Minopex recently began rolling out a new digitally-enhanced management information system at its operating sites.
Originated within sister company DRA, the system is called MOMS (Mine Operating Management System) and has been designed to meet the needs of a digitally evolving industry.
This article first appeared in Mining Elites in Africa 2019
MOMS collects data from all sources on a mine or metallurgical plant, including ERP systems, PLCs, SCADAs, laboratory management systems and maintenance management systems.
It stores this big data and allows the user to access information in a format which results in greater user efficiency and fewer errors in information outlay.
According to Executive Vice President and MD at Minopex, James Smith, it is important that the mining industry becomes more technology driven in order to deal with current and future challenges. Hence, the need to develop a technologically advance management information system.
“Cost pressures on operations today are significant and tight margins have become the norm. For example, the platinum industry is currently receiving approximately half the revenue per ounce that it did a decade ago,” he says.
“There is also a looming gap in skilled, experienced artisans and operators, fuelled by the fact that mining is not seen as an attractive career in the modern world. To stay in business, the industry must work smarter with a smaller skills pool.
"Technology can bridge this gap, guiding less-experienced operators to perform at a higher level, by simplifying complex planning and decision-making processes through automated computations and predictive capabilities.”
Laying the platform for digital transformation
Smith notes that MOMS provides a critical platform for digital transformation in ensuring future readiness as predictive capabilities evolve.
“With each roll out there are significant new developments as different clients want to focus on different areas. This reciprocal learning is very important to the continuous improvement of the MOMS offering,” he states.
In addition to the above, Minopex Technical Systems also aims to improve the system through research and development that focusses on improvements and optimisation of production, inventory and maintenance operations.
Furthermore, forecasting and prediction is a major focus as these are stepping stones for digital technologies to enhance prescriptive operations. Minopex Technical Systems collaborates with outside companies to create practical digital solutions for its clients.
The company also focusses on digital integration of systems on its operating sites, with the focus on achieving a paperless, seamless transfer of digital data that is free of transcription errors.
A digital eye on the future
According to Smith, digital technologies are in abundance and are becoming more affordable as increased commercialisation and competition drive down costs.
“Minopex, through market scanning, keeps up with the trends. This ensures that selected technologies have practical applications that will not only benefit current business operations, but also lay the platform for future technology readiness,” he adds.
Smith further explains that the company works closely with DRA to ensure digital solutions developed in the project engineering and construction world are leveraged to enhance Minopex O&M functions. Two of these areas currently in development are mine resource optimisation and build information modelling.
Mine resource optimisation will enhance the mine planning function and feed information to the process plant operations ahead of time. For example, predictions of harder feed material causing lower milling rates and higher reagent consumption will allow a plant’s operations management to improve production planning and be prepared for the feed material changes.
Build Information Modelling (BIM) is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. It is a shared knowledge resource on information about a facility, forming a reliable basis for decisions during its lifecycle.
It allows for further expansion where the model forms the database and is used during the build, commissioning, training (VR models), operations and maintenance phases, hence making data storage and retrieval quick and accurate.
The future aim is to link the BIMs information to an operating plant as the basis for the asset maintenance system.
Poised for continued growth
The introduction of MOMS allows Minopex to continue to deliver on its promise to clients which is ‘Excellence in minerals processing operations’.
“Deployment of digital solutions is just one of our initiatives to further enhance our leading systems and skills base in the plant operations field,” states Smith.
“We will continue to invest in our process and maintenance teams to be able to provide the leading skills set in the industry.”
While full plant O&M remains its core offering, the company is also developing solutions for it clients in various stages of the project lifecycle.
This includes operational readiness, plant audit and plant optimisation services. Minopex is also developing innovative solutions for smaller plants along a build-own-operate basis.
Looking ahead to 2019, Smith says that Minopex will continue to focus on building its footprint in the African region, particularly looking at opportunities in Zambia, DRC and Zimbabwe.
“We are also investing in our Middle East and North Africa presence where we have had significant successes over the last few years. In 2019, we will also enter West Africa in a more meaningful way, a region we have traditionally not had an O&M presence,” he concludes.