RFID technology provides efficiencies – that’s not new!
In principle RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) can solve any number of logistical problems associated with tracking items, equipment or materials. Whether tracking pharmaceutical products, from distribution centre to retail outlets, or tools and equipment used in mining operations, RFID is a proven solution to automate this tracking process and improve operational efficiencies.
This is facilitated with the use of readers, and tags (passive or active), which are readily attached to the items that need to be tracked.
However, sometimes things aren’t always that straightforward! What if the material we need to track is iron ore? And what if the ore has to pass through a crusher!
And what if significant operational improvements could flow from knowing the history of the ore before it entered the crusher? For example, where in the mine the material originated?
If this problem could be solved, it could have a big impact on improving the overall goal of a mining operation – which is to maximise profitability by fully exploiting the interaction between the mine and the mill. The source and properties of the ore fed into the crushing circuit and concentrator need to be well understood and must be tracked through the processes in order to quantify their effect through the production chain.
What’s the solution?
The solution starts with Metso, a world leading industrial company serving industries such as mining, aggregates, recycling, oil & gas among others through the provision of systems, products, parts and services.
Their specialised Process Integration and Optimisation (PIO) is a key driver when it comes to improving plant performance. The PRO group leverages their consulting services, advanced process control expertise and instrumentation to help mines get more out of their assets and maximise profits.
Customers often gain 3%-5% improvement in production depending on their initial conditions.
In order to gain better visibility on the situation, Metso’s PRO team developed rugged RFID tags, called SmartTag™, designed to be inserted into the rock before it is blasted. RFID readers are placed on conveyor belts in a mineral processing plant, allowing the ore to be tracked from the mine face and throughout the entire processing plant. This means that spatially-based ore characteristics such as ore hardness and mineral content, can be linked with time-based performance in the plant.
The data collected from Metso’s SmartTag™ system allows operating parameters and control strategies in the mine and processing plant to be continually adjusted and optimised for different ore types entering the plant. This can result in reduced costs and increased profitability.
What does the solution deliver?
- Validation of improvements in the mining process i.e. how do changes made to the way the mine operates, for example blasting patterns, effect the performance of the plant i.e. increase throughput.
- Reconciling what is estimated to be in the mine to what is actually produced by the plant
- Ore loss (ore sent to waste) and dilution (waste sent to the plant) monitoring
- Identification of problem ores and proactively finding a solution
Collaboration – bringing technology and ingenuity together.
Electro-Com Australia Pty Ltd, one of Australia’s leading specialist distributors of RFID equipment, supplies Metso with readers and tags for the SmartTag™ Ore Tracking System. As a direct distributor of an extensive range of RFID equipment and tags, Electro-Com, supported by one of the most experienced technical teams in the business, has been involved in supporting the development of this successful system.
Electro-Com’s 15+ years’ experience as a supplier of RFID equipment has led to early involvement in a number of high profile RFID applications including Metso’s SmartTag™ Ore Tracking System, Qantas ‘Next Generation Check-in’, National Livestock Identification System (NLIS), Vehicle Tracking (in collaboration with a major supplier of automotive Dealer Management Systems), Supply Chain applications (for tracking high value pharmaceutical products), and patient tracking in a number of hospitals (incl. Royal Melbourne Hospital).