Lonmin - IS³ - Industry Software Solutions & Support

Lonmin’s improved batch tracking and monitoring saves millions

MINING, MINERALS & METALS

Goals

  • Allow for the build-up of materials for processing;
  • Track the genealogy and content of materials;
  • Track process variables and statistics;
  • Provide electronic log sheets;
  • Provide full production reporting facilities and
  • Cater for full integration between the lab, the automation system and MES

Challenges

  • Protect the intellectual property of the process
  • Ensure system maintainability
  • Cross-skilling between teams
  • Ensure cost saving
  • Short timelines and limited resources

Results

  • Once-off cost saving of R300 million
  • Saving of R20-R30 million by doing this project internally
  • Batch tracking and batching of real-time information
  • Standards ensured consistency, automation of PLC code generation, reusability of code/objects and ease of integration
  • Fully-integrated “shop floor to top floor” architecture

Solutions & Products

“We’ve been able to use the industrial IT technologies from Wonderware to give us the exact batch monitoring and tracking picture in a brand new and complex process – and we did it all in-house. We have never before had this granularity of insight into our complex batch management.”

Gawie Reyneke, MES and MRM Manager, Lonmin

Marikana complex, Northwest Province, South Africa

Maintaining profitability in a high value industry, such as in precious metals mining and refining, has become increasingly challenging given the prevailing low commodity prices and the increasing cost pressures.

By automating its batch tracking and monitoring process using advancements in processing technologies, Lonmin has given production personnel the ability to increase first-pass efficiency resulting in a significant cost saving and reduction in cycle time of precious metals from mine to market.

Background

Lonmin had designed a new process to extract Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) from bulk ore but the complexity of this process required it to be fully automated. This would reduce process variability while at the same time improving the consistency of operations between operators. In addition, the system would have to:

n  Allow for the build-up of materials for processing – in this environment, each batch is different as it is based on the assay of the raw materials – yet the final product has to maintain a consistent quality;

  • Track the genealogy and content of materials;
  • Track process variables and statistics;
  • Provide electronic log sheets;
  • Provide full production reporting facilities and
  • Cater for full integration between the lab, the automation system and MES.

Implementation

“When we found ourselves in the middle of a five-month strike during 2014, we sought ways to improve our processes and efficiencies,” says Gawie Reyneke, Lonmin’s MES and MRM Manager. “So we decided to focus on an in-house implementation that would result in a new production process and management system that was innovative from top to bottom and that would save us millions.”

Some of the reasons why Lonmin decided to do the development themselves included:

  • IP protection – the company needed to protect the intellectual property that contributed to the new process and outsourcing the project could compromise this;
  • Maintainability and cross-skilling – the two teams representing the Platinum Metal Refinery and the Marikana operation were brought together in order to increase knowledge of the system and its maintainability
  • Reduce development and implementation costs – since operations had all but stopped, keeping costs as low as possible was a high priority.

Roles of the various system components:

Batch and material tracking system – Creates a batch, allocates material to be processed and downloads batch number to the SCADA control system:

  • SCADA  – The operator selects a new batch and downloads it to the PLC for processing
  • PLC – Processes and tracks the batch
  • Application Server – Creates batch events and communicates event times to MES while Historian stores the raw data.
  • LIMS – Manages quality data and provides decision-support assay data.

MES – Downloads quality data to the SCADA system. It also records, aggregates and stores all data

The data collection process for batches includes logging the start and end times of events as flagged by the PLC. These events are transferred to the MES which then synchronises them with related tag data before storing everything in Historian. All the batch data is collated and aggregated on a daily and monthly basis for analysis as well as process correction and optimisation.

“The available information has allowed us to reduce the cycle time between batches and we see lots of opportunities for improvements of this nature,” says Reyneke. “The mass balance report gives us a great deal of information regarding process efficiency and performance on a month- and year-to-date basis.”

The magnitude of the project included four reactor vessels and two separation columns in phase 1 and 18 reactor vessels, two boilers and 14 makeup tanks in phase 2. The system monitors 487 events comprised of 1872 tags for 187 users.