Next generation technology enabling a revolution in resources
Posted : Monday, July 30, 2012
"Next generation technology is enabling a revolution in the way
mining is conducted and how value is extracted from resources,"
Rio Tinto Iron Ore, President - Pilbara Operations, Greg
Lilleyman, has told a CEDA audience in Perth.
"It is not only about new technologies, it's about piecing them
together to find innovative solutions to challenge ourselves and
find better ways to manage complex operations," he said.
"We are using innovation to produce better employment options,
increase safety and decrease our environmental footprint."
Core to Rio Tinto's future program is the operations centre,
which is a central control room for synchronising 14 mines, 80
mining pits, three port terminals, and generating and producing
power across Rio Tinto's mines, towns, infrastructure and
In the future, Mr Lilleyman expects to see the operation centre
continue to be central to the management of mines, with further
development and application of new automation technology across the
"This (operations centre) is not only to be used as central
control for rail and port operations, but also for performance
strategic analysis such as asset health, supply chain optimisation
and utilities management structures," he said.
Mr Lilleyman emphasised autonomous haulage plays a key role in
improving efficiency, reliability and safety performance.
The use of autonomous trucks, remotely operated drill and blast
activities, automated train systems, ship loading, and remote train
loading are all aimed at increasing productivity.
In future operations, Mr Lilleyman outlined a number of
capabilities machinery will have including:
- Predictive decision systems to optimise scheduling and
- Collision avoidance and proximity detection systems with 360
degrees views of surroundings and GPS technology;
- Geologists will use remote control survey helicopters to carry
out topographical and geophysical pit analysis;
- Reclaiming equipment will be fitted with rock recognition
devices with maintenance plans updated automatically through an
online system; and
- Autonomous haulage through the rail network will continue, and
train load outs will be conducted autonomously and monitored
remotely from the operations centre.
IBM, Australia and New Zealand, Global Business
Services, Managing Partner, Sarah Adam-Gedge, said $700 -
$900 billion worth of future capital expenditure resources programs
would be lost if we don't innovate.
Opportunities with technology, combined with faster broadband
role out and innovation in mining are essential, she said.
Ms Adam-Gedge said IBM's report, A snapshot of Australia's
digital future to 2050, forecasts integrated operations with
faster broadband, and how information technology and communications
would assist in improving productivity in the resources industry
She highlighted three technological changes crucial to the
future of resources including:
- Cheap and smart senses on mining machinery;
- Machine to machine, to computer communication; and
- Proactive decision making and smart analytics.
With advancements in information technology, business practices
and the role of people will also change, she said.
"People should be co-located in terms of the multidisciplinary
chain. (You need to) expand globally and no longer rely on people
close to Perth's airport," she said.
Shell, Vice President Prelude Floating LNG Project,
Bruce Steenson, said Australia has an opportunity to
utilise technology to enable the development of stranded gas.
He said Shell's Prelude floating LNG facility, located north of
Broome, is the first of its kind in the world and will meet the
demand for gas from across the globe.
This is an opportunity to develop other pockets of gas, more
economically, quicker and with a lower risk because we can bring in
the facility, produce gas and then have the ability to move on
somewhere else, Mr Steenson said.
"It brings a number of economic benefits, we'll spend $12
billion in Australia over the life of the project, and there will
be 1000 direct and indirect jobs," he said.
"It reduces the environmental foot print and there is no pipe
work coming to shore, no shore crossings, and no site works on
BHP Billiton, Vice President Planning, Tony
Ottaviano, said BHP Billiton have taken a holistic
approach to mining with an emphasis on process and improving
technology to extract the best value.
Like Rio Tinto, he said BHP Billiton has a remote operations
centre providing them with the ability to coordinate
He said innovations such as remote operated equipment and
automated train loading have allowed BHP Billiton to achieve three
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- Make our operations safer;
- Embedded increased business growth; and
- Maintain competitiveness.