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COVID-19 Driving Use of New Technologies in S&C Mine Equipment Monitoring

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Australian Mine

COVID-19 has pushed many industries away from the traditional ways of doing business, and the mining sector is certainly not an exception. The pandemic has expedited a lot of the technology-development work that previously was ongoing to help mining companies remotely access certain equipment.

For mines in Western Australia, much of the mining equipment and control systems were operated remotely from a central control room in Perth or at the company's headquarters. In recent times, with more people working from home, this activity has moved even further away from the control center, resulting in mining employees now monitoring and controlling S&C equipment supporting electrical power from their home offices.

Because mining sites tend to be in remote locations, many mining company employees “FIFO,” or fly-in, fly-out, from other states in Australia. However, because of COVID-19 border restrictions, they have been forced to hotel-quarantine. Now, automation has created an umbilical cord connecting control rooms and home offices, diminishing the need to fly as many workers in and out of a site.

Additionally, many mining staff now use smart goggles to help with maintenance inspections. Whereas previously manufacturers’ service technicians would fly to a site to physically inspect work, they are now able to see remotely what the inspectors onsite see and can direct them accordingly. This has shortened the work-schedule rotations for some FIFO employees because trips to a site are only required to carry out preventive or reactive maintenance work identified through the inspections. This is not technology that developed overnight, but COVID-19 has rapidly expedited its rollout and adoption.

Even before the pandemic, the mining industry was evolving, but COVID-19 has made technological innovations such as smart goggles all the more critical. The full scope of what the future of mining technology will look like with COVID-19-driven innovations has not yet been actualized, but digitalization of operations and automation suggests the mines of tomorrow will operate very differently from traditional mines of yesterday.

It will be interesting to see what other new technologies COVID-19 soon will bring to mining as the industry addresses the constraints the pandemic has thrust upon it.

Expert

Jason Lander

Publication Date

March 11, 2021