Hackathon unearths new mining solutions

PRESS RELEASE: Over 90 participants came together at the fourth Unearthed Perth hackathon, which took place over the weekend of 19-21 May at CORE Innovation Hub. Newcrest Mining, South32 and Unearthed each provided an industry challenge for participants at the event to solve
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Staff reporter

Students and professionals from the science, engineering, business, entrepreneurial, software development and mathematics disciplines put their skills to the test, with only 54 hours to discover novel solutions to real-world resources sector problems.

At the opening night of Unearthed Perth, Newcrest General Manager Phil Stephenson said he was pleasantly surprised that so many people were willing to give up their weekend to solve the company’s challenges.

Gavin Wood, Chief Information Officer at Newcrest Mining said that their fifth collaboration with Unearthed was a continuation of a great partnership that draws in the wisdom of the crowd.

“Collaboration is an important part of our approach to innovation at Newcrest and is going to be key to super-charging the innovation effort within the mining industry, in order to enable us to succeed amidst ever more challenging operating conditions facing the industry. The work that was done in the room over the hackathon can have a real impact on what we do at our mining operations,” he said.

South 32 Chief Technology Officer, Ricus Grimbeek said that Unearthed provides a great opportunity to tap into creative minds and explore new ideas that can help optimise their business.

“We see technology as an enabler for the next wave of safety and productivity improvements across our business,” he said.

After an intense weekend of hard work and little sleep, 17 teams pitched their solutions to the three diverse challenges to the esteemed judging panel and their fellow participants.

First prize was taken out by Team Murdoch, a group of engineers from Murdoch University who developed a new safety isolation smart lock that integrates with an SAP visualiser in response to South32’s Isolation Design Challenge.

“Isolation locks are digitally transformed with Embedded systems that utilise RFID identification and Wi-Fi communication through a long-life battery. The signals are transmitted Live to an SAP Visualiser app, which displays the plant layout and acts as an interface with a live P&ID diagram that guides the isolation officer through the permit and confirms the functional isolation of the system. Live feedback is given for any unplanned changes to the isolation order and ensures the safety of all people involved,” said team member Brice Gower.

In addition to winning $2,500 in cash and $3,000 in AWS credits, Team Murdoch now have the unique opportunity to present their solution alongside senior level executives from mining companies, METS, government and research organisations at the biennial 2017 Austmine Conference on Tuesday 23 May.

Chute to Kill won second place for Goldeneye; a proposed solution to Newcrest’s challenge to increase gold production, which uses livemonitoring to predict and eliminate unplanned outages of the ore crusher chutes due to blockages.

“We have created a solution for directly measuring how blocked a chute is by adding instrumentation directly to the chute. Three sets of sensors neatly complement each other: a camera at the top of the chute, a set of load cells on the mounting points of the chute and an industrial microphone,” said team member Quenten Thomas.

The young innovator award went to a team from the University of Western Australia’s System Health Lab for the fourth year running. Team AMI tackled Unearthed’s Future of Industry Sound Challenge, by developing an acoustic mapper and isolator prototype; a four-part solution that comprises a multi microphone array, machine learning methods, a sound data cloud library and a user interface.

Soundscape won the people’s choice award for their creative approach to the Unearthed challenge; a machine learning application that uses a sound library of simulated SAG mill sounds under different operating conditions to pull out and distinguish different sound features of the acoustics recorded. Two of the members of Soundscape are hackathon superstars John Vial and Hilary Goh, who have participated at eight and five Unearthed events respectively.