Mining: Digitisation can wait no longer
The Centre’s new regime wherein mines are being allocated via the auction route under a revenue-sharing model has come as a wind of change for the sector. With mines being bagged after quoting hefty premiums, industry players must push digitisation to optimise core processes and cut costs if they are to ensure proper return on investment. Zero pilferage, and proper distribution and end use through digitisation are becoming necessary to boost revenues and protect the bottomline.
Mining companies like Coal India, Tata Steel Mining, JSW Steel, Hindustan Zinc, and NMDC, among others, are aggressively looking at digitally enabled automation to achieve greater operational efficiency and higher economies of scale and keep up with the newly formulated dynamics of the mining market. Says Ranjan Nayak, chief operating officer, JSW, Orissa mining business, “the auction mechanism has offered great opportunities to invest and create digital infrastructure in the mining sector. We estimate that automation in mining would be worth $4.6 billion by 2024.”
Public sector behemoth Coal India Ltd (CIL) has roped in Accenture Solutions Private Ltd as a consultant to digitalise mining in seven open cast mines. It has set an ambitious target of enhancing production from the seven mines by 100 MT – these had produced 186 MT in FY21, which was 32% of CIL’s total output of 596 MT in that fiscal.
Says CIL CMD Pramod Agrawal, “though Coal India has been implementing a host of digital initiatives in its internal processes, this is the first major attempt to comprehensively address an array of issues in mining operations and system management, to increase coal output. Taken together with the implementation of ERP (enterprise resource planning), it should yield us good results.”
Accenture Solutions aims to meet the target by FY23 end. Its digital systems would improve planning, project monitoring, operations and despatch, with heavy earth moving machinery being fitted with digital sensors to monitor efficiency at every level, says a source in the company.
Working along similar lines, Tata Steel Mining, a Tata Steel subsidiary, is digitalising mining operations and its value chain with quantum computing, real time quality monitoring, data accessibility and market intelligence. “The digitally enabled automation is aimed at savings of about $1 billion,” says its MD MC Thomas.
Sumit Deb, CMD of NMDC, expects digitisation to optimise costs even as it helps lower the carbon footprint of the mining value chain. Integration of line transport, surveillance system, automated sampling systems and conveyor belt monitoring systems with operators is vital to processes and costs across the mining value chain, he says.
Arun Mishra, CEO of Hindustan Zinc, feels that since data and machine learning are vital to automating the mining vertical, partnerships have become necessary for industry players. He highlights that 97% of Hindustan Zinc’s mines have been made Wi-fi enabled as part of its digitisation efforts.
The demand for digitisation has made mining equipment manufacturer Bharat Earth Movers (BEML) work on designing machines like Predictive Maintenance System (PMS) that can prevent sudden breakdowns. To detect the workability of the human resource deployed in various operations, it has developed with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) an Automatic Fatigue Monitoring System (AFMS). An AI-enabled Water Sprinkler (WS) is another product it has come up with for more efficient mining.
Says its CMD MV Rajasekhar, “Systems like PMS, AFMS and AI-enabled WS are all innovations of 2021. These would go a long way in optimising processes and costs, thereby helping the miner’s finances”.
Source: Financial Express