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Client story

Eramet digitalizes sustainability efforts in Senegal

Client: Eramet
Region: France/Senegal
Industry: Mining

The mining and metallurgic company collaborates with Capgemini Invent to develop the Connected Concession application to automate the census of vegetation over mined land, identify opportunities for re-vitalization, and help build stronger relationships with local communities

Client Challenge: Eramet’s Senegalese subsidiary, Grande Côte Operations (GCO), set out to minimize the environmental impact of its mining operations and improve its ability to rehabilitate land.
Solution: Partnering with Capgemini Invent, GCO developed the Connected Concessions application, which utilizes drone imaging to optimize mining activity and improve rehabilitation efforts.

  • Reduced ecological impact of mining activity
  • Improved revegetation of previously mined land
  • Safer environment for employees
  • Reduced annual operating costs by €‎300,000

Despite a global push to act against climate change and reduce negative ecological factors, many raw materials upon which people rely unfortunately still require potentially damaging activity. Eramet, a leading mining and metallurgical group based in France, knows this all too well. While mining activity often causes environmental damage, the company has dedicated itself to revolutionizing the technology involved and establishing itself as a benchmark for the responsible processing of natural resources.

In Senegal, Eramet operates through its local subsidiary, Grande Côte Operations (GCO), which extracts minerals of interest, such as ilmenite, zircon, and rutile from desert sands. To do so, the business operates in a concession area 106 km long and 4 km wide using unique operating procedures built around a dredger and nomadic concentration plant that operate in an artificial basin. Such processes enable Eramet to extract minerals from sand while minimizing the use of chemicals and energy consumption.

In accordance with its own action plan for land preservation and to fulfill its obligation to the Senegalese Directorate of Water, Forests, Hunting, and Soil Conservation, GCO set out to develop a solution that would make the revitalization of mined land safer, easier, and more effective.

“Because we have an impact on the environment and on people, our goal in the years to come is that this impact is minimized or positive,” describes Ludovic Donati, Chief Digital and Performance Officer at Eramet.

Developing a plan for more sustainable practices

Eramet partnered with Capgemini Invent to identifyopportunities to optimize operational efficiency and minimize the environmental impact of its Mineralized Sands business unit (Grand Côte Opération – GCO) using digital technology. In 2020, GCO and Capgemini Invent began developing a roadmap involving optimization plans for the mine’s path, water management, extraction mechanism, and energy consumption. The flagship initiative was Connected Concession, a project focused on improving Eramet’s management of the vegetation census and monitoring of mined land in support of rehabilitation efforts. Throughout this process, GCO also emphasized strengthening its relationship with local communities in Senegal and increasing the agricultural potential of local populations.

“The GCO site has fully implemented the partnership between Eramet and Capgemini Invent,” Ludovic Donati explains. “Together, we have built a vision that is: ‘How can we implement digital transformation on this site? What do we want to do with digital?’ with very operational aspects and CSR aspects.”

From among the various projects suggested by the roadmap, Eramet prioritized the Connected Concession application, which began development late in 2020. While the engagement took place fully remotely in compliance with regulations related to the COVID-19 pandemic, GCO and Capgemini Invent formed a tightly-bound team that included the primary intended users – GCO’s Topography and Environment teams – maintained consistent communication in order to design a digital solution to support the mining company’s sustainability mission.

“In its business, GCO has a duty to restore land to the authorities while respecting biodiversity,” explains Papa Mamadou Diouf, Chief Digital Officer at GCO.

Hugo Cascarigny, Senior Director at Capgemini Invent, elaborates: “To do this, you need to have very good knowledge, very good visibility of the biomass, vegetation and, in particular, trees.”

Visualizing mining territory in Senegal

Connected Concession focuses on drone imaging to create a comprehensive map of GCO’s designated mining area. Once a week, the business’ surveying division flies its drones over the path that the mine is predicted to travel as well as areas already under rehabilitation, gradually covering the entire region over the course of multiple flights. The collected images are then transmitted in near real time to Eramet’s Azure Cloud, after which they are processed and exposed in the GCO Geographic Information System (GIS).

These treatments involved algorithms that combine computer vision and advanced, deep-learning AI that scan for objectives of interest, which include trees, bushes, fields, and certain types of buildings. Prior to the application’s launch, GCO and Capgemini Invent adapted existing algorithms to better fit the specific challenges posed by the Senegalese desert.

Once the image review completes, the identified objects are then precisely geolocated and added to a dedicated map. In addition, GCO cross-references these details with the mine’s geographical reference system to form a more comprehensive understanding of the entire area.

Success prepares Eramet for the future

Following the launch of the Connected Concession application, GCO has used the tool to reduce the negative impact of its mining activity and assist with re-vegetation efforts for the land it has used. In addition, the solution helps to identify areas that are particularly fruitful for crop introduction, enabling the company and local communities to revitalize the territory.

“Before the Connected Concession application, dozens of people were sent into the field for information gathering that can now be obtained directly with the deployment of drones via the collected images,” Diouf describes.

By relying on drones, GCO has largely eliminated the need for employees to undergo long, arduous trips into potentially dangerous areas in order to gather information. This has also contributed to an overall reduction of annual operating costs by €300,000‎. As a demonstration of Eramet’s commitment toward local communities, the company has made its first restitution of reclaimed land in Senegal while improving the biodiversity of those areas.

Despite this success, the partners will continue to pursue innovation that will support land rehabilitation. Already, GCO and Capgemini Invent have begun work to develop new features that will expand the capabilities of the Connected Concession tool. These will include capabilities like water resource monitoring, road detection, and alternate route proposals for the mine.

Through their partnership, Eramet and Capgemini Invent have already greatly furthered the effort to support land rehabilitation in Senegal, representing a huge step towards fulfilling the sustainability goals of both organizations.