Twinning: Mining and the Digital Twin

When I was a kid, I enjoyed playing a video game called StarCraft. This real-time strategy game let me control an army in an intergalactic war against other alien species. While I remember the epic battles with friends, the game was really about mining.

To build an army and advance my technology, I needed to first explore the map, locate deposits of minerals and natural gases, and begin mining those deposits. I would point and click to assign workers to mine a deposit. They would follow the same path to deliver these resources to a center for processing, giving me updates in real time.

The mining operation became automated after a few minutes and often faded to the background with all the action taking place. However, controlling and defending these resources and operators determined the fate of the game.

Now imagine if instead of a three-dimensional video game map, we had a map of Bingham Canyon or another large mining site around the world. What if this map was dynamically refreshed to reflect operations happening around the clock? What if we could point and click anywhere on the map to assign operators and vehicles? What if we could monitor the entire production and run simulations to predict future outcomes and increase efficiency?

What if I told you that mines are on the verge of possessing all these capabilities?

This idea is the essence of a digital twin: a virtual representation of an object or system that spans its lifecycle is updated from real-time data, and uses simulation, machine learning and other artificial intelligence techniques to inform decision-making.

While we are not quite there yet, this is where mining is headed. Soon we’ll have digital mines that reflect and impact their physical counterpart. This starts by connecting all the data produced by the many systems, sensors and software found onsite at a mine.

At last year’s MINExpo in Las Vegas, Hexagon unveiled the Power of One, our platform of holistic solutions connecting all mine processes from the pit to the plant. One platform connects all sensors and software with an intelligent monitoring system that can be accessed from the field to the cloud, effectively connecting the mine to the boardroom.

Here are a few examples of how we are achieving this digital vision today.

From the field to the cloud

When it comes to mine planning, planners must evaluate and update several plans on a regular basis. Often, planners don’t have the most accurate data from the field.

The integration of HxGN MinePlan 3D and Leica Cyclone 3DR fuses the powerful point cloud capabilities of 3DR with the comprehensive downstream planning and engineering processes in MinePlan.

This means users can import their point cloud field data, clean the data, create and update surfaces, send the surfaces directly to MinePlan 3D, and seamlessly incorporate them into daily planning and engineering workflows.

With the ability to efficiently manage daily point cloud survey data from field data collection through to daily planning and engineering workflows, informed decisions can be made in near real time. This ultimately translates into a more efficient mining operation and increases net value output.

Automated mission management

While self-driving vehicles are all the buzz these days, no vision of mining automation is complete without software to manage these fleets.

Hexagon has launched an autonomous mission management system in partnership with Liebherr. This solution orchestrates autonomous fleet and unmanned mine traffic movements throughout the mine for optimized autonomous haulage. It is fully integrated with Hexagon’s fleet management and enterprise analytics and reporting portfolio products.

The winner of Mining Magazine 2021 Fleet and Equipment award, the solution is a revolutionary step for automated haulage.

Mines can now take survey data of terrain and build a network of roadways, intersections and working areas on the terrain model. From a control center, autonomous vehicles can be assigned missions along these pre-determined paths and their progress can be monitored live. The most mind-boggling part is that the control center could be miles away or even in another country.

Imagine pointing and clicking to assign work to real vehicles. The sci-fi games I played as a kid are becoming more and more real. The idea of a digital twin is becoming a reality.

It is an exciting time to work in mining. However, with so many technological advancements it can be overwhelming navigating all the data produced.

Hexagon helps you navigate and make sense of all the data produced from these systems. Learn more about our smart mining solution.

Don’t forget to register for HxGN LIVE in Las Vegas, where we will be hosting the intelligent mining summit, featuring solutions that integrate sensors, software and sustainable processes to improve operations and safety.

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