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Anglo American uses technology developed by NASA at Quellaveco mine in Peru

Quellaveco’s processing plant dome. (Image by Anglo American).

Anglo American (LON: AAL) announced the implementation of digital twins at its Quellaveco copper mine in southern Peru.

Using sensors installed throughout the operation, the idea is to create a virtual replica of the mine where all processes are shown and which allows to carry out predictive tests to help reduce security risks, optimize resource use and improve equipment performance.

The replicas, also known as mirrors, are controlled by an Integrated Operations Center, which is considered “the brain” of Quellaveco.

In a press release, Anglo said that there are digital twins of the grinding system, flotation, tailings management, water control, and electrical system, among other areas. Using artificial intelligence, these twins ‘learn’ how things are supposed to work out and provide recommendations that avoid equipment or process failures, thus optimizing costs and time.

As an example, Anglo mentioned the possibility of inputting a parameter for a pump and seeing how it behaves. If it doesn’t work properly, the parameter can be changed as many times as needed until the right data lead to efficient results that can be taken into the real world.

“NASA used this technology for the first time more than 50 years ago, to rescue the crew of the Apollo 13 mission, after their spaceship suffered a malfunction and they were not able to land on the moon,” Anglo said in a statement. “With the development of the Internet of Things and information management based on artificial intelligence, digital twins have made an impressive technological leap and are now used in different industries.”

According to the miner, Quellaveco is the first 100% digital mine in Peru and is among the first ones to implement digital twin technology to improve efficiency and safety.

The mine, which received $5.5 billion in investments, began pilot production of copper concentrate last July and it is expected to yield between 80,000 and 100,000 tonnes in 2022. Once operations ramp up, production is forecast to reach 300,000 tonnes per year in its first 10 years.

Quellaveco is owned by Anglo American and Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp, holding 60% and 40% of capital, respectively.