How Data Visibility and Collaboration Enables Greener Outcomes for Mining

Sustainable mining is achieved with integrated technologies but going one step further to create circularity requires sector-wide collaborations.

By Martin Provencher and David Willick

A healthy mining and metals sector is crucial for the global economy and to harness the innovation needed for decarbonization, to mitigate climate change, protect the environment and create a truly circular economy.

The green industries of tomorrow depend on the sustainable production of minerals and metals. Growing demands for renewable energy, for example, necessitate the increasing production of copper and rare earth metals for wind turbine components. These elements have no substitutes, and both recycling and continued mining will be needed to meet forthcoming requirements.

Sustainability across the mining value chain

But before the mining, metals, and minerals sector can rise to this brave new future, it must address current industry concerns. On the one hand, mining products are in greater demand than ever, but resource availability is diminishing. On the other, consumers want traceability and accountability and their purchasing decisions are motivated by environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards.

Mining companies recognize that achieving a 1.5°C climate-change target by 2050 requires bringing direct CO2 emissions to zero and are working to embed sustainability across the value chain. Approximately 71% of mining, metals, and minerals organizations already have formal sustainable initiatives, intelligence provider IDC said in the recent Technology Spotlight report, Transitioning to Sustainable Mining, Minerals, and Metals Practices.  

AVEVA and Schneider Electric recently convened a press panel with leaders from Rio Tinto and Vale as well as IDC research analysts to discuss how the mining, metals, and minerals sector can respond to sustainability imperatives. Participants discussed how sustainability has become an essential business requirement as the world works to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The mining industry directly impacts five of the 17 goals.

Technology drives sustainable mining

As an initial step, organizations across the sector have deployed digital platforms with added analytics to improve operational efficiencies – a point reinforced by the IDC Technology Spotlight.

Technology has a critical role in supporting mining companies’ efforts to hit sustainability targets. Greater visibility and control over operations will enable corporate insight and action relating to energy and water use, and the management of the operational environment. Technology is a massive enabler in improving sustainability practices."
“By using technology, organizations can capture data throughout their mining operations, gaining visibility and insight into implementing sustainable initiatives.”
—Ben Kirkwood, Senior Research Manager, IDC Energy Insights Asia Pacific

New optimization technologies – from smarter engineering solutions, IoT cloud platforms and asset performance management solutions to data analytics and artificial intelligence – can unlock sustainability in the context of production targets. Schneider Electric and AVEVA empower mining organizations with these tools, helping professionals across the value chain make strategic sustainability decisions while potentially reducing operating costs.

Increased safety and standardization through data visibility

Officials from Vale, the Brazilian mining leader, shared their experience working with Schneider and AVEVA to enhance safety and sustainability by unifying, centralizing and remotely monitoring operations with an integrated platform spanning four plants.

We have been able to realize full visibility and comparability across multiple plants within our mining operations through process standardization. This also makes it easier to expand processes within the same systems."
“Efficiency and productivity have increased, and there is greater safety all round.”
—Gilberto da Cunha Vieira, Electrical and Automation Engineer Leader, Vale

In short, technology can ensure that mineral extraction is done in the most sustainable way.

Collaboration promotes circularity and sustainability

The scale of the challenge requires industry teamwork. Rio Tinto, the world’s second-largest metals and mining corporation, and Schneider Electric, the world’s most sustainable company, are partnering to develop a circular and sustainable market ecosystem aimed at accelerating decarbonization and renewable energy solutions by combining low-carbon materials with cutting-edge digital technology. The agreement will see Schneider Electric use responsibly sourced materials from Rio Tinto while Rio Tinto utilizes energy and industrial services from Schneider Electric.

Customers benefit from a combined offering of Rio Tino’s START, the world’s first sustainability label for aluminum to assure product transparency, and Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure™ platform, an IoT system architecture that connects all systems within an enterprise to enhance safety, reliability, efficiency, and sustainability.

Working together allows both companies to pursue opportunities beyond what is possible for either one on its own. Sustainability is a team sport. And that’s what our partnership with Schneider Electric underscores.
“This model will enable us to leverage each other’s knowhow in the commodity space to accelerate the decarbonization journey with our partners. Together, we can create a more empowered, sustainable future.”
—Paramita Das, General Manager Global Marketing and Development, Rio Tinto

Digital transformation in partnership

When it comes to sustainability, the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.

As the experience of AVEVA, Schneider Electric, Vale, and Rio Tinto show, digital transformation can unlock numerous sustainability benefits for the mining sector on the road to decarbonizing global economies and combating climate change.

Read about AVEVA’s Digital Mining Transformation solutions.

Find out more about EcoStruxure for Mining from Schneider Electric.

(David Willick is VP North America, Mining, Minerals and Metals Segment, Schneider Electric. Martin Provencher is Industry Principal, Mining, Metals and Materials, AVEVA.)

 

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