The connected digital mine will improve mine safety, sustainability, productivity and efficiency
The need to constantly reinvent operations to optimize safety, sustainability and efficiency has made the case for digitalization and automation in the mining industry more compelling than ever. Investments in Industry 4.0 solutions have sharply increased over the past years, putting mining at the cutting edge of industrial innovation and transformation.
Mining is a volatile business, shareholder expectations are high, and maintaining investor credibility is key. Because labor to operating costs are proportionately high, there’s constant pressure on workforce productivity, efficiency and effectiveness. The environments involved are often remote and challenging, meaning that mining companies need to work hard to protect the terrain and keep their workforce safe and healthy.
The fact is that digital transformation and automation can deliver significant rewards for mining companies. Advances in the industrial internet of things, artificial intelligence, machine learning and augmented and virtual reality make it possible to improve decision making, drive autonomous trucks, track assets and monitor operations to ensure safe conditions.
As a result, future mining operations are set to enjoy a steep decrease in injuries and fatalities while employing just-in-time productivity to deliver tonnage on demand and revolutionize efficiency.
Find out how digital transformation is reshaping the mining industry
How reliable wireless communication is driving autonomous mining
Published in Industrial Vehicle Technology magazine
The network can make or break success of mining transformation
Pervasive and reliable wireless voice and data connectivity is the key to making mining automation work. It enhances critical communications and enables new smart mining applications that can optimize operations.
Right now, many mine sites are held back by aging communications infrastructures that lack the robust capacity, reliability, security or mobility to support the innovation and transformation that automated mining operations demand. Legacy Wi-Fi networks and TETRA and P25-based radio networks simply weren’t created to cater for the demands of ultra-broadband and mission-critical use cases and video communications. Proprietary network technologies also don’t have roadmaps that embrace future requirements the way that standards-based solutions do.
Only 4.9G/LTE and 5G enable it all…
Unearth the use cases enabled by critical communications
Digital technologies and critical communications enable a wide range of use cases, such as:
- Autonomous vehicles: All manually operated equipment including diggers, haulers, crushers and trains will eventually be replaced with their autonomous counterparts. Remote operations will further supplement automation, allowing personnel to monitor automated processes and operate machinery at a distance using virtual telepresence – enabling 24/7 operations.
- Situational awareness: Worker safety is a top priority for the mining industry. What you don’t see, you can’t manage. That’s why you need 360° visibility of people, assets, infrastructure, health and environmental conditions, not only saving lives, but also preventing productivity losses while increasing operational efficiency.
- Geo-location, tracking and fencing: Smart PPE wearables can be used with geo-fencing applications to alert workers to no-go zones. This also provides a much-needed lifeline in confined spaces and other situations where the risk of accidents is high.
- Predictive asset maintenance: Collecting data from IoT sensors helps mining companies to understand the condition of every asset in real time, helping predict failure times and use condition-based maintenance to reduce costs, increase utilization and extend asset life.
- Augmented Reality: AR/VR systems can be used to train workers and give them real-time information. This enables maintenance staff to fix problems fast, with guidance on AR glasses taking them step-by-step to rapid issue resolution.
- Mission-critical voice and video communications: Push to Talk (PTT) and Push to Video (PTV) offer advanced functions for person-to-person and group communications. A panic button can save the life of a worker who has become trapped or confined, or urgently alert personnel in case of a fire or chemical spill.
- Enterprise LAN/WAN, data center and cyber-security: Mining operations are not limited to what’s happening in the pit or on the conveyor belt. Both staff and IT systems need reliable and secure communications in and between headquarters, branch offices and data centers.
Private Wireless creates one single network for mining automation
Most of us already carry an ultra-reliable wireless technology device in our pockets today. The 4G/LTE cellular networks used for a decade by mobile operators worldwide have all the features and characteristics that the vast majority of business-critical and mission-critical mining applications require. Over the last few years, these capabilities have become widely available to enterprises through industrial-grade private wireless networks, first pioneered 10 years ago by Nokia in an Australian mine.
The major advantage of deploying private wireless is that only one network is needed for all your digital applications. One single infrastructure enables fast, reliable and secure data, low-latency remote control, mission-critical push-to-talk and push-to-video communications, as well as real-time video transmission.
Nokia’s private LTE solution is so close to 5G that we call it 4.9G/LTE. In fact, more than 85% of digital mining use cases can run on 4.9G – and the upgrade to 5G is straightforward.
Right now, Nokia 4.9G/LTE and 5G private wireless solutions are deployed by more than 340 customers from different industries. Over 35 mine companies are testing, trialing and operating our networks at more than 60 of their mine sites, across every continent.
4.9G/LTE is here today – and so is industrial-grade 5G
5G will add even more capabilities than today’s 4G. Private 5G provides the massive scalability needed to connect all of your people and critical applications, from pit to port – and its ultra-reliability and security enables even more use cases, like more bandwidth for (ultra) high-definition video services and the even lower latency needed for the real-time, remote control of robots and drones.
Same network for open pit and underground mines
When rocks or minerals lie fairly close to the ground surface, they can be extracted from open pits, with no tunnelling required. This means that open pit mines have a relatively large space available for network infrastructure deployment and radio antennas also have a large coverage angle.
But underground mines are a much more complex proposition. They tend to be confined spaces with thick rock walls and networks of drifts and galleries which present very specific challenges compared to open air or outdoor sites. Network planning, design and deployment is complex but at the same time, connectivity is crucial. With conditions limiting visibility for people and systems, fast, reliable data transfer becomes vitally important.
Network architecture design and radio planning are key to a successful implementation underground. Ensuring always and everywhere coverage can take a combination of radio technologies: small cells, micro remote radio heads (RRH), distributed antenna arrays (DAS) and radiating cables (also known as leaky feeders) often needing integrating with existing UHF/VHF systems.
Industrial-grade private wireless solves it all, providing a single infrastructure for reliable, secure voice, data and video communications and automated applications in underground mines with high-speed data transfer and low latency. While coverage of a single antenna is often limited to a section or a gallery, the 4.9G/LTE or 5G signal conveniently supports caving, room-and-pillar and long wall mining methods as well as in-mine mission-critical and emergency voice and video communications.
Ruggedized devices for working in extreme conditions
In a challenging environment like a mine you must be able to reach your workforce at any point in time to keep them safe – above and underground. Portable communication devices and applications need to be ultra-reliable and easy to use. A single button-push or a fast emergency call could make the difference between life and death. Autonomous vehicles need to securely connect over industrial routers to the private network, while their operators remotely monitor the video streams from connected cameras.
An optimal solution includes rugged industrial handhelds with dedicated push-to-X buttons, workpads with a bigger screen for viewing maps and industrial routers and 4G/5G dongles, complemented by a reliable group communication application.
Explore how Nokia is enabling the mine of the future
Nokia is the undisputed leader in private wireless networks and critical communications for the mining industry. Our solutions are part of Nokia Bell Labs’ Future X architecture, leveraging Nokia’s leadership in wireless networking, converged WAN, IoT and cloud platforms and cyber security.
Combining these solutions with a broad range of professional services from planning and RF design to managed operations makes our approach simply unrivalled.
Nokia Digital Automation CloudAccelerate your digital transformation with a simple and secure private wireless network platform
Nokia Industrial user equipment
Ruggedized industrial handhelds, workpads, routers, dongles, hotspots, and accessories
Virtualized Network Services
SD-WAN 2.0 to securely control the consumption of virtualized services across the entire network
How Nokia accelerates your Mining 4.0 journey
Industry 4.0 will help you increase safety, sustainability, efficiency and productivity in mines – so what if you could achieve it all, faster? At Nokia we believe that building a state-of-the-art 4.9G/LTE or 5G private wireless network is the best starting point for delivering agile and automated surface and underground mining facilities.
Our high-performance, mission-critical networks and services let mining companies deal with fluctuating demand, control operational costs and address growing safety and environmental concerns by using smart digital tools. They provide a foundation for bringing new levels of agility and automation to mining facilities, with solutions optimized for smart mining – enhancing and streamlining their operations by taking advantage of automation, robotics, digitally enhanced equipment, sensor data, predictive analytics, machine learning and more.
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