Integrating a digital system for mining and metallurgy is undoubtedly challenging due to various factors that hinder the smooth transition from traditional Operational Technology (OT) to digital (Information Technology) practices. One of the primary challenges stems from the poor digitization of mining sites. Many mining companies are still reliant on manual and paper-based processes, making it difficult to implement and integrate digital technologies seamlessly. This lack of digitization requires significant effort and resources to modernize existing infrastructure and train personnel on digital tools and platforms.
Another challenge lies in the complexity of integrating different technologies. Mining and metallurgy operations involve numerous processes and technologies, each with its own unique requirements and functionalities. Integrating these disparate technologies into a cohesive digital system can be a daunting task. It requires careful planning, coordination, and compatibility testing to ensure all components work together seamlessly.
Additionally, the implementation of a digital system necessitates the integration of a wide variety of sensors and devices. Different machinery, equipment, and monitoring systems employed in mining and metallurgy may utilize diverse protocols and technologies. Managing and harmonizing these heterogeneous devices and their data inputs requires careful consideration and technical expertise.
Furthermore, the mining industry often operates in remote locations with limited access to reliable networking infrastructures. It is not uncommon for mining sites to rely on satellite or cellular networks, which can be unreliable or lack the bandwidth necessary for robust digital systems. This poses a significant challenge in establishing a stable and secure network for collecting, transmitting, and storing data in real-time.
To address these challenges, Mine.io is introducing a digital architecture (“reference architecture”) that provides structuring principles and guidelines for integrating diverse digital systems and technologies across different mining sites. The reference architecture has been developed considering:
- Standards-based industrial architectures such as the Industrial Internet Reference Architecture (IIRA) of the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC).
- Architectures for the Digitalization of Mining sites proposed by industrial services vendors like CISCO and Rockwell.
- Industrial architectures introduced by prominent EU funded projects like FIWARE and Eclipse Arrowhead.
The specification of the Mine.io Reference Architecture has derived from the analysis of Mining Operations (e.g., exploration, extraction, mineral processing and waste management) and supply chain management operations, as well as from their alignment with digital technologies for mining processes. The architecture will be updated and enhanced based on feedback from field deployment and operations in the mining sites of the consortium.
The first version of the Mine.io architecture deliverable is available through the Mine.io site: https://mineio-horizon.eu/deliverables/ while a snapshot of the logical view of the architecture is provided in the figure.