The Indian mining industry is heading towards a technology-driven optimisation process. This will create plenty of opportunities for the mining industry given the increasing demand for metals and minerals.
Innovations in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and industrial internet of things have resulted in automated machinery operation and planning; predictive maintenance; improved man, material and asset traceability; the use of real-time data and analytics; and visibility across the mine-to-market value chain. Automation in mining operations in India will increase productivity and promote the sustainable use of resources, while simultaneously lowering fixed costs.
Mobility solutions that offer powerful analytics to mine managers through mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are a key trending technology. These mobile solutions can access real-time, highly visual data on operations from any location, which saves time and improves productivity and efficiency. The electrification of mine sites is essential for the automation of equipment and a big step forward in productivity and safety. To ensure the efficient use of resources and better safety practices and procedures, geolocation technology is used within a local area network for tracking people and mining equipment. Also, cameras, sensors and thermal imaging systems are being used to maintain the physical security of mine sites. The data from multiple disparate systems will generate automatic alerts for any strange activity or anomalies that indicate a security breach, and will help mines reduce the cost of monitoring security.
Introducing microseismic monitoring in mines and developing specific instability criteria will help quantify the degree of instability over worked-out panels and previously extracted unknown workings in coal mines. The microseismic monitoring technique can be effectively used for ground control, roof fall prediction, detection of unknown workings below railway tracks and monitoring of rock-burst-prone mines.
Hydraulic fracturing in boreholes drilled into the ore body is the preferred method for preconditioning to initiate caving and to reduce the size of caving materials. The method is being used to induce controlled rock caving. Mining with hydro-fracturing as a caving technique will improve both productivity and safety of mines.
Indian companies, too, are upgrading technology for mining and allied activities. Hindustan Zinc has recently signed an MoU with Epiroc for zero emissions and sustainable mining with the introduction of battery electric vehicles in underground mining. This will help reduce carbon emissions, enabling mine operations to become more environment friendly.
Zyfra has announced its plans to introduce AI-based solutions for mining in the Indian market. The company has successfully tested two AI-based solutions for the mining industry that determine excavator shovel teeth conditions in real time and provide continuous rock size estimation in the shovel bucket. The oblique shortwall mining method is being used for fast liquidation of standing pillars in underground coal mines in India. The method was designed and implemented for the first time in India at the Balrampur mine.
Mahanadi Coalfields Limited has introduced a robotic nozzle, which will support firefighting operations in coal mines along with effective dust suppression. Being a remotely controlled system, it can be operated from a safe distance. It can mist a 360-degree horizontal pan and a 180-degree vertical pitch. Two more such systems will be retrofitted in the Basundhara opencast project (OCP), in Sundergarh district, and the Lingaraj OCP in Talcher, in Angul district.
The way forward
Technology has transformed many industries globally. The mining industry has matured over the past few decades on the back of ever-increasing demand for mined resources and sustainable mining. The Indian mining sector plays a pivotal role in the country’s infrastructure and economy. The industry has the potential to attract and retain diversified talent by adopting more technologically driven solutions and encouraging innovation in everyday operations. The mining workforce also needs to learn new technologies in order to meet the challenges of the mining industry. There is a critical need to transform the way mines operate in India by creating a digitally enabled environment that is safe, clean and sustainable.