Cloud encompasses the provision of IT infrastructure, operating software, middleware, and applications hosted within a data centre and accessed by the end-user via the internet. Resources on the cloud can be accessed and coordinated much more easily.
Value from the cloud comes to mining companies both directly from its use as a more sophisticated technological option for existing production and management responsibilities, as well as from the new resources, technologies, and services that can be established on an underlying organisational cloud architecture. Both are significant but the latter is more so.
A cloud-integrated mining company can have stronger data resources, digital technologies, personnel pools, internal operational procedures, and cooperation with other parties.
Cloud supports the three central mining objectives
A mine that utilises cloud technology is better placed for safety, sustainability, and productivity.
- Safety: The risk of environmental hazards and personnel health issues can be mitigated. Cloud-connected sensors can monitor the relevant environmental and health data and cloud-based personnel coordination tools can analyse for risks, whether structural failure, dust, or fatigue, and coordinate evacuations, clean-up, or scheduling appropriately.
- Sustainability: Processes optimised or automated via cloud technology use resources such as energy and water more efficiently. Relocating on-site jobs to remote operations centres means that operators can live in cities and participate more fully in their family and social lives. The better transparency, traceability, and visibility available with the cloud enables companies to comply with regulations and validate their doing so more easily.
- Productivity: Cloud-based storage solutions are cheaper and of higher quality than on-site equivalents because major cloud providers have higher scale, expertise, and experience. Digital tools such as big data, artificial intelligence, predictive maintenance, and many more enhance productivity.
The market continues to grow strongly
Cloud adoption is fairly mature in the mining industry. However, the possibilities for technologies that depend on the cloud are still expanding, so cloud in mining spending continues to grow fast. Cloud in mining revenues will grow at a CAGR of 18.8% between 2022, when they were $7.1bn, and 2026, when they will be $14.1bn.
Metso Outotec enlists Rescale to harness high-performance computing
Metso Outotec provides equipment and machinery to industrial companies. Its customers demand effective and reliable products. In hopper, crusher, screener, and conveyor development, Metso Outotec previously used Ansys, which simulated various structural conditions to test its machinery. In these simulations, rock load behaviour was troublesome. The results often seemed suspect, but there was no way to assess the process because the simulations were ‘black boxes’: input is entered, output is returned, but what calculations occurred in between is opaque. Inaccuracies meant designs had to be iterated and tested multiple times, which cost money and time.
Metso Outotec decided to introduce Rocky DEM software to their Ansys simulations so they could visualise and observe the simulated behaviour of the rock loads. Once calculations could be validated or corrected the modelling improved, and far fewer prototypes were needed before a product was ready to go to market.
Rocky DEM uses computing resources heavily. Generally, such resource-intensive programs would be run on high-performance computing systems. Metso Outotec had some in-house computational capacity, but more would have been helpful. Engineers elected to outsource the computing to the cloud rather than install more capacity since the extra power would only be necessary when Rocky DEM was in use. Rescale is a platform that allows customers to access and use high-performance computing in the cloud. Rescale facilitates access to Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and AWS; customers can always use the optimal solution. Metso Outotec enlisted Rescale for their Rocky DEM simulations. With Rescale and the cloud, it was possible to do many more simulations. Fewer hours were required, and costs went down significantly.