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NextGEN: Remote Operations & Automation – Bridging the Distance


Our phosphate mining operations cover hundreds of acres, and we mine potash a mile underground. “Next generation” technology is helping us virtually bridge those distances with new remote operations and automation that provide better working conditions for our employeesincrease equipment runtime and improve our ability to coordinate activity across our operations. 


Two focus areas of our NextGEN work – Integrated Operations Centers and Automation & Process Control – are coming together in new ways as we continue using technology to transform our business. Remote operation capabilities being designed into our Integrated Operations Centers and automation are enabling us to operate, monitor and manage equipment in safer, more efficient and predictable ways – sometimes from miles away or a mile above.  

Remote operations and automation are crucial to the continued success of our business for many reasons, but primarily because they provide better working conditions for our employees, increase equipment runtime and improve our ability to coordinate activity across our operations.  

“Being able to remotely operate equipment allows our employees to work in safer, more comfortable conditions where they have access to all the information and resources they need,” explains Chris Hagemo, Sr. Director, Digital Strategy. “Automation allows us to reduce repetitive, tedious tasks and those involving potentially hazardous work so our employees can invest their time and talent in safer and more engaging work.”  

An example of progress is the remote pit operations in the Integrated Operations Center at our FishHawk Office.  

Remote Pit Operations   

Pit operators at our Four Corners facility used to drive miles over unpaved, often times muddy terrain to work in small trailers that were very carefully moved around with draglines. This presented potential operational hazards and impacted dragline runtime as the trailers were repositioned.  

Now, some of the pit operators may have a little longer drive – but they drive on paved roads and pull up to the same location at the start of every shift. Inside the new Integrated Operations Center at our FishHawk office, they work a 12-hour shift in state-of-the-art remote operations stations that can be adjusted based on their individual preferences and ergonomic needs. They also have direct access to Logistics Coordinators and others who manage the mine plan and to real-time information about dragline, beneficiation plant and pumping system performance. 

Four Corners’ five “slurry” pits are now being remotely operated from the new Integrated Operations Center at our FishHawk office. Operators use state-of-the-art remote operations stations to control high-pressure water guns near the draglines that “slurry” the matrix we mine so it can be pumped through pipes to the beneficiation plant where it is separated into phosphate, sand and clay.

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