IIoT is improving mining safety and efficiency in a variety of ways. As a result, the smart mining market is expected to grow by 19.7% from 2019 to 2024.
Autonomous Vehicles for Mining
A human driver may become fatigued, fail to notice hazards in their way or waver from their path. Autonomous vehicles use GPS to stay on course and can run 24/7. They also use radar to sense their environment, so a vehicle can slow or come to a stop if there is a person or obstacle in the way. Autonomous vehicles are in development that will work underground, performing mining tasks with precision and removing environmental risks from human workers.
When mining underground, dust can fill the air from blasting, vehicles moving in and out of tunnels emit harmful gases and other gases can be released simply through drilling and digging. With IIoT, sensors can detect the location of miners and the type of gases in the air around them and their concentration. When potentially harmful buildup begins, fans will automatically turn on to bring miners cleaner air. Without IIoT, fans are controlled manually using prior surveys of gas concentration, leading to potentially inaccurate and inefficient use of ventilation that can increase operation costs and put miners at risk.
Connected wearables such as helmets or vests can enhance safety for miners. These devices monitor the environment for harmful gases and send alerts for heat exhaustion or fatigue. GPS embedded devices track a miner’s location and can be essential for rescue efforts in the event of a tunnel collapse. Augmented reality goggles can help a worker identify hazards around them or parts of a machine that need repair.
Smarter Mining Equipment
Conveyor belts in mines are expansive and transport heavy materials. Manually inspecting the health of these belts can be time consuming and costly. With IIoT, sensors placed along conveyor belts measure factors such as vibration, temperature and position. If there is an issue, alerts are sent to supervisors. Knowing of potential problems the instant they occur saves time and money, increasing operational efficiency.
Drones for Mining Safety
Drones are an essential tool when it comes to mining efficiency and safety. Drones can be used for quick and detailed site monitoring, personnel or equipment inspections, site mapping and design management. They can also be used step-by-step during blasting to collect intricate data that would be impossible or unsafe for a human to attempt.