IM 2021 February 21 | Page 37

MINING SOFTWARE and blast is addressing industry demands around automation , electrification , energy efficiency , water use , sustainability and digitalisation .
“ The recent acquisitions of Blast Movement Technologies and Split Engineering complete the final pieces of a puzzle that separates Hexagon from competitors in this space ,” he said .
“ That means a well-designed blast pattern using planning software developed over half a century ; effectively executed using machine-guided , highprecision drills ; followed by proven fragmentation analysis and blast monitoring that minimises loss and dilution .”
He concluded : “ This holistic approach ensures data is transformed into knowledge that informs the next blast pattern design – a feedback loop to ensure continuous improvement .”
Seequent ’ s Maloney says the ambitions of clients he deals with are focused on enabling geologists and engineers to collaboratively work together .
“ The geoscience part of the equation is a big focus in the exploration area – greenfields or brownfield ,” he said . “ This sector has always been the domain of the geoscientist .”
What has not historically been the domain of the geoscientist is the operations side of the business .
“ Once we start production , it becomes an engineering exercise , rather than a geoscience exercise ,” Maloney says .
“ The industry is starting to realise the emphasis should be about what is actually being mined . They are looking to bring the geoscience into the decisionmaking phase right down to optimisation of blasting , scheduling and the plant – elements the geoscientist can feed back into the block model .
“ There is a lot of energy going into that and it is a big trend we see picking up speed .”
This is a development acQuire ’ s Mundell also acknowledged : “ Companies are seeking centralised access to better data , from more sources , and in a shorter time frame .
“ Data collection – and how we manage original observations and measurements over the history of a mine – determines whether geoscientific information becomes a fundamental link in the mining value chain or remains a collection of disparate data points .”
He added : “ This data can then be relied on to feed machine learning and AI and allow companies to work towards the digital mine of the future .”
The required fire power
The industry ’ s demands and wishes are expansive , but COVID-19 has brought about a unique set of circumstances that means miners are finally prepared to make such improvements .
Maloney explains : “ Historically , the evolution of processes in the mining sector have been based on the time-honoured tradition of : ‘ if it aint broke , don ’ t fix it ’. This means an existing process will stay in place unless something is broken .”
A commodity downturn is one example of something ‘ breaking ’. “ In 2014 and 2008 , for instance , people started looking at operational efficiency and the technology to help deliver that ,” Maloney said .
At that point , the industry had a desire to become more productive , but didn ’ t have the cash to spend on productivity solutions .
“ Conversely , when things are going well with commodity prices , the industry has the money available , but digital adoption or change is discretionary as things are not ‘ broken ’,” Maloney said .
In this scenario , any inefficiencies in operations are more than covered by strong commodity prices , meaning profits continue to flow .
Today , with a global pandemic in full flow , the situation is different .
“ We have the commodities markets on what looks like a long growth cycle for all the right reasons , for a change , and the prices for these commodities are factoring that in ,” Maloney said .
“ At the same time , the industry has a desire for digital adoption as COVID has meant change management is a necessity .”
He concluded : “ For the first time that I have seen , the industry has a desire and the resources to commit to real digital transformation with a long runway ahead of us .
“ This is unique in history , and the mining and minerals industry is really going to benefit from that .”

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