Mining Metals refining
May 15, 2023

Securing Geminex™: Cyber security measures for our Metallurgical Digital Twin

Metso's digital twin solution, Geminex™, allows customers the opportunity for increased environmental and financial performance. But how can we ensure cyber safety when transferring data? Read more on the significant role cyber security plays when developing our science-based metallurgical digital twin.
digital twin

The mining industry is undergoing significant changes in regards to sustainability and productivity. With the increasing demand for operations to be moving towards efficient and autonomous production, a key theme has emerged: Digitalization.

Digital twins are the most recent addition to this trend, offering the potential to revolutionize the game. Metso's metallurgical digital twin, Geminex™, supports the trend towards autonomous operations by integrating data from various databases and systems used in mineral processing. This enables operators to better manage the variability in feed materials, metallurgical processes, and the overall environment.

In the midst of this, cyber security has become a growing concern, with more and more business moving online. Cyber security issues are not just a direct threat to confidential data, but can also ruin relationships with customers or even place them in significant legal jeopardy. Thankfully, cyber security threats have been a discussion point since the initial development of Geminex™, and have been mitigated to the lowest level. This way, we can ensure our customers’ data is handled safely and securely.

Here at Metso, safety is our top priority and at the core of everything we do - and this includes in the digital space as well. We are committed to establishing a cyber secure connection between local data sources and cloud-based digital twin implementations, whilst ensuring protected access for on-site operators and corporate offices.

What is a metallurgical twin?

Digital twins have become increasingly important as they enable operators to make informed decisions in order to select the best outcomes, ultimately ensuring optimal results.

A metallurgical digital twin provides an unbiased process model by automating adaptation and learning from online sensors and process history data. The model is based on first-principle equations, equipment dimensions and flow sheets in dynamic mode. Thus, creating simulations of any process configuration and operating strategy before execution. This helps to mitigate risks related to environmental, financial and safety issues, leading to better decision-planning within the plant and resulting in better recovery and process optimization.

”Geminex™ allows for autonomy and overall optimization,” says Johanna Kortelainen, Simulation Specialist – Metso. ”What this offers can be very much utilized to see not only how different areas operate, but also how they can actually operate even better.”

The implementation of a metallurgical digital twin is typically split into phases, starting with the creation of a static model of the operation with the actual process flow sheet. The model is then converted into a dynamic model with equipment hold-ups to allow for time-dependent simulations. In the final phase, the simulation model is connected with live plant data for effective model adaptation.

Geminex™ is seamlessly integrated with APC process optimizers that seek the optimal process set points. For example, the varying feed ore, constraints, and equipment availabilities indicate varying regions for plant optimization. The digital twin predictions will give a set of alternative operating targets and find ways to further optimize for each process area APCs. Such as, in flotation, the control actions are made into froth speed, aeration, levels and reagent dosages.

“APC has a set of constraints, and what Geminex can do is either find the optimum targets within those areas or test what is actually conceivable within them,” says Johanna. “Essentially, in the case of flotation, Geminex is saying the process is capable of X recovery while maintaining Y grade. These targets are then given to the optimizer, which tries to drive the process towards the predicted optimum. Additionally, you could try to run the process outside of the set boundaries to see whether there's benefit in increasing your limits.”

digital twin
Example of information flow from inputs to outputs in flotation process with digital twin.

Ensuring a secure connection from the beginning

Ensuring a cyber secure connection is of the utmost importance with Geminex™, as it involves transmitting data between local data sources, the cloud-based digital twin implementation, and access for operators on-site and corporate offices.

To guarantee a secure connection and prioritize the protection of customer data, Metso employs several measures, and begins risk analysis at the earliest possible stage.

”From the start, we are already doing tests such as threat modelling and risk identifications together with the development team, and bringing up any security related issues that arise,” says Antti Lehvonen, Senior Cyber Security Specialist – Metso. ”We do threat modelling and brainstorm what could go wrong with the connection or the interface, and find corrective actions. We mitigate these risks to the lowest level – or even eliminate completely - during this development phase.”

The Geminex™ application runs in the cloud. From the customer site, there is an operation technology network from which this data is sent to the cloud. Typically, plant data from DCS is accessed with pipeline of on-site OPC server, data routing I/O service software and firewalls. Cloud-end connectivity is handled with an IoT Hub of the cloud, and user web log-in authentication utilizes standardized cloud technologies.

The science-based metallurgical digital twin connectivity is designed to establish a cyber secure one-way communication link using industry standards and best IoT practices comply with requirements for each plant and corporate IT policies. Appropriate regulations are used from development to implementation, with our secure development lifecycle process following IEC 62443 standard on securing products.

Since the information is delivered through the cloud, Metso is committed to ensuring customers get access to their own data - safely and securely.

”Cyber security is all about risk management, and that is what we are doing here,” says Antti. ”Detecting these risks, prioritizing the real potential threats, and finding the right solutions.”

Schematic architecture of a cyber secure connection from the edge to cloud.

The importance of the user experience

To ensure long-term success of Geminex™, and to fully leverage modern technology, the Metso team recognized that the development needs to be end user directed, rather than developer driven.

User experience and interface design are crucial factors for practical implementation of digital twins in daily plant operations. A flow sheet is often used as a basis for presenting results, which focuses mainly on operational information rather than process control related items. The digital twin provides vast amounts of soft-sensor data and enriched information based on the dynamic model and analytics, making it important to have a user-friendly interface to access and interpret this information.

Access management plays a key role when dividing our data and making sure that customers get access to only their information. At times, customers have several sites that they need individual data for. In this case, information is divided by site, so the customer can differentiate between their multiple operations.

”From the security point of view, we use access management, so all of our verified customers are authorized before they get access to any data,” says Antti.

digital twin operator
Example of an operator view to a metallurgical digital twin.

Leading the change with sustainable innovations

Environmental, social, and governance criteria are becoming increasingly important to mineral processing investment, with sustainability at the forefront of industry discussion.

For the future, digital twin technologies have the potential to help the mining industry address the challenge of climate change by reducing their carbon and environmental footprint. The ability to adjust operating strategies for market fluctuations and reduce consumption of energy, water, and materials in minerals processing allows operations to operate more sustainably. The process simulation, as well as recipe matching to variable ore types, also gives operations the ability to efficiently use resources in an optimal way whilst providing significant savings in energy, water and chemicals per produced tonne of product.

By improving resource efficiencies and subsequently reducing emission footprints with accurate models, digital twin technologies enable safe, sustainable, and economical operations.

“The idea is that we could optimize energy usage and water usage, so we are lowering their environmental footprint,” says Johanna. “Different sites may have problems with different areas, but in the end, it is all about optimization and having more control over the whole production.”

Due to testing process configuration and operating strategy before execution, the risk of environmental, financial, or safety issues is also greatly lowered, leading to better decision-making and increased sustainability.

Our promise of protection

As the mining industry moves towards more digitalization, the significance of cyber security cannot be overstated. Metso's risk management approach to cyber security ensures that potential threats are detected, prioritized and resolved to maintain a secure connection between the local data sources and the cloud-based digital twin implementation.

It is important that our customers feel safe, secure, and well taken care of. Here at Metso, we have high problem-solving skills, and come from a proactive service and safety culture. With Geminex™, customers can be sure that since potential risks have already been exposed through threat modelling, they can operate in peace knowing that their data is protected.

Geminex offers a cyber secure way to improve resource efficiency whilst reducing emission footprints, enabling sustainable and economical operations, and supporting the industry trend towards autonomous operations at remote locations.

It is understandable that in today’s society, customers would be looking to ensure their data is as safe as it can possibly be. And that’s where Metso comes in. That’s why, together, we are the partner for positive change.

Explore Metso's offerings in innovative and sustainable mining automation solutions here.

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Mining Metals refining