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Hindustan Zinc, Tata Steel lean on 'digitised mines' to boost productivity

Jayajit Dash/Bhubanswar 15 May 19 | 06:33 PM

Leading players such as Vedanta Group-controlled Hindustan Zinc Ltd (HZL) and Tata Steel are riding the digital wave to streamline efficiency and shore up productivity at their mines.

HZL has has implemented digitisation in its mining operations, aiding in developing intelligent mines that are smart, connected, wired and analytical. Digitisation of mines has helped the company to build algorithms that has further enhanced accuracy in the mining operations and has made mining for HZL more efficient- right from exploration to metal production. 

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“We are into the first phase of our digitisation which we hope to complete this time by next year. Our digital initiatives are centred on enhancing our production and safety so that we can take our operations to the next generation of mining. We have engaged various partners across the world and we are bringing in the best of technologies", said Barun Gorain, chief technology and innovation officer, HZL.

The outcomes of digitisation are already showing up in the key performance  indicators of the company's mining operations. Thanks to a suite of digital interventions, there has been 10-15 per cent increase in availability in crushing performance. Going ahead, HZL is eyeing 20 per cent increase in operational expenditure improvement over the next six months.

Productivity and recovery are also poised to take a significant leap in the near future.

“Our aim is to ramp up productivity from 0.6 tonne per man hour to two tonne per man hour. We also expect to improve our metal recovery performance to 95-96 per cent. Our recovery has stabilised now. Before digital interventions were ringed in, instability was a big factor", Gorain said.

Also, HZL has planned to implement an automated core  scanning technology in India, a highly sensitive technology, which can project rock and terrain properties along with the content of the ore. Further, it plans to adopt augmented reality and virtual reality (AR and VR) wearables and ore body intelligence along with 3D laser scanning, introduction of high speed Wi-Fi networks in the underground mines, high bandwidth optical fibre, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and other IP based devices.

Further, the company is developing an integrated analytics centre in Udaipur in the next two to three years where data on production from mines, mills, smelters, power plants will be analyzed in one place and results  and feedback will be sent to the operations department where planning would be done to optimize future operations. 

For Tata Steel, the digital journey has set off for both iron ore and chromite assets.

“We have this concept of connected mines where all our mines and assets are connected digitally. From geological mine planning to operations, digitisation is helping us to produce mineral of the desired quality. We have a very controlled operation in terms of the quality of the product. Through our digital tools, we also ensure that the people who are engaged in the plant remain safe in the entire duty cycle", said Arun Misra, vice president (raw materials), Tata Steel.

Tata Steel has introduced the Fleet Management System at its flagship Noamundi iron ore mines feeding its Jamshedpur steel mill. All dumpers at Noamundi mines are connected to this system. 

“Fleet Management System is under implementation at Joda. Next, we will extend it to West Bokaro mines. We are also looking at autonomous operations of drills so that life is safer and drilling accuracy improves", Misra added.

The Fleet Management System at Noamundi mines is a state-of-the-art technology for IOT (Internet of Things) based smart mining. This has enabled the use of advanced analytics on the data being generated by the system on a real-time basis capturing health and performance of heavy earth moving machineries, thereby reducing operational costs and improving the productivity.

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