Lead by the University of Adelaide, a new $14.6 million Research Consortium, named ‘Unlocking Complex Resources through Lean Processing’, will bring together a range of mining sector and research partners to take advantage of South Australia’s rich copper resources.
South Australia hosts 68 per cent of Australia’s economic demonstrated resources of copper and is home to several long-life deposits, including Olympic Dam – the fourth largest copper resource in the world. The high-tech research consortium will be in a prime position to analyse and exploit these vast resources, aiming to further develop a globally competitive mining technology services sector.
Utilising the industrial Internet of Things, one of the first steps for the project will be the establishment of a secure data room within the university’s School of Computer Science, with direct data feeds from sensors set up within existing commercial mining operations. This will allow for analysis in real time and in comparison, to historical data. Within the first 18 months, the consortium aims to be able to justify the capital cost of a system of conveyor belt sensors to allow mass ore sorting, and in another project, it aims to set up a working system of sensors within grinding mills to maximise throughput and still meeting product specifications.
Director of the University of Adelaide’s Institute for Mineral and Energy Resources and Director of the new consortium, Professor Stephen Grano, said variability in the ore body being mined was one of the key challenges facing the mining industry.
“We’ll be developing advanced technologies to tailor the mining and processing options to the specific characteristics of the mineral ore in real-time – an approach known as lean processing,” Mr Grano explained.
“The key will be the integration of data from when the resource is still in the ground, right through the mining and processing stages,” the Professor said, “we’ll be using data analytics and machine learning, enabling the whole system to be optimised rather than optimising isolated parts.”
Announced in September 2017 and launched today in Adelaide, the consortium is supported by $4 million over four years from the South Australian Government’s Research Consortia Program.
South Australian Minister for Industry and Skills, Mr David Pisoni said that it was ‘a great example of researchers, industry, manufacturers, and startups working together to apply new industrial Internet of Things technology to drive innovation and increase the productivity of our resources sector’.
The other consortium partners include: BHP, OZ Minerals, AMIRA International, Australian Information Industries Association (AIIA) IoT Cluster for Mining and Energy Resources, Australian Semi-Conductor Technology Company, Boart Longyear, Consilium Technology, CRC Optimise Resource Extraction, Datanet, Data to Decisions CRC, Eka, Innovyz, Magotteaux, Manta Controls, Maptek, METS Ignited Industry Growth Centre, Mine Vision Systems, Rockwell Automation, SACOME, SAGE Automation, Sandvik, Scantech, South Australian Mining Industry Participation Office (SA MIPO), SRA IT and Thermo Fisher Scientific Australia (Processing Instruments & Equipment), with the University of South Australia as a key research partner.
University of Adelaide Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research, Professor Mike Brooks said the act of bringing together industry partners and university research expertise would allow the consortium to leverage the great strengths of each partner to address significant industry challenges.
“These outcomes will enable more sustainable mining and reduced environmental impacts,” Professor Brooks said, “but it won’t be just the mining industry that will benefit. A key outcome will be commercialising technologies for new global market opportunities – that means growth and new jobs for the state.”