Digital mining is a broad term describing the enhancement of the physical mining method through the use of digital models, simulations, analytics, controls and associated feedbacks. Mining optimisation will be improved through increased digitisation and real-time interactions via a “digital twin”, however digitisation of the rock mass component of this system remains problematic. While engineered systems can be digitally twinned, natural systems containing inherent uncertainties present challenges, especially where human-intensive procedures are required. This is further complicated, since the mining system is designed not only to interact with, but to substantially and continually alter its surrounding environment. Considering digital twin requirements and geological modelling capabilities, we assess the potential for a mine’s synchronised digital twin to encompass the complex, uncertain, geological domain within which it interacts. We find that current geological (and indeed hydro-geological) models and simulations would support digitisation that could be considered to provide, at best, a digitised ‘cousin’. Based on this assessment, the digital twin’s value for medium term forecasting of mining operations may be limited and we discuss technological advancements that can mitigate this.
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