In a groundbreaking collaboration, BHP and Microsoft have embarked on a venture utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning to enhance copper recovery at the largest copper mine worldwide.
The application of cutting-edge digital technology to optimize concentrator performance at BHP's Escondida operation in Chile holds the potential to significantly improve copper recovery.
Laura Tyler, BHP's Chief Technical Officer, emphasized the team's position to generate greater value from existing resources by harnessing the capabilities of new digital technology in conjunction with innovative work practices.
"As grades decline at established copper mines and the number of economically viable discoveries diminishes, the next generation of technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics will be instrumental in unlocking additional production and value from our current mines," she stated.
According to BHP, the demand for copper is projected to double over the next 30 years compared to the previous three decades, driven by the advancement of decarbonization technologies like electric vehicles, offshore wind farms, and solar farms, as assumed in its 1.5-degree scenario.
John Montgomery, CVP of AI Platform at Microsoft, expressed excitement about the transformative nature of the project, highlighting the power of AI, machine learning, and cloud technologies in this collaboration with BHP.
By combining real-time plant data from the concentrators with AI-based recommendations from Microsoft's Azure platform, the operators at Escondida will have the ability to adjust operational variables that impact ore processing and grade recovery.
BHP, positioned as one of the world's top three copper producers, boasts the largest copper endowment among global companies. For over three decades, BHP has successfully operated Escondida, an open-cut mine situated in the Atacama Desert in the Antofagasta Region of northern Chile.