Traditional mining techniques in Latin America are being challenged by a new digital assistant founded on artificial intelligence (AI). The platform — Smart Mining Coach — was devised by InDiMin¹ in 2016 and represents the first digital assistant for mining.
The system, which has already been adopted by several major players in Latin America’s mining industry, can provide real-time feedback predicting events and suggesting improvements for implementation at mining sites.
The Chilean start-up’s founder Loreto Acevedo believes that Latin America’s unique diversity and in-depth mining know-how make it the ideal place to launch a new approach to mining that could foster real and significant change in the industry.
InDiMin says that Smart Mining Coach has already been crucial in the modernization of several mining sites, including the Los Colorados mine in Chile — home of the country’s most massive deposit of iron ore.
Smart Mining Coach Learns as it Goes
The strength of the Smart Mining Coach is that it provides operators with a wealth of data analysis. This enables the operators to take this feedback and use it to refine practices, improve safety, and develop better methods of collaboration between teams. This means with the aid of Smart Mining Coach, operators become their own coaches.
One of the reasons that Smart Mining Coach is so adept at meeting the needs of mining operators, is these needs were ‘baked in’ to the system during its development stages. In order to create the AI-based platform, Acevedo and InDiMin partner Álvaro Díaz consulted dozens of mining workers at mine sites of a variety of sizes.
This consultant stage allowed the duo to learn what operators felt was missing in terms of technological innovation and what needs they felt a digital assistant should fulfill.
All this resulted in a 2013 prototype which was refined and improved over the following years perfecting an AI capable of considering a number of factors such as drill and blast planning, mineral recovery, and grinding processes.
Acevedo describes a boost in performance for the system of around 25% with an improvement in production chains of around 9%. She adds that this has resulted in financial gains in excess of $7.5 million for some of Latin America’s big miners.
But, Acevedo is keen to point out, Smart Mining Coach isn’t just delivering reaping rewards from financial investment. The system is enabling companies to make a strong investment in people too, something that she is no stranger to.
Investing in People
Change begins with people. That is a lesson that Acevedo believes she learned from an earlier project which failed to get off the ground when operators couldn’t adapt to new drill technology.
This encouraged Acevedo to found a program that teaches women with theoretical backgrounds to operate rock drilling machines called jumbos and bolting machines, thus gaining important practical experience.
Acevedo says this presented a challenge to the women involved as the culture of the mining industry was unwelcoming at times. Still, fortunately, many of these women were able to push through and now enjoy careers as machine operators.
The desire to change mining as an industry was likely instilled in Acevedo from an early age. The InDiMin co-founder grew up in a mining family and lost her father in a mining accident. This led her to the study of civil engineering and one of her earliest roles in the industry; building tunnels for mining operations.
Today, the spaces she is creating are more figurative than literal. With her attitude towards implementing positive change, she is pioneering both the introduction of new technology and gender balance to mining.
1. ‘THE FIRST SMART DIGITAL ASSISTANT FOR THE MINING INDUSTRY,’ InDiMin, [https://www.indimin.com/en]