The digitization journey in mining

By Alvaro Rozo | January 25, 2018

Information gathered over an asset’s lifecycle, combined and processed with thousands of similar sets of data, will provide the basis for “data democratization,” an evolution that will redefine the role of mining going forward.

So, how could mining companies make better use of their data to help drive digital innovation? We’ve identified five critical steps:

  1. Unlocking
  2. Liberating
  3. Democratizing
  4. Eliminating
  5. Monetizing

1. Unlocking

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 determine where data could improve outcomes without purchasing additional technology.

2. Liberating

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.

3. Democratizing

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.

4. Eliminating

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.

5. Monetizing

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.

 

Addressing digitization in mining by increasing the use of data is a great start. It will lead to promising improvements, but they may not be enough to make a long-term difference in the industry. To make mining sustainable, digitization needs ultimately to lead to a step change in mining technologies—both equipment and processes—or in the business models these help create with clients, communities, partners.