The Australian government has announced A$12.5m in funding, from government reserves and industry organisations, to support a training centre at the University of Adelaide to educate miners and engineers in emerging technologies.
GlobalData mining writer JP Casey speaks to Peter Dowd, professor of mining engineering at the university's School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering about the funding, and how artificial intelligence and automation could impact the sector.
Casey says: "With artificial intelligence and automation technologies ever more in the press as the future of industry, it is perhaps easy to assume that adoption is a mere step away. However, while such technologies may offer numerous advantages to mining, those in the industry are not necessarily aware of these advantages or how to incorporate them into their systems and processes. The University of Adelaide's new mining research is setting out to change that, ensuring that the sector is properly prepared for emerging technologies and how they could change the future of mining."
Peter Dowd tells GlobalData: "The training centre will deliver the enabling tools – advanced sensors, data analytics and artificial intelligence – for automated, integrated and optimised mining. Automating a mine requires all stages of the mining and processing system to be integrated so that intelligence across the value chain can be automatically generated, delivered and exploited.
"The mining industry must be able to make real-time decisions if it is to apply the correct and most cost-effective parameters, or processes, at any point in the value chain and avoid the use of costly processes when they are not needed. Ubiquitous sensors, data analytics and artificial intelligence will bring step-change increases in productivity, based on network connectivity and high-speed computation in the Industrial Internet of Things.
"The unique opportunity that Australia has is to master the Industrial Internet of Things in an industry – mining – in which it has the competitive advantages of the value and complexity of its mineral resources and of the high-level capability embedded in its mining equipment, technology and services and in its resource companies.
"The training centre will operate over the period 2020–2023. We expect significant benefits to be realised throughout the period and thereafter as the research delivers against each of the objectives and the translation partners develop the outcomes into industry-ready products and, in appropriate cases, commercialise outcomes. The use of embedded and connected sensors together with real-time analysis of sensed data can [also] be applied to safety, environmental monitoring and control and many other areas in mining operations. "There is another complementary project, Unlocking Complex Resources through Lean Processing, which started last year. This is a research consortium funded by the State of South Australia through the Premier's Research and Industry Fund (PRIF) Research Consortia Programme for the period 2018–2021. The total project award is A$4m from PRIF, A$6.14m from industry, [and] A$4.46m from university partners."