How AI Helps in Mineral Processing

As businesses work to protect their workforce and increase profitability, the need to embrace AI and agile methods has become more acute.

FREMONT, CA: As COVID-19 continues to impact millions of lives and livelihoods, it offers perhaps the most significant shock to sectors—from education to healthcare to food supply. Mineral processing firms also have to grapple with uncertainty and volatility. Before COVID-19, some were already taking initiatives to develop their potentials to cope with fluctuations inherent in commodities markets. But recent instances triggering challenges in workforce availability, supply chains, and demand created a demand for higher levels of operational resilience in less time. Several leading operators are starting to use AI to resolve the short-term hurdles and improve operational resilience as a long-term competitive advantage. Read on to know more.

The primary step was leveraging AI to understand correlations between market prices and profitability in various operating models. In particular, it compared the impacts of maximizing production or yield with the mine's economic life. It also looked at the impacts of the increasing grade of beneficiated ore and the effect of different ore characteristics on downstream costs. By developing AI models to better understand these drivers, the firm can identify more profitable strategies—and it gleaned some interesting insights.

Maximizing production was not always the most profitable operating model. Mine planning and manpower implementation were the least resilient—and hardest to adapt—in the middle of market dynamics changes. Also, beneficiation plant decisions can result in a more than 20 percent variability in downstream operating costs. With an in-depth understanding of profit drivers across the firm’s complex value chain, it realized the intricate correlations among hundreds of variables needed more than mere operator experience.

The firm was already far along in its journey to develop agile and AI potentials when COVID-19 emerged. By leveraging its new capabilities, the companies can increase production and yield while debunking some long-held operational predictions. The results assisted in developing greater confidence in AI and agile means across the business. The crisis has affected market demand and pricing in end markets for the base-metals producer. It has impacted the company’s potentials to operate a number of its assets.

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