How smart and sustainable mining is reshaping the industry

As the focus is more on environmental impact, 5G-enabled private networks are helping mining companies reduce energy consumption to shift to sustainable mining and lower operating costs.

Northampton, MA –News Direct– Ericsson

The mining industry consumes a lot of energy. Energy costs represent 30% of operating expenses for mining companies and, overall, industry accounts for 12% of all industrial energy use in the United States.

Historically, mining has been associated with a purposeful approach to fueling economic growth by maximizing the production of high-demand raw materials at the lowest cost, and the environmental impact was too often an afterthought. Additionally, the industry’s reliance on reliability and predictability has resulted in resistance to the deployment of new technologies.

In addition to seeking to reduce energy use as a business goal, mining companies also feel pressure from employees, shareholders and governments to set ambitious sustainability goals – maintaining licenses often depends on demonstration of the ability to contain and reduce environmental impact. Emerging technologies, powered by private cellular networks equipped with the latest generation of 5G mobile broadband, have the potential to revolutionize the mining industry not only by increasing efficiency, but also by moving to more sustainable mining.

However, we are now seeing a shift towards an increasingly environmental concern that is driving more sustainable practices throughout the industry. Through the deployment of automation, electrification, renewable energy and digitization, made possible by private mobile networks, mining companies can meet these challenges.

Automation for safety and sustainability

Automation in mining is one of the most important technologies in the industry and can mitigate unnecessary risk and reduce operational emissions. Autonomous vehicles, automated drilling, automated site monitoring and automated ventilation are essential for the future of mining.

Autonomous and more sustainable mining processes supported by 5G connectivity are on their own reshaping the mining industry. 5G private networks offer superior connectivity for mining operations compared to other current offerings due to lower latency and higher bandwidth for many of the use cases involved, especially with regard to the ‘automating. Lower latency is essential for autonomous vehicles that receive guidance messages from the automation system tens of times per second. Private networks also hold data on premises, providing additional security as well as responsiveness through a localized cloud.

According to a study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), autonomous vehicles consume much less fuel than alternative vehicles and require much less maintenance, which translates into a reduced carbon footprint. The OECD looked at data from a mine in Brucutu, Brazil, where self-driving trucks contributed to fuel savings of 10%. This amount of savings is a win-win for mining companies and the environment, reducing costs and reducing carbon emissions.

We carried out a more concrete quantification of carbon emissions through a collaboration with the Swedish mining company Boliden, automation powered by a 4G / 5G network saved the company around 1% of the total annual costs of the plant. Aitik mine. In addition, fuel consumption was also estimated at 10%, which corresponds to a reduction of 9,400 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Another important aspect is the automated ventilation which is not only extremely important for the safety of the workers, but also for the environment. With automated ventilation, the systems do not operate 24 hours a day like other ventilation systems, but rather rely on sensors to locate and treat hazardous fumes and gases with greater efficiency, making the mine more efficient. safe while using less energy. In addition, the automated system has the ability to control temperatures. Automated site monitoring can also help identify potential problems before they arise, including monitoring emission levels at a mine. With real-time monitoring and automated controls, smart ventilation uses less energy and can reduce underground ventilation costs by up to 60%.

A network of sensors that monitors environmental conditions in real time

Another benefit of smart mining is that there has been an evolution in the quality of data that mining companies can access. 5G-enabled private cellular networks can expand the volume of data and types of metrics captured, increasing information density by a factor of 60 overall.

This increased data flow allows mining operators to observe emissions while monitoring water and air quality in real time, allowing tighter control of environmental conditions and energy savings. In addition, this improved condition monitoring can help mine operators reduce maintenance costs by an average of 20%, according to Ericsson’s Connected Mining report, which can reduce environmental impact as well as operating costs. operation.

Remote sensing is also incredibly valuable, especially in remote or dangerous areas. By implementing drones that rely on the low latency of a private network, mining companies are able to quickly monitor and mitigate dangerous situations. AI / Machine Learning tools enabled by the large amounts of data collected can also help mine operators identify problem spots at an early stage, enabling better predictive maintenance and preventing environmental problems before they arise.

Ultimately, 5G environments will help deliver (ultra-) high-definition video and sub-millisecond latency to enable an ever-widening range of use cases involving real-time remote control of robots and devices. high speed drones and connect hundreds of thousands of IoT Sensors and industrial devices – above and below ground.

Superior connectivity powers everything

Through private networks, productivity is increased by maximizing efficiency around the clock, which was not always the case before the implementation of smart and sustainable mining. The provision of solutions such as Ericsson Dedicated Networks will provide on-site connectivity supporting electrical mining equipment, machine fleet control and autonomous material handling. These advancements will dramatically increase worker safety, productivity, profitability and sustainability as the industry modernizes with innovative solutions on the path to net zero and green milestones in mining.

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