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At Goldcorp's Éléonore Mine, the IoT Is Worth Gold

The manager of a new Canadian gold mine says a network of RFID tags and sensors, linked via Wi-Fi, is helping the operation to run safely and efficiently.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor

Without leveraging this data from the sensors, RFID tags and telemetry system, the ventilation system would need to heat and blow 1.2 million cubic feet of air per minute into the mine. But by only supplying ventilation and heat as is necessary, Éléonore provides just 650,000 cubic feet of air per minute.

This, Belleau says, will translate into anywhere from $1.5 to $2.5 million in annual energy savings—as well as a significant reduction in carbon emissions, since the heating system is powered by propane. (All of the electrical power is pulled from the Hydro Quebec power grid, through transmission lines brought to the mine site along a 43-mile road built for the mine.)

The telemetry system also monitors 30 different functions and systems within each vehicle's engine, and issues alerts to mine managers if any system shows signs of trouble. For example, if temperatures inside an engine surpass a threshold that could indicate a mechanical problem, or if a sensor detects a leak in the hydraulic line, the system generates an alert.

"If we see there is a high heat, we know—sometimes even before the truck operator knows—that there is an engine problem," Belleau explains. "[Through this alert], the operator on the surface can tell the driver to bring the truck to the shop," he says, so the issue can be diagnosed before the vehicle breaks down or overheats.

Goldcorp uses the telemetry system to monitor worker behavior, looking for signs of improper operation of heavy machines. What's more, it can analyze engine data and vehicle speed in order to reconstruct events preceding a collision or an accident. It can auto-generate maintenance schedules within the mine's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, based on actual rather than estimated usage, by logging each machine's hours of operation.

Instant access to employee location, on-demand ventilation and the capability to predict mechanical problems in vehicles combine to make Éléonore a cutting-edge mine, Belleau says, adding, "This is a dream for miners."

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