Australian mining giant BHP and Microsoft have announced a partnership to improve copper recovery at the global resources company’s Escondida mine.
BHP predicts the world will need to double the amount of copper produced over the next 30 years, relative to the past 30, to keep pace with the development of decarbonisation technology such as electric vehicles, offshore wind and solar farms.
As a response, the company launched the Copper Concentrator Challenge in September 2022 to increase copper recovery at its Escondida mine. Located in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, Escondida produces over one million metric tons of copper per annum.
BHP Chief Technical Officer Laura Tyler said by augmenting new digital technology capabilities with new ways of working, the team at Escondida had been able to generate more value from an existing resource.
“We expect the next big wave in mining to come from the advanced use of digital technologies.”
“We are excited to partner with BHP on this transformative project that demonstrates the power of AI, machine learning and cloud technologies”, said John Montgomery, CVP, AI Platform at Microsoft.
By using real-time plant data from the concentrators in combination with AI-based recommendations from Microsoft’s Azure platform, the concentrator operators at Escondida will have the ability to adjust operational variables that affect ore processing and grade recovery.
BHP uses real-time plant data from the copper concentrators and Azure Machine Learning to make hourly predictions. These predictions are then used to create machine learning–assisted recommendations for its Escondida operations team.