System architecture integration at heart of optimised mine

With constant change to commodity demand and pricing, mining companies are required to maximise productivity and profitability across both greenfield and large brownfield projects.

February 8, 2013

With constant change to commodity demand and pricing, mining companies are required to maximise productivity and profitability across both greenfield and large brownfield projects.

“Planning through economic cycles is a balancing act. You need to ensure that demand drivers and supply constraints are met, while creating value for shareholders at the same time,” says Martin van Zyl, Mining, Minerals and Metals segment manager at Schneider Electric South Africa.

He explains that managing a project is a multi-layered task that requires optimisation solutions from software to hardware, balancing complex budgets, managing corporate and social responsibility expectations, and complying with legal, environmental, and government regulations.

“An integrated system architecture is the heart of an optimised mine. Solutions should be designed to support each phase of a mine project life cycle to draw maximum return from a company’s investment while protecting the safety of its people and process,” says van Zyl.

Investment decisions for major capital expenditure phases in mining undergo rigorous analysis for resource definition, asset configuration, operating scale and financial objectives. This process often occurs in distinct phases and ownership of the modelling assumptions, such as ore body analysis and infrastructure design, transitions through a range of stakeholders including mining consultants, engineering and design firms, construction contractors, financiers and operators.

Very often different software tools are utilised for plans, schedules and simulations and rarely are these systems modelling the entire value chain for the proposed operation from the in-situ resource to customer in one application. This results in a disconnected and fragmented operational view that can introduce risk.

Mining companies that base their operations on siloed, independently working systems are faced with burdens such as data tracking in various conventions and structures, inefficient scheduling and troubleshooting, wasted time and consumables, and numerous obstacles to achieving energy efficiency.

A single system architecture is not only easier to manage, it also enables visible savings on design, installation, and commissioning time, as well as on hardware, software, and energy costs, throughout the entire life cycle of a mine.

“The integration of consistent and standard solutions allows a company to connect, visualise, and operate technology across its entire process. Overall, these solutions drive efficient mine optimisation in a production and business context, enabling it to make better decisions which can be executed faster,” says van Zyl.

By uniting the siloed domains of a mining business onto a single platform, companies automatically optimise their capex and opex, while obtaining a single-seat control of the entire enterprise. This ensures maximum return on investment in equipment and staff, the ability to manage energy use as a KPI, and minimise machine and energy inefficiencies

This integrated approach is the idea behind EcoStruxure, the Schneider Electric system architecture that enables the convergence of five key domains: power, process and machine, IT room, building, and security. By enabling guaranteed compatibility between these critical areas of an enterprise, it creates an intelligent energy management system that saves money and reduces waste.

A single software package animates, controls, and aggregates the output from architecture components.

“The scalable design of EcoStruxure architecture enables installations to be expanded as demand trends shift, and it is compatible with third party systems, so mining companies can leverage existing investments. This flexibility allows for precise integration of all mining processes,” highlights van Zyl.