Digitization in the Mining Industry
Many mining companies have been operating the same way for decades. Companies have been skeptical of digitization, having a hard time seeing how the move would help tackle the industry’s unique challenges and circumstances. However, this is quickly beginning to change.
With newly emerging technologies mining companies are gaining the opportunity to solve complex and previously intractable problems. Mining leaders are starting to recognize that digital mining can provide opportunities for meaningful data collection, agile analysis to enhance asset management, improve reliability, drive consistency and introduce better predictive capabilities. Digitization of the mining industry would provide relevant, real-time information, often critical information that currently may take hours to reach the appropriate decision-maker. This digitization is an evolution that would create opportunity for mining companies to fundamentally change their business model by reducing costs, improving safety, and creating opportunities for new businesses.
Going forward, the most successful mining companies will be those using digital mining to enhance operation strategies and take advantage of data as quickly as possible. However, this process may not be the most simplistic process, or the most accepted. Hatch.com summarizes the five critical steps mining companies will experience while driving digital innovation. These include:
Mining organizations may be reluctant to invest in new sensors, hardware, or software without a clear idea of the benefits they will reap. For these companies, we recommend taking an exploratory step, focusing on people and existing processes to determining where data could improve outcomes without purchasing additional technology.
This is about promoting a culture where data is king and able to drive the required empathy to break silos. Some organizations have demonstrated the value of data in areas of the business where it is easiest to collect. (It is more challenging to compile data in an underground environment, for instance.) Companies can use these unique successes, profiling them to champion the value of data across the organization. The focus must be on driving engagement with data in relation to existing processes, while encouraging each employee to embrace a yes-I can-contribute mindset. This helps reduce concerns that digital is here to replace jobs when in reality it’s here to improve them.
Organizations that have already developed a datacentric culture are ready to expand its integration across the value chain. They move from internal activities to leveraging partners’ strengths and providing a much better service to their customers. At this stage, these companies are using data to drive continuous improvement in operations with transparency.
Currently, very few organizations embrace this step. The entire industry must find solutions to address sustainability concerns. For example, the release of toxic elements into the geosphere and the mobilization of harmful chemical agents in water systems—mining tailings and acid mine drainage.
Great ideas and innovative solutions can have tremendous monetary value. A small number of organizations are looking ahead to new business models that will create additional value through knowledge-sharing with suppliers, clients, partners, and communities.