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Earlier in July, chemicals giant BASF formed a partnership with artificial intelligence (AI) specialist Intellisense.io, to develop products and services for so-called smart mining.
BASF regards smart mining as the use of digital tools and services such as big data processing capabilities, like AI and industrial internet of things smart sensors to enhance traditional mining and ore beneficiation practices.
The company produces chemistry for mining. Digital technologies can be applied in smart mining as a way to lower chemical usage, lower water usage and support the development of biodegradable chemicals. Given the variety of raw materials in mining, BASF believes that optimisation based on technologies both improves the efficiency of mining processes and lowers the environmental impact.
According to BASF, over the past two decades, the mining industry has faced a decline in ore grades. Damien Caby, senior vice-president, BASF Oilfield Chemicals and Mining Solutions, said: “The average grade of copper ore in Chile for example has more than halved over the past 20 years. As ore grades deplete it makes mining operations more resource intensive, so miners need advanced technologies to solve an increasingly complex operating environment.”
He said digital technology helps to ensure that mining processes are run at their optimum at all times with limited or no human intervention. “By ensuring that processes are run at their optimum at all times, smart mining contributes to reduce the impact of mining on the environment and to improve the mine’s safety, reliability and costs,” said Caby.
The partnership combines BASF’s expertise in mining and mineral processes with AI-based analytics from IntelliSense.io, in a product called Intelligent Mine. Sam Bose, CEO at IntelliSense.io, said: “AI’s self-learning and its ability to draw inference from different data types allows it to handle diverse ore characteristics as it passes through the mining processes. It also identifies the most optimum scenario for the process delivering maximum output while balancing the changing economic conditions.”
The BASF Intelligent Mine provides a number of digital applications, powered by IntelliSense.io’s brains.app platform.
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Hosted on a hybrid cloud, the software provides process prediction over a set defined period, a process simulator to enable users to simulate various operating conditions and an optimiser that recommends in, real-time, optimum set points to run the process in the most economic and efficient mode.
The Intelligent Mine applications support mining processes, such as the Thickener Circuit, Floatation Circuit, Pipeline Pumping, Grinding Circuit and Heap Leach. The goal is to deploy each application on customer-identified processes until the system is gradually expanded across the entire mining value chain. Once fully connected, BASF said each application works autonomously, optimising its own behaviour and also working together with the other applications to optimise overall site productivity.
Australian mineral sands mining firm, Image Resources, has worked with BASF on a pilot implementation of the platform.
Patrick Mutz, managing director, Image Resources, said: “In mineral sands, as in all mineral processing operations, a key challenge is reconciling the variety of instrumentation records into a cohesive account of production for a given period of time such as monthly. The classic processes are slow, somewhat uncertain and need to be conducted by qualified process engineers due to the number of checks and decisions that must be incorporated to align the numerous data records.”
He said that this means the reconciliation process is not beneficial to improving process control. However, by implementing digital technologies through the Intelligent Mine, Mutz hopes Image Resources can create a much more efficient, certain and transparent reconciliation process.