Internet of Things improving Goldcorp operations – by James Perkins (Mining Innovation News – March 12, 2015)

Operations at Goldcorp’s Éléonore gold mine in Canada are benefiting from a complex sensor and monitoring network, and its manager predicts that “all mines of the future” will follow suit.

The mine, which opened in late 2014, is extracting gold 4,000 feet below the surface. The mining management has deployed a network of sensors and monitors to ensure the safety and efficiency of workers and equipment.

Éléonore mine manager, Guy Belleau, explains that “with Wi-Fi in the underground mine, we can apply all kinds of technology and processes that allow us to track equipment and people on a real-time basis… it’s a super management tool, and all mines in the future will have this.”

The Éléonore mine uses a network of 160 access points with wireless LAN controllers, broadband routers and service routers provided by Cisco as part of its ‘Connected Mining’ solution.

Furthermore, a communications network has been employed with Voice-over-Internet-Protocol phones to communicate with underground workers from the surface to track progress or report issues.

The mine management monitors the location of workers through RFID tags in the helmets, there are also similar tags in the mine’s 200 vehicles and other heavy equipment as well as hand held tools to better manage the equipment available.

The data can be viewed and managed in the underground control room, on the mine personnel’s tablets or from the company’s headquarters in Vancouver.

Using the tracking system, the company can plan blasting work to ensure that workers are clear and manage the mine’s air filtration system by sending fresh air to the areas of the mine it is most needed.

The prioritisation of the air filtration system has delivered a 50% reduction in the amount of air required to service the mine, as areas where there are no operational personnel will not require the same air quality as those where workers are present.

Belleau estimates that the air filtration management delivers savings between $1.5 and $2.5 million per year and a sizeable reduction in carbon emissions.

Monitoring of equipment means that the Éléonore mine implements a proactive rather than reactive maintenance policy as the mine management can identify equipment problems before they manifest and offer early solutions.

The sensors can also deliver health and safety feedback, showing improper use of equipment and analysis of data can reconstruct accidents or incidents as part of the health and safety investigation.
Belleau concludes that the comprehensive sensory and monitoring system “is a dream for miners.”

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