MINING HACKERS 'ROCK & ROLL' AT RIVER CITY LABS
Written on the 9 March 2016 by Laura Daquino
IT WAS all rock and roll for Newcrest Mining (ASX: NCM) and BHP Billiton (ASX: BHP) at Brisbane co-working community River City Labs this week.
Mentoring by the multi-nationals was worth its weight in gold at Steve Baxter's tech co-working community, where 64 participants addressed four key industry challenges related to the mining sector in a 54-hour Hackathon event.
Over 50 students from University of Queensland and Queensland University of Technology registered for the event.
Challenges covered a number of industry problems from optimising current processes to real-time predictive maintenance.
The winning team, Principle Kinect (pictured right), took stock on Newcrest's challenge concerning fragmentation in next generation cave mining, and runners-up Rock n' Roll delivered a time-saving solution for the same problem.
Principle Kinect member and QUT engineering student, Byron Mejia, says his team used an Xbox Kinect device to gather point data from stockpiles to estimate fragmentation volume in real time for Newcrest.
Mejia says Newcrest explained its difficulty in extracting rocks of varying sizes at different locations. Extracting evenly may cause crumbling, while chopping individual rocks back is laborious.
"The frustration on the first day with trying to get the mining industry data to run our computers led us to the idea the reality was that we didn't have powerful enough technology," says Mejia.
"Xbox Kinect is recent but not as resource intensive. It's using off-the-shelf products as opposed to the heavier equipment the mining industry currently operates.
"We used Xbox data to automate and streamline the data, a bit like a factory, and the judges seemed really surprised."
Newcrest's other challenge related to cyclone feed pumps, while BHP Billiton Coal posed challenges concerning autocorrelation of borehole and imaging data, and chain of custody for drilling samples.
Newcrest's chief transformation officer, Brad Sampson, told the Hackathon that untraditional collaboration could deliver significant step changes for the gold producer, which is currently an early mover bucking the trend of the broader resources sector.
The Melbourne-based company's share price has risen from $12.29 to $17.41 in the past year. Newcrest is Australia's largest gold producer.
"Newcrest has a strong history of growth and innovation, obtaining value from previously marginal, difficult ore bodies," says Sampson.
"An important element of Newcrest's strategy is the adoption, adaption and development of innovative techniques and processes.
"We recognise that open collaboration with innovative thinkers from outside the traditional mining sphere can produce significant step changes."