25 March 14

Big data results in big savings at Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto has announced that its big data foray into the recently launched Processing Excellence Centre (PEC) in Brisbane has resulted in millions of dollars in savings through identifying and eliminating processing and logistics inefficiencies.

PEC is a world first facility, according to Rio Tinto, staffed by 12 mineral experts who enhance mining monitoring and operational performance by continuously examining processing data from five of the company’s coal sites in Australia, and operations in Mongolia and the US.

Rio Tinto CEO Sam Walsh in front of PEC's interactive monitors. Photo: Rio Tinto

A large interactive monitor displays technical data in real time with the centre receiving data 100ms after it is produced at the site. This is examined by 20 different analytical systems in order to allow processing improvements to be immediately introduced. The PEC currently uses approximately 5TB of storage and sends and receives approximately 30GB of data each day.       

PEC connects to site data systems to create a common operational picture between the PEC and partner sites, which includes laboratory data, operator log sheets, control systems, process surveillance cameras, maintenance systems and data histories. 

When anomalies arise, employees at the Rio Tinto site and PEC identify and rank opportunities based on value criteria. The PEC then issues operational advice to the site with ultimate control remaining with the site leadership, who retains accountability for executing the advice.

A trial phase of the PEC has already led to procedural enhancements for the company. These include control system and instrumentation improvements, testing and development of human-machine interfaces, automated response plans and operator decision support tools. The adjustment of the flotation process also increased the recovery of copper and gold at the company’s Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia.

“This facility allows us to focus on optimising mineral processing across a broad range of sites, anywhere in the world. The PEC provides significant capability to the business by drawing on a global network of industry experts from operations, suppliers, and consultants,” Rio Tinto head of innovation John McGagh said.

Chief executive Sam Walsh believes by continuing to develop next generation systems and technologies such as big data, Rio Tinto will continue to lead the mining industry in delivering value through technological innovation.

The PEC program is a collaboration between

  • JKTech – mineralogy, metallurgy, and process models
  • Schneider Electric – regulatory control, instrumentation, and interfaces
  • Metso CISA – advanced model based control and advanced instrumentation
  • iGATE and the Rio Tinto Innovation Centre – collaborative tools and software development
  • The University of Queensland, through the Rio Tinto Centre for Advanced Mineral Sorting – advanced model development and acoustics
  • Rio Tinto Copper and Energy partner sites – operational expertise.

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