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MEI Online: General Minerals Engineering: Latest News: August 24th 2010


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:: Innovation in Process Technology Ensures Award for Metso in Australia

Metso SmartTagTM: Ore Tracking from Mines to Ports has won the Queensland State iAward in the category of Industrial Application, competing alongside world leading edge technologies.

SmartTagTM is an innovative system for marking and tracking ores from mines (surface or underground) to processing plants and through subsequent storage, transportation and further transformation processes. The system was developed by Metso's Process Technology and Innovation business unit (PTI) located in Brisbane, Australia. Marking and tracking ores through the mining processes enables spatially based ore characteristics in the mine such as ore hardness, fragmentation and mineral content to be linked with time based performance in the processing plants. Measurement using SmartTagTM then allows operating parameters and control strategies in the mine and processing plant to be adjusted and optimized, thereby reducing costs and increasing profitability.

Metso PTI are currently extending application of the SmartTagTM system to mark and track ore from mines through ports to final destinations offshore, allowing not only optimization of the mining process, but also monitoring and optimization of the transport logistics to final consumers, such as iron and steel producers in the cases of iron ore and coal.

The iAward is a highly regarded technology innovation awards program, which has been hosted by the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) for the past 16 years. The AIIA represents Australia's information and communications technology industry, which generates annual revenues of around US$ 40 billion.

Metso Senior Vice President for Process Technology and Innovation, Dr. Walter Valery, commended the team involved in the development and commercialization of SmartTagTM.

"This award is a great recognition of our continuous effort to provide technological solutions and services to our customers in the mining and construction industries in Australia and globally. The combination of specialized skills and motivation of our team, together with the proximity with our customers through our consulting services, allows us to successfully develop and apply our systems and techniques", he stated.

The winning team: Reece Canham, Michael Wortley and Walter Valery

In a mine, different ore characteristics have a direct impact on subsequent processing, whose objective is to separate and concentrate minerals of economic interest.

SmartTagTM is a tool to identify and track with great accuracy the origin of the ore and its characteristics through the mining processes. The system utilizes chips equipped with RFID technology, encased for protection in a highly-resistant polymer capable of withstanding blasting and subsequent transportation, storage and size reduction processes, such as crushing and screening. Each chip-casing unit or tag is inserted into the rock mass in the same holes where blasting explosives are placed. The tags survive blasting and move with the fragmented ore through the process where they are detected and identified by special detectors that are positioned along conveyor belts. The tags do not require batteries and can remain dormant for months or years with the ore in stockpiles or storage bins, without losing their functionality.

The use of SmartTagTM system allows tracking and correlation of the ore characteristics and quality with important operating parameters in the mine and processing plant, such as ore dilution, fragmentation, stockpile residence times, segregation, energy consumption, metal recovery, etc. With such knowledge, operating parameters can be optimized to rapidly respond to changes in ore characteristics, reducing operating costs and increases the profitability of the business.

The initial idea of creating a marker and tracking device capable of remaining intact throughout the entire mining process was developed by Walter Valery, David La Rosa (PTI Products Manager) and Michael Wortley (Manager for Product Development). Also key contributors to the development were: Reece Canham (Senior Development Technician), Ben Connolly (Software Development) and Michael Pike (Tag Capsule Development).

The development of the system began in 2004. The first commercial application of SmartTagTM took place in major mines in Chile two years later. In 2007, larger scale production of the system was established. In 2010, there are applications of SmartTagTM in Australia, Chile, Peru, Brazil, South Africa and USA and the system was given a new interface and won at the Queensland State iAwards in Australia.




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