Inside This South African Smelter, Software Is Going Platinum
By P.D. Olson – Demand for platinum, also known as the rich man’s gold, has been growing because of a long list of evolving industrial applications, including computer memory chips, dental crowns, defibrillators, catalytic converters for cars and even wedding bands.
The metal is so rare that miners and smelters literally move mountains to extract only a few hundred tons of the metal out of the earth’s crust every year. Following an expensive and time-consuming process, it takes them half a year and around 12 tons of ore to produce just a single troy ounce, or 31.1 grams, of platinum worth around $1,100.
No wonder producers like Lonmin, a platinum-mining company in South Africa, where 70 percent of the world’s platinum is produced, are looking for an upgrade.
Percy French, operations manager at Lonmin, is betting on a digital solution. A decade ago, he began using a smelter software application from GE’s Digital Mine suite to make his operation more efficient. By 2016 the software had helped him increase throughput at Lonmin.
Based on this early success, French upgraded his systems to include a new application that allows him to track plant performance and key performance indicators and also automate operations. The app, called Operations Performance Management (OPM), uses real-time and historical data along with advanced analytics to help Lonmin make better-informed operational decisions and help the plant troubleshoot and prevent issues with its machines and other assets. So far, the app has reduced chemical waste at Lonmin by 3 percent and has led to a 10 percent improvement in throughput. more>