Cloud presence helping companies underground

David Burns.

David Burns.

The Australian resources industry is rapidly embracing automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies to boost underground operations.

As these disruptive technologies usher in a new era of smarter work practices, mining companies in Australia are responding by remodelling their infrastructure and switching their core technology to cloud-based models.

The migration to the cloud among mining companies signals a wider shift in the Australian resources sector.

As resources companies look to boost efficiencies, become leaner, innovate faster, and gain market share quickly, they are turning to cloud-based models to help them.

They’re replacing legacy systems with software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, learning what works quickly, and weeding out apps that no longer provide a clear benefit or can replaced with a smarter solution.

As an example Oz Minerals, an Adelaide-based mining company, announced it is moving to enterprise planning platform SAP Hana hosted by Amazon Web Services (AWS), to allow its IT department to be more operationally focused.

Oz Minerals’ CEO Andrew Cole said moving to the cloud is helping to create a culture of innovation.

The greater processing power and flexibility offered by the cloud would grant the organisation a competitive edge 1.

As with many oil and mining organisations, the business is aiming to harness the infrastructure offered by as-a-service cloud providers so its executives can move their attention to harnessing the insights derived from digital technology, rather than providing and supporting it. 

The deployment of analytics enabled through cloud-based models is also helping resources companies reach operational excellence by comprehending and responding to real-time information.

What used to take days or weeks now takes hours or minutes.

Companies can analyse critical data such as equipment breakdowns, infrastructure damage, and even operator fatigue in real time.

That translates into huge cost savings, improved workplace safety, and much greater efficiencies.

Earlier this year, Woodside Energy revealed it is using a Google cloud platform to process seismic image data taken to reduce the time to identify potential fields.

As the data images are very large, it would have previously taken 12-18 months to develop for the exploration team.

While also improving the image clarity, the implementation of cloud capacity has allowed Woodside’s team to reduce production time to 4-8 weeks, and has significantly enhanced their ability to identify and act on untapped fields 2 .

By aggregating data from these disparate systems into the cloud, resources companies can apply advanced analytics across multiple data sources to generate clear, actionable insights into the operation of the mine.

Of all the elements that make for a successful cloud implementation, regardless of industry, data is arguably the most important.

Cloud models have enabled resources organisations across industries to glean valuable insights from the data they already own.

After creating a data science unit in 2016, Rio Tinto is harnessing predictive analytics to generate insights across its operations and find further productivity gains that will potentially enable the company to discover major new deposits, or assist in reducing the assets it needs to maintain current mining levels.

The consolidation of data from mine to market also provides the foundation for an effective digital transformation.

One company’s experience which illustrates the cloud’s transformative potential is the Connected Mine solution, built for Arizona-based mining company Freeport-McMoRan by Accenture.

Using the patented Accenture Connected Platforms as-a-Service (CPaaS), the cloud provides a single application that can quickly alert personnel so they can prevent productivity and safety risks before they become a problem.

Accenture have continued to build new functionality into the Connected Mine solution, with applications including dynamic mine planning, drill visualisation and blast optimisation.

These and other enhancements target increased response times via real-time alerts to supervisors armed with ruggedised tablets and mobile phones.

In a fluctuating market, the digital transformation of mining companies has become a business imperative and leveraging the right technology is key to improving processes.

The cloud is a powerful ally for the resources industry to innovate, achieve growth and profitability.

It represents a low-cost point of entry for companies that want to take greater advantage of data, analytics, experimentation, and many more real business benefits.

Incisive CIOs across industries understand that the future of their business is in the cloud.

The uptake of cloud technologies is experiencing tremendous momentum in the Australian resources industry and presents a platform for mining companies to transform operations and foster an environment of continuous innovation.

Australian companies should embrace cloud resources to position themselves for success, regardless of market conditions.

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