Visiting the Roy Hill Remote Operations Centre (ROC) first hand and learning about the design and layout of the facility to provide a more efficient remote operations has been insightful, the ROC is well known as one of the most advanced Remote Operations Centres in the world and for moving up to 1 million tons per day, it needs to be.
The central component of the ROC is the control room, which houses the Demand Chain team who are responsible for the operational planning, scheduling and execution of production activities across all areas of operations. On the right of the ROC is the drilling, blasting, excavation (mining) and moving to the left progressing to the port operations which utilises state of the art gaming technology to provide real time visualisation of the ore movements
Forward to Aft is organised in time, the front row is the day of operation and moving towards the back of the room looking out to as much as 3 months. The layout and positioning of the ROC is key to the success of the operations provide a super-efficient operation allowing each link in the chain to communicate and respond immediately to each other as they are positioned side by side in all directions.
From the mine to the ROC, there are potentials for technology transfer to support autonomous operations which is a necessity for space operations and something the space industry knows well. The fixed plant operations are already highly automated with major investments into mobile plant required to completely automate the operation.
Mining operations are extremely efficient so I see the changes coming in materials to extend the time between shutdowns and maintenance, if the time can be pushed out to every 2 months instead of every month then that will reduce the cost of maintenance by 50% and reduce the down time of the maintenance period also by 50% providing an increase in revenue and production.
During the drilling process before blasting the ore for extraction, the drilled holes are manually mapped by hand to provide a model of grade for extraction. This process has significant data capture and using automation and AI to map the drilled section in real time enabling a faster turn around time of data and remove people from the pit.
At the other end of the process, AI technology is already being used to control the grade feed to the crushers by using multiple sets of grade data and vehicles to control the feed and ensure the grade of ore remains constant through to port operations. Given the sheer number of steps within the mine to port process, there are many more stages that could utilise AI to further automate the entire process.
The future of mining operations management is augmented reality and 3D visualisation of the operations leveraging AI to support humans interacting and monitoring the mine on a much higher level similar to the space industry, the opportunities for technology advancements between the two industries exist however a number of challenges exist before major advancements can occur. The next step to solving more of Earths challenges is detailed assessments being performed by the other part/industry to assess the roadblocks to progress technology and particularly automation to the next level. The space industry has its roadblocks also however these are not typically around creating or using new technologies, this is the first and most important item to transfer to Earth based industry
Learn more about Roy Hill: https://youtu.be/tBJaCktT6As