Efficient Plant March 2020 - 25

Wireless technology,
connecting even legacy
PLCs, can play a large role
in improving efficiency
and safety. Note: For
security reasons, photo
is not of the operation
described in article.

feature | solution focus

Pressure to enhance
efficiency and meet
production targets drives
improved operational
visibility through data
gathering.

Breaking
Mining Data Silos
MINING PROCESSES ARE often managed by programmable
logic controllers (PLC). Most legacy PLCs, designed in the early
2000s, cannot transfer data beyond the factory floor for diagnostics
and analytics. They lack built-in wireless connectivity and come with
a plethora of proprietary, vendor-specific serial protocols designed
to serve closed-loop automation tasks. Any redesign or modification
of PLCs to integrate add-on IoT connectivity requires costly production halts and is conducive to equipment failures. Newer PLCs
provide onboard web servers for data acquisition, but again, complex
configurations are required to connect these servers with an IIoT
system.
To avoid invasive reprogramming, a common approach is to feed
PLC data directly into an internet-connected gateway using native
protocols on the PLC. The gateway then transfers this data to an IIoT

MARCH 2020

EP2003fsolfocus.indd 25

cloud platform. This architecture is problematic in an open-pit mine
where Ethernet-wiring to the IoT gateway is highly constrained, if
not impossible. The remote location and asymmetric topography
typical at mine sites means that a cellular backhaul option is either
unreliable or missing altogether.

REAL-WORLD EXAMPLE
A Canadian-based gold-and-silver mining company is an example
of how the PLC connectivity challenge plagues mining operations,
specifically in the heap-leaching process. In gold mining, heap
leaching is an extraction activity in which gold is separated from
the ore through a sequence of chemical reactions that use cyanide.
Controlling cyanide pH is critical, as decreased pH values cause the
formation of lethal cyanide gas while magnifying cyanide consumpEFFICIENTPLANTMAG.COM |

25

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Efficient Plant March 2020

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Efficient Plant March 2020 - Cover1
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