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BHP uses Microsoft AI to improve copper recovery

Copper has slumped in price.

BHP and Microsoft have used artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve copper recovery at one of the world’s largest copper mines.

The use of new digital technology to optimise concentrator performance at BHP’s Escondida operation in Chile is expected to improve copper recovery.

The concentrator operators can use real-time plant data, in combination with AI-based recommendations from Microsoft’s Azure platform, to adjust operational values that affect ore processing and grade recovery.

BHP Chief Technical Officer Laura Tyler said by augmenting new digital technology capabilities with new ways of working, the team at Escondida is well-positioned to generate more value from an existing resource.

“We expect the next big wave in mining to come from the advanced use of digital technologies. As grades decline at existing copper mines and fewer new economic discoveries are made, next-generation technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics will need to be used to unlock more production and value from our existing mines,” she said.

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BHP estimates the world would need to double the amount of copper produced over the next 30 years, relative to the past 30, to keep pace with the development of decarbonisation technology such as electric vehicles, offshore wind and solar farms assumed under its 1.5 degree scenario.

“We are excited to partner with BHP on this transformative project that demonstrates the power of AI, machine learning and cloud technologies,” CVP, AI Platform at Microsoft John Montgomery said.

BHP has operated Escondida, an open-cut mine located in the Atacama Desert in the Antofagasta Region of northern Chile, for more than 30 years. It produces over one million metric tonnes of copper per annum.

The concentrator circuit is responsible for extracting, floating and collecting the copper mineral from crushed and milled ore.

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