We recently held our annual user conference in Perth, Australia, a one-day forum that brought together our software user community (you!) to learn about our product updates, tips and tricks, troubleshooting and network with each other.
Apart from our presentations on our product roadmap and technical tutorials, we also heard several case studies, notably those presented by Chris James from AngloGold Ashanti and Olga Abdrashitova from Evolution Mining on the use of Whittle SIMO.
The theme of the day was Collaboration, and at Dassault Systèmes we mean collaboration with a purpose, something that our CEO Raoul Jacquand explains in more detail in our video below.
We also had two panel discussions on the Future of Mining and the other on Sustainable Mining, two very thought-provoking sessions that stimulated great debate amongst the panelists and our attendees. If you weren’t able to attend – don’t worry – we recap the key takeaways for you below.
The mine of the future will be responsive
From automation and IoT to the complete digitalization of a mine, the Future of Mining panel discussed what we’re seeing today in mining innovation and what needs to change further. We have vast amounts of information available but how can we truly leverage this to drive productivity improvements?
A term that kept coming up was ‘responsive mining’ – the idea that mine processes are dynamic and respond quickly to changes or failures in mine operations for example when a truck breaks down, mine managers are able to know about this in real-time and react accordingly. As panelist Shane McLeay of Entech pointed out, smart vehicles such as drones and UAVs play a large role in enabling responsive mining.
From a technology provider standpoint, GEOVIA’s Andy Mulholland talked about going one step further and going beyond simply smart trucks and shovels, but further into the realm of autonomous mine planning. Having a virtual mine that pulls all the data together from disparate sources will enable mines to become more efficient and reduce uncertainty.
Elliot Kahn from BHP also touched on automated drill and blast and enabling short interval control through simulation. One of the biggest constraints in mining is moving massive tonnage and the difficulties in selective mining. Being able to do this in the future depends in part on having high-quality simulations and better understanding where materials are, which could be detected with sensors.
The workforce of the future will be far more tech-savvy
Entech’s Shane recounted his experience onsite 10 years ago, when they installed monitoring on pumps and fans and all of a sudden it stopped working. IT didn’t want to fix it and electricians didn’t want, or necessarily know how to fix it. Today, many electricians understand more than just installing and troubleshooting telephones, alarms and switchboards (which is largely technology of the past), but also understand how to work with IoT, building automation and data-capture devices such as sensors and autonomous drilling systems.
What will the world be like 10 years in the future? Will we be ready? According to our panellist Elliot from BHP, there is very limited deep or machine learning capabilities in geoscience and as a result we are relying on geologists’ individual interpretations of a model rather than standardized computer interpretations.
With all the speculation that technology will take over the entire mine eliminating the need for people, there is still some reassurance from the industry that there are some processes that cannot be replaced by machines. However, according to Andy from GEOVIA, geology and mining engineer roles will become more like supervisors rather than doing everything manually.
Sustainability is in part driven by our end customers
Themes from the Future of Mining panel also carried over into the Sustainable Mining panel discussion in the afternoon. This panel focused on the environmental and social impacts of mining, the changes we’ve seen in the Australian mining industry and how we can continue to maintain our social license to operate. Sustainability is an area where Australia can lead other countries, but what does a truly sustainable world look like?
In April, Apple announced they were globally powered by 100% renewable energy and “work with their suppliers to establish new, creative and forward-looking sources of renewable energy”. By asking their suppliers to commit to their ideals, we are seeing mining being decided by the end customers of the mining process. Professor Wills added that this is a sign that the mining industry does not need to be at odds with sustainability, but rather working towards it.
Ivy from CSA Global also added that many mining companies have now expanded the definition of stakeholders to include more than just investors, but also local communities.
“We need more systems like the Responsible Mining Index or Sustainability Index that assess how companies are performing in regards to the environment and communities. This will help hold our industry more accountable and transparent,” said Ivy.
“There is no doubt that as an extractive industry, we supply and deliver the raw materials to maintain a certain standard of living, and the world cannot do without mining. However we have a lot of work to do before we are regarded as truly sustainable – not just as an industry, but individual deposits as well.”
Watch our CEO Raoul Jacquand talk about collaboration in mining during our user conference: