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Internet of Things (IoT) In Mining

How is the Internet of Things (IoT) Useful to a Mining Business?

How is the Internet of Things (IoT) Useful to a Mining Business?

Internet of Things (IoT) In Mining

With nearly every industry in the world revolutionizing their operations management by implementing Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, the mining industry is cautiously following suit. 

In an industry as risk-averse as mining, it is important that we explore the intricacies of these applications and how they can tangibly make an impact on productivity and safety underground.

Ultimately, the question will always remain, is adoption of such technologies worth the investment?

We think it definitely is, and here are just a few reasons why.

— Cutting back downtime after a blast —

After a blast is performed to open up a new site within the mine, the area has to be cleared out due to toxic gases and debris. If there is no system in place to monitor the air, miners need to wait hours before resuming work to ensure that it is safe to re-enter. By incorporating a system that manages the air, mine managers, shift supervisors, and miners are able to instantly know when it is safe to go back back underground. This ends up saving mining companies a ton of time and gets them producing again much faster.

— Cutting down the time of evacuation drills —

Evacuation drills can take hours to complete and sometimes may even take up a whole shift. This can result in a lot of downtime. If we can automate the process and supply safety precautions that will speed up evacuation drills, miners will be safer and will be able to get back underground to continue their work.

— Ensuring safe conditions and mechanical placement —

When miners know exactly where their equipment is located and that the environment around them is safe, they are able to start their day of work much faster. On a daily basis, miners spend a lot of time looking for their equipment and becoming familiar with their surroundings. When there is a system in place that monitors and tracks these things for them, they are able to start work upon arrival rather than wasting productivity hours on gathering the information themselves.

— Cutting back on machinery downtime —

Having an IoT system in place also significantly reduces the downtime of broken machinery. Companies are able to lower the risk of equipment breaking in the middle of a project or shift and they are also able to preemptively order parts that will be needed to restore broken machines as soon as possible.

These are a few of the reasons we believe IoT systems can drastically improve mining operations and the safety of people working underground.

In the next series we will dive a bit deeper on how exactly we can use Mobile Equipment Telemetry (MET) to improve productivity underground.

Inspiring Innovation in Mining

How Should We Inspire Innovation Within the Mining Industry? (Part 3 of 3)

How Should We Inspire Innovation Within the Mining Industry? (Part 3 of 3)

Inspiring Innovation in Mining

In the second of this three-part series, we talked about the importance of marketing to the next generation of talent in 3 ways:

  • Providing hands-on exposure
  • Communicating the impact in a tangible way
  • Daring to be early adopters and to invest in research

In this third and final part, we will address the importance of marketing to our own organizations internally and of creating a culture that fosters innovation.

Creating a Culture of Innovation Internally

With huge technological changes within the industry on the horizon, it is just as important to market within the industry as it is to market ourselves externally. With new possibilities arising and transformative technologies being developed, it is important that mining companies feel comfortable integrating these tools into their daily practices.

— Communication. Communication. Communication. —

Due to to recent financial stresses over the past 15 years companies have become risk averse. Larry Clark argues that companies are not as hesitant towards change or lacking eagerness to join the age of digitalization as we think, rather often these advancements are just not being marketed and communicated effectively.

The tremendous return on investment that some new technologies offer is not emphasised enough.

He said, “Our industry is high risk high reward.”  In order for a business to see that their investment is worthwhile, technology companies must be able to clearly explain to the client:

  1. What the risks are.

  2. What steps will be taken to minimize those risks.

  3. How the ROI outweighs the risks involved.

Lawrence Clark
Lawrence Clark, Advisor, Newtrax Board of Directors

It is important for people working in mining companies to know that these technologies are worth the initial investment and that they will lead to higher safety standards and more efficient productivity within the company. 

— Empowering the Team —

Ideas don’t always come from experts. Sometimes the greatest innovations come from novices and backroom tinkers. Open-minded organizations often convert off-the-wall ideas into marketable products.

Successful innovative companies give time to their employees to get away from their daily tasks, to work on personal or company projects not directly related to their work. Then tap into this creative process. Google is well known in the tech community for its “20% time,” which gives employees a day a week to follow their passions, but it’s hardly the first company to have done so.

Newtrax, for example, provides their employees interested in the field of Artificial Intelligence  (AI) the chance to collaborate with researchers on project ideas that aren’t directly related to their daily responsibilities, but that could benefit clients down the road. Enabling employees to experiment with creative ideas  empowers them to think outside the box and come up with solutions that they never thought could be possible.

— Collaborating with Industry Partners and Peers —

No organization holds all the cards in developing new innovation. Collaboration with outside groups–complementary corporations, universities, government agencies, and think tanks–often brings new perspectives and ideas to the innovation process.

Newtrax has recently partnered with the Montreal-based Institute for Data Valorisation (IVADO) earlier this year. Together, our mission is to create new value for existing customers with the Big Data generated from Newtrax systems installed around the world.

Jean-Marc Rousseau, Director of Technology Transfer for IVADO, said “the customer problems Newtrax is trying to solve and the datasets they have are a perfect fit for the expertise of our deep learning and operational research hubs”.

By promoting and encouraging a culture of innovation in our organizations, not only will our employees feel empowered to make a difference, but the mining industry as a whole will begin to transform in dramatic ways.

Inspiring Innovation in Mining

How Should We Inspire Innovation Within the Mining Industry? (Part 2 of 3)

How Should We Inspire Innovation Within the Mining Industry? (Part 2 of 3)

Inspiring Innovation in Mining

In the first of this three-part series, we talked about the importance of participating in hackatons and tech-related events designed specifically for the mining industry. They are a great tool for discovering new solutions to challenging problems, but their greatest value may be enabling our industry to market and network within our local tech communities.

In this second part, we will address the importance of marketing the mining industry to new talent, including Millennials, and its role in inspiring innovation.

Marketing to the Next-Generation of Talent

Marketing our industry to the next generation is crucial if we want to design and implement the most recent technological advancements to optimise our operations. Reaching out to Millennials can be challenging as many of them have an overly simplified and negative perception of what mining truly is. It is therefore our responsibility to reach out to show them the true nature of our industry and the potential it has to offer. We can do so in the following ways.

— Providing Hands-On Exposure —

For most of the professionals in attendance, “Unearthed Denver” was their first exposure to the field of mining. By working through the challenges that were presented, all 137 participants walked away with a huge perspective shift. Instead of seeing the industry through the lens of a critical and uninformed outsider, they were able to acknowledge the value of mining and become excited about the progress that is underway.

Events such as the Hackathon do just this, Larry Clark explained, “I learned that there are many young people who when given the chance showed an interest in solving the problems in our business.”

Larry Clarke, Advisor, Newtrax Board of Directors
Larry Clark, Advisor, Newtrax Board of Directors

 

— Communicating the Impact in a Tangible Way —

More than 50% of millennials say they would take a pay cut to find work that matches their values, while 90% want to use their skills for good. Millennials want to work with purpose, and they want their workplace to be aligned with their values.

Many companies use words such as impact and purpose without seriously moving the needle on major social and environmental problems. Millennials want to work for organizations that are transparent about how they’re using their technology, their resources, and their talent. They also want to create shared value, make positive social and environmental changes, and increase opportunities for disadvantaged populations.

While mining has traditionally been considered an industry that has harmful effects on the environment and local communities, the industry has made huge strides towards using technology, reform, and new methods to mine sustainability as a top priority.

For example, Newtrax prides itself on being 100% focused on delivering cutting-edge technology for underground hard rock mines exclusively, because research has shown that a focus towards underground mining instead of surface and open-pit is a strategic approach towards sustainable mining in the future.

— Daring to Be Early Adopters and to Invest in Research —

Traditionally, more conservative industries -such as mining- have shied away from being early adopters of technologies, and most of the time for good reason. It is hard to predict the benefits of something that hasn’t been proven yet.

However, technology believers such as Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold producer, saw this tech gap as an opportunity instead of an obstacle – a way to differentiate itself in the industry and streamline its business operations.

Visionaries such as Michelle Ash, CIO at Barrick Gold Corporation,  are paving the way for other mining companies worldwide to join the Digital Transformation of the industry.

Michelle Ash, Barrick’s Chief Innovation Officer, gives a presentation to Barrick colleagues during a recent innovation workshop in Toronto. ( © barrickbeyondborders.com)

Companies such as Barrick will have higher chances of attracting new talent that is excited about making a lasting impact in the industry, by providing the resources and the tools necessary to participate in that innovative environment.

Learning how to further market ourselves by engaging in the younger generation’s interests and utilizing a more modern voice will allow us to open the doors to young innovators who are looking to make an impact on the world.

In the third part of this series, we will talk about the need to market to ourselves internally in order to adopt the innovator mindset.

Stay tuned!

Inspiring Innovation in Mining

How Should We Inspire Innovation Within the Mining Industry? (Part 1 of 3)

How Should We Inspire Innovation Within the Mining Industry? (Part 1 of 3)

Inspiring Innovation in Mining

The global mining industry needs fresh solutions and big ideas to thrive in the coming decades. In order to ensure that the next generation of young professionals are pushing innovation in our industry we must find new ways to engage them. Inviting the tech community to help revolutionize and disrupt our field creates potential for radical change. This will ensure mining is on the technological forefront in the coming age of digitization with lower capital costs and higher outputs.

In the first of this three-part series, we will talk about the rise of the Hackathons and tech-related events designed specifically for the mining industry.

— Hackathons & Tech Events —

Hackathons are local events where professional software developers, designers, data analysts, and the like come together to quickly and creatively develop solutions to a given challenge or problem. They have been used by many tech corporations to energize developing talent and attract them to their industry. Companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, are renowned for tech events that leave their participants walking away with renewed vigour and excitement.

For mining, this “open-sourced” leap into the world of innovation is relatively new. There is a lack of public awareness regarding the massive technological advancements that have been achieved in mining. Implementation has been an arduous process. These factors have prevented mining from captivating the attention of tech entrepreneurs and inspiring the future generation of industry innovators.

This past September, Unearthed hosted a hackathon event in Denver, Colorado. Unearthed’s goal is to inspire innovation in the global mining community while simultaneously involving young tech professionals in the industry. The event lasted 54 hours and revolved around a competition between 16 teams of local developers, data scientists, and engineers, to create prototype solutions to solve some of the most difficult industry challenges.   

Unearthed, Denver 2017
Unearthed, Denver 2017

Unearthed events feature keynote speakers, a panel of respected mining professionals, and cash prizes for the winning teams. Their events are as exciting as they are challenging and attract the brightest young minds to compete.

This is invigorating for industry veterans such as Larry Clark, a board member of Newtrax Technologies and a Principal at Jolimont Global Mining Systems. He was a member of the judging panel and was able to experience firsthand the range of advantages associated with it.

“I found that the solutions that came out of the Hackathon here in Denver were actually very interesting. I think that there are two values that come out of it. One is getting people excited about the mining industry and the technological challenges, and also the potential for actually discovering some new approach”

Larry Clarke, Advisor, Newtrax Board of Directors
Larry Clark, Advisor, Newtrax Board of Directors

It is important to communicate that the mining industry is at the precipice of a technological revolution. There are countless ways for the mining community to harness technology in advancing its productivity and transforming its safety standards. In order for these advancements to occur, there must be a push to reach out and exhibit the tremendous opportunity in our industry to the minds of the next generation.  

Hackathons are a great tool for discovering new solutions to challenging problems but their greatest value may be enabling our industry to market and network within our local tech communities.

In the second part of this series, we will talk about the need to market to tech-savvy talent and Millennials, and how to do it.

Stay tuned!

Photos courtesy of Unearthed