From IT integration to panel building, one mine at a time

A world-leading diamond exploration company developed Canada’s first fully underground diamond mine. The mine, located in the mineral rich, sparsely populated Northwest Territories, is marked by harsh tundra, thick forests, and vast prairie landscapes. The mine site stretches over 500 hectares, with production rate estimates of 3,150 tonnes of diamond ore per day and 1,500,000 carats per ...

12/15/2008


A world-leading diamond exploration company developed Canada’s first fully underground diamond mine. The mine, located in the mineral rich, sparsely populated Northwest Territories, is marked by harsh tundra, thick forests, and vast prairie landscapes. The mine site stretches over 500 hectares, with production rate estimates of 3,150 tonnes of diamond ore per day and 1,500,000 carats per year.

This complex undertaking required the development and integration of a process control system (PCS) and production information management system (PIMS) using 40 remote I/O cabinets distributed to control mining, conveying, and ore fracture operations; diamond ore concentration and thickening; utilities (water, wastewater, fuel storage, power generation); and diamond recovery.

System architectures can flex to match application needs. A Siemens PCS7 component-based system architecture and 40 remote I/O cabinets are at the process control system level. A Siemens Simatic IT system resides at the production information management system (PIMS) level, and connects to the IT network via Ethernet.

System architectures can flex to match application needs.

System integrator Brock Solutions partners with customers like this to develop holistic solutions that draw on its skills and experience in business systems/IT, MES (manufacturing execution system), and drives and control systems. To tackle this project, they started with a core team of people from Brock Solutions and the customer. The group’s tasks were to define business requirements and metrics, dive into the details by developing a functional specification, and develop a back-end simulation application to make sure that the solution worked as advertised before site implementation.

According to Brock policy, engineers get agreement from key stakeholders regarding metrics for managing the operation, going so far as to prototype screens and reports so that everyone knows exactly what they are getting. They also don’t sign up to a plan that doesn’t expect to see real progress in a reasonable period of time, ideally every 6 months. On every project, large or small, they also develop a simulation environment (most typically using PC-based, I/O simulation) to test and validate the real-time solution. That way, any software bugs are isolated early, and site commissioning is just that, rather than endless troubleshooting and code rewrites.

Better use of resources

The mine project was to have the following in place by the go-live date: availability and reliability of technology, more effective use of human and material resources, and real-time data capture with information always available for real-time decision making. Also important was standard reporting of real-time and archived data, and standard key performance indicator (KPI) definitions and calculations.

Analysis revealed project management and technical challenges, including the following:

  • Production operations required transportation of equipment to and from the site on an ice road, providing a limited time window, various construction difficulties, and expected weather delays.

  • A second mining site in northern Ontario overlapped with completion of the first project, requiring a standardized system across the organization to mitigate future obsolescence risks and costs.

  • The customer’s core team was composed of stakeholders located in remote locations. These stakeholders were required to provide full acceptance and agreement throughout the front-end and development processes.

To address some of these challenges, detailed schedule planning was employed to account for internal and external factors, with additional time allotted to compensate for shipping and construction delays.

Technologies employed

The technologies implemented and the benefits they facilitated included the following:

  • Brock Solutions’ panel shop produced 50 I/O panels to meet specific interoperability requirements in harsh climates.

  • A Siemens PCS7 component-based system architecture (see diagram) used 40 distributed remote I/O cabinets to control facility mining, conveying, and ore fracture operations; diamond ore concentration and thickening; utilities (water, wastewater, fuel storage, power generation); and diamond recovery.

  • A PIMS component required integration, configuration, and implementation activities, including use of Siemens Simatic IT’s built-in data integration services (DIS) to establish the automatic exchange of data between various PIMS modules and customer systems, one ERP SAP-MMS system, and two SQL databases (part of proprietary mineral resource management systems). A real-time data server (RTDS) was configured and implemented to read data from PLCs and other OPC-compliant data sources via an OPC server.

Benefits delivered

The PCS/PIMS/panel build assured availability, reliability, and better plant operations with the latest distributed control system (DCS) technology, system redundancy and a PIMS system (MES layer) for real-time data capture. Information always is available online for real-time decision making capabilities, and maximized mining operations.

Ease of maintenance resulted from modular remote I/O cabinets with components that can be modified or replaced if and when necessary. Remote I/O and fewer cable runs also lowered installation costs and lifecycle costs.

Real-time information enabled faster troubleshooting, because the information enabled faster decision-making and proactive action to be taken.

Ongoing and remote 24/7 support for remote diagnostics and configuration eliminated the need to travel to the remote site.

Thorough simulation enabled the total commissioning time for the PIMS be completed and pass site acceptance testing in 18 days, allowing for a quick transition into commissioning the second mine.

Web demonstrations scheduled throughout the project ensured organizational buy-in and system acceptance across both mines.


ONLINE extra
Three winners offer advice. Click any of the following to learn more, with a link to a free podcast.

- More need for outside engineering expertise, says HiTech Control Systems : Control Engineering System Integrator of the Year winner.
- How system integration goals influence future: JMP Engineering ,
- How to overcome the economy, grow with technology: Brock Solutions ,

Also see other articles in the 2009 print edition of the Automation Integrator guide .





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