Innovative Strategies and Technological Advancements: A Conversation with C Chandru, CEO of Smelters at Hindustan Zinc Limited

In this interview, C Chandru, the CEO of Smelters at Hindustan Zinc Limited. Chandru shared insights into Hindustan Zinc's journey from traditional smelting methods to the incorporation of advanced technologies like AI, drones, and IoT.

Aanchal Ghatak
New Update
Hindustan Zinc

C Chandru, CEO - Smelters, Hindustan Zinc

In this interview, C Chandru, the CEO of Smelters at Hindustan Zinc Limited, a pioneer in the field of smelting technologies. With a wealth of experience and expertise, Chandru has been instrumental in steering Hindustan Zinc towards technological advancements and operational excellence. In this exclusive interview, we delve into the innovative approaches adopted by Hindustan Zinc, exploring its evolution from traditional smelting methods to the integration of cutting-edge technologies such as AI, drones, and IoT. Join us as we uncover the insights and strategies driving Hindustan Zinc's success in the ever-evolving landscape of smelting technologies. Excerpts


Can you provide an overview of Hindustan Zinc Limited's smelting facilities, including their locations and distinctive features?

Hindustan Zinc operates smelting facilities across Rajasthan, with smelters situated in Chanderiya, Dariba, and Debari, alongside Zinc-Lead-Silver metal refineries located in Pantnagar, Uttarakhand. Since its disinvestment in 2002, the company has witnessed a remarkable five-fold increase in its Zinc, Lead, and Silver metal production capacities, with the current capacity exceeding 1.123 million tonnes per annum compared to 204,000 tonnes per annum in 2002.

Hindustan Zinc


The Chanderiya Smelting Complex in Chittorgarh district stands as the world's second-largest single-location integrated Zinc smelting complex, boasting a Zinc production capacity of 558,000 tonnes and a Lead production capacity of 85,000 tonnes per annum. It is complemented by captive power plants generating 234 MW, along with additional green power through waste heat recovery boilers. The Dariba Smelting Complex in Rajsamand district has a production capacity of 250,000 tonnes of Zinc and 125,000 tonnes of Lead per annum. Notably, it is self-sufficient with Zinc and Lead smelters and captive power plants of 170 MW strategically positioned near the Sindesar Khurd Mine and Rajpura Dariba Mine. Debari, in Udaipur district, houses India's oldest Zinc smelter with a Zinc metal production capacity of 88,000 tonnes per annum. Additionally, the Zinc, Lead, and Silver metal refinery in Pantnagar can produce 800 metric tonnes of Silver annually. These facilities collectively underscore Hindustan Zinc Limited's prominent position in the metal production industry.


How has Hindustan Zinc evolved from traditional smelting methods to incorporating advanced technologies such as AI, drones, and IoT in its operations?


Hindustan Zinc has undergone a transformative journey in its smelting processes, transitioning from traditional Pyrometallurgy methods to more efficient Hydrometallurgical Processes, such as Electrolytic zinc smelting. These advancements have significantly improved energy efficiency, recovery rates, and environmental sustainability. However, HZL's innovation didn't stop there, as it has further incorporated Advanced Technologies into its operations to enhance efficiency and safety.

In recent years, Hindustan Zinc has embraced cutting-edge technologies including Advanced Automation, IoT, drones, and AI. These technologies allow for precise process control, real-time data collection from remote locations, efficient monitoring and inspection of facilities, and sophisticated analysis for process optimization and safety enhancement. Through the integration of these technologies, Hindustan Zinc has achieved increased efficiency, improved safety standards, reduced environmental impacts, and enhanced profitability in its zinc smelting operations, positioning itself as a leader in embracing Industry 4.0 principles for a sustainable and intelligent future.

Could you elaborate on how AI is utilized to optimize furnace operations and enhance precision within Hindustan Zinc's smelting processes?


Hindustan Zinc employs AI in its smelting operations to optimize furnace performance and enhance precision. AI and machine learning algorithms are utilized to create recommendation models for setting Blast Furnace process variables. These models analyze historical and real-time data to determine the optimal settings, resulting in a more efficient utilization of coke and other raw materials. This optimization leads to a reduction in consumption norms by 5-10%. Additionally, AI is applied to develop soft sensors for critical quality parameters of Roasters. These sensors enable the operations team to make real-time decisions, aiming for a 3-5% improvement in throughput.

What are the key safety and efficiency benefits that Hindustan Zinc has experienced through the implementation of drone-based inspections in its operations?

Hindustan Zinc has integrated drone-based inspections into its smelting operations, facilitating various crucial tasks such as the replacement of aviation lights, physical inspections of critical structures like tanks, chimneys, and furnaces, verification of raw material stockpiles, and conducting periodic aerial surveys to ensure facility compliance.


The adoption of drone-based inspections has yielded significant safety and efficiency benefits for Hindustan Zinc's zinc smelting operations. Firstly, it has drastically reduced worker exposure to hazards by eliminating the need for personnel to enter risky environments. This measure has substantially decreased the likelihood of accidents. Moreover, the use of drones has led to faster inspection times, with a remarkable reduction of over 95% compared to traditional methods. Additionally, drones offer a cost-effective solution, cutting expenses by 30-40% as they eliminate the requirement for costly scaffolding, specialized equipment, or additional manpower. Lastly, drones enable improved data collection through high-resolution imagery and sensor data, facilitating detailed analysis and enhancing future maintenance planning.

In what ways do IoT sensors contribute to providing real-time data and improving decision-making within Hindustan Zinc's smelting facilities?

IoT sensors are instrumental in Hindustan Zinc's smelting facilities, offering real-time data for better decision-making. They contribute to environmental sustainability by monitoring emissions levels, aiding in proactive measures to control environmental impacts. Additionally, IoT sensors enable predictive maintenance by collecting equipment data, predicting potential failures, and allowing for proactive maintenance, reducing downtime by 10-15% and enhancing operational efficiency and cost savings.


Could you discuss the innovative smelting methods employed by Hindustan Zinc to reduce carbon footprint and minimize waste generation?

Hindustan Zinc has been really proactive in finding innovative ways to reduce our carbon footprint and cut down on waste generation in our smelting processes. One of our key initiatives is the Fumer Plant. See, in the regular zinc hydro metallurgical process, we end up with this waste called Jarosite, but with the Fumer Plant, we're able to produce clean slag and properly dispose of the waste. This means no more Jarosite waste, which is a big win for us in terms of sustainability.

Then there's the Cell House Revamp at Debari. We put a lot of effort into upgrading the cell house at our Zinc Smelter Debari, and it paid off big time. We saw a significant increase in our production performance, recovery rates, and current efficiency. It's not just about improving our numbers though; this revamp helped us save costs and reduce our energy and water consumption too.


We are also focusing on improving our turbine efficiency by working with various OEMs, we were able to tweak our turbine blades and internals, resulting in lower carbon emissions and better overall efficiency. It's all about finding those little tweaks that make a big difference.

And of course, we're not just focusing on smelting methods. We've also invested in non-smelting approaches like renewable energy. We've signed agreements for 450 MW of renewable power, which is a big step towards reducing our carbon emissions.

Finally, there's our Solar Plant and Waste Heat Recovery Boiler project. By utilizing our waste lands and waste heat, we're able to generate renewable power capacity, further reducing our environmental impact.

Overall, these initiatives show our commitment to sustainability and making a positive impact on the environment. We're not just talking about it; we're taking real action to make a difference.

Besides the mentioned technologies, are there any other notable tech initiatives that Hindustan Zinc has undertaken to enhance its smelting processes and overall operations?

Hindustan Zinc is actively exploring various technological initiatives to enhance its smelting processes and overall operational efficiency. Among these initiatives, AI/ML-powered image recognition is utilized for inspecting finished products to ensure consistent quality and monitor safety hazards to prevent accidents. The company also leverages Digital Twins, virtual representations of physical assets and processes, for virtual simulation, predictive maintenance, and process optimization, enabling risk-free testing of new parameters and configurations, real-time identification of equipment failures, and optimization of process parameters for enhanced efficiency and quality control. Additionally, Hindustan Zinc employs Artificial Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies for training, remote monitoring, troubleshooting, and design planning, providing immersive experiences for safe training environments, remote troubleshooting, and efficient equipment modifications or layout planning within the smelter. These initiatives underscore Hindustan Zinc's commitment to leveraging advanced technologies to optimize operations and drive efficiency gains across its operations.