Glencore executes Mount Isa remote inspections

Image: The University of Queensland

The University of Queensland has extended the use of its remote plant inspection technology to Glencore’s Mount Isa copper and zinc-lead-silver mines in Queensland.

The remote survey coordination method was developed by Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre (JKMRC) to maintain site engagement and deliver research outcomes to mineral processing plants amid COVID-19 restrictions.

Through the use of video streaming, the JKMRC research experts can engage with site personnel without requiring teams to travel to a mine site and undertake hands-on testing.

JKMRC senior research fellow and process performance specialist Lizette Verster said the novel approach offered a flexible, robust and practical alternative to the conventional method.

“Usually when one conducts a survey like this, it would involve a team of researchers travelling to a site, staying there for a minimum of a week, and working closely with site personnel,” she said.

“In this case, rather than us having a representative attend the site who coordinates the work, Glencore nominated an on-site representative who took responsibility and worked with us to ensure they had the information required to perform the survey.

“We set-up a video link between Glencore’s Mount Isa Mines copper processing team as well as the metallurgical laboratory so we could observe and direct the test work as it was being performed.”

Lizette underlined the importance of establishing a safe mobile link in line with the site’s safety requirements.

All remote viewing equipment allowed for hands-free operation and was protected against dust and water exposure, she said.

“We opted to mount a smartphone on a hard hat or, alternatively a chest harness, that allowed site personnel to freely move around the plant while continuously streaming audio-visual data, and allowing for two-way communication,” she said.

“We are definitely pursuing this method going forward as it allows for the effective remote coordination of site work.”

Glencore’s Mount Isa mines senior process engineer Roxanne O’Donnell was also impressed with the ease in using video streaming to enable the remote testing.

“This approach minimised the need for people to come onsite, and proved very effective in streamlining the analysis of our mineral processing operations,” she said.