Co-Authored by Patrick Gilbert, AeroScout Industrial
The connection of people, process, data and things has propelled innovation across a variety of industries. Now, the Internet of Everything has gone underground, streamlining operations, maximizing production and enhancing safety practices for one of the world’s largest gold producers. In the Baie-James region of Northern Quebec, Goldcorp has incorporated Cisco’s Connected Mining solution at its Éléonore location.
‘High-Tech’ Mining and Technological Innovations
While the age-old process of blasting, mucking, and milling hasn’t changed much over the years, the technology used to make the processes safer, sustainable, and more efficient has. Goldcorp’s connected mine has sensor networks, command and control rooms, innovation centers for developing next-generation solutions, and six-sigma programs for continuous improvement projects both above and below ground. Every miner and any piece of equipment Goldcorp has under its umbrella can be managed and monitored on a single secure, multiservice IP network.
Developed in a unique partnership with the Cree First Nation, the Éléonore Project has gold reserves of almost five million ounces expected to be retrieved over the next 15-20 years. According to Guy Belleau, Mine General Manager of Éléonore, this next generation mine was developed from the ground up under Goldcorp’s six pillars: – growing people; safety; partnerships; production; reserves and margins. Every detail in the mine’s construction considered the comfort & safety of the workforce, its environmental footprint, and the operational productivity of the mine.
Enabling Operational Excellence with Technology
Goldcorp has deployed one of the most efficient WiFi underground communication networks in the industry. The WiFi network was the driver for automated ventilation, real-time visibility, and range-finding to underground operations.
According to Luis Canepari, VP of IT for Goldcorp, “The health and safety of our workforce is Goldcorp’s number one priority. We invested in technologies that boost workers’ connectivity to enhance safe production. Using Cisco and AeroScout technologies, we provide our workers with the means to communicate quickly and effectively with decision makers, ensuring the right flow of information, at the right time. This provides us with safer, more cost effective and more efficient operations.” Take a look at this video to see the Goldcorp story:
A Focus on Miner Safety
According to Wade Bristol, Goldcorp’s VP, Mine Improvement, “Adapting our mines with modern technology and data transmission not only promotes better efficiencies, but more importantly, improves the workplace environment and worker safety. This is a true win-win for our site teams and a real step-change for the industry.”
Every person entering (or exiting) the 650 meter deep mine is accounted for. As the miners enter the tag-in area, an AeroScout tag affixed to the band of the hardhat beacons presence over the Cisco Wi-Fi network and the system displays their name, picture and remaining tag battery life on a digital display. With an estimated 90% Wi-Fi coverage underground, the miners and their families have an extra level of comfort knowing that they have been accounted for.
In the underground control room, visual maps allows for real-time visibility to both personnel and vehicles at all levels underground. The AeroScout maps and dashboards are key safety tools used to ensure that nobody is left underground while blasting. In fact, Éléonore’s safety record is world-class and has improved 20% every year since the project started construction 4 years ago. Read more details in the case study here.
Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability
In June, 2014, Goldcorp awarded the Global Excellence Award to the Eleonore site for its innovative SmartEXEC ventilation-on-demand (VOD) system. The system uses Cisco and AeroScout technologies to control the automated fans that power the mine ventilation providing the right amount of air in all the right areas for optimum work conditions. The results are lower energy consumption and operating costs, while simultaneously improving the quality of underground air.
With Cisco’s Connected Mining solution, the mines of tomorrow are now here, with expansion-ready platforms that will be the foundation for additional technological improvements. It will be interesting to see Goldcorp’s continuing innovations and leadership as their industry moves into the next decade and, personally, we can’t wait to see how the Internet of Everything continues to make network connections more relevant and valuable than ever before.
Check out the full assets on this fascinating case study here.