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Mining firms back IoT, says Inmarsat

Steve Rogerson
January 9, 2018

Businesses in the mining industry are backing the IoT to help them retain their market share, as competition in the sector intensifies, the quality of seams decreases and profit margins are put under pressure, according to research from Inmarsat.
The IoT, it found, will play a critical role in helping mining businesses increase the level of automation and improve production efficiency, enabling them to compete with rivals operating in lower cost markets.
Market research specialist Vanson Bourne interviewed respondents from 100 large mining companies across the globe for Inmarsat’s report, and found that 70 per cent of mining businesses agreed that the IoT would give them a significant edge against their competitors.
Mining operators further identified how the IoT would help them bolster this competitive edge, with 41 per cent reporting that they would use the IoT to increase the automation of business processes, and 44 per cent saying it would help them identify cost saving and efficiency opportunities.
“It is no surprise to see that mining businesses are looking to IoT to help them gain a competitive advantage,” said Joe Carr, director of mining at Inmarsat. “Mining businesses across the world are under constant pressure to produce the same product at a lower price than their rivals. At the same time, it is becoming harder to find high quality deposits in lower sovereign risk countries.”
This pressure, he said, was amplified in developed economies, such as Canada and Australia, where labour costs were much higher than in emerging markets, leaving operators in these territories at a significant competitive disadvantage.
“These businesses must drive down operating costs and improve productivity to remain competitive, and the most effective way to do this is the adoption of IoT and automation,” he said. “Using automation to reduce labour requirements can make a big difference to an operator’s bottom line.”
For example, an Australian open pit mine might employ 100 truck drivers each earning more than AU$200,000 a year, which is then replicated on staff working on the trains and the maintenance personnel.
“The IoT will be critical in enabling mine operators to reduce the amount of manual extraction and transportation of raw materials, as it will allow for the introduction of more autonomous infrastructure, such as fleets of unmanned trucks and trains,” said Carr.
Autonomous technology can also enable an around-the-clock, 365 days-a-year operation, removing the need for shift change and improving safety by removing the person from the environment, further increasing productivity.
“We are currently working with some of the mining industry’s largest operators to deliver increased automation, which in turn results in increasing speed across the mining process, helping to reduce average cycle times and improving productivity,” said Carr. “Mining technologists are increasingly aware of the importance of satellite connectivity in their mines, understanding that IoT solutions cannot function without reliable connectivity to gather and transmit data from connected sensors and devices to control rooms.”
With many mines located outside terrestrial or cellular network coverage, satellite communications networks can offer more reliable connectivity that is central to profitable mining and crucial in an emergency event. In addition, Inmarsat can provide connectivity in deep, open pit mines and even underground, using repeaters. With up to 99.9% uptime, Inmarsat’s L-band services are enabling IoT services in mines globally, even in the most remote and hostile environments.