Experts from 4Sight Holdings, a leading provider of digital transformation and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions in the mining sector, unpacked and addressed important developments and trends in AI that are shaping the industry during the Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town from 5–8 February 2024.

Willie Ackerman, chief sales and marketing officer and Wilhelm Swart, chief operational technologies officer at 4Sight Holdings. Supplied by 4Sight Holdings

With vast expertise in digitalisation, data analytics and AI, 4Sight Holdings is uniquely positioned to empower mining companies and help them harness the transformative potential of AI-led disruption within the mining industry to address current challenges and exploit future opportunities.

“By integrating cutting-edge technologies like AI, the Internet of Things (IoT), and advanced analytics, 4Sight offers tailored solutions that optimise operational efficiency, enhance safety protocols, and drive sustainable practices,” explained Willie Ackerman, chief sales and marketing officer at 4Sight Holdings.

Wilhelm Swart, chief operational technologies officer added: “There are five key themes where AI is playing an increasingly important role in mining operations, touching every facet of the ecosystem and value chain, from operational efficiency, supply chains and profitability to safety and sustainability.”

These themes include digitalisation and data analytics, sustainability and environmental concerns, energy management, supply chain transformation, and safety and risk management.

Theme 1: Digitalisation and data analytics

Mine operators globally are investing heavily to bring the connected mine concept to reality, which represents the integration of IoT technology, data analytics and AI, creating a dynamic and intelligent ecosystem.

“Within the connected mine, AI processes and analyses the vast amounts of data collected from IoT sensors, electrically driven machinery and other sources,” explained Swart.

“Machine learning (ML) algorithms identify patterns, predict equipment failures, and accurately forecast maintenance needs to maximise uptime and equipment lifespan through predictive maintenance.”

Connected AI-driven systems also optimise workflows and provide insights for data-driven decision-making. This synergy of technologies can deliver a paradigm shift in mining operations by optimising efficiency, safety and sustainability.

Theme 2: Sustainability and environmental concerns

According to Ackerman, the role of AI in addressing sustainability and environmental concerns in the mining sector relates to its ability to help monitor and reduce an operator’s environmental impact.

“ML models analyse data to optimise energy usage, minimise waste and suggest eco-friendly practices, aiding in compliance with sustainability regulations and fostering responsible mining operations.”

Theme 3: Energy management

Given South Africa’s legacy energy constraints and challenges, the mining sector is championing the use of embedded energy generation from renewable sources by exploiting the government’s removal of the 100MW licence-exemption cap on self-generation.

“Leveraging AI in energy management optimises the integration of renewable energy sources into mining operations,” elaborated Swart.

“With the right solution, ML algorithms forecast energy demand, manage energy storage, and dynamically adjust operations to maximise the use of renewable energy, ensuring efficient and reliable power sources.”

Moreover, AI plays a role in optimising energy consumption by analysing data from electrified mining equipment.

“ML models predict energy demands, optimise usage patterns, and suggest efficient energy sources and optimal consumption levels for different mining operations, contributing to cost savings, improved efficiency and sustainability efforts,” added Swart.

Theme 4: Supply chain transformation

By harnessing advanced algorithms and ML capabilities, AI supports supply chain optimisation through enhanced efficiency, reduced costs and improved overall performance.

“By analysing supply chain data, AI enhances transparency, visibility and resilience in the supply chain with ML algorithms able to identify potential disruptions, forecast demand, support inventory management and transport and logistics optimisation, and recommend agile supply chain strategies, ensuring smoother operations, even amid uncertainties,” stated Swart.

Theme 5: Safety and risk management

By leveraging advanced algorithms and ML capabilities, AI enhances proactive safety measures, identifies potential risks and contributes to creating a safer working environment for mining personnel.

“AI systems monitor electrified mining environments for potential safety hazards related to electrical systems while ML models identify patterns in electrical data to predict and prevent potential risks, ensuring a safe working environment,” stated Swart.

Informing investment decisions

With such broad applications and the diverse set of digital solutions available, the challenge facing decision-makers in the mining sector is knowing where to channel investment into areas that deliver the greatest impact.

“4Sight utilises simulation and digital twin technologies to assist decision-makers with facts and scenarios related to where to invest for the best returns, and in what sequence they should execute the projects, combining our domain-specific skills with leading technology and experience,” explained Ackerman.

Source: Supplied by 4Sight Holdings