Virtual Mine Management No More Air MilesWed, 10/18/2017 - 23:31
Senior mining companies are all faced with one common challenge: how to keep a close eye on an ever-expanding portfolio of global operations at once.
From exploration strategy and mine design to mineral processing and project closure, mine operations require a mind-boggling amount of planning and monitoring. The decisions facing project managers multiply when overseeing a number of operations in varying jurisdictions. In previous years, the job required endless trips to remote mine sites around the world. But thanks to digitalization, those hours spent on airplanes and helicopters to reach far-flung projects in the Mexican desert or Canadian tundra could soon be a thing of the past.
“One of our clients has 15 mines throughout Latin America, including Mexico, and the company is expanding,” says Gunther Barajas, Vice President for Mexico at software designer Dassault Systèmes. “The challenge it faces is managing this rapid expansion across several jurisdictions and ensuring that each asset is operating to its maximum potential. Thanks to our platform, the manager can now monitor all his assets from one centralized program.”
Founded in France in 1981, Dassault Systèmes has grown into a multinational corporation manufacturing virtual project lifecycle management tools for companies in sectors as diverse as finance, construction and transportation. Its flagship platform for the mining industry, known as the 3D Experience, embraces the digital revolution with open arms to provide intelligence, analysis and simulation that maximize efficiency and increase profit margins.
The premise is simple. The technology aims to provide a user-friendly interface that site managers and other decision- makers can use to keep track of all their operations in real time, and centralize the data via an online cloud. The company takes the lessons learnt from experiences working in a variety of sectors to design solutions applicable to mining projects.
“The automotive sector is adept at maximizing finite resources, such as machinery and staff,” explains Barajas.
“But the aerospace industry is a leader in the use of simulation technology to minimize risk. We know the impact digitalization and virtual software can have on industrial operations, and we are bringing this technology into the mining sector.”
The technology has been particularly popular for senior miners with projects around the world. According to Barajas, large companies are attracted to the 3D Experience because it allows project managers to keep an eye on global operations when they cannot be physically present on-site. One of Dassault’s main clients in Mexico is the Canadian gold giant Agnico Eagle, for whom it created a virtual mine map to help site managers prevent accidents and downtime and combat falling profits in its mines in Mexico, Canada and Finland.
Unlike many competitive solutions, Dassault's simulation technology can be used throughout the mineral extraction process, from exploration strategy and sample analysis right through to mine operations and shutdown. The program can be used to design processing plants, storage facilities and tunneling systems. It can also assess environmental factors, helping companies to devise sustainable mine closure plans that restore and protect the local ecosystem.
For Dassault Systèmes, Mexico is a vital strategic market. The group works alongside the Mexican Geological Survey (SGM) to develop systems and ensure that mining companies have access to state-of-the-art technology to guide their decision-making. The goal is to contribute to a profitable, safe and environmentally responsible mining sector. Helped by external factors including the weak peso and strong US dollar, Mexico registered the second- highest growth rate for the company in 2016 and Barajas is confident for the future.
“Mexico is becoming a very attractive jurisdiction in which to work,” he says. “Operating costs are falling, profit margins are widening and the country represents a great opportunity for foreign investment.”