The Elements of Innovation Discovered

Peru copper mine upgrades worker safety

850 Abeeway Smart Badges for real-time miner monitoring Metal Tech News – January 10, 2024

In the world of technological interconnectivity, Mina Justa, a Peruvian mining operation that produces nearly 150,000 metric tons of copper concentrates and cathode material per year, will employ modern solutions toward worker safety and security with the implementation of strategic internet of things technologies at this critical material mine.

A US$1.6 billion greenfield copper project near Marcona, Peru, Mina Justa lies roughly 400 kilometers (250 miles) southeast of Lima in the Nazca province. Being advanced by Marcobre S.A.C., a joint venture between Minsur SA (60%), a mining company based in Peru, and Alxar Mineria (40%), a Chilean investment company, Mina Justa has been working toward development for over a decade.

After a definitive feasibility study was completed in 2009, Marcobre secured funding in 2018 that enabled the company to move forward with mining operations.

Breaking ground in 2021, the Mina Justa copper mine is expected to process 12 million metric tons of oxide ore and six million metric tons of sulfide ore a year to produce upward of over 100,000 metric tons of copper concentrates and 58,000 metric tons of copper cathode material per year over a projected 16-year mine life.

Ramping up to full capacity by the end of 2022, the JV has moved onto the next stage of modern mining – leveraging the internet of things to increase worker safety.

Smarter wireless

To increase safety, the Marcobre JV is providing Mina Justa workers with Abeeway Smart Badges developed by STRACON Technologies SA, the technological wing of mining services company STRACON Group, in collaboration with Actility S.A., a global leader in IoT network management out of France, and Abeeway, an advanced networking company also in France and picked up by Actility in 2017.

To better understand what is being brought to the table, it must be understood what these technologies that Abeeway and Actility are working toward implementing on a global scale.

Abeeway Smart Badges are portable multi-mode trackers in an ID card format.

Equipped with embedded sensors and utilizing the global positioning system, low-power GPS, a Wi-Fi sniffer (a type of network analyzer), Bluetooth Low Energy, and LoRaWAN (long-range radio wide area networking) TDoA (time difference of arrival) geolocation technologies, these smart cards enable precise and continuous tracking anywhere within the network it is connected to.

Aside from its constant connectivity, the Smart Badges offer various functionalities such as SOS panic alarms, notifications for dangerous or restricted areas, safety evacuation monitoring, and location heatmaps for optimizing supervisory coverage to workers within designated areas in large industrial sites.

The key technology to join these highly advanced tracking cards is through Actility's LoRaWAN connectivity, a relatively recent addition to the world of wireless transmission technologies.

Invented sometime within the last decade, LoRa was developed specifically for machine-to-machine or IoT purposes.

While Wi-Fi has been the go-to since the conception of the internet, with the advent of an interconnected network of possibly thousands of electronic devices, signal fidelity has grown to become a critical factor in jobsite security and even sustainability.

Piggybacking off the conscientious aims of LoRa – as it was designed to be a lower–power and eco-friendly solution to the growing number of wireless devices – Actility worked with Semtech IBM to harness this technology in a more targeted approach.

Made as a communication protocol that functions on LoRa, LoRaWAN significantly reduces costs compared to other IoT connectivity technologies while also boasting extensive coverage, better redundancy, secure encryption, and intelligent traffic management, ideal for open-pit mining.

With such a cost-efficient network, Marcobre could deploy this worker safety-focused solution at a fraction of the expense of alternative network-based solutions. Ultimately, it was this cost-effectiveness that led to the swift implementation of the project, with an initial deployment of 400 Smart Badges within two weeks.

To bring the badges and network together, Actility neatly packaged its software suite into ThingPark Enterprise, its management platform that helps its customers build their own network infrastructure by managing LoRaWAN gateways, the ability to add new LoRaWAN devices, monitor network operations, and control the flow of data to application servers.

With all these factors at play, Mina Justa has come online to achieve a Real-Time Location System that enhances overall safety by providing real-time worker location data, issuing alerts, and aiding decision-making by having all the immediate data at hand.

Peruvian smart mine

With the initial successful deployment of the first 400 badges, within just six months, Marcobre opted to order an additional 450 Smart Badges, bringing the total to over 800.

"The project at Mina Justa is not only a technological achievement but also a testament to our commitment to customer satisfaction," said STRACON Technologies CTO Jonathan Abasolo. "We are proud to have partnered with them and to have delivered a solution that significantly improves the safety of mine workers. We are grateful for the support of our strategic partners, Actility and Abeeway, who played crucial roles in the success of this project."

In addition to the advanced technology and certifications, STRACON Tech provided comprehensive on-site training to mine workers.

The training sessions covered device operation, including turning the Smart Badges on and off and utilizing the SOS button. This hands-on approach ensured that the workers understood how to use the devices effectively and empowered them to take full advantage of the safety features.

"It's gratifying to see our technology contributing to the significant enhancement of worker safety at Mina Justa," said Actility CEO Olivier Hersent. "This project exemplifies the power of collaboration and innovation. The success and expansion of this solution inspire us to continue pushing the boundaries of IoT for a safer and more efficient world."


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