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News Article

Harnessing Technology to Optimize Safety, Production

By Antonio Gozain | Thu, 01/27/2022 - 19:19

You can watch the video of this panel here.

 

The introduction of new technologies is changing operations among all industries, including the mining sector, which is presently shifting toward automation and digitalization.

These new technologies are impacting the sector at all levels, including suppliers and integrators, increasing miners’ safety, while boosting companies’ production, agreed industry experts.

“Mining is a global industry and Mexico is adapting to new technology trends to improve safety and productivity. Mining workers must have the certainty that they will return home safely after their workdays. Beyond these statistics and low or high accident rates, we are talking about people,” said Felipe Martínez, Director Mexico, ROBIT PLC.

The future of mining is promising and will be based on decarbonization, digitalization and automation of operations, which will look different to what they look now, said Alfredo Bertrand, General Manager, Epiroc Mexico. “Industry 4.0 applied to mining is focused on sustainable, safe and highly-productive exploitation.”

Although mining technology seems to be considered a topic of the future, most of these disruptions are already happening, said Herman Dittmar, Deputy Director General of Technical Services, Baluarte Minero. While technology applied to security is advancing globally, the Mexican industry still has an important path to cover.

“We have a big gap to narrow in Mexico. There are certain limitations that put Mexico behind other countries. However, we are in the right path toward technology, automation and data science, which is crucial. Technology must be applied to increase production while protecting employees’ safety,” said Adrián Márquez, Director, VMX Mine Pro Mexico.

Technology transformation in the Mexican mining industry was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused a decrease in the number of people working on-site and brought teleworking to administrative areas, said Jorge Luis Cristerna, Operations Director, Multiled Mexico. Some of the main opportunities that technology has opened to the sector are Mining 4.0, IoT, digital twin, teleworking and safety, he added.

“There are technologies that already existed before the pandemic. For instance, there was already satellite review on mobile equipment or remote monitoring on crushing equipment, but the pandemic made us improve technologies that already existed so that processes run safely, without affecting neither the operation or personnel,” said Arturo Rivas, Regional Sales Manager, SSAB. Controlling processes over long distances and having more predictive forecasts provide companies greater certainty, allowing them to take care of their assets, starting with the most precious, which is the safety of all collaborators, he added.

The Mining Industry of the Future

The mining industry is an integral part of any foreseeable economy and society. As a provider of employment and essential materials, it is connected to almost all industry value chains, as described by the World Economic Forum.

Cristerna explained that mining companies are part of the communities they work in, creating links with people, governments, academia and other supply chain players. The mining industry of the future will require tailor-made technological solutions for every site, due to the specific characteristics each mine have, “The mining industry has a strengthened, direct link with academia, which provides qualified workforce. Mexico has specific opportunities in local development, adapted to each opportunity. Independently from production capacity, technology must be tailor-made for each specific environment, depending on every site’s needs,” said Cristerna. 

Global interactions and communication between mines, producers, consultants, suppliers and manufacturers has improved with technology and Mexico has the advantage of having the expertise of local and foreign companies, said Rivas. This constant interaction enables Mexico to implement measures that have had success across the world and continue transforming it into a more technological industry, he added.

Connectivity will play a key role for the implementation of new technologies, said Bertrand. “Mining operations are often in distant, uncommunicated environments and reliable connectivity is key. Suppliers have made strategic alliances with tech companies to offer integrated solutions to mining companies.”

Becoming a Sustainable Industry

Sustainability trends have taken the spotlight among all industries, including the mining sector, which is transitioning toward cleaner operations. In the next few years, electrified equipment will be massively introduced to the mining industry, said Bertrand.

“Mining is becoming more inclusive and with cleaner processes. Both suppliers and mining companies are aiming for sustainability and we are building the foundations for it. Technology is changing everything. Suppliers are migrating from providing products to providing services. Mining companies are looking for the best service, which adds value to them, rather than only products,” said Rivas.

Although there is a long way to go before reaching carbon neutral operations in the mining industry, there are already auto sustainable mining groups operating in Mexico, concluded Márquez.

Antonio Gozain Antonio Gozain Journalist and Industry Analyst