GE and Mitsui sign mining efficiency agreement

GE and global resources and energy giant Mitsui have signed an agreement focused on driving down mining operational costs.

The MoU arrangement between the two is focused on production efficiencies and improving safety on sites, according to Bloomberg.

The majority of this is around implementing GE's Internet of Things platforms to monitor, collect, and analyse data from machinery and equipment to develop best practice operation plans, as well as institute predictive maintenance schedules on sites.

Productivity and efficiency on site are the two major catchcries in mining right now, with mining operations reportedly nearly 30 per cent less productive today than they were a decade ago.

“Miners are seeking to cut costs incurred to produce mining output, or to increase output at no additional cost—in other words, to raise productivity. CEOs have been acknowledging to investors that poor productivity performance must be addressed. Meantime, governments in big mining countries are also trying to understand the productivity challenge, with publicly funded research institutions studying the issue closely,” McKinsey stated in a recent report.

As part of the agreement, the GE and Mitsui are also working on switching from diesel to gas powered operations, such as the GE dual fuel systems which run off both diesel and gas already installed Fortescue’s iron ore mines.

The concept of gas powered haul trucks will also be explored.

Energy giant Shell are looking to introduce LNG-powered fleets at Australian mines as part of a push to increase natural gas use beyond the export of LNG, with BHP and Rio Tinto both looking to implement the technology.

The two big miners are said to be looking at LNG-powered fleets for their West Australian operations as a way to offset high energy costs.

A Rio Tinto spokesman has previously outlined the potential for dual fuel technology in the Pilbara.

"There are some real challenges with the impact on payload, refuelling frequency and certainty over supply sources, but our work in this area remains ongoing," he said.

OEMs are also getting in on the ground floor, with Westport Resources Australia and Caterpillar joining forces to develop natural gas fuel systems for mine trucks and EMD locomotives.

“We recently signed an agreement with caterpillar to jointly develop direct injection engines specifically for the mine trucks the 793, 795 and 797 – and also part of that agreement is with EMD for the MD&10 engines used in the locomotives,” Westport Innovations Australia managing director Bruce Hodgins said.

The new joint venture is aimed at revolutionising the way the mining industry consumes energy.

Hodgins told Australian Mining that while the technology was some years off, he expected LNG to become a predominant fuel within the mining industry.

“For certain segments of mining and for certain areas it will become dominant, and frankly I think coal is one of those areas where you will see it being taken up as the predominant fuels,” he said.

“This is something we all need to partnership on, so we are working with fuel suppliers, engine technology people, the OEMs, customers and government regulators to address a lot of these (issues).”

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