The ability to offer value creative propositions has become essential to the lifeblood of mining operations which are heavily influenced by a world that where technology is constantly evolving.

Traditional service offerings and thought processes are no longer sufficient and those companies who choose to embrace change, new technologies and dynamic thinking will enter a new era, more successful and profitable than ever before.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa, Edition 4 2018

The ability to deliver value creation and best return on capital through innovation, cost efficient designs and the application of the world’s best technologies for optimal yields while minimising water, power and consumables has over recent years become routine and widely used amongst suppliers and service providers.

“Differentiating your business in this environment has become essential once again. To achieve this, ELB is embracing disruptive technologies that will change the entire way the industry operates,” reveals ELB Engineering Services CEO Dr Stephen Meijers.

He is referring to the incorporation of internet of things (IOT) technologies for digitalisation, analytics and from there artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing and full system control.

“Our plan is to introduce each technology in stages and then ultimately bolt them all together”.

This will be close to a South African first in the minerals processing sector and a service capability that ELB Engineering Services will apply to all its projects moving forward.

This includes its “alpha” site – a new 200 tph fines and coarse iron ore DMS plant in Postmasburg for Tata Steel’s new Sedibeng project.

“We were awarded the project at the end of 2017 and are equipped to provide a one-stop solution for the plant through our minerals processing/materials handling skills suite and our new technologies offering.”

The project is already underway and due to be commissioned in September 2018.

Discussing some of the disruptive technologies in further detail, Meijers notes that coupled with the analytics elements is full facial recognition and camera recognition technology of man, machine and material movement.

Mining equipment will be optimised in terms of movement to get the correct ore at right time, monitor transportation distances, minimise diesel utilisation and analyse road conditions in order to limit breakage and wear of trucks, etc.

Recognition of people using cameras will monitor all man movement around the plant to determine if they are functioning optimally.

ELB Engineering Services is also working to introduce analytics tools which will monitor the condition of individuals which in turn will elevate on-site safety and determine if employees are focussing on the correct areas of the process.

“Employing these technologies is only the first step – the real value lies in using this information to enhance overall process performance from every avenue.”

To prove these aspirations are well beyond conceptual stage, ELB Engineering Services has formalised a partnership with South Africa based technology diagnostic and digital expert IoT.nxt – who is essentially the technology provider and brain trust behind this technology which will be established specifically for the minerals processing sector.

IoT.nxt mining director Eric Croeser is confident that the two companies can together revolutionise the minerals processing sector through “deep technology” knowledge.

"The partnership with ELB is a perfect match thanks to its close understanding of the sector and its business philosophies,” he says.

On the back of this partnership, ELB Engineering Services has also launched a new company - ELB Intelligent Solutions (EIS) – which will take these disruptive technologies to market and focus on three specific areas:

  1. IOT – this will focus on fixed commercial assets and minerals processing plants (green buildings and converting existing buildings into intelligent buildings by monitoring man movement, reducing power consumption, light utilisation, HVAC control and optimisation of lifts, etc.). ELB will deploy this technology at its head office building.
  2. Artificial intelligence – taking analytics and converting the information into intelligence that can control buildings and assets.
  3. Utilisation of advanced GPS and GSM tagging to change the construction and schedule control of any project.

Further to this, EIS will also incorporate robotics (drones) and 3D printing technologies to fully round off its capabilities in this new technology arena.

“The minerals processing sector needs to embrace new thought processes and technologies that not only ensures it moves forward with the world, but also realises the benefits associated with embracing these technologies which will enhance processing performance and ultimately the bottom line,” Meijers concludes.

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