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Copper Mining Firm To Use AI To Increase Extraction Rates

An Australian mining firm has been working with Microsoft to develop an AI system that could help to improve copper recovery at the world’s largest copper mine.

The use of new digital technology to optimise concentrator performance at BHP’s Escondida operation in Chile could generate more value from an existing resource.

Metals like copper, nickel and cobalt are expected to be in short supply over the coming decades given demand growth from green energy sectors such as offshore wind and solar farms and electric vehicle batteries.

“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.

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.

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

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By using real-time plant data from the concentrators in combination with AI-based recommendations from Microsoft’s Azure platform, the concentrator operators at Escondida will have the ability to adjust operational variables that affect ore processing and grade recovery.

Australia recently released a map of sites containing mine waste that could be reprocessed to source critical minerals – including copper.

“Some of the minerals we need now, and into the future, may not just be in the ground – they’re also in rock piles and tailings on mine sites around the country,” Australian resources minister Madeleine King said in a statement.

The Atlas of Australian Mine Waste identifies 1,050 sites as possible sources of critical minerals.

“These minerals might not have been of interest when first extracted but could now be in hot demand as the world seeks to decarbonise – for example, cobalt in the tailings of old copper mines,” King added.

“Reprocessing rocks and earth that have been previously excavated during mining operations can give new life to old mining towns, create jobs and rejuvenate local economies.”

Source: E&T

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