Smart Mines: The Gold Standard of Mining

by Ina King (Potgieter) July 18, 2019

Across industry, convergence of OT and IT on the shop floor has unlocked new possibilities in productivity and efficiency, and the introduction of Industry 4.0 to the mining industry is creating a new generation of smart mines. This article discusses how Industry 4.0 is changing the way we mine.

Real time intelligence about current status, whereabouts and operational condition of mining vehicles will optimise management agility and automate maintenance procedures, allowing mine owners to get more value from their assets.Industry 4.0 technologies such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), smart manufacturing, artificial intelligence and cloud computing are revolutionising how we mine by helping mine owners reduce costs and improve productivity, efficiency and safety.

This is all the more important as reduced ore grades, low commodity prices, increasing production and environmental standards, and increased international competition create a difficult business environment with unforgivingly low margins of error.

Yet despite this, the seeming complexity of implementing and managing a smart mine – where the ultimate goal is full plant to ERP integration – has created uncertainty and apprehension about how to approach this technology upgrade.

Broadly speaking, we see the main challenge in migrating to the smart mine not in the acquisition of new capital equipment as such, but in greater utilisation of existing datasets into more usable, powerful analytics platforms, and in integrating operational siloes across the mine into a dynamic, responsive intelligence framework.

It is in understanding and mobilising the big data of our mining operations into actionable intelligence that will enable us to realise our journey to the smart mine. The complete horizontal and vertical integration of our assets, including supply and demand chains, via IIoT will enable improved decision making, mine-wide optimisation and increased quality control, all in real time.

Across the operations and enterprise levels of the mine, Industry 4.0 technologies are delivering:

  • Increased visibility, providing greater decision intelligence
    Modern dashboards and real time reporting provides mine-wide visibility of processes, operational status and equipment monitoring, which empower management teams to make more informed, system-driven business decisions.
  • Improved operations and production planning
    With real time remote insight into machine availability, capacity overloads and constraints on a mine’s MES, operators can re-schedule and redeploy resources with unmatched agility to meet production requirements and planned goods movements, for example, eliminating potential bottle necks before they impact on production.
  • Improved data analytics
    Via a central repository integrating mine-wide systems and process on usable dashboards, mines gain far greater intelligence and data-driven insight into their mining operations and performance, historically and in real time.
  • Automated reporting
    Getting the right information to the right person at the right time: smarter control and reporting layers are enabling users to quickly and easily generate powerful automated reports that are customised to their specific management and operational requirements.
  • Remote asset monitoring
    A common, Internet of Things-driven asset architecture allows data collected from shop floor systems to be shared at the level of enterprise – anytime, anywhere and on any device as required by mine and management personnel.
  • Proactive maintenance
    With remote access to critical machine information such as mileage, fluid contamination and worked hours of vehicles and equipment used across the mine on the ERP platform enables a proactive approach to maintenance. Automated maintenance scheduling, ordering of parts, and any necessary reallocations of equipment to meet production guidelines, is helping mines reduce unplanned downtime.
  • Integrated supply chain management
    Organisations can gain complete visibility of their supply chain information. This doesn’t just mean that optimum stock levels of required equipment parts and consumables can be maintained; mines will be able to understand how a given component performs under operational conditions, and thus will be able to optimise their product selection according to actual performance data from their application.
  • Energy management and optimisation
    Complete access to energy consumption data for machines and equipment allows users to stagger and streamline their use so that they can optimise their energy load profile, especially during peak demand times.
  • Agility
    Real time performance intelligence means that mines can respond to processes or system events that exceed production specifications before they escalate into more serious production or product quality issues.


Difficult commodity market conditions are compelling mining companies to optimise their production systems and processes for enhanced productivity, predictability and operational agility. The implementation of Industry 4.0 technologies is providing businesses with integrated operations and enterprise management intelligence, creating transparent and real time visibility that will be the basis of excellence in management, performance and sustainability of Africa’s mines of the future.

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