Smart mining technologies can significantly transform mine economics. In line with this transformation, Yılmaden mining technologies have evolved recently. For example, we have implemented sub-level stoping method and mechanized mining for the first time in chromium mining in Turkey. Even though it is not the cutting-edge technology, it is the first implementation in chromium, in Turkey. We deliberately give this example to show this new mining technique has almost doubled our production capacity which has reached to 1 million ton per year with less allocated human resource while the cost of mining has decreased significantly.
On the other hand in our Kazakhstan operations we have implemented other “smart” techniques such as variable cave production thickness, smart markers system, rate of deformation estimation in the gallery and the last but not least connectivity among the systems in our dispatching process. Variable cave production thickness method allows us to determine the thickness between two horizontal galleries and adapt this pillar thickness according to the reserve geometry. As a result, ore is extracted in the most feasible way based on ore’s shape and extracted waste from the mine is minimized. The other applied method, smart markers system, is used in cave-flow module program to specify remaining ore in the ground after blasting. In this methodology, we place smart marker system (mass flow sensors) in the ore; then extract the ore by blasting. With advanced sensor technology, we could determine remaining markers still embedded in the ore and visualize the ore waiting to be extracted. The third new method that is implemented in Kazakhstan is the rate of deformation estimation of not opened yet gallery. This project is a good example of our collaboration with several prestigious universities to implement new mining technologies. In this study, we get technical support to determine the service life of the unopened gallery. Therefore, we could plan the duration and the speed of the extraction.
Even though all smart techniques has an impact on increasing feasibility, the effect is constrained if interconnection is not ensured among smart applications, database, software and hardware. Employing connectivity is our key success factor to reach out our defined productivity and cost reduction goals. Connectivity should cover the entire mine workflow starting from prospection and exploration to beneficiation and logistics to monitor the effect of variables in each unit operation to the next steps, and so, to the entire feasibility of the project.
The beneficiation stage of the ore is of utmost importance in most of the mining operations where the run-of-mine or is not directly marketable. Since, together with mining cost, enriching the row material to a marketable quality with the optimum cost and efficiency has the main role on the feasibility of projects. Therefore, the controlling of the plant variables and adjusting the operational parameters in a fast and sensitive way is very crucial. More than decades, the plants are designed and simulated by the help of unique software programs that utilize scientific and empirical mathematical models some of which are based on experimental data. Optimization of the process is much simpler during the operation with these tools as the actual operational results can be easily used as input to check many different scenarios. With the improving technology, these plants have been equipped with automated systems and sensor technologies that enable engineers to monitor some specifications of the flow streams such as flow rate, density, pH, etc. Recently, online XRF analyzers have been employed in many mineral processing plants to monitor the efficiency and recovery of the units and quality of the product, and take necessary actions in a very short time. New trend with the establishment of Industry 4.0 is to connect machinery and equipment, and automatically adjust them by the help of a continuous feedback given by the processor to achieve the targeted result, that is called machine learning. Yılmaden is planning to modernize one of its chromite processing plant in Eti Krom AŞ, Turkey with this approach.
The value creation also comes from deeper understanding of resource base, optimization of material and equipment flow, improved anticipation of failures and the increased mechanization through automation. Comprehensive geological info increases the reliability of the project and provides better ground for investors’ decisions. It also maximizes the efficiency while minimizes the environmental impact with optimum waste extraction. Indigenous program for utilization drones in our exploration as well as in mining operations, has been initiated to deeper understanding the resource base.
Anticipation of failures, in other words predictive maintenance, is another key issue since mining is an endeavor intrinsically performed in remote corners of the world. Especially in geographies with severe weather conditions like Kazakhstan, any failure can hinder the production for a long period. Therefore, predictive maintenance working on sensors to vehicles and new software linked to ERP systems play vital role for our sustainable mining activities.
Needless to say, realization of smart mining projects requires appropriate organizational structures and necessary measures such as recruiting new talents. For sustainable mining activities, hiring young talents is not enough; retention of these talents is the other equally important factor. In order to succeed it, Yılmaden has initiated long-term internship program where trainees could use this opportunity and transform into full time position, it provides scholarships for senior year students, participates to prestigious universities’ career days and utilizes social media to explain its activities. Yılmaden internalizes continuous improvement and provides training programs and on-site visits to extend talents’ knowledge and experience.
Combining all these topics under one roof, leads us to one definition “Smart Mining”. It is smart, because smart systems, as ours, by definition can learn and use information provided. We set it as our new motto “Smart Mining” which combines and connects AI technology, mechanized mining, IT systems and new development projects.