Metso Insights Blog Mining and metals blog Embracing digitalization leads to safer and more sustainable operations
Aug 8, 2023

Embracing digitalization leads to safer and more sustainable operations

In an era where mining companies are striving for safety, sustainability and operational excellence, the role of digitalization has become paramount. Our Metso experts highlight the importance of digitalization in today’s operations when it comes to circuit planning, energy efficiency and overall safety.
digital mining

The mining industry is facing various challenges, such as reducing carbon emissions, coping with changing ore grades, conserving energy and water, and attracting digital-savvy talent – all whilst trying to optimize equipment, process and operations performance. To tackle these hurdles and usher in a new era of efficiency, the industry is turning to digitalization. This transformative solution provides data transparency, enables timely actions, and allows for a more sustainable, safe, and efficient production.

“Our customers are aiming for drastic savings on energy and water consumption, and are also facing the challenge to attract the young digital-savvy generation,” says Rashmi Kasat, VP, Digital Technologies. “What they need now in this situation is a step change, and the answer is digitalization.”

With the rising demand for environmental responsibility, reducing carbon footprints has become a key priority. Digital solutions play a pivotal role in streamlining operations. This makes processes more sustainable, thus enabling mining companies to achieve their zero harm objectives.

Tuomas Martinkallio, VP, Digital Services, highlights the criticality of digital tools as they provide data transparency. This allows operations increased availability and reduced plant downtime. Through digitalization, sites can access valuable insights and make informed decisions. By harnessing the power of digital technologies, they can extract, analyze, and leverage data to drive operational efficiency, identify areas for improvement, and streamline processes.

“The global events we have all experienced recently have only made digitalization more relevant than ever,” says Tuomas. “On the operative side, we are augmenting the expertise with digital tools. On the maintenance side, it’s having the right parts available and making shutdowns shorter and more controlled. We are now combining the physical and digital world, and this link is here to stay.”

The impact on circuit design and planning

A huge advantage with digitalization is its ability to revolutionize the circuit design and planning process from the very beginning. By incorporating digital tools both internally and externally to plan and design processes, customers have the unique ability to optimize their circuit design from the start. This allows Metso to deliver more versatile and comprehensive solutions.

“We are doing modeling and simulation of our flow sheets for our customers at every step of the capital and aftermarket process,” says Rashmi. “This starts from the feasibility phase to see if the mine is even feasible to develop in the first place.”

By leveraging these tools, we can conduct thorough testing and analysis before implementation, minimizing the risk of performance losses or operational setbacks. The link between digitalization and data transparency further enhances the planning process as it makes information more accessible and visible to both operators and stakeholders.

“Before you’re able to apply this to the real world and have unwanted losses, you can actually do tests via modeling and simulation,” says Christian Binder, Director, PG Digital Solutions. “This directly links to data transparency. You can put this with soft sensors or other marking of data and make that visible for the user. Then, customers can know the impact this data can have for the whole production.”

From customized plant designs to advanced process control and digital twin integration, digitization from the beginning empowers mining companies to increase overall profitability, optimize production, and ensure the well-being of their workforce.

“For Greenfield, there is the ability to build it as the customer wants, so they are looking at digitalization right away,” says Christian. “You start with the sensors, then the process control systems, all the way up to Geminex, the digital twin. Once you have trained people, this information is invaluable. Taking care of your own people, and taking care of the production so you are able to maximize your profit overall.”

”In the capital side of our business, these are huge machines and over time will eventually may run into issues depending on how the operations are running,” says Rashmi. ”For the customers, it's an imperative that these machines are running continuously at peak performance, which means that selling these types of equipment with a condition monitoring system & bundled predictive maintenance services enabled during the installation and commissioning phase is really important. Then the customers & our teams can see what the condition of the equipment is at any given point of time & proactively take preventative actions to prevent failures.”

It’s all about taking the right actions at the right time!
Rashmi Kasat, VP - Digital Technologies
Webinar: Digitalization in action
Our digitalization experts discuss the most recent considerations, trends and practical examples of how companies in the minerals processing space are moving towards a more digital future and what implications this brings.

Driving sustainability through digitalization

In the pursuit of sustainability in mining, digitalization has emerged as a powerful enabler. It can facilitate decision-making, connect diverse stakeholders, and enable accurate data evaluation and analysis. By harnessing these tools, operations can achieve better collaboration, informed decision-making, and accelerated continuous improvement processes.

“The motivation that gets us up every morning to work is that ability to make a positive change towards a more sustainable future, and that is being done with digital tools,” says Veli-Matti Jarvinen, VP,  Automation. “We can help our customers understand, control and optimize their processes. These are tangible benefits that lead to a more sustainable production and a more sustainable future.”

The direct link between digitalization and sustainability is becoming increasingly apparent, as optimizing processes and operations often translates into resource efficiency and reduced environmental impact. Through digital technologies, mining operations can accomplish more with less power, time, and noise pollution.

“Digitalization is completely intertwined with sustainability, you can’t talk about one without the other,” says Tuomas. “With these new capabilities, customers can make better decisions that are based on actual data.”

Here at Metso, our development is targeted to have a positive impact on sustainability – we call this our Planet Positive offering.

Rashmi provides a concrete example of how digitalization contributes to sustainability through ore sorting. With climate change leading to harder-to-crush rocks sourced from deep within the earth, the energy savings achieved through accurate rock characterization become increasingly crucial.

“If you knew immediately which rock is waste or which has more ore, then you can let the ore go into the processing and not the waste. You take the waste out completely in the beginning of the process - that's a huge amount of energy saved,” she says. “If we know what we are crushing, we can make a big impact on having sustainable operations.”

With digitalization and sustainability being intricately linked, they act as twin forces that drive efficiency, minimize energy and resource consumption, and pave the way for a more sustainable mining industry. This powerful combination allows for operations to actually see the impact they are having on shaping the future of the mining industry. By having the information available, customers can know that by facilitating greener practices, their sustainable approach is leading to real world results.

“The direct impact is visible immediately,” says Christian. ”If you're able to look at what your emissions are, your water consumptions, whatever sustainability information you need, you can see the direct impact onto the environment thanks to the visible and transparent data that is now available.”

Digitalization is completely intertwined with sustainability, you can’t talk about one without the other.
Tuomas Martinkallio, VP - Digital Services

Advancing safety and inclusion through digitalization

Digitalization in the mining industry not only drives operational efficiency but also fosters safer working environments and greater inclusivity. The role of automated technology in enhancing safety protocols is particularly important in areas where human presence may pose risks.

“We are also looking into automated technology for safety reasons, so how we can do certain mechanical things so there is no risk of harm for any one person,” says Tuomas.

As the industry progresses towards autonomous machinery, attention is now turning to the development of solutions for tasks such as servicing and maintenance. For example, there is the issue of maintenance in tight spaces, such as pumps, which often pose safety risks for manual inspections.

However, digitalization and automation offer a transformative solution. By leveraging software and electronic controls, maintenance can be performed remotely, eliminating the need for physical presence. This approach not only enhances safety but also promotes inclusivity in the mining workforce, enabling individuals with physical limitations to contribute effectively and equally to maintenance operations.

“The need to be physically on-site presents an interesting challenge because it means that only able-bodied people can go and do this kind of work, and that's not fair from a workforce and inclusion perspective,” says Rashmi. “So there's a totally different level of thinking when it comes to digitalization and automation. If you can do maintenance remotely through software and electronics controls, then you are also being more inclusive as an employer because then you can have all types of people who can still physically complete the job.”

Through digitalization, the mining industry is paving the way for safer operations and increased workforce inclusion. Embracing automated technologies and remote-control capabilities allow operations the ability to mitigate safety hazards, protect their employees, and ensure a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

As the boundaries of automation continue to be pushed, this opens the door for new levels of efficiency, safety and equal opportunity, setting a benchmark for other sectors to follow.


Paving the path to a greener future

In this era of increased sustainability, safety, inclusion, data availability, and the need for operational excellence, digitalization is no longer an option but a necessity for the mining industry.

Utilizing the capabilities of digital tools, mining operations are becoming more efficient, transparent, and future-oriented. The integration of digital technologies from the earliest stages of planning enables sites to unlock new possibilities, streamline processes, and drive sustainable growth in this rapidly evolving industry.

Here at Metso, we aim to address your challenges head-on. Digitalization offers a game-changing approach, and allows our customers the ability to drive sustainability, safety, and significant savings all at the same time. Through the choices we make together with our customers, we enable sustainable modern life and influence the outcomes positively. That’s why, together, we are the partner for positive change.

This article is based off of a roundtable discussion that was facilitated during a webinar titled “Digitalization in action.” Click here to watch this webinar and gain further insights on the impact of digitalization in today’s mining operations.

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