The need to constantly optimize safety, sustainability, productivity, and efficiency has made the case for digitalization and automation of mining operations more compelling than ever. Investments in Industry 4.0 or – in this case – Mining 4.0 solutions have sharply increased over the past years.
Mining Review Africa asked two of the panellists from the upcoming live webinar, “How can African mine operators make Mining 4.0 a reality?” about the challenges and opportunities of Mining 4.0.
According to Gary Conway, head of MEA Energy Sales at Nokia, in many industries digital transformation focus is on moving from physical to digital. “This makes a lot more sense for IT-centric companies, who are mainly dealing with data and digital information,” Conway said. “Think for example of what Amazon did with books, or Netflix with DVDs”.
But the mining industry has a lot of physical plant and tons of physical assets scattered everywhere. They are OT-centric. Drills, trucks, and other machinery are essential for their business and can’t be replaced by IT systems.
Industry 4.0 value comes from finding digital means to control these physical assets, wherever they are. To make operations safer, more sustainable, more productive.
“So, the full potential of Mining 4.0 is about going beyond the idea of just replacing physical with digital,” Conway says. It’s about controlling the physical assets using digital means. It’s about the convergence of IT and OT technologies. A third foundational component is communications technology or CT.”
“Unfortunately, today’s Wi-Fi-based mining networks don’t provide the mission- robustness and performance that are needed for mission-critical mining operations. That’s why private LTE and 5G cellular networking technologies are getting near the top of the agenda of their CIOs and CTOs.”
Anton Fester, Managing Director at Sedna Industrial IT Solutions, notices that many automation and digitalization projects also represent a ‘first off’ for mining companies. Such large technology projects often turn out to be more about people than technology.
“They introduce new operational practices, new workflows and are new demands being placed on the workforce. Most often, there’s only a small group of people with meaningful experience in Mining 4.0 project implementation.
“Sedna’s success in the African mining market can be attributed to our unwavering focus on industrial customers and addressing their challenges,” Fester said.
“We have worked with most larger miners across the majority of resources to add IT and CT value to their respective OT environments. These engagements focus on the simple principles of standing up enabling technology networks, managing, and supporting the production systems, integrating data outputs and presenting information to the organization’s decision makers.”