"While 'seeking common ground, and putting differences aside' may be the default approach for many in their work, Darren Zhang sees the value of his work in his unique ability to not only identify those 'differences' but also to leverage them for innovative solutions and insights."

Mineral Analyst - The Mastermind Behind Transforming Waste into Treasure

"After we identify the common characteristics of target ores and the differences in non-target ores, we need to highlight these differences, and select the ores based on these set algorithms," Darren explained the responsibilities of a mineral analyst at HPY Technology's testing center.

HPY Technology Co., Ltd. is committed to leveraging cutting-edge machine vision, AI algorithms, and deep learning theory in sensor-based ore sorting. Its machine plays a crucial role in cost reduction and efficiency improvement for mines, contributing significantly to the green transformation and sustainable development of the mining sector. However, the successful operation of each ore sorting machine necessitates specialized technicians. These technicians are tasked with setting sorting specifications, determining the most cost-effective parameters, and meticulously fine-tuning the machines to ensure seamless integration into the larger ore processing operations on-site.

Volume 2 of HPY Gem Squad introduced how Alfred, the Public Resource Manager, managed the testing center. He not only upgraded the sample processing procedures but also planned for HPY’s future automated three-dimensional warehouse.

Darren is responsible for the stage after the ore samples are received at the HPY facility - ore samples analysis.

This entails him doing several things: communicating with the front-end sales engineers of HPY; conducting tests and analysis on the ore samples based on the client’s goals and what their existing sorting distributions are; and formulating corresponding technical indicators.

For Darren, the experimental phase resembles a game of "Spot the Difference." When dealing with ores exhibiting clear external characteristics and easily identifiable metals like lithium and tungsten, he relies on a combination of naked-eye observation, specialized instruments, and his extensive professional expertise to conduct analysis.

"In the left image, lithium crystallization is obvious; in the right image, when comparing between ores containing lithium and ores that don't, the left ore is clearly showing crystallization." Darren demonstrated.

When faced with complex ore samples, he needs to use various skilled instruments and technology to ensure the accuracy of ore analysis.

Investigating the "Mystery" of Sorting Ores

In addition to conducting initial ore classification and analysis upon receiving the samples, when the preliminary experiments didn’t achieve the expected results, or when non-target ores appeared in the final sorted product, Darren also needs to perform some "investigative” measures. And this is the complicated part that cannot be done by machine.

In essence, when a client is tasked with extracting economically valuable metals from waste rock, unforeseen challenges may arise, akin to solving a mystery for Darren. These challenges could stem from various sources, such as ore materials overlapping on the belt conveyor, leading to misinterpretations in the imaging system, or elevated mud content creating interference in the imaging of ore surfaces. The potential causes are manifold.

The problems that Darren identified prompted the R&D team of HPY to make technological upgrades, effectively solving these issues. In recent years, to overcome the interference caused by traditional belts in the imaging detection of ores, HPY made a breakthrough innovation. It independently developed the Circle Series, the world's first ring-shaped sensor-based ore sorter. By integrating AI and machine vision with aerial imaging, it avoids the limitations posed by traditional conveyor belts, facilitating 360-degree ore detection and significantly enhancing processing capacity. This breakthrough transcends the constraints inherent in conventional sensor-based ore sorting processes.

"Different ores exhibit diverse characteristics and physical properties. Even within the same ore category, each mining operation presents unique demands and conditions. Confronted with a myriad of standards, achieving perfection consistently would be immensely gratifying," Darren elucidated. Transitioning into a mineral analyst resonates with Darren's personal interests, "I have a hobby for collecting exquisite rocks, such as quartz and fluorite. At HPY Technology, I encounter a wide array of ores that I rarely come across otherwise."

Mission Upgrade: Customized Solutions

When asked about encountering particularly intricate or time-consuming projects, Darren reflected, "HPY Technology began as a modest team specializing in the sale of sensor-based ore sorting machines. Over the years, we've evolved into a professional enterprise offering tailored sensor-based ore sorting solutions. This expansion has enabled us to directly address client needs, fostering both economic and social benefits. It's a core competitive advantage distinguishing us from peers in our industry. However, it also means dealing with clients who are yet to initiate the initial process design. In such scenarios, we confront more complex variables, necessitating the provision of highly specialized solutions tailored to the ore production process."

Darren emphasized, "Optimal performance data from experiments doesn't always translate into maximal economic benefits for our clients." Hence, he and his experimental team strive to strike a delicate balance for clients through a series of intricate experiments and assessments, aiming to satisfy sorting accuracy while maximizing processing capacity and economic value.

Towards the conclusion of the interview, the interviewer inquired whether Darren harbored concerns about the potential replacement of his role as a mineral analyst by artificial intelligence.

"AI is an undeniable and ongoing trend for the future," Darren acknowledged, wearing a relaxed expression. "Industrial manufacturing revolves around the continuous transformation of raw resources into essential commodities. While technology now excels at identifying ore characteristics that are challenging to discern with the naked eye, current machinery still relies on data provided by humans and subsequent adjustments. However, it's conceivable that some of my job responsibilities may undergo further subdivision in the future."

In a sense, Darren's role parallels that of the elder women manually selecting ores on the process line, as highlighted in the inaugural volume of HPY Gem Squad. However, his position remains indispensable due to his capacity for innovation, problem-solving, and proficiency in analyzing vast datasets. HPY Technology maintains that the advancement of technology in the mining industry hinges on the expertise of professionals, thereby streamlining repetitive tasks and enhancing efficiency.

To further this objective, HPY Technology forged a strategic partnership with a globally recognized mineral resources research institution at the close of last year. This collaboration aims to attract more adept professionals capable of managing machinery and outperforming artificial intelligence systems.

HPY embraces the ethos of harnessing collective expertise to drive innovation, promote sustainable practices, and generate value beyond mere extraction. Looking ahead, HPY Technology plans to engage with a diverse pool of talents both domestically and internationally to propel theoretical and practical research in mining technological innovation. This concerted effort aims to reshape the mining landscape towards a more responsible and sustainable future.