Newmont Goldcorp, the largest gold producer in the world, has embarked on a digital transformation journey to optimize its portfolio of high-quality mining assets, re-invest in its people and technology, and drive increasing margins and returns on investment. To this end, the company is exploring a wide variety of digital technologies, including autonomous drilling, drones, mixed and augmented reality, machine learning, and data analytics and visualization.
At a recent OSIsoft User Conference in San Francisco, ARC Advisory Group had an opportunity to learn about a related project initiated in conjunction with existing OSIsoft technology at Newmont Goldcorp’s flagship Peñasquito gold, silver, zinc, and lead mine in northwest Mexico. As Derek Shuen, Superintendent, Electrical, Instrumentation, Process Control & Energy Management at Newmont Goldcorp, explained to ARC, the company’s IT group had approached him in 2016 to participate in a proof-of-value concept project for entering into an Enterprise Agreement with OSIsoft.
According to Mr. Shuen, the company had been using the PI System at its flagship Peñasquito mine in north-central Mexico since 2012 to integrate and historize data sources across the mine site but was not getting the most value from the data.
Business Impact Workshop
In 2017, as part of Newmont Goldcorp’s larger “20/20/20” five-year initiative to improve business performance, the corporate IT group hosted a joint Business Impact Workshop in conjunction with OSIsoft at the Peñasquito mine. The main objectives of this one-week workshop were to:
- Gather different operations groups to identify potential opportunities to enhance business value via an OSIsoft Enterprise Agreement
- Define initiatives associated with those business opportunities that could deliver value in one year or less
- Explore how OSIsoft system could be leveraged to support those initiatives
The workshop participants wanted to focus on an area that would be relatively easy to achieve, did not require a capital investment, and had the potential for good results. While several other options were discussed, the team decided that enhanced metal recovery stood out as the best opportunity for quantifiable improvement that could be achieved in a relatively short time frame.
Feed Variations Require Prompt Operator Response to Maximize Metal Recovery
The flotation circuits at open pit mining operations such as at Peñasquito are highly susceptible to feed variations. To optimize metals recovery, operators have to manually adjust up to eight different reagents. The operator’s ability to react to feed variations will often largely determine recovery performance.
Previously, the mine had seen its metal recoveries dip for no apparent reason. The graph in the screen capture on this page illustrates this, with the red circle calling attention to a dip in recoveries. These types of losses can extend for several hours if the operator is not vigilant or does not have the right data.
Prior to this pilot project, to establish baseline performance targets for the operators, Newmont Goldcorp’s Technical Services had used regression analysis on daily, weekly, and monthly historical data to correlate the data and establish baseline targets for economic recovery of the various precious (gold and silver) and base (zinc and lead) from the feed grades. Since Technical Services only updated these equations every two years or so, the targets rarely varied, regardless of the nature of the ore feeds.
For the flotation cell operators, the recovery target was typically pegged at 70 percent and rarely adjusted. Since the established targets were based on past historical data, rather than current operations, they were not really meaningful for the operators who thus tended to operate the cell in a largely “open loop” manner, according to Mr. Shuen. This resulted in inconsistent operating practices between shifts and individual operators and the unexplainable dips in extraction performance, resulting in recovery losses.
Developing More Meaningful Recovery Targets
To develop more meaningful recovery targets for the flotation cell operators, the team incorporated the equations previously developed by the Technical Services group into PI Performance Calculations, which generate dynamic baseline recovery targets based on real-time data. On-stream analyzer measurements taken at the head and tail of the Sulfide Plant flotation circuit are correlated in the PI System to provide operators with real-time performance trend feedback. In effect, this became what Mr. Shuen referred to as “a dynamic simulator” for recovery performance. By operating closer to these targets, the operators would be able to enhance recovery performance. Of course, the operators first had to be trained to understand and make best use of these new data to respond to ore-related and other recovery dips.
According to Mr. Shuen, “The flotation operator is provided with dynamic targets from the simulator as a real guide for the feed grade variations.” This helps minimize inconsistent operating practices and maximize recovery.
Getting the Right Information to the Operator at the Right Time
PI Vision dashboards were placed on the plant operating floor and in the control room, providing field and control room operators alike with the needed access to real-time performance data. Operators now rely on the trends from the dynamic simulator, which – according to Mr. Shuen - serve as KPIs, to guide them so that they can make decisions based on where they should be performing.
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Keywords: Newmont Goldcorp, Mining, Digital Transformation, Real-time Data, Operational Analytics, OSIsoft, PI System, ARC Advisory Group.