5G and the Chilean Mining Industry
Many miners across the world are still implementing 4G technology but that has not stopped the push for 5G which will provide even further benefits such as very low latency speeds up to ten times that of today’s networks, and high connection capability (enabling up to one million linked devices per square kilometer), along with excellent reliability.
The combination of 4G and WiFi have shown to be sufficient for the sectors current needs but as miners look at fully automating their operations in the future, especially as more autonomous vehicles and sensors are integrated into an operation, 5G will be needed. It provides between 10 to 100 times faster speeds and a host of other benefits.
As mining suppliers develop technology for the future, it will be important to understand the limitations of today’s current technology and where the market is going in the future. Depending on where the mine is located in the world will also determine the speed to which miners adopt 5G technology into their operations.
Chile Government Support
Chile is a global mining hub with one of the world’s largest project pipelines. The country is focused on adopting the newest technology and the government is funding several initiatives to ensure that it is on the forefront of 5G adoption.
In August 2020, the government announced public bidding for building a 5G network which stated that investment over 5 years would require at least US$3 billion with another US$2.5 billion required to deploy the optical fiber.
Gold Fields newest project in Chile, Salares Norte is set to become fully digitized and will be controlled from Santiago.
The first step was last November, when Goldfields live streamed a test in conjunction with ABB, Nokia and Claro establishing a satellite link to ABB’s Santiago headquarters where a doctor conducted a real-time medical examination on an employee based at Salares Norte.
In a second stage, an ABB specialist in Switzerland oversaw equipment installation at Salares Norte after which Gold Fields executives supervised construction of a processing plant by projecting its design in the field using virtual reality devices.
Codelco has announced its first pilot with 5G technology consisting of the installation of a high-definition camera in Codelco’s Radomiro Tomic Division, which is connected to a 5G network and transmits real time video of the crushing area of this mine to the new control center in Santiago.
This has allowed the division to immediately process logistics data such as waiting times and material unloading for subsequent analysis and optimization of different processes.
In addition to the Santiago, Codelco also has integrated operation centers at its Chuquicamata, Andina, Ministro Hales, and El Teniente mines.
The miner increased copper production by 4% at the El Teniente, Chuquicamata and Andina processing facilities using IOT technology and applying mathematical models. The plan is to extend the approach to all divisions within three years.
Moving into 5G will bring new opportunities for mining companies. Mining technology companies will benefit as they will be able to provide new technologies that will further automate operations creating safer and more efficient mines.
Chilean miners are very focused on adopting new technologies and having faster communication networks will be an important part of that process. Chile is expected to fully roll out 5G by 2025 but given the mining industries importance to the economy, mining operations could see it much sooner.
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