Rio Tinto’s Mine of the Future program is about finding advanced ways to extract minerals deep within the earth, while reducing environmental impacts and further improving safety.
It includes an Operations Centre in Perth that enables all their mines, ports and rail systems to be operated from a single location; autonomous drilling; and autonomous trucks and trains.
Greg Lilleyman says it allowed the company to build a superior track record in the Pilbara.
“I am always thinking about what else we should look at,” he says.
“It wasn’t as though I had a KPI to go and develop an operations centre to remotely manage the Pilbara mine. I was thinking through the next opportunity to improve our business.”
He says a well designed mine will normally decrease in productivity over its life, but by being innovative, many mines don’t experience a decline in productivity over time.
With many projects, there is always a requirement for contractors to visit the site to get a sense of the area. Every time a new plan or a design change occurred, additional people needed to be sent to remote locations to take pictures, gather data or verify items.
The Immersive Asset Capture uses a 360-degree camera to take pictures of an area. It then integrates the images and a geo-positional signature to create a database of images that can be located on a map. This allows the users to be immersed in a 360-degree overview of the area even when off site.
“The system allows users to be immersed in a 360-degree overview of the area.”
This is coordinated with asset data to provide a holistic overview. The system is benefcial for planning and sharing with people on site, in central engineering teams, vendors and contractors.
The system helps minimise rework, identify potential hazards and visualise every step in the process.
The Optimised Salt Recovery (OSR) Process has been developed as a cost effective, benefifcial use alternative to existing coal seam gas (CSG) brine treatment and disposal.
The process was developed as a scalable, low cost alternative to costly selective salt recovery processes, and to the land based disposal of mixed salt which falls short of environmental best practice and community expectations.
The key innovation was the recognition that a particular synergy is achieved through modifying the brine chemistry to eliminate co-precipitation of major salts, while simultaneously purifying the brine of trace impurities.
Underground coal mining in Australia is primarily undertaken by the longwall mining method. This requires the use of a sophisticated system of hydraulic roof supports, cutting head and conveying system up to 400 m wide.
The method extracts the coal seam and results in caving of the strata behind the roof supports. This produces a complex, dynamic failure process of the overlying strata that varies according to the nature of the strata, the depth and the resistance provided by the longwall roof supports.
A new method was devised to assess the geotechnical requirement for the design of the longwall supports. It introduced a combined strength and serviceabilitybased approach to support assessment via the Ground Reaction Curve principle.
Prior to this, longwall support assessment was based solely on simple static strengthbased block detachment assumptions. Ground Reaction was developed for tunnelling but had never been applied in coal mining. Following this work, the method is now applied extensively in the US and internationally.
“The Ground Reaction principle was developed for tunnelling, but had never been applied in coal mining.”
An existing gold mine in Armenia was treating oxide ore with conventional techniques. By 2014, this resource was nearly depleted, however, there was a significant gold-bearing resource below the oxide layer hosted in sulphides.
The Albion Process was selected to integrate with the existing plant to oxidise the sulphide gold concentrate due to the significantly lower capital costs, process simplicity and flexibility, short commissioning period and environmental performance.
Geo Duckworth has developed technology that enables cyanide reagent used in the mining industry to be directly manufactured at the mine site, eliminating the need to transport this dangerous and toxic chemical from manufacturing centres via public roads and ports. The process, said to be a world first, also eliminates the use of ammonia in the manufacture of cyanide.
Manufacture is done via a modular, stand-alone thermal plasma production plant. It enables the production of cyanide from nitrogen rather than from ammonia as required by existing technologies, and nitrogen is readily available on site by separation from air.