BHP and Microsoft use AI to boost copper recovery at Escondida

Escondida mine in Chile. Image from BHP.

A new collaboration between the world’s biggest miner, BHP (NYSE: BHP ASX: BHP) and Microsoft has used artificial intelligence and machine learning with the aim of improving copper recovery at the world’s largest copper mine.

The use of new digital technology to optimize concentrator performance at BHP’s Escondida operation in Chile is expected to improve copper recovery.

BHP chief technical officer Laura Tyler said by augmenting new digital technology capabilities with new ways of working, the team at Escondida is positioned 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,” Tyler said in a statement. “As grades decline at existing copper mines and fewer new economic discoveries are made, next-generation technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics will need to be used to unlock more production and value from our existing mines.”

In its 2020 Climate Change Report, BHP estimates the world would 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 decarbonization technology such as electric vehicles, offshore wind and solar farms assumed under its 1.5 degree scenario.

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.