Sohan Domingo, Lead Solutions Strategist at Tait Communications offers his thoughts on Private LTE for the Mining industry. Mining is fast embracing automation and digital technologies across its operations. These transformative applications all require business-critical network connectivity and, given the nature of mining operations, wireless mobile communications are ideal.
Over the last decade, a number of wireless communications solutions such as Wi-Fi have been deployed, but their limitations in terms of capacity, coverage, and security have proven less than ideal. To integrate machines, sensors, people, and vehicles, you require reliable broadband communications networks wherever and whenever you operate.
Challenges the Mining Industry Faces
The mining sector is almost always under pressure in today’s rapidly changing world. The global economy experiences rapid shifts in supply and demand for commodities while government regulations and technology innovations can create spikes in demands for entirely new minerals or suddenly restrict demand for others.
Often working in remote and challenging environments, mining companies have to work especially hard to meet stringent environmental and worker safety regulations. Safety incidents can delay or shut down operations, resulting in considerable loss of productivity and efficiency.
Automated Processes for Increased Safety and Efficiency
Although most mines are still manually operated, mining companies are pursuing a strategy to automate all manually operated equipment including diggers, ore haulers, crushers and trains. This will enable personnel to monitor automated processes and operate machinery from a distance, removing workers from hazardous activities and improving safety.
Data collected from multiple sensors below and above ground allows miners to obtain situational awareness across mine, pit, rail and port. It also enables miners to dynamically track assets and deploy them on demand, identify potential bottlenecks at every step of the process and use predictive maintenance to schedule timely maintenance on equipment.
The capability to monitor all assets, as well as the people using them, means mines of the future can also vastly improve the safety of its workers by supporting the tracking of personnel location, alertness and health parameters.
End-to-End Benefits of Private LTE for Mining
Mining operations teams usually consider the merits of different technologies based on specific use cases. Virtually any application requiring wireless connectivity can be served by Private LTE and (in the future) 5G.
LTE and 5G have the capability to handle the bandwidth required for HDTV camera feeds, as well as supporting low-power sensor and IoT networks. They are also adaptable to older legacy applications. Both LTE and 5G are as reliable as a dedicated wired network, but far more flexible.
Using network slicing, a single LTE or 5G network can provide multiple applications with dedicated resources for each specific use case. Being able to use one network for multiple applications means a big reduction in operating costs and a huge increase in possible use cases.
Network slicing also gives peace of mind in future digital transformation projects. Virtually all applications requiring connectivity will be able to use the existing LTE or 5G system, which will act as a ‘unified’ communications infrastructure.
Automated remote operations
Loading of trucks and train cars can be fully automated or remotely controlled by an operator, when operator supervision or intervention is required. This means the operator can work in a more comfortable and safer environment and is not exposed to health and safety risks. The remote control of machines can also be passed instantly to other operators ensuring work goes on even when operators go on break.
Optimized Workflows and Increased Situational Awareness
Beyond the operational cost savings and simplicity a Private LTE solution can offer, there are a number of other benefits to consider, such as the ability to connect data from different applications. Bringing together data from multiple sources allows mines to do things such as end to-end workflow optimization, predictive maintenance and forensic analytics on incidents.
It is also possible to extract data from sensors all over the mine, whether environmental monitors, integrated sensors, embedded sensors on equipment. This can give new meaning to “situational awareness”, providing a much more thorough and detailed understanding of the safety of workers and the mine environment.
The Future of Mining
The digital transformation of mining is moving ahead quickly. Early applications of autonomous technologies have shown significant gains in productivity, predictability and worker safety. These new digital mining applications require industrial-strength, wireless connectivity.
Private LTE industrial wireless solutions can interwork between (or replace) what today may be isolated systems, allowing mines to connect all the digital aspects of their operations for environmental monitoring, situational awareness for safety and security, as well as predictive maintenance and workflow optimization across the mine.
Simply put, Private LTE can accommodate the connectivity needs of any and all digital mining applications, making it an ideal industrial-strength wireless connectivity platform for supporting the digital transformation to the mine of the future.
At Tait, we help our customers to address the digital mining opportunity. Talk to our experts and start realizing your goals for taking mining to the next level, or visit our website for more information.