Tech developments in Indian mining
Digital applications in Indian mines are geared to make them safer, more efficient and profitable
THE government, public sector and private sector players in the Indian mining sector continue to aim for growth, operational efficiency and sustainable mining through technology deployment, driven by
the Digital India, Skill India and other campaigns. While technology adoption is gaining pace, it still lags behind, for example, with only one per cent of the data generated being analysed.
As the industry progresses toward complete integration across the supply chain, it has undertaken several smart initiatives. Below are the currently known developments relevant to address the above challenges.
ENTERPRISE INTEGRATION AND ORGANISATIONAL EFFICIENCY
Large mining companies are focusing on adopting technology to achieve enterprise integration and organisational efficiency. While large private mining companies have been early adopters, public sector companies are increasingly adopting technology to achieve these objectives.
Coal India Limited (CIL) has achieved savings of Rs 800 crore through e-tendering and reverse auction on an e-procurement platform.
The company is leveraging ICT (information and communications technology) for other business operations such as finance, material management, personnel, production, and sales and marketing. CIL is also implementing GPS / GPRS-based vehicle tracking system, electronic surveillance and RFID tagged trucks to restrict unauthorised activity and enhance productivity.
Hindustan Copper has implemented an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution across segments such as manufacturing, maintenance, marketing, finance and materials. The centralised business platform has enabled faster decision making and real-time visibility as well as standardised processes and management systems.
MECL is progressing with a fullscale ERP implementation to centralise the data and management system on a single platform.
Hindustan Zinc has placed orders for Atlas Copco’s advanced, semi-autonomous equipment for five of its mines in north-west India. This is in line with its efforts to improve productivity and safety while significantly enhancing the underground mining output.
Northern Coalfields, a CIL subsidiary, plans to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for survey and ground profiling of 4 of its 10 mines. The miner has introduced operator independent truck dispatch system (OITDS) in five mega projects and laser scanner for surveying and monitoring mines.
Vedanta has engaged Siemens for a digital fleet centre solution, which will link its power plant assets in Punjab and Chhattisgarh to a monitoring station. This will reduce unplanned outages, optimise costs and improve efficiency. In addition, for its power plants, the company is considering digital technology for predictive maintenance and to better management of fuel needs.
MSTC Limited has launched “M3 Metal Mandi,” a portal for metal transactions that aims to benefit micro small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) by bringing in transparency and a userfriendly interface for transactions.
While digitalisation is catching pace with big miners, it is not as yet a priority for the medium and small operators.
Initiatives to digitalise various stages of exploration are underway.
For example, Geological Survey of India (GSI) launched an Online Core Business Integrated System, an open IT platform, to share quality geoscientific data through digital channels for socioeconomic
and scientific gain. The comprehensive data management system will deliver all baseline and exploration pre-competitive data to its stakeholders, including Ministry of Mines, national and state level earth science organizations / departments, industry and citizens.
The government’s goal to fasttrack big picture projects will pave the way for breakout of virtual technologies, which will increase productivity and the success ratio.
Authorities are increasingly adopting the digital way to improve transparency in the management, mining and transport of commodities, governance and control:
The Ministry of Mines launched the Mining Surveillance System (MSS), a satellite-based surveillance network to check illegal mining via remote sensing activity.
The Ministry has partnered with Bhaskaracharya Institute to curb illegal mining across major minerals, by superimposing all the maps of mining leases on digitised cadastral maps. Out of 4,000 mines of major minerals, digitisation work of around 3,000 mines is reported to have been completed.
REGULATORY AND PROCEDURAL STREAMLINING
In the past, policy reforms were seen as the go-to-solution for challenges relating to regulatory and procedural uncertainties. However, as technology evolves, its application can quick- fix some long pending issues.
In one of the initial moves to digitalising its systems, the government launched a web-based portal to improve efficiency and bring transparency in obtaining environmental and forest clearances.
Other technology options include the e-auction initiative and the pilot stage Mining Tenement System (MTS). The MTS involves automating the entire mineral concession lifecycle starting from identification of areas for mining / exploration and ending with closure of the mine, and connecting the various stakeholders for realtime transfer of electronic files and exchange of data.
None of the benefits of digital application are more important than mine safety. However, the investment therein has not been as expected. Mining fatalities have not been eliminated. However, some miners have initiated efforts, for instance:
Tata Steel’s Noamundi iron mine is the first mine in India to launch “Drone Application in Mine Monitoring” (DAMM). Its objective is to inspect safety zones and lease boundaries, and monitor mining and reclaimed areas as well as quarry and dump profiling.
Hindustan Zinc is also looking at a host of smart solutions for its priorities of zero harm to people, host communities and environment. It is establishing an underground Wi-Fi network across its mines to facilitate asset tracking, real-time visibility of operations, tele remote operations and VoIP-based communication.
The industry needs to increase the adoption of safety technologies such as mobile proximity warning systems, wireless methane sensors and inertial navigation to locate trapped workers as well as curated solutions. Miners can also consider tools such as micro-seismics to locate rock fractures and predict impending roof falls, rock bursts or any other hazards in working area.
CMD of Coal India, Gopal Singh (L) during the AGM of Coal India in Kolkata on Thursday. — AP