5G Private Networks Empower Digital Bases for Transforming the Mining Industry
In one mining production facility of China, drones and automated control systems equipped with lidars and other sensors have been introduced to scan the terrains, geological structure, and potential reservoirs in real time. AI algorithms are also helping accurately analyze and predict the distribution and recoverable reserves of mineral resources based on collected data, geological models, and historical exploration data. Autonomous driving has expanded into automatic drilling, hydraulic fracturing, and pumping. Remote control and autonomous decision-making have helped reduce human errors and safety risks, while significantly shortening exploration and production durations. The facility is a typical example of digital transformation in mining production.
However, traditional data collection and operations are still dominant outside China. An industry survey finds that more than two-thirds of mining companies plan for information-based transformation in the next three years as the era of AI and big data is around the corner. Based on future applications, mining enterprises should consider the following factors when performing network construction:
• Data collection and transmission speed: High-speed data collection and transmission are a prerequisite for smart mines production, so that production, equipment status, environmental inspection, and process data can be obtained and analyzed in a timely manner.
• Security and reliability: Mining production require secure and reliable systems that support data backup and restoration to ensure data security and stable operations.
• Remote inspection and control: Networks and sensors allow production equipment and processes to be inspected and automatically controlled in real time, improving work efficiency and safety.
• Intelligent and unmanned operation: As AI and automation technologies develop, intelligent and unmanned production and management are an inevitable trend in the mining industry.
These considerations pose high requirements on the communications networks necessary for the digital transformation and smart operations of mines production facilities. In short, communications must have better network coverage, more secure and reliable network access, higher bandwidth, and lower latency. Existing network solutions cannot address such network-related challenges as difficult optical fiber deployment, insufficient security and reliability of mesh networks and Wi-Fi, and lack of carriers' network coverage in remote areas where most mines production facilities are located.
Therefore, a new communications system tailored to mining production needs to be developed. Huawei's 5G private network solutions for the mining industry use 3GPP-defined spectrum and, compared with conventional 4G networks, can provide the following advantages:
• Higher speed and lower latency: A transmission rate of up to 1 Gbps and a latency of less than 50 ms can be provided for autonomous driving of trucks, remote control of excavators and shovels, drone-based surveying, and real-time HD video upload.
• Larger connection density: 5G allows more devices to access networks simultaneously, ensuring data collection over a large quantity of sensors and greater scalability and flexibility.
• Higher security and reliability: Isolated from the public network, 5G private networks use advanced encryption and authentication technologies, such as two-way authentication between terminals and networks, user-plane integrity protection, and 256-bit encryption algorithms. This can effectively prevent cyber-attacks and data leakage, ensuring data security and stable operations in mines production facilities.
Founded in 1958, Jiuquan Iron and Steel Co., Ltd (JISCO) is a Chinese steel conglomerate and the oldest and largest diversified modern enterprise group in northwest China. As a strategic partner in enterprise information-based transformation, Huawei has built 5G networks for JISCO's Xigou Mine since 2020 and successfully deployed a 5G autonomous driving system for the company's mining trucks. The system allows the trucks to perform functions such as self-loading and unloading, automatic avoidance, coordination with shovels, and intelligent ore distribution and scheduling. This ensures mining safety, fulfillment of production targets, and smooth production and scheduling while slashing onsite personnel by 60%. The 5G remote control system can supervise the running status of electric shovels and drilling machines in real time and send control instructions through remote control cockpits to achieve automatic rotation, one-click leveling, autonomous positioning and drilling, automatic rod change, and automatic cable winding. Remote control reduces the need for manual onsite operations, thereby effectively lowering safety risks. Multi-purpose 5G drones can meet various mining requirements, such as mining area surveying, alerting, and automatic inspection, which improves work efficiency while reducing risks. Due to the harsh environment of mines, equipment is prone to malfunctions and failure. To ameliorate this issue, 5G networks and industrial gateways are used to collect the operational data of mining equipment in real time. Fault prediction and analysis models are also created to detect the health of equipment and perform targeted maintenance. This reduces unscheduled shutdowns, shortens maintenance, and prolongs the service life of equipment.
In addition to the widespread adoption of 5G networks in China's mining industry, more and more mining enterprises outside China are turning to 5G for their digital transformation. One of South Africa mining company has adopted Huawei's 5G solutions to provide comprehensive ICT support, which include 5G high-speed broadband access and smart mining industry solutions, such as remote control of mining trucks, IoT, and digital enterprise platforms. 5G networks have enabled the mine to transform into a smart mine featuring advanced technologies, excellent safety, and environmental protection.
Building 5G mobile private networks for the mining industry marks the beginning of a new stage of digital transformation. The adoption of 5G private networks will significantly improve the efficiency and quality of production and management and bring huge innovation and development opportunities to the industry. With the steady development of technologies and applications, we believe that 5G private networks will become a key tool that drives the mining industry to a higher level. Against the backdrop of a rapidly developing and changing industry, we will continue to innovate and provide more advanced, efficient, and intelligent mobile access network solutions for mines facilities to help the industry achieve sustainable development and move towards an even brighter future.