All industries face the same challenge: how to use advances in technology to increase their productivity and reduce waste. The mining industry has the task of producing a primary product whose value is decided on international exchanges, and which fluctuates widely depending on global demand: in the past 50 years, the average price of metals has varied by a factor of 600%. At times of slumps, it is the mines with the least productive technology that close.
Another factor that puts a premium on technology is the fact that over the past ten years the grade of the ore that is mined has declined 40% and the ore bodies themselves have become deeper and more remote. This means that the effectiveness and reliability of a mine's equipment is becoming ever more critical to its success.
To tackle these issues, operators need to work closely with their technology partners who are working closely with industry to develop solutions that drive the most significant impact for mining operations.
What can make a difference for operations?
One set of advances have occurred in the grinding process - the series of mills that crush and then grind the ore until the particles are small enough to separate based on their densities. ABB has pioneered the gearless design in which the mill cylinder becomes the rotor of the motor, which allows the torque to vary without the need for gears. ABB has continually raised the power rating of its drives, allowing mills to become larger and more powerful. This allows a rise in the quantity of ore processed, which offsets the decline in its quality.
Other areas of progress include the increased efficiency of ventilation and the reliability of hoist systems. For example, ABB's smart ventilation concept wires airflow sensors into the ABB Ability™ System 800xA distributed control system. This can then optimise air quality throughout the mine and, as a result, halve the electricity needed to run its fans.
Introducing ABB Ability™ MineOptimize™
Many years ago, in collaboration with its mining customers and partners, ABB started to think about how operations and maintenance could be improved and what the next level of mining could look like.
With digitalisation at its heart, ABB Ability™ MineOptimize™ connects electrification, automation and digital offerings to optimise all stages of the mining lifecycle. MineOptimize can optimise any mine, whether it is a new mine being planned or an old one being upgraded.
MineOptimize comprises a suite of digitally connected products, services and solutions, from dedicated mining systems for hoists, gearless or ring geared mill drives and material handling, to state-of-the-art digital technologies for remote services and predictive maintenance. Its digital applications are based on standardised building blocks that can be horizontally and vertically connected to ensure the right people have the right information at the right time.
"MineOptimize combines the very best of ABB's technology with our customers' expertise and targets, which enables us to deliver pit to port solutions that drive performance, reduce risk and lower operational costs," Richard Marsh, ABB Australia's mining lead, explains.
ABB Ability MineOptimize is paving the way from a mine with islands of automation to a fully integrated, connected, mobile, collaborative, autonomous and carbon-dioxide-free mining of the future.
This can be through engineering, system solutions, digital applications and collaborative services.
A unified, cross-functional, enterprise-wide approach to digital transformation in mining
- Engineering & Consultancy - Mining consultancy and engineering services that lead to savings in investment, energy consumption and significant enhancements in mining operations over the entire lifecycle.
- System solutions - solutions that optimise all stages in the lifecycle, from mineral extraction, processing & refinining through to transportation.
- Digital applications - ABB supplies advanced libraries and software that enable modern mines to maximize visibility, reliability, productivity and energy efficiency and optimize performance across the enterprise.
- Collaborative Services - ABB has developed a comprehensive portfolio of mining services ranging from long-term service agreements to individual service products. Together with our customers and partners, we introduce state-of-the-art digital technologies for remote services, predictive maintenance tools as well as solutions for upgrades and retrofits.
ABB is a market leader in mine digitalisation, mine automation, electrification and mine hoists. Companies of all sizes around the globe trust ABB to be their digital transformation partner. For more stories on how ABB shifts the centre of gravity towards mine optimisation and digitalisation, visit ABB's future of mining site.