The mining industry is “far behind” in terms of using technology and innovation to deal with industry-related challenges such as dropping ore grades, high-energy costs and lack of reliable energy supply, says bespoke mining enterprise software engineering solutions developer Stone Three Mining Solutions CEO Louis Marais.
He says Stone Three Mining Solutions believes that mines need to place a new focus on innovation and technology to advance their operations. “As technology companies we have an important role to play in transforming the mining industry,” Marais says. “To make this happen, in a somewhat reluctant industry, the only way is to build long-term relationships based on trust. Additionally, you need to empathetically understand the challenges your clients face.” Stone Three Mining Solutions optimises mineral processing plants through machine vision-based smart sensor technology, consultative data analysis and advanced process control services.
The company develops and engineers machine vision solutions including froth sen-sors, particle size analysers, volumetric material analysers and bubble sizers that meas- ure and optimise mineral extraction processes. Marais says the company’s business model is based on optimisation consulting – an incremental set of value offerings that build on one another, starting with a basic needs analysis and ending with implementing advanced control. “We provide a full range [of services], from the needs analysis, to the sensors right through to advanced control. Running a mine is a complex business, so we take ownership of innovation in our clients’ minds,” says Marais.
He explains that Stone Three Mining Solutions starts by understanding the client’s needs, supplies the right sensors and then analyses how plant behaviour is reflected in the data provided by the sensors. This enables the company to design a control philosophy for the plant and, finally, implement it. For example, when correlating sensor data with blasting patterns, the blasting methods determine the rock fragments, and that has a big effect on downstream processes. Therefore, by monitoring the particle size distribution of ore at various stages in the crushing circuit, the company is able to determine how blasting affects the downstream process, explains Marais.
He further says that it is convenient for a client to be able to get all the different services it needs from one service provider. For plant optimisation, Stone Three Mining Solutions can supply a variety of sensors, as well as provide a particle size analyser in one place and a froth sensor somewhere else. He says Stone Three Mining Solutions currently provides mining and metals company First Quantum Minerals’ mine in Kansanshi, Zambia, with six particle size analysers and six froth sensors. The company is also currently providing platinum producer Anglo American Platinum’s Mogalakwena platinum mine, in Limpopo, with five particle size analysers and 34 froth sensors, which enables the mine to closely monitor and manage its process performance