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From dirt to data - Designing Mines with Data in Mind

One of the most perplexing challenges facing the global mining industry is how to handle the increasing volume of…everything. As mines mature and stripping ratios increase, as new deposits are found at greater depths, and as rising consumer appetites require more raw materials, the methods, equipment and technological scope of today’s industry will have to adapt accordingly to meet tomorrow’s demands.

open pit mine

he ever-increasing pace of data collection, analysis and application strategy is a given in today’s business environment as banks, retail chains, social networks and other commercial enterprises look for ways to leverage the massive volumes of information harvested from “mining” their transactional data. But inside this global technological whirlwind, the real business of mining—involving rocks and dirt, large machines and often, physical risk—and its growing high-tech sophistication tends to be obscured by consumer-side developments.

Nevertheless, the mining sector is steadily bulldozing ahead through many operational obstacles on its way to becoming an increasingly technology-rich industry. As an example, Rio Tinto’s CEO, Sam Walsh, recently commented that the company’s growing autonomous truck fleet had moved more than 100 million mt of material at its iron ore operations in Australia’s Pilbara and while doing so had provided double-digit improvements in maintenance, tire life, fuel savings and environmental performance. Another report from the Pilbara indicated that Rio Tinto’s increasingly autonomous operations there were generating almost 2.5 terabytes of data per minute. A terabyte of data is roughly equal to 1,000 copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

For mine operators, whose historical focus has customarily been on the gritty business of finding and exploiting valuable mineral deposits, success requires mastery of the mechanics of minimizing a project’s capital costs per ton of product while keeping other related factors, such as labor costs and energy usage, in check. That hasn’t changed, but the industry’s traditional approach toward the software-based tools needed to achieve those goals has generally involved tailored, often proprietary datacom solutions that sometimes don’t play well, or at all, with others, leading to data management inefficiencies.

However, where once these solutions may have been addressed individually, during various phases of project development or commercial production, or by different teams or business groups within the mining organization, the pressures of today’s business environment and the opportunities offered by advanced technology and broader interconnectivity are now pushing mine operators to look more closely at planning their projects from the start to include all-inclusive, well-integrated strategies and arrangements for managing data effectively. Meanwhile, in recent years, the lingering financial burdens of the Great Recession, weakening investor interest and rising competitive intensity also have forced operators to pay more attention to asset management and optimization solutions for mine and plant projects as well, in order to improve capital efficiency and gain better overall economic performance.

If you're into digging big holes in the ground, and moving rocks around the place, then it's worth reading the full article: 

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I love that data mining helps with real world mining. I love it!

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