Data is one of our most valuable assets.
Every day our automated drills, trucks, shovels, conveyors, trains and ships produce huge amounts of valuable data. By combining this data with clever analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation, we are making our business safer and more productive.
We have also set up Centres of Excellence focused on analytics, automation, asset management, energy and climate change, orebody knowledge, underground mining, surface mining and processing. They bring together our foremost technical experts to work with our operations around the world. These smart mining teams help us make the right technical judgements and decisions to help us manage our major hazard risks and assure the safety of our assets and operational excellence.
Using VR to Make Safety a Reality
We are using virtual reality at New Zealand's Aluminium Smelter (NZAS) to keep our people safe.
Using a simulated 3D version of the smelter, our NZAS team has been recreating safety incidents.
In these immersive surroundings, events can be re-enacted and seen from different perspectives and vantage points – all from behind the safety of a computer screen. For example, the re-enactment of an incident involving a driver and operator, where each was able to see what happened from the other’s viewpoint, helped us identify a blind spot.
Using VR we have been able to identify the root causes of incidents much quicker, and been able to rapidly progress the actions required to prevent similar incidents from happening again in future.
Mine Automation System
Turning Data into Operational Insights
MAS is our Mine Automation System, which essentially operates like a network server application, pulling together data at 98% of our sites, and mining it for information.
MAS provides this information in a common format, using sophisticated algorithms. It can be displayed visually using RTVis™ – Rio Tinto Visualisation – or through more conventional operational type dashboards with graphs, charts and tables.
Because our autonomous equipment is made differently by manufacturers, MAS also enables these different systems to work together.
We then use artificial intelligence to make the best use of our systems. We can automatically generate orebody models, organise equipment dispatch, and predict and control blasts. We have even optimised the speed and reduced queuing of our autonomous trucks – these small improvements have produced significant gains in productivity.
An ore crusher at an iron ore processing plant can talk to trucks and let them know when it needs more ore. At our bauxite mine in Weipa, special mathematical software helps our port schedulers manage hundreds of ships a year. Using data in these ways helps us minimise downtime, reduce energy use and cut operating costs.
A 3D Visualisation Tool
We built RTVis™ – Rio Tinto Visualisation – with a 3D gaming engine to help us see inside our operations. We can fly over a site and dive down to the detailed information we need. We can hover over an excavator, follow a haul truck, or examine an orebody.
The software brings together geology, geotechnical, drill and blast, production and planning, and visualises surface and sub-surface features. There are also various analytics tools to help us make sense of our data and information for better decision-making.
RTVis™ has delivered many benefits to our operations, including more accurate drilling and blasting, reduced explosive use, and better waste classification, which means that our trucks carry less waste material and more ore – this boosts productivity and lowers costs.
We have 1,700 people using RTVis™ at 98% of our mines. Any new features of the software are rolled out to all sites around the world in a matter of hours, capturing synergies across our business and yielding big savings in time, effort and expense.
RTVis™ continues to give us new and powerful insights into our operations, generating value and continuously sharpening our competitive edge.