Increased Productivity and Enhanced Personal Safety Through Digitalization in Mining

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September 26, 2022

Sustained cost pressures caused by low raw material prices are forcing mining companies to seek solutions that optimize productivity and reduce costs. In order to ensure competitiveness, the tradition-steeped mining industry is relying increasingly on intelligent automation solutions. Along the entire value creation chain, from exploration and extraction of mineral resources to infrastructure and further processing to final delivery to the customer, all process steps have to be streamlined in order to ensure economically viable operation. It is expected that concepts for unmanned underground operation will be based on remote-controlled intelligent systems in the near future. At present, the mining industry is looking into solutions based on Industrie 4.0 philosophies with an aim to improve the ability to meet the increased requirements in terms of personal safety on one hand and to optimize productivity on the other.

Forward-thinking automation technology can help fulfil these requirements if it is able to support a range of different communication tasks, for example regulating transport/traffic underground using signal technology, or continually measuring the gas concentration and triggering alarms when threshold values are exceeded. The Beckhoff automation platform is ideally suited for these purposes because it integrates a wide variety of standard interfaces. Measurement software and hardware modules allow seamless integration of such applications into the control system in order to provide a basis for preventive maintenance based on intelligent machine monitoring. The integration of automation and process technology on one platform allows the processing of signals from both hazardous and non-hazardous Zones. The readings collected by sensors are available in the control system, saved in the cloud or on a local server and evaluated for diagnostic purposes. With TwinCAT IoT and TwinCAT Analytics, Beckhoff provides ideally suited software tools for cloud connectivity and data analysis. Through HART integration into the TwinCAT software platform, users can efficiently implement advanced diagnostics for field devices, even over long distances.

Harsh environmental conditions (exposure to fine dust and methane gas) require exceptionally robust and durable control technology as offered by Beckhoff with control panels in aluminum housings or the fieldbus box modules in fully sealed plastic housings, complete with IP67 rating.

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