Nokia, Antofagasta Minerals dig deep for private 5G wireless network

Deployment of private 5G technology in mining use case in Chile brings high-capacity and low-latency connectivity for sensors and vehicles supporting operations, including an autonomous fleet of trucks

After the recent MWC 2022 highlighted the current acceleration of 5G technology in enterprise and industrial applications, such as in the mining industry, Nokia has revealed that it has won a contract to provide industrial-grade private wireless network capability in one of the four copper mines run by Antofagasta Minerals in Chile.

The Minera Centinela facility mines sulphide and oxide deposits 1,350km north of Santiago in the Antofagasta region, one of Chile’s most important mining areas. Centinela produces copper concentrate (containing gold and silver) through a milling and flotation process, as well as molybdenum and gold. It also produces copper cathodes, using the solvent extraction and electrowinning (SX-EW) process.

In August 2021, Centinela obtained the Copper Mark, which certifies that the company operates under strict internationally recognised sustainable production standards.

The new 5G network is designed to not only support secure and reliable operations at the mine, but also to enable the mining group to accelerate its digital transformation.

A Nokia-sponsored IDC infobrief revealed that safety is a key consideration when identifying initiatives for transformation, and that sustainability tops miners’ strategic objectives. The report quotes IDC’s 2021 Worldwide mining decision maker survey, which highlighted the increasing adoption of digital transformation strategies in mining, with 86% of mining companies planning to invest in wireless infrastructure in the next 18 months.

“We are transforming the way mining is done,” said Gino Ivani, technology manager for Antofagasta Minerals. “We want to deliver excellence in everything we do, leveraging operational efficiencies to achieve the best results. We are committed to sustainable mining and to providing the safest and most efficient facilities.”

Leonardo Serra, corporate head of IT projects at Antofagasta Minerals, added: “Copper is critical for the delivery of clean energy and consequently to reduce emissions. As demand for copper increases, we are deploying technology innovations, such as Nokia private wireless connectivity, allowing us to enhance productivity in a smart and sustainable way.”

Nokia designed and deployed the industrial-grade network based on a private 4.9G/LTE solution, including Nokia AirScale radio equipment, mobile packet core, IP/MPLS service aggregation routers, and Wavence microwave transmission.

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The Nokia industrial-grade private wireless network is designed to provide the high capacity and low latency required for enterprises, such as mining companies, to reliably and securely connect a variety of sensors, devices, equipment and vehicles, above and underground.

The Minera Centinela network, already in operation after being deployed in four months, will initially connect a fleet of autonomous trucks. Going forward, it will support an array of operations as part of a five-year digitisation plan that aims to transform the mining sector while enabling safer and more efficient operations.

“We are witnessing the first wave of Industry 4.0 projects in Latin America and it is very exciting to watch them become a reality for mining companies like Antofagasta Minerals,” said Marcelo Entreconti, head of enterprise for Latin America at Nokia. “Nokia industrial-grade private wireless delivers the robust, secure, predictable and deep wireless coverage that mines require for large outdoor areas or underground complexes.

“Deploying these networks is considered the first and most important step in the digitisation journey of mining companies, and lays the groundwork for an expansion beyond connectivity, where Nokia is already proposing solutions to the global mining community.”

Nokia currently has more than 420 private wireless enterprise customers globally, including over 35 mining customers in more than 60 mines. In November 2021, it announced that it had been engaged by Agnico Eagle Finland Oy’s Kittilä gold mine in northern Finland to deliver a 5G SA private wireless network to support advanced Industry 4.0 use cases to accelerate digital transformation at the mine.

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