What Is Smart Mining?
Smart mining is the collection of processes and technology that can increase the productivity and safety of mining operations. Technology such as air sensors, ground-penetrating radar, video surveillance, and IoT sensors all can play a role in smart mining operations.
Private 5G enables deterministic performance for secure wireless connectivity of these devices within the enterprise premises as an essential ingredient of smart mining initiatives. Data gathered at a smart mine can be sent back to headquarters to be saved and transformed into intelligence staff can use to make more informed decisions on the job site.
Despite the challenging conditions a mining operation may endure, private cellular networks can be designed to provide reliable coverage to underground shafts and miles of subsurface land in remote locations. Operators leverage smart mining technology to gain new insights into their operations, monitor health and safety metrics, and reduce their operational costs as they scale.
How is Smart Mining Different From Traditional Mining?
Smart mining uses private cellular connectivity, edge computing, and IoT sensors to transform job site data into intelligence. For example, smart sensors placed throughout underground mine shafts can proactively alert miners to the presence of toxic gas and low-oxygen areas.
Traditional mining operations rely on collecting data on-site and then taking that data back to the main office for processing. This can be a slow process, especially if the work site is in a rural area.
This manual process can take a considerable amount of time, especially when dealing with large file sizes typical of geographical surveys and 3D renderings. Smart mining operations use high-speed private cellular connectivity to support large data sets and automatically transfer data through secure high-capacity connections at low latency.
Advantages of Smart Mining
By bridging the gap between work site devices, corporate network resources and edge computing, enterprises can increase productivity, and reduce their operational expenses. Below we will touch on a few of the key benefits of smart mining and explain how mining companies improve their business through this new technology.
Improved Workforce Safety
Mining has always been dangerous work, but smart mining tools set out to make it safer than ever before. Both open pit and underground mining pose unique safety and logistical challenges.
In mineshafts, operators can use IoT sensors to monitor seismic activity, structural integrity, and air quality. This data can be collected from underground and relayed to site offices above ground through a network of private cellular access points. This private 5G wireless connectivity can improve communication underground in areas where traditional radios struggle to reach the surface due to lack of strong coverage / range properties.
While open-pit mines don’t struggle with underground conditions, landslides, flooding, and ground collapse all still put miners at risk. Smart mining IoT sensors can monitor ground stability and alert to sudden weather changes in real time.
Private 5G for smart mining opens up the autonomous operation of vehicles and equipment. This could save companies thousands of hours in labor and downtime by relying on the deterministic latency and bandwidth offered by cellular wireless technology across mining sites. For example, automating an underground bore machine could increase operating hours by 2000 hours each year and remove miners from working in areas at risk of collapse.
By connecting machines with IoT sensors, maintenance staff can monitor the condition of machines more efficiently from a digital display. Metrics such as temperature, fluid levels, and conductivity can be recorded and set to alert when reaching certain thresholds.
IoT sensors are inexpensive and require little power to operate, allowing businesses to deploy hundreds across their work environments. Even older analog equipment that lacks internet connectivity can use IoT sensors powered by a mobile network.
In many cases, it’s impractical to run fiber for high-speed internet access in remote mining locations. This can leave mining equipment and tools vulnerable to theft or vandalism. CCTV and anti-theft devices can rely on a private 5G connection to function in a smart mining operation.
Private cellular connectivity offer the predictable network capacity needed to power live high-definition streaming video, alarm systems, and GPS tracking tags - simultaneously. With 5G connectivity from back at the office, staff can monitor multiple job sites and receive alerts if they suspect stolen equipment.
Enhanced Ore Body Knowledge
Technology has come a long way to aid in the early stages of prospecting and ore detection. Mining companies can use radar data to map both subsurface and open-pit mines to identify opportunities and potential hazards. This technology has been applied to drones as well as underwater submersibles to help operators make better choices above ground.
Private cellular networks encrypt traffic by default over the air and on the wire within the local area network at the mine sites. Instead of a network password, devices authenticate by device identity via SIM cards that hold the device's identity and level of network access.
Businesses have full control over their data and network resources on private mobile networks. On commercial networks, companies are limited in controlling their cellular resources and how their information is sent across the network.
How Smart Mining Works
For data to be collected, it first needs network infrastructure. Private 5G solutions use private cellular spectrum, such as the Citizens Broadband Radio Service spectrum in the United States, to broadcast reliably and without outside interference. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US made this new portion of spectrum available for enterprises to use. Smart mines can utilize 54 private cellular access points that make up a 5G Local Area Network (LAN) to design customized networks.
With each mine being unique, a cellular network planner can be used to understand spectrum availability, coverage requirements, and estimated device density. The planning stage can also include building cellular heat maps of an area to detect potential dead zones and obstacles. This stage helps businesses understand what hardware they will need to support their goals.
Installing mobile network infrastructure is much easier than it was several years ago. Thanks to advancements in plug-and-play technologies, companies don’t need to hire cellular experts or pay consultants. A network of small cells can carry 5G signals underground to miners and operating equipment and send back data to a surface-level base station.
Smart mining creates value from the data it transforms into insights. Cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and automation all play a role in smart mining. Data processing can be done on-site through edge computing or in the private cloud.
Celona 5G LANs for Smart Mining
Celona enables enterprise organizations with their own 5G LAN deployments as a seamless turnkey solution.
Celona’s plug-and-play access point infrastructure can be quickly deployed throughout the facility, while proactive monitoring ensures network service level objectives, such as throughput and latency requirements, are consistently being met.
Celona uses cloud networking principles to make implementing 5G LANs an out-of-box experience. Onboarding can be done alongside existing wireless and IT infrastructure, without interrupting business operations.
If you’re trying to find the perfect match for your new generation of digital applications that depend on enterprise wireless connectivity, Celona can help. Check out our network planner to estimate the size of your 5G LAN on private cellular spectrum, or test-drive Celona’s unique solution for yourself with a free trial.