Rio Tinto has revealed plans to pilot an 'excellence centre' on Australia's east coast that will harness data analytics in a bid to fine-tune mining operations worldwide.
The prototype centre is anticipated to be one of a global network of proposed facilities that would focus on "real time (24x7) remote optimisation of our production systems", according to an August 2012 slide deck (pdf).
Rio Tinto's head of innovation John McGagh told iTnews that the Australia centre would be the first to go live.
"It's kind of online now," McGagh said.
"The actual dedicated facility ... with its own building will be online in November or December."
Excellence centres were not expected to rival the scale of Rio Tinto's remote operations centre in Perth, which controlled the miner's iron ore operations in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
However, if the Australian prototype centre proved successful, more of the facilities would be rolled out worldwide.
McGagh saw data analytics as an area where Rio Tinto could achieve "a lot of benefit" across the value chain.
"[From] the excellence centre that's coming [online], we can now pull data in near real-time as we need it," he said.
"We can recreate that data, we can apply online modelling tools and analysis, and we can then look for real time short-term opportunities to improve operations and also at medium and longer term [opportunities]."
McGagh saw the centres as an opportunity to tap into the expertise and skills of people that did not necessarily want to live out on mine sites, but could contribute to optimisation efforts.
He also saw the excellence centre program as a value-add for mines in the broader Rio Tinto family.
"The whole concept behind that is you actually want to generate franchised value for being part of the Rio Tinto suite of businesses," he said.
"Part of the franchised value is absolute operational excellence, and we think these tools are the next generation, [accessible] no matter where you are in the world".
According to Rio Tinto's presentation, the centres would be able to "connect to and interrogate real-time read-only process data from remote sites" while having "real-time links to site-based control operators", to whom they could feed analytics outcomes, also in real-time.
The centres would also be involved in condition-based monitoring and support, testing of human-machine interfaces, developing operator support tools and training, and providing ready-to-deploy control solutions to sites.
The excellence centre initiative is the latest move by Rio Tinto to make better use of the data being generated by its mine sites.
iTnews reported in March that the miner was also developing a system that could "generate a [3D] virtual representation of operations on the ground in real-time".