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New research consortium will attempt to boost the mining sector.

From safety to security, advanced technologies, including the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), will end up used by a new research consortium to help boost South Australia’s copper production and develop a globally competitive mining technology services sector in the state.

Led by the University of Adelaide, the $14.6 million Research Consortium – Unlocking Complex Resources through Lean Processing – brings together a range of mining sector and research partners, supported by $4 million over four years from the State Government’s Research Consortia Program.

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“One of the key challenges facing the mining industry is the variability in the ore body being mined,” said Professor Stephen Grano, director of the University of Adelaide’s Institute for Mineral and Energy Resources, and director of the new consortium.

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“We’ll be developing advanced technologies to tailor the mining and processing options to the specific characteristics of the mineral ore in real-time – an approach known as lean processing.

“The key will be integration of data from when the resource is still in the ground, right through the mining and processing stages. We’ll be using data analytics and machine learning, enabling the whole system to be optimized rather than optimizing isolated parts.”

“This project is a great example of researchers, industry, manufacturers, and start-ups working together to apply new industrial Internet of Things technology to drive innovation and increase the productivity of our resources sector,” said South Australian Minister for Industry and Skills the Hon. David Pisoni.

One of the first steps will be establishing a secure data room within the University’s School of Computer Science with direct data feeds from sensors set up within existing commercial mining operations. That will allow analysis in real time and in comparison, to historical data.

Within the first 18 months, the consortium aims to be able to justify the capital cost of a system of conveyor belt sensors to allow mass ore sorting; and, in another project, to have set up a working system of sensors installed within grinding mills to maximize throughput while still meeting product specifications.

“By bringing together industry partners with university research expertise we are able to leverage the great strengths of each partner to address these significant industry challenges,” said University of Adelaide Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor, Mike Brooks. “These outcomes will enable more sustainable mining and reduced environmental impacts. But it won’t be just the mining industry that will benefit. A key outcome will be commercializing technologies for new global market opportunities – that means growth and new jobs for the State.”

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