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Hi-tech consortium to boost Australian copper production

Mining & Resources

Advanced technologies are being brought together to help exploit South Australia’s rich copper resources and develop a globally competitive mining technology services sector.

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The $14.6 million Research Consortium – Unlocking Complex Resources through Lean Processing – brings together a range of mining sector and research partners led by the University of Adelaide.

Utilising the industrial Internet of Things, one of the first steps will be the establishment of a secure data room within the university’s School of Computer Science with direct data feeds from sensors set up within existing commercial mining operations. That will allow analysis in real time and in comparison to historical data.

Within the first 18 months, the consortium aims to be able to justify the capital cost of a system of conveyor belt sensors to allow mass ore sorting; and, in another project, to have set up a working system of sensors installed within grinding mills to maximise throughput while still meeting product specifications.

South Australia hosts 68 per cent of Australia’s economic demonstrated resources of copper and is home a number of long-life deposits, including Olympic Dam – the fourth largest copper resource in the world.

Director of the University of Adelaide’s Institute for Mineral and Energy Resources and Director of the new consortium Professor Stephen Grano said variability in the ore body being mined was one of the key challenges facing the mining industry.

“We’ll be developing advanced technologies to tailor the mining and processing options to the specific characteristics of the mineral ore in real-time – an approach known as lean processing,” he said.

“The key will be integration of data from when the resource is still in the ground, right through the mining and processing stages.

“We’ll be using data analytics and machine learning, enabling the whole system to be optimised rather than optimising isolated parts.”

Announced in September 2017 and launched today in Adelaide, the consortium is supported by $4 million over four years from the South Australian Government’s Research Consortia Program.

South Australian Minister for Industry and Skills David Pisoni said the project was “a great example of researchers, industry, manufacturers, and startups working together to apply new industrial Internet of Things technology to drive innovation and increase the productivity of our resources sector”.

The other consortium partners are: BHP, OZ Minerals, AMIRA International, Australian Information Industries Association (AIIA) IoT Cluster for Mining and Energy Resources, Australian Semi-Conductor Technology Company, Boart Longyear, Consilium Technology, CRC Optimise Resource Extraction, Datanet, Data to Decisions CRC, Eka, Innovyz, Magotteaux, Manta Controls, Maptek, METS Ignited Industry Growth Centre, Mine Vision Systems, Rockwell Automation, SACOME, SAGE Automation, Sandvik, Scantech, South Australian Mining Industry Participation Office (SA MIPO), SRA IT and Thermo Fisher Scientific Australia (Processing Instruments & Equipment), with the University of South Australia as a key research partner.

University of Adelaide Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Mike Brooks said bringing together industry partners and university research expertise would allow the consortium to leverage the great strengths of each partner to address significant industry challenges.

“These outcomes will enable more sustainable mining and reduced environmental impacts,” he said.

“But it won’t be just the mining industry that will benefit. A key outcome will be commercialising technologies for new global market opportunities – that means growth and new jobs for the state.”

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story.

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