overpressure data.
The cloud based computing system allows for storage and retrieval of all blast related data as well as the ability to mine the data. Data mining is the process of analysing data from different perspectives and summarising it into useful information. This information can be used to make engineering or business decisions on the drilling and blasting program.Clients have access to a customized website that stores all the system’s monitoring data. Seismic data and corresponding blasting logs are available in an organized, sortable manner. Numerous graphs are available to view historical trend analyses that can help identify areas of the pit that may require a change in blast design before serious problems arise. Compliance graphics allow for at-a-glance feedback on how a blasting program conforms to applicable ground vibration and air overpressure limits. If we are away from the office and our computer, a smart phone app is available which allows you to access your data using your Android or iphone.
Solutions for Prediction and Control of Environmental Impacts
Increasing numbers of mining operations are coming under pressure to monitor and reduce blasting related safety and environmental hazards (Bhandari, 1997). Ground vibrations, air over-pressure, fly-rock, dust, blasting fumes in some cases leaching of chemicals in the blast holes and polluting ground water are some of the undesired events associated with blasting which collectively affect the surrounding environment adversely.
There is often difference in designed and actual drill hole locations. Drilled hole data can be used for predicting environmental impact of blasting and if the environmental limits for vibration and fly rock imposed by regulatory authorities or by management exceed then explosive charge distribution and initiation timing and sequence can be changed so that limits are not exceeded. For these purpose software modules like wave-reinforcement predictor, ground and air vibration predictors have been developed by (Richards and Moore, 1995) and integrated with blast data management system and other predictors.
Analysis by wave front reinforcement predictor softwarehas been found that many blast design and initiation cause substantial increases in both air and ground vibration from both surface and underground blasting operations. Simple alterations to firing patterns can prevent wave front reinforcement and be used to control vibration levels in many situations. By change of delay timing or sequence reinforcement can be avoided thus lowering of maximum vibration levels. This tool allows blast to be designed to reduce exceedance of vibrations both for airblast and for ground vibrations (Richards, 1995).
Inputs to flyrock prediction software are charge mass, burden or stemming height, and a site constant that lies within a general range that can be tightened by site calibration. The output is the distance that rock will be thrown, and this ‘design your own flyrock’ quantification can be used to establish both safe clearance distances, and the critical range of burdens and stemming heights where the situation changes rapidly from safe to hazardous
A comprehensive blasting analysis and reporting software VIBRATION PREDICTOR meets the needs of both operators and regulators. It supports and improves compliance with blasting related planning conditions, and contributes to improved blast performance and blast design. Key features include: Regular updating of predictions using ongoing site data, providing minimum instantaneous charge (MICs) to the operator that ensure compliance with vibration level restrictions by design rather than by accident. The system’s advanced analysis also allows blasting on individual benches or areas to be assessed and the financial and environmental risks and benefits of changes to be evaluated rapidly and reliably, optimising costs and maximising efficiency.
Single-hole signature analysis allows computer simulation for thousands of potential blast designs that can be evaluated at each monitoring location. The vibrations from each single hole shot being fired in a certain area of the pit will produce ground vibrations with a resulting frequency spectrum dictated by the source/receiver path (geology). Testing has found that this frequency spectrum or geologic response is primarily a function of the overburden thickness. Because houses amplify only certain frequencies, it is possible to synthesise the frequency spectrum from hundreds of potential blast designs for each location of concern, and identify the blast patterns least likely to affect the neighbouring houses. By reducing the amount that the houses shake, complaints are reduced. This integrated approach of available technologies provides an intelligent, scientific solution for blast vibration remediation.
Use of Mobile devices makes it easier to collect data on site and it mainstream in many places where mobile workforce is present. Use of these devices would be ideal in the field for Drill and Blast personnel. Though mobile devices are not be used within 30 m of a blast however appropriate rugged devices can be used. They would get the required capability of collecting on-site-blasting details. As part of the technology solution a Mobile App has been developed which has the following features:
Figure 2 shows basic concept of mobility solution. To use this application, mining personnel can take the device to blasting site in android or iOS device to the blasting site. All parameters related to drilled holes and explosive charging, stemming etc can be collected. At this stage blaster can recheck predicted fragment size distribution, flyrock distance, ground and air vibration, fragment size etc and if there is variation from designed and limits are exceeded then changes in charging, stemming, initiation devices and timing can be done before executing the blast. Photographs and videos can also be saved using capabilities of the device. Data can be imported from other devices or tools such as vibration monitoring record.
When mining personnel returns from site, he can sync this data to the web version of this application and export it as well to the desktop because local storage of mobile devices cannot save large amount of data. Figure 4 gives details of fragmentation prediction steps. Similarly this tool can be used for ground vibration and air blast prediction. Simulation and wave front reinforcement analysis can be carried out.
Remote Monitoring Solutions
The recent upgrades to the mobile phone network coverage and speed, combined with the internet backbone available, and even the satellite data communications infrastructure available today are creating an extensive and reliable communications infrastructure that is ideal for applications in mining. These technologies are providing a platform for the complete re-engineering of many business models in the Mining Industry.
Where water is discharged into multiple public waterways, regulations require the ongoing monitoring of water quality and flow-rate, and the regular reporting of this data to the authorities. This responsibility should fall outside of the production environment. Data should be secure and available for regular, but infrequent reporting, but abnormal events should be reported immediately to prevent pollution and possible fines from authorities.
The use of web-based remote monitoring provides a very convenient method of providing this data directly to the compliance office, without requiring large capital expenditure and access to internal technical resources. By providing a single web-enabled Data Access Point at each outflow location, data can be collected and provided in real-time to the compliance office. In addition, email and SMS alerts can be configured to provide immediate notification if water quality limits are breached (Celine,2013).
The use of new technologies in the connected world is inevitable, as it provides the best-in-class means today of communicating with thousands of points securely and cost effectively. Information and communications technology can be applied to the entire value chain and lifecycle of mining and mineral extraction. For investors and owner-operators, intelligent mining has the potential to capture the 1 percent or 2 percent marginal gain that helps contribute to profitability. Intelligent mining is also a means to avoid the costly mistakes that result in multimillion or multibillion dollar write-downs of assets. There is no doubt that the future landscape of mining will be a digital landscape.
Blasting operations needs to use innovative technology. Blast engineers are ideally trying to predict three outcomes in blast design: fragmentation (the size distribution of the blasted material), movement (where the grade and waste will end up), and environmental consequences. The mining industry is using modelling tools that can predict ore movement to minimise the twin evils of loss and dilution. Use of information technology for storing data, design, analysis and prediction of results helps in better control and optimization of mining operations. Data storage helps to quickly respond to information and remain successful in today’s competitive market place. By use of information technology many projects can reduce complaints and can improve efficiency. Several technologies are being adopted in mining industry to make blasting operations efficient and reduce environmental impact.
- Rudenko D. and Kolher E., Monitoring and Data Management Solutions for Mine Management. 20th Annual Drilling and Blasting Conference 2012,
- Bhandari, S. “Information Management for Improved Blasting Operations and Environmental Control”; 3rd Asia- Pacific Symposium on Blasting Techniques, August 10-13, 2011 Xiamen, China.
- Cunningham, C.V.B., 1983 The Kuz-Ram Model for Prediction of Fragmentation From Blasting, First International Symposium on Rock Fragmentation by Blasting, Lulea, Sweden, August, pp 439-454
- Leslile, McHattiee “Advances in Mine Engineering to enable Information Mobility for “Intelligent Mining”, A Bentley White Paper, May 2013.
- Cunningham, C V B, 1987 Fragmentation estimations and the Kuz-Ram Model – four years on, in 2nd International Symposium of Rock Fragmentation by Blasting keystone, Colorado, pp. 475-487
- Richards, A. B. and Moore, A. J.,1995: Blast Vibration Control by Wave front Reinforcement Techniques in Explo 1995, pp 323-327 The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy in: Brisbane.
- Parihar, C.P. and Bhandari, S, 2011. Improving Blasting Operations Using Data Management and Analysis, Tenth International Symposium on Rock Fragmentation by Blasting, New Delhi, pp
- Richards, A B and Moore, A J ; 2004, Flyrock Control – By Chance or Design in the proceedings of The 30th Annual Conference on Explosives and Blasting Technique, (The International Society of Explosives Engineers: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA)