Racing to a carbon-neutral digital mine

I am not a die-hard fan of racing sports, but as a technology lover, of course it always kept my attention somehow. So, when ABB partnered with the world’s first all-electric international motorsport, that got me intrigued. The more I learn about our common ABB Formula E journey, the more opportunities and similarities I find with this passionate sport.

By Marcos Hillal  LinkedIn
Global Product Line Manager
Automation & Digital 
ABB Mining

About the author
Marcos has got large commercial and technical experience in Automation and Digital Solutions as well as in managing high performance teams. Working with multidisciplinary teams in a multicultural environment made him very resilient and open to collaboration.

Culture of innovation and capacity to thrill

First of all, Formula E is about the culture of innovation and capacity to thrill. These have been at the heart of ABB since its earliest days. When the world required more electrification and more powerful engines. When industry was craving for more productivity and larger-scale production. We have always sought to innovate, constantly pushing the technological boundaries in order to find the quickest route to victory. ABB was the first to create a robot for industrial use and one of the pioneers introducing distributed control systems in process industries.

Today, in the era of the 4th industrial revolution, we are experiencing industry’s highest rate of change, disruption, ambition and opportunity. The next decade will see more change than the last 50 years. Today everybody is in the race for the planet and for the future of industry that will be electric, connected and autonomous.

A constant imperative for change and agility

Like in this incredibly fast racing sport, all of us are faced with a constant imperative for change and agility. But this time we aren’t just in a race to save the planet. This is a race to save our kids’ future. And as one of our customers has put it, “We are Generation of  Change committed to different, virtuous, inclusive and sustainable mining”. I can’t agree more. At this pivotal moment for the industry, we at ABB are also determined to transform the way we power, produce, work, live and move.

Market forces impacting strategy

There is a big climate change challenge ahead of us, impacting strategy. 195 countries committed to reduce carbon emissions – where mining is part of the problem contributing 7-8% of emissions. We hear from our customers “We take climate change seriously and are demonstrating leadership in addressing it. Climate change is core to everything we do”. At least  8 out of top 30 mining companies set net-zero targets by 2050 or sooner, and many are updating their goals.

As decarbonization accelerates, and electric solutions become more cost effective, the world will require more copper, nickel, potash, steel, etc. E-mobility will and is already shaping our society. Expectations of mining have increased. So, mining is part of the solution as well - not only looking for new ways to produce, but also supplying necessary metals for new battery and energy storage technologies to be created.

One of our customer’s strategy (LKAB) paves the way for zero carbon emissions by the year 2045 and secures the company’s operations beyond the year 2060, (including carbon dioxide-free sponge iron with hydrogen technology and extracting critical minerals from mine waste.) 

Being realistic about what can be achieved

When forefront drivers assume their responsibilities, when they think both strategically and operationally to address the challenge, this encourages the whole ecosystem of players to develop all the core elements of the electric, connected and autonomous future. Like in the first all-electric motorsport, we must be realistic about what can be achieved, and the following examples are very encouraging. The latest trends in e-mobility can be seen not only in races, like the ABB FormulaE, or, increasingly, in the streets, but also at a mining site in Sweden.

The reality of mining operations at Bolide'sn operations in Sweden was transformed, after having put their mining trucks on a trolley line. Together, we brought very tangible benefits to the environment, but not only. Proven productivity improvements, increased speed on grade, energy and maintenance cost savings  - all speak in favor of eliminating diesel with the help of a trolley assist system. While this is an intermediate phase towards all electric mines, what started as a proof of concept is now being implemented at a bigger scale. A new trolley assist solution will also help Copper Mountain Mining in Canada meet its sustainable development goals.

Creating sustainable progress for the industry, and the earth it relies on.

The ABB FIA Formula E Championship is more than a race – it is ABB's test-bed for innovative electromobility and charging technologies, driving development to the production line of electric vehicles and ultimately contributing to a cleaner environment for all. It's an exciting time in the mining industry as well. We have just launched ABB Ability™ eMine, a purposeful approach, method and integrated portfolio of electrification and digital systems making the all-electric mine possible. We are also piloting the groundbreaking ABB Ability™ eMine FastCharge, the world’s fastest and most powerful charging system, designed to interface with all makes of electric mining haul trucks.

By fully integrating electrification and digital systems from the mine to the port, eMine™ further reduces overall costs and improves mine performance while significantly lowering environmental impact. Explore it.

The real gains come at the boundaries

Like with the component areas of the best racing car, real performance gains occur at the boundaries between ambition levels, between different functional teams, between energy revolution, sustainability challenge, the fourth industrial revolution. And between partner organizations – particularly important for the digital transformation journey. Despite various studies pointing to the benefits of digitalization, the big question that is still occupying many heads: ”But where do I start?”.

The path to real transformation is based on 3 pillars: People, Processes and Technology. And I tell you, technology is by far the simplest one. Even the most modern technological solution won’t succeed if people perceive it as a threat or miss the opportunity to re-think existing processes. We have to recognize that traditional customer-vendor connection is no longer what we should look for. It’s more about developing a partnership with much closer relationship involving people on all levels. So that it’s not the technology itself, but a good understanding of your people’s challenges and objectives, that becomes a starting point of the common digital journey. Then, together, we can find the most appropriate solutions for each of your operation's problems. People. People. People. Processes and Technologies.

Victory through methodology

How each team plans, designs, develops, shares information and performs at the track – and every day at your mining site - determines the difference between a podium finish and being at the back of the field. To support you properly on the journey to the victory, at ABB we created a well-established methodology and a toolbox. It all starts with a vision, which describes the most tangible future experiences in operations across the value chain thanks to digitization:

Use-case descriptions how things can happen in the future and key technologies utilized

ABB’s coverage of the future, what can be developed today with existing solutions

Co-creation areas, what still needs to be developed - including ABB’s ecosystem partners

There are many other modules, depending on where you are on your digital transformation journey and your business strategy. Let me bring up some examples where, with proper planning and a clear understanding of our customers' goals, ABB helped achieve big things towards a more digital operation.

Enjoying maneuvers performed by brilliant drivers

As fans enjoy watching high speed maneuvers performed by brilliant drivers live, a visit to Boliden is usually something to remember, too. Because even if you can read about how big their machines are or how effective their concentrator is, few things probably top actually standing there, for real, in the middle of one of the world’s most effective copper mines. Through ready-to-apply solutions and co-creation processes, we were able to help Boliden turn one of the oldest operating mines into a benchmark - as most integrated and most profitable in the market.

Let's take a very complex and expensive underground mining example – where ventilation is among the highest operating costs. To achieve not only a more economical operation, but also to make it safer for employees, ABB has developed a very advanced ventilation control and optimization system. Considering the position of people and equipment as well as air quality and flow measurements, ventilation on demand automatically optimizes fans, saving 54% in energy costs.

Other digital applications were co-created and implemented together with Boliden, such as remote monitoring 24/7 enabling hoist performance optimization and some other forward-looking trial solutions, like in the next example.

Emerging technology trials

The more on-going emerging technology trials are happening in a race by different teams, the faster the industry as a whole can advance.

The Swedish government, together with the European community, seeking new solutions for a safer, more sustainable and productive mining operation, created the consortium of companies under SIMS (Sustainable Intelligent Mining Systems) project. One of the work packages were ABB played an important role was enabling the autonomous handling of explosives -  with a clear focus on moving people away from such a risky activity.

Visionary ideas

Just like in Formula E, collecting data from almost every part of the car, data makes the invisible visible. This brings us to a hot topic for each of you: how to use better the large amount of data generated daily in our operations? Each new equipment we put in the field brings more information. Today, a temperature sensor is no longer a passive instrument, but a new data source. In addition to its main measurements, it can bring health calibration data, fault trend, and so on.

So, miners are left with a great opportunity and at the same time with a great challenge of transforming this Big Data into useful information. By connecting your vision, where you see yourself in the future, with our digital vision for mining, we are confident to overcome that challenge and help you get real value from digital.

ABB's answer to these challenges is called ABB Ability Genix Industrial Analytics and AI Suite. This is our cloud platform for industrial analytics and machine learning and a suite of applications that transform the complexity of data processing into something simple, communicating with various operations and production management systems and de facto unlocking the full potential of data analysis and artificial intelligence solutions.

But there is something else I would like to highlight when talking about the ways to extract value from data. A strong platform is very important, but you have to combine it with right domain expertise. This is the biggest value that ABB can offer you.

We have been working in the Industry for over 130 years, specifically in Mining. Our domain expertise, together with your operational expertise, are the keys to get the most from the data. Let's talk >>

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