Mining Indaba: Powering the mines of the future

Schneider Electric will be attending the Mining Indaba, being held 5-8 February 2018 in Cape Town. As part of the Indaba, Mining 2050 innovation will discuss the best strategies for taking mining operations to the next level over 10-30 years.

“It is this section that the company is most interested in,” says Wilhelm Swart, Vice President for Schneider Electric South Africa’s Mining, Minerals and Metals (MMM) Africa Business. “These topics speak directly to the goals and vision of Schneider Electric’s dedicated MMM business.”


  • The Power of Big Data: How are COOs and CTOs, from juniors to majors, having to think differently about their data strategies?
  • Data and the future of work – Examining why intelligent mining requires a broader transformation, not just a ‘Digital Mine’
  • Remote control continuous mining technology: What’s been tested, how is it performing and what should your long-term strategy be?
  • Digitising the Mine of the Future – how will the Internet of Things will shape the Mine of the Future?
  • How will nanotechnology and advanced techniques significantly improve processing over the next 30 years?
  • Developing sustainable procurement strategies at a localised, national and international level
  • Renewable power for mines: sustainable image or true economic benefits?

“Schneider Electric is leading the digital transformation of energy management and automation in mining. It is leveraging solutions from its primary domains of expertise – IT, buildings, industry and infrastructure, and utilities – to help companies in the mining sector achieve new levels of efficiency and productivity.”

Schneider’s competitive advantage is its open EcoStruxure architecture, underpinned by a combination of people and technology, and the segment team within the organisation dedicated to collaborating with strategic customers to harness its potential.


Mining expertise

Another competitive advantage is its dedicated segment approach, having built an entire organisation dedicated to mining, and investing significantly over the years to increase its competence in the industry from an application standpoint, helping it to solve its customers’ challenges. It has developed specific expertise around process control, mineral processing, energy optimisation and supply chain efficiency.

Mining is facing significant challenges but the fundamentals are sound, and Swart says Schneider expects that increased demand for mined raw materials will be driven by population growth as well as rapid and increasing urbanisation.

“The resources industry is constantly challenged by market volatility, grade decline, regulations, social license, skills gaps and workforce demographics, which puts a premium on operational and business efficiency – something we’re well-positioned to help our customers with.”


Digitisation software will drive mining

“Of all the trends impacting the industry, none will be as critical as digitalisation. It will impact every aspect of the industry operation and provide the greatest potential for improving business and operational efficiency.”

He points out one of the main challenges has always been to make real-time decisions based on information that is spread across various databases and applications. With that in mind, the company, which devotes 5% of sales to research and development, believes the technology that has provided the most value to its customers has been around the integration of mining operations from ‘resource to market’ or as it is sometimes expressed, from ‘pit to port’.

“It’s one of the industry’s most challenging problems and AMPLA, our integrated mining operations software, has become somewhat of the de facto standard for this type of integrated solution.

“It’s a modular software suite with specific mining functionality that supports mine operations from extraction and processing, to blending and storage, all the way through to shipping logistics.”

It enables value chain visibility and optimisation, by collecting data automatically from multiple plant and business systems or through manual data entry, and establishing a single trusted source of information, which can be collaboratively used to drive efficiency, reduce cost and make better business decisions.

“A case in point would be a recent implementation of Ampla across five mine sites at a major metal mining company. The system was used to monitor and capture real-time asset performance and condition data and to provide root-cause analysis when assets were being underutilised. Globally across all five mines, it improved capacity by over 10%.”

“Our resource to market integrated solution consolidates and manages data from multiple mine, plant and business systems. This enables customers to identify production issues, manage inventory and quality, track and management production and asset performance, understand costs, and analyse business KPIs.

“As another example, one of the biggest iron ore miners in Australia uses it to optimise its port logistics by predicting how each entity in the supply chain would operate – from mine to plant to rail and port – and has improved supply chain efficiency by 20%.”



Remaining ahead of the curve is tough when it comes to market changes and advances in technology, especially in mining where change is constant, but Swart cites open platforms, the IoT and digitalisation as good examples.

“We also see significant turnover at the engineering and technical levels in the industry, meaning we sometimes need to fill that void with our own project engineering or remote asset monitoring services, for example. It also means we need to collaborate with our customers over the medium to long term and not simply just sell them things.

“Now that the outlook has improved and mining operations are starting to make CAPEX investments again, they also need a workforce that can ramp up and become productive quickly, and much of our software and workforce enablement solutions help them do that.”


Using augmented reality

Training solutions made possible by virtual reality or maintenance troubleshooting tools that utilise augmented reality are examples of the industry looking for new technologies to transform the way it operates in the future.

“To give another example, one of our customers in Canada has deployed our training and simulation solution at a groundwater treatment plant that had to meet critical environmental requirements, and was used to train new operators on how to prevent above-limit groundwater from being dumped into their outflow.

“The only way to achieve this ‘future state’ is to develop it jointly with our strategic customers and partners and work closely to understand their challenges and find new ways to solve them.”


IoT will enhance mining

“The rewards are significant for those willing to try. It’s been estimated that in the next five years, mining industry leaders will achieve their most significant improvements by embracing digital technologies like the IoT and advanced analytics that can harness the power of big data.”

Some reports indicate that digitisation could bring more than AU $470 billion by 2025 in additional value to the mining, minerals and metals industries by means of productivity gains, cost reductions, and fuel and energy savings – but only if they are able to overcome some of the challenges.

“One of the challenges is in making technologies available in ways that are easy to implement and leverage and that brings us back to EcoStruxure because it provides that common open architecture on which everything can be connected,” concludes Swart.

Swart is responsible for ensuring that the company’s fully dedicated MMM Africa Business synergises all its local and global engineering solutions teams to best address MMM customer requirements. His key transformation solution areas are software, energy management, sustainability services, large project execution and field services for both large African and global customers.

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