Sunday 26th May, 2019

Crowdsourcing solutions for mining challenges

A new online platform allows participants to help solve real world challenges in the mining industry and win financial prizes.

In late 2018, Newcrest Mining and Unearthed won the METS Ignited Collaboration award, impressing the judges with its Newcrest Crowd submission.

The two companies had collaborated to create an online platform that pools the collective knowledge of the resources industry to solve challenges faced by the mining industry.

The platform gives users access to operational data sets that they can use to develop new perspectives and approaches to for a chance to and win prize money.

Gavin Wood, Chief Information and Digital Officer at Newcrest Mining says it is critical to find fresh approaches to solve engineering challenges.

“Even the smallest change to process that wasn’t conceived of internally could result in significant annual savings for the company,” he explains.

“Diversity of thought is one key catalyst to driving a high performing team and challenging the status quo. It helps to supplement the relatively low numbers of STEM-trained professionals directly involved in mining.”

One engineering solution identified through the platform is the Telfer ‘Burn your Bridges’ challenge, which examined how rock bridges on ore crushers created bottlenecks in the processing circuit.

With less ore processed through the crushers and less ore being milled, Newcrest’s Telfer Mine saw a reduction in gold production. Analysis found that rock bridge occurrences were one of the major contributing factors to crusher downtime, leading to more than $10 million in lost value per year.

The online platform received 26 submissions from more than 150 global participants for this challenge. The winning solution used a physics-based simulator to identify different blasting parameters to reduce the probability of rock bridges caused by jig-sawing by 18 per cent. The resulting data could be integrated into the decision-making process, with the team behind the project winning $15,000. Telfer has since booked in site workshops with the top three teams to further refine their submissions and work towards an implemented solution.

Newcrest Crowd has been designed to be industry agnostic, allowing it to be easily used by other non-mining enterprises, such as the bulk-handling industry. Some examples of how it could be implemented are finding new methods of optimising processing or increasing throughput, predicting surge and overload events, reducing downtime and stockpile measurement and management.

Newcrest will release up to 10 more challenges this financial year, provide easier access to portions of real-world data and expedite deployment of solutions to its production environments. The company also plans to introduce ‘evergreen’ challenges on the platform, allowing participants to take their time to create better-performing, more efficient solutions.