Mining Data for the Mining Business – a time series analysis on Business Perspective

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Mining Data for the Mining Business - a time series analysis on Business Perspective
Mining Data for the Mining Business - a time series analysis on Business Perspective

A digital mining platform integrates the various business modules, be it drilling and blasting, mine planning, logistics, etc., with the idea that the integration would help get information synergies, albeit some IT and OT integration.

This is an exclusive article series conducted by the Editor Team of CIO News with Sourav Das, Previously, CDIO (Chief Digital & Information Officer) of Essel Mining & Industries Ltd., Aditya Birla Group & Presently, Group Chief of Digital & IT at a leading brand.

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Till a decade ago, India was the world leader in iron ore, alumina, chromite, bauxite, or coal. India would be in the Top 5 of the World even today. Zinc, manganese, lead, and sulphur would also not be lagging much behind. No wonder mining is an important industry in India with its rich natural resources, both ferrous and non-ferrous, pegged at about $150–$200 billion and contributing around 10-12% of the nation’s industrial output, with significant exports in iron ore, titanium, manganese, bauxite, and granite. Post-Independence and especially post-Economic Reforms of 1991, the modernization of this industry gathered momentum; however, in comparison to global standards, it still has grounds to make up in terms of environmental pollution and human rights conservation. And with a license-raj ruling like in many sectors, the landmark 2015 Mines & Minerals (MMDR) Development Act was a game-changer, which arguably hit the merchant miners hard, leaving the captive users with a smile.

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For an industry with such a background to focus on data and digital and leverage business benefits, it is not too difficult to guess the challenges and show-stoppers. For one, this industry is still mired in the traditional bureaucratic challenges, which will make the business owner hesitant to focus on things beyond. With business activities happening in a very remote and not very urbanised setting, infrastructural challenges can sincerely derail any digitalization efforts. Very importantly, open-cast mining might be too simple of a business process for analytics to provide additional intelligence. However, over time, the thought process has matured over these. Increasing competition has meant every delta of efficiency is crucial between net-positive and net-negative. Globally, with high human resource costs, automation is a must for survival, and it seems that trend is now quickly catching up in India.

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So, where can technology and data make the most impact on business in this industry? Top of mind: fuel, heavy machinery, and logistics might just be the three most important pillars. With the various equipment and vehicles guzzling fuel, which is quite costly in India, it is no wonder that one commodity constitutes about 50% of all costs; therefore, every drop is important. Sensor- and iOT-based solutions to account for every drop across the distribution chain from the time the tanker decants to the in-flight re-fueling of the heaviest machinery—and then integrating the consumption and overnight stocks into the ERP to give efficiency across each piece of equipment and finally per ton of mining—is business critical. Even for furnace-burning fuel oil, it is important through flame demographics and video analytics to optimize the fuel flow and hence the liters of usage. Beyond fuel, the other critical input being land, the industry is abuzz with state-of-the-art land management solutions that take data from flying drones and track the restoration and rehabilitation activities in minute detail for each plot. And with capital-intensive HEMMs, it is very important that their availability, efficiency, and utilization are all optimal. Integrated with the Mine Planning solution has to be the HEMM Sizing module—whether you put six of 100 tonners or three of 240 tonners—what would make sense given the operating cost per tonne vis-à-vis the additional capex? And finally, logistics is the X-factor—be it route optimization, GPS or Geo-Fencing Solutions, TAT optimization, or throughput maximization through end-to-end automation and integration of the incoming SCM, along with a customized track and trace—all must-have. Finally, not to forget the supply chain integration with the outbound leg over road, rail, and sea. Predictive models are in play today, forecasting rake availability as well as Swiggy/Zomato type customer updates and real-time tracking of shipments.

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If the above is gradually becoming industry standard, then what’s differentiating leveraging IT and digital? The first one is on artificial intelligence—mostly on traditional AI and machine learning algorithms. Be it the production parameters of a beneficiation and palettization process, resulting in the project output parameters, or for a particular customer specification, ML models can advise on the input parameters. Or for value-in-source sourcing to predict the most optimal sourcing channels, which might not necessarily be the cheapest. The second one, and with all Indian MNCs currently sincerely evaluating it, is a digital mining platform that integrates the various business modules, be it drilling and blasting, mine planning, logistics, etc., with the idea that the integration would help get information synergies, albeit some IT and OT integration. And finally, the X-factors in the post-auction era are the advanced models, which can accurately account for all the costs and revenues across the entire mining lease period, keeping in mind the mineral reserves, and with AI-predicted premiums that the market might put in, considering previous trends in similar assets.

Truly, a lot of exciting action awaits this industry over the next 3–5 years. The data disruption has just begun, but the surge is palpable, truly and sincerely.

Also readAs a technology leader, I cultivated the knack of understanding one step above the others so that I can handle them, says Dr. Chandran Raghuraman, CTO at Bahwan Cybertek

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