This is me, 900 meters underground at a Lilou Coal Mine in Shandong China.
Why am I here, you may ask? Well, I was here to discover what AI truly is!
Now, these days, when you talk about AI, many people think about ChatGPT, Midjourney or the AI algorithm on YouTube. But you know what? I’m here to tell you that the world of AI is much, much bigger. So BIG that it also plays a HUGE part in the traditional industry’s digital transformations too!
Now, recently, HUAWEI released its very own Pangu AI Model 3.0, AI for Industries. This Pangu AI model is a revolution and is designed to quickly adapt to over 10 industries, including healthcare, weather forecast, finance, and mining too.
Today, I’ll be talking about how it can be used for a mining site when I visited the Lilou Coal Mine in Shandong to experience this amazing technology myself.
Now, you’ll probably be wondering among all the industries, why mining? Well, in case you did not know, the mining industry is one of the high-risk places to work due to many factors that involve the current working condition. So it’s not exactly a walk in the park, my friend.
The whole entire working condition is complex and involves a lot of steps where the conditions are tough than you can ever imagine. And with that condition, sometimes there are safety issues, and things can get very complicated when they have to make changes in their current workflow.
For example, if they want to use a new tool in one part of the mine, the mining company needs to retrain all the workers, which can be very time-consuming and also expensive as well.
So with this comes an amazing collaboration between Shandong Energy Group, a very well-known company in the mining industry with more than 580 achievements awarded, $10 billion invested in coal mines, with a total of 115 mines including 85 production mines worldwide!
And this collaboration is with none other than HUAWEI, which I’m very sure you know by now how they have been the leading ICT company for over 170+ countries and regions. And I’ll explain further why this collaboration makes sense later on.
So with this collaboration, they’ve joined forces to come up with a way to make things more efficient and safer, which is the Pangu Mining Model. Now, think of this as a brain, artificial intelligence or AI that understands all the parts of the mine that can help to manage it better, which they call the “5+N+X” three-layer architecture.
So as the name suggests, the brain has three layers:
- The bottom layer or L0 is the Foundation Model that knows general skills like multimodal, scientific computing, and prediction for general applications.
- Then the middle layer or L1 is the Industry Model that knows about the industry-tailored models and together with HUAWEI Cloud, it can provide customers with open industry datasets.
- Then the third layer or L2 is the Scenario Model, which understands specific tasks in the mining industry that goes into details like quality inspections, conveyor belt monitoring, anomaly detection, and more.
But here is the cool part: this model is not only for mining. Because this Pangu AI model is helping companies solve real-world problems in areas, for example, the Pangu Weather Model, where this is the first AI model that can forecast global weather more accurately than conventional methods, which can forecast the weather for the next hour to the next seven days within seconds, which is 10,000x faster and 20% more accurate!
And this model even got featured in one of the top science journals, Nature, in July. So yes, this is truly a versatile brain!
Unveiling The Pangu Mine Model
Alright, now let’s go in deep, not 900 meters like how I went physically, but in this article, I’ll let you dive deep into the Pangu Mine Model a bit more. In case you did not know, that coal mining in China is a huge operation with 2.8 million workers working in 4,400 coal mines.
And with the help of this AI model, many of these miners do NOT even have to go underground anymore. Instead, the AI can take over certain tasks so they can operate in a safer environment, hence reducing any risk of potential danger of always being underground. It can run very efficiently with just a small underground crew or even no underground crew at all.
Now, this shift towards AI is driven by a couple of factors. Firstly, it can solve some problems they have been having like expensive retraining issues. And secondly, it can relieve miners from some of the more difficult tasks, especially with the current environment down there.
And the Pangu mining model also enables unsupervised self-learning, covering over 300 core scenarios in coal mining operations from digging, transportation, communication, and more, where this model streamlines AI applications in numerous coal mining scenarios.
So yes, that’s a whole lot of wins by implementing this particular model.
Shandong Energy & HUAWEI Collaboration: The Power of Partnership
So why did Shandong Energy Group decide to collaborate with HUAWEI then? Well, simple, HUAWEI isn’t just a tech giant, but it’s also a leader in AI, where HUAWEI has over 114,000 employees just for R&D alone.
And with that, HUAWEI also hopes to take the coal mining industry to a whole new level because this means that they can start seeing big changes in how coal mines are run, making them way safer and more efficient in the future.
System Tasks Scenarios
When first introduced, the team started with pilot projects to test the system. They selected various tasks from 9 operations in the mine, and these tasks ranged from safety supervision to tunneling and lifting. So we are talking about tasks like:
- Monitoring if the workers are wearing their safety gear properly
- Keeping track of how many people were needed per shift
- Making sure that inspections were done way correctly, like the conveyor belt monitoring
- Controlling irregular coal loads, and more
Now, what happens is that the AI camera system uses real-time data from video footage from the mine to handle this task. If a problem came up, they would fix it or alert humans to act on it.
What’s more is that this system learning could also be shared across Shandong Energy’s whole group, meaning if a solution is found in one mine, it can help over 70 other mines in the group. So it’s like having an expert worker that could be in every mine at once!
There is a very accurate example in China where coal mines often experience something called “Rock Bursts” which can be really dangerous. Now, to prevent those, the miners need to drill holes to relieve stress in the rocks both horizontally and vertically.
So now the Pangu models could analyze how well the holes were being drilled and this helped in checking the quality of work, reducing the amount of manual checking by a massive 82%, and speeding up the whole process from 3 days to just 10 minutes!
Then the AI was also used to detect abnormal conditions in multi-rope friction hoists, which essentially are elevators used in mines. Therefore, by installing a high-speed AI camera to analyze the footage for any abnormal conditions, as soon as a problem is spotted, an alarm would go off and the maintenance staff could rush into that.
Now, another instance that AI was used is to monitor large particles during the stage of coal preparation, which is called the Medium Recycle Stage. So how it works is that the AI system would send an alert if large particles were building up, reducing workloads and improving the overall process.
Then sometimes, coal could fall off the hoist and pile up at the bottom of the mine shaft. Now this could be really dangerous, blocking the view of the roadway and also threatening the safety of the workers.
And here’s where by installing the high-definition camera and using the AI vision algorithms, the system could detect any buildup of coal in real-time depending on how severe of a situation, ensuring that the piled-up coal will be cleared quickly and maintaining overall safety.
So in conclusion, my take on this mining site visit is that it is extremely clear how AI is not only changing the world from a consumer level but also totally transforming the way industries work, especially in the traditional industries. And the mining industry is a prime example of this amazing transformation. So yes, my friend, the future is indeed very exciting!