Value Mine crossborder event was organized online 3 June through Teams. The event attracted over 130 participants from industry, SMEs, and other actors to hear and discuss the mining industry´s digital future. This news story focuses on industry talks presented by LKAB, Boliden, Tapojärvi, ABB and Epiroc (keynote). News story related to SME talks will be published next week.
Håkan Tyni – Cybersecurity and Enterprise Strategist, LKAB
In his presentation, Håkan told why technology is important to LKAB and what challenges they are facing. Moreover, he presented one example of a digitalization project they have successfully implemented.
LKAB is Europe’s leading iron ore producer and their business has been strong despite the time of the pandemic. LKAB production is underground meaning much cost and unique environment relative to competitors which have open pit mining production.
The complexity of underground mining is a challenge also related to digital solutions. “It is not easy to buy digital solutions as they are made for the majority of mines, which are not big and complex as LKAB¨s mine. “. In the underground, you have to solve challenges e.g. related to digitalization, in a different way. For example, safety challenges are highlighted in an underground environment.
Currently, LKAB is heading the largest transformation in the company’s 130-years history. The change from the supplier of iron ore pellets to a supplier of sponge iron. They are moving up in the value chain. Moreover, sustainability is a very important topic for LKAB and their strategy is carbon dioxide-free production. That is a long journey, and to do that have to attract competence. Digitalization is always part of when they develop new things, as IT is an enabler.
Håkan showed an interesting example of implemented digitalization project in the pellet processing plant, where they use AI to detect slag segmentation. He sees that cloud services are going to be connected more seamlessly and also inside in factory in the future. In SKAB’s transformation, they will need technology, which is not even available yet. Håkan sees that every company is looking for competence, specific knowledge in terms of digitalization. LKAB aims to scale up its knowledge and at the same time, they are looking for external solutions available.
David Degerfeldt – Program Manager Artifical Intelligence in mining, Boliden
In his presentation, David focused on digital twins and transformation from IT systems to IT architecture. Digital twins are on the rise and can be applied in many ways in the industry. Safety, simulation, and safety education opportunities are the main benefits of digital twins for Boliden. David showed a short video of one of Boliden´s digital twins which is used to simulate the factory environment.
Industry companies have a lot of IT systems (e.g. HR, Procurement & maintenance systems). Boliden wants to connect these systems to create layered IT architecture. David said: "We cannot realize Digitalization with separated IT systems”, highlighting the transformation as the core of digital transformation. However, he also pinpointed that "digitalization is not a technology question, its much bigger question". Hence, companies should become more cross-functional in many areas to achieve the true value of crossfunctional IT architecture.
Most successful digitalization projects are often done when the whole organization is involved in their implementation. When asked about IoT, David highlighted that there is a need for more cloud-based IoT solutions. However, the cloud aspect is also a challenge as some of the IoT sensors are so critical that they cannot have any downtime which is a risk with cloud-based IoT solutions.
Finally, David discussed data ownership. "Who owns the data is not the priority. Who can use the data is the priority. Data by itself doesn´t have value for us". He pinpointed that ownership of data in collaboration with vendors and suppliers becomes a difficult topic from time to time. When asked about digitalization needs inside Boliden, he emphasized that even though specific experts are needed, job applicants shouldn't limit themselves to specific fields. "You have to go wider to provide value".
Mari Pilvento, Acting CEO, Tapojärvi
Tapojärvi Oy, founded in 1955 is a Finnish specialist in mining and mill services, a forerunner of the circular economy. Tapojärvi uses around 3 M€ annually for new RD&I development. Tapojärvi has established an international Eco-innovative Research Center (ERC) and has several innovation projects ongoing e.g. how to close a mining site ecologically.
The normal R&D development cycle for new solutions has been two years at Tapojärvi. Now, it seems that customers are requesting an even more fast response time for development. That is a challenge but Tapojärvi is ready to take the challenge. One of the future targets is developing a large scale capably field-testing on-site to better respond to the customer needs. Investments in digitalization like robotics, autonomy, safety, AI, production systems are essential. Tapojärvi has a dedicated R&D team working on continuous improvement projects. Thru digitalization, the company provides a window for a customer.
In addition, Mari pinpointed some recent digitalization developments. In case Terni, steel mill located in the middle of the city caused challenges. Hence, the project company has been inventing new ways to use slag-based product to reach greener impact. With them, landfilling has decreased by 90%. In case Yara Siilijärvi, alliance method has been used to increase safety and risk management.
Martin Björnmalm, Digital Lead, Hub North Europe, ABB
At the beginning of his presentation, Martin discussed key mining trends that are recognized in ABB: 1) remoting possibilities: trends in automation and control, 2) smart move to digitalization, 3) the road to all-electric and CO2-free mines, and 4) greater collaboration.
Related to the latter one, Martin interestingly stated that everybody is recognized that no single company can realize vision alone, and industry needs the right experience and partners that can support industry companies to take practical steps. Industry clusters, collaborations, and alliances are growing.
Martin showed the company’s vision for future mining (digital mine). Furthermore, Martin presented ABB solutions to increase the productivity of mining companies through their digital solutions. In their concept, e.g. mining equipment are integrated, enabling high levels of visibility, agility, and optimization across operations. The aim is to capture opportunities and tackle the challenges of industry 4.0.
“Industry 4.0 solutions can e.g. automize operations, optimize productivity, reducing downtimes and cost, provide predictive maintenance, and enhance the safety of mining personnel”.
Katarina Öquist, Global R&D Technology and Innovation Manager, Epiroc (Keynote)
Katarina Öquist from Epiroc gave a longer keynote talk about how digitalization enables the future of mining. Transformation to ”greener mining” is a high priority for many mining companies. Carbon-free mining and increased safety are some of the big developments that the future can offer. ”We want our mines to be more green and safe”. However, efficiency and costs to enable these changes have to be thought well beforehand to make green mining valid.
Katarina showed a video about one of Epiroc´s recent digitalization projects, where Epiroc provided the world's first automated surface drills for a gold mine in Canada. The drills enable autonomous drilling, rod changes, and huge safety benefits as the operator can operate them far away from the drilling area. At the same time, the drills increase drilling efficiency and decrease tool wear and tear.
Katarina pinpointed energy efficiency, interoperability, automation, and rock excavation developments as the main topic areas of mining digitalization. She highlighted operational excellence, new services, and product innovation as the main innovation drivers for digitalization. ”This is and will be the biggest technology transformation for us. Realizing it in full scale will take at least 10–15 years”.
Trends show that the future of mining will be electric. The transformation from diesel to cell-powered electric vehicles is a high priority. However, immature technology and bad material supply availability for batteries cause a lot of challenges. Noise, heat emission, and energy consumption benefits are some of the biggest benefits which electric vehicles can bring to the mining industry.
Digitalization also transforms customer demands. Customers demand higher productivity with a lower cost of operations, and expect that industry´s solutions provide more safety and sustainability for customers operations than ever before. ”digitalized mining projects are complex. You have to be customer-centered to succeed”.
Finally, Katarina emphasized the need for competent digital-ready people across Epiroc´s global locations. Future miners of the digital era will differ from today´s and attracting these new people to the industry remains a big question. ”In contrary to traditional views, today´s mining industry is cool, high tech, and looking to transform for a greener future. Attracting these future miners should be one of the industry´s highest priorities”.
Main contact and inquiries:
Peetu Virkkala, DigiProcess Project Researcher, University of Oulu, +358 45 644 3202, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jani Sipola, DigiProcess Project Manager, Lapland University of Applied Science, +358 50 316 7677, email@example.com