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Partnering on Technologies That Make Mines Safer, Smarter

Supply Chain Stewardship Case Study

Across our operations and throughout the mine lifecycle, we use technology to not only to improve efficiencies and communications, but also to protect people, connect to each other and our communities, and improve work conditions.

To effectively compete now and in the future, in 2018 we developed a digital strategy to identify the technologies that will optimize value across the mine lifecycle. The strategy includes six key strategic technology and digital pillars:

  • Autonomous fleet – Improving safety, accuracy, consistency and overall equipment efficiency with control logic and artificial intelligence applications (e.g., surface underground equipment automation and infrastructure improvements)
  • Advanced process control – Employing technologies (e.g., alarm management and loop monitoring) that standardize and improve how we operate and control our processing plants so that we increase reliability, productivity and safety
  • Connected worker – Leveraging wearable technology for safety and operational efficiency (e.g., safety, time and attendance, mobile/in-field tools)
  • Operations support hubs – Improving consistency, collaboration and decision making with connected, analysis-rich hubs (e.g., centralized asset health)
  • Advanced analytics – Providing insight and foresight through statistics, machine learning, and reasoning (e.g., predictive analytics, prescriptive analytics, cognitive computing)
  • Smart mine – Maximizing use of real-time data to optimally mine and process ore (e.g., multi-source geological database)

Because no one technology company has all the answers and we are limited in knowing all the technology options available, a key element of our digital strategy is engaging with our key suppliers to identify, define and harness those technologies that will most closely meet our needs moving forward.

One example of this collaboration is in the heavy mining equipment space. We are working with Caterpillar (CAT) and Epiroc – two of the world’s biggest mining equipment manufacturers – to evaluate technologies that improve safety and productivity in underground operations. We are testing technologies, like CAT’s semi-autonomous MineStar-based Command for underground systems, which allows underground loaders to work safely and efficiently from a control room rather than in the underground environment.

In 2018, a cross-functional team of representatives from every region and relevant functions was formed to evaluate solutions that eliminate or significantly reduce risks associated with live work (i.e., exposure to unguarded and live energy sources within a working area) in the mobile maintenance and operating environments. These are risks related to seven of our top 16 fatality risks. Along with leveraging existing technologies, the group has begun to engage major equipment manufacturers to: ensure maintenance procedures are updated to reflect safer ways to carry out tasks as a result of adopting new technologies; share knowledge about what other companies have done in this space; and examine new equipment designs that help eliminate live work activities.