14 Dicembre 2023

Microsoft solutions are transforming the mining industry with data and AI

Driven by energy transition, geopolitical shifts, supply chain disruptions, regulatory actions, and technological advances, the mining industry is changing rapidly. Despite recent gains through digital transformation, miners still struggle with converting data into decisions to improve productivity, performance, safety, and sustainability. As noted in a recent EY report, “Digital effectiveness is the mining sector’s top risk.”1 Boston Consulting Group urges miners to “Value data assets as much as physical assets.”2

Accelerating innovation across the mining industry is imperative for decarbonization and the transition to net-zero carbon emissions. Miners play a vital role by providing the raw materials needed for the development of clean energy technologies. Solar panels, batteries, wind turbines, and electric vehicles that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel dependence require a variety of minerals such as lithium, cobalt, copper, and nickel.

Adopting digital technologies is critical for enabling business agility, driving efficiency, and accelerating innovation across the entire mining value chain, from exploration and extraction to processing and transportation. In my blog about the Digital Sustainable Mine of the Future, I shared opportunities to benefit from new data network infrastructure and solutions that include cloud computing, mixed reality, the Internet of Things (IoT), and AI. I also noted the critical need for collaboration between diverse stakeholders and the adoption of best practices and strong frameworks for ethical and responsible AI implementation.

Now, as the world embarks on the era of AI transformation, the importance of a strong data foundation, digital effectiveness, and digital maturity has never been greater. The business value of AI has also become increasingly clear. A recent Microsoft commissioned study by IDC showed significant business gains in areas like employee experience, customer engagement, business processes, and innovation. The study also projects that generative AI will add nearly $10 trillion to global GDP over the next 10 years.3 In the mining industry according to McKinsey, the productivity increases could potentially unlock between $290 billion and $390 billion in annual savings for producers of five focus commodities in 2035.4

The pressure to step up the pace is intense. To accelerate transformation and achieve rapid benefits from new advances in technology, miners can adopt solutions like the Microsoft Intelligent Data Platform. With a single, flexible platform for databases, analytics, AI, and data governance, mining organizations can quickly improve agility and maximize the value of their data while minimizing cost and complexity.

Microsoft Intelligent Data Platform

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Managing risk with the Microsoft Intelligent Data Platform

Industry leaders are using this transformative platform to do more with less. Virtually any sector can experience similar benefits from this powerful, flexible solution. Strabag SE is a European-based global technology firm specializing in construction projects. The company serves clients in several industries including mining. Strabag SE partnered with Microsoft to leverage data insights and accelerate business innovation.

Strabag SE established a Data Science Hub based on the Microsoft Intelligent Data Platform to connect and analyze information from diverse sources. Using Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service to assess risks and generate insights, the company developed use cases to improve efficiency, optimization, and sustainability. As a result, Strabag SE saved time and money, reduced operational risks, and generated key insights and business value from data.

The partnership with Microsoft helped Strabag SE transform its culture and mindset to embrace data science and innovation. Now, the company can prepare for the future by using data to build a better tomorrow for the construction industry.

Improving safety, sustainability, and operational efficiency

Transitioning to renewable energy sources and decarbonization is key to a sustainable future, but these aren’t the only factors. Safety, reliability, and productivity are also equally important. In the mining industry, Sweden’s Boliden uses multiple Azure services to help automate processes and drive safer and more sustainable and efficient operations. A new solution utilizing Azure Stack Edge, Azure IoT Edge, and Azure AI Vision enables the firm to monitor its sites around the clock with a network of 500 cameras and thousands of sensors that keep an eye on productivity and safety. The solution replaces time-consuming manual processes, freeing site managers for value-added activities and proving insight into real-time events and trends over time. As a result, Boliden is equipped to help lead the way to a more environmentally friendly and profitable future.

Achieving blast-furnace efficiency and adding $100 million in value

Steel and mining company Metinvest is also using Microsoft technology to improve efficiency and realize significant business benefits. The company wanted to reduce fuel consumption by controlling silicon content in iron, which affects the heating and fuel consumption of its blast furnaces. By taking advantage of a solution based on Azure Machine Learning, Metinvest accurately predicted the silicon content in iron over a horizon of up to nine hours, using data from Azure Data Factory and Azure SQL Database. The results are displayed on a Power BI dashboard so that operators can adjust furnace parameters, enabling the company to decrease silicon variability from 0.16 to 0.10 and significantly improve fuel efficiency.

Metinvest plans to roll out the solution to all its furnaces, for an expected savings of approximately $100 million from improved fuel consumption.

Join the global movement toward digital transformation and sustainability

Predictive maintenance, blast furnace optimization, mineral exploration, and worker safety are just a few areas that can benefit from digital and AI transformation in the mining sector. For example, Microsoft Copilot for Microsoft 365 in Microsoft Dynamics 365 Guides combines generative AI with mixed reality to help frontline workers in industrial settings complete complex tasks and resolve problems faster for minimal downtime and accelerated learning. Copilot can search and summarize multiple information sources to answer questions and provide step-by-step instructions using words and holograms, connect to IoT sensors and operational data, leverage previous expert activity.

Mining industry leaders and policymakers can work together to capitalize on the opportunities that digitalization brings as well as overcome obstacles to progress. While organizations might feel held back by limited resources, specialized knowledge, or industry culture, it’s important to close the digital gap quickly. Miners can leverage solutions like the Microsoft Intelligent Data Platform to quickly unlock the benefits of AI and digital transformation and achieve more with less and collaborate on new business models and partnerships to solve problems, innovate, and create value. By embracing the digital sustainable mine of the future, mining organizations can meet business goals while helping us all move toward a more sustainable future.

I hope you’re inspired to learn more about transformative data and AI innovations in mining and building sustainable energy partnerships with Microsoft.

Learn more about Energy and Resources solutions with Microsoft

1EY Digital Mine.

2Racing Toward a Digital Future in Metals and Mining, Boston Consulting Group, February 04, 2021.

3New study validates the business value and opportunity of AI, Microsoft blog, November 2, 2023.

4Beyond the Supercycle: How Technology is Reshaping Resources, McKinsey Global Institute, February 2017.

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Source: Microsoft Industry Blog