Data mining: the way forward in mine water optimisation

Talbot is helping mining companies enhance the sustainable management of their water resources through the implementation of big data analytics and internet of things (IOT) technologies that can reduce their consumption, increase water reuse and improve environmental compliance across various aspects of the value chain.

These smart solutions can be applied to optimise water use in large-scale minerals beneficiation processes and plants that are engaged in the treatment of mine-impacted water for reuse either in the production cycle or by water-scarce host communities.

“Data is the resource of the digital age and gives miners and minerals processors an opportunity to overcome their water challenges. These include sharp rises in water tariffs, a more stringent regulatory environment and the pressing need to mitigate their impacts on already severely water-stressed communities,” says Talbot smart water engineer and data scientist Sashnee Naicker.

Helping miners to mine their data

“Data mining is a process used to turn raw data into useful information, but it’s extremely challenging when you’re working with massive amounts of information that is constantly changing, comes from a variety of sources, and is stored on multiple platforms,” she says.

Using IOT instrumentation – together with a web-based application known as TalbotAnalytics, water specialists from Talbot are able to help sites generate and interpret quality data so that they can achieve their water strategies and targets.

“At the height of the South African energy crunch, players in the mining industry took a serious look at how much electricity they were using, where it was being used, how it was being wasted, and ways they could become more efficient. Like energy, the water security crisis and escalating tariffs will demand the same approach – and it is data that will provide a lot of the answers,” says Naicker.

The use IOT and TalbotAnalytics gives plant operators and decision-makers a bird’s-eye view of the performance of their facilities so that they can identify emerging trends while visualising proactive opportunities to reduce consumption, increase reuse and improve compliance.

Data is everything, everything is data

Big water and energy users in Europe and the United States have been using data-centric technologies to optimise their facilities with much success. South African industry, and mining in particular, has been slower to embrace the movement.

“There’s a common misconception that digitisation is always expensive and can only be integrated into modern plants. The truth is that it can be highly affordable, scalable and completely customisable. And it can be integrated into just about any facility,” says Naicker.

Low-cost wireless IOT devices and sensors have also become much more rugged by design and are able to withstand punishing environments.

“The data we generate can give operators an exact indication of what is going on in their plant, enabling them to assess chemical usage and equipment health while unlocking opportunities for process optimisation and cost-saving,” she says.

Added to this, clients have the assurance that the water entering and leaving a plant complies with the necessary technical specifications and regulatory requirements.

“It all starts with an initial assessment of the plant process and infrastructure and is followed by Talbot’s drafting of an optimisation plan that looks at the potential areas of benefit,” says Naicker.

“A detailed design and installation set up can be tailored to the client’s budget before data is modelled and analysed to achieve optimisation in targeted areas,” she concludes.