The digital transformation driving mining growth

Mining is poised for growth, according to Deloitte’s 2018 Tracking the Trends report.

The latest issue of key mining trends focuses on how the Australian, and global marketplace, is navigating this expansion, while identifying strategies that can be used during the ongoing industry recovery.

With this growth, rapid change will follow, Deloitte explained, adding that a common modern-day theme — digital technology — will be at the core of this transition.

The industry has progressed from the need for miners to understand the importance of digital projects to how they ‘bring digital to life’ at their operations.

How mining can ‘bring digital to life’ is the opening trend for Deloitte in 2018, and one that remains a constant theme for many of the topics that follow it in the report.

While digital is an ongoing trend in the current mining environment, Deloitte points to the importance of effectively using the data technology creates, including the ability to organise, manage and process it.

How do mining companies use data-driven insights to drive value?

Deloitte Australia national mining leader Ian Sanders described digital technology as an important competitive advantage that miners must capitalise on.

“If you look at the majors, yes, they have the programs of activity up and running. They are looking at their investment dollars, particularly how they invest them and the competitive nature of these investments,” Sanders told Australian Mining.

“Digital is one of those competitive elements — how much do they actually spend on automation? How much do they spend on the back office digital? how much do they actually look at their ecosystem of suppliers and customers, government, other stakeholders and co-mingle that investment within digital is really important?”

Deloitte’s report explained that transitioning to the future digital mine typically started by focusing on core mining processes with the goal of automating physical operations and digitising assets.

It believes the real value from digital technology comes from unlocking the insights within data by rethinking the way information is generated and processed.

Many major miners have been on the front foot in this area, according to Deloitte, with the report using the example of a global company that identified latent system potential across its pit, rail and port network by effectively utilising data.

However, the report adds that many mining organisations are not yet using all the data they are capturing from operational systems, or are still struggling to improve reporting from legacy systems.

It urges these miners to create an information layer, or a so-called “digital nerve centre” that brings together data across the mining value chain in multiple time horizons to improve planning, control and decision making.

Despite the challenges, Sanders believes the full spectrum of mining companies is now looking at digital technology projects — the majors, mid tiers, juniors and services companies.

“I think you have to. Firstly, to be relevant, and secondly, to survive,” Sanders said. “Whether you are a major, junior or mid-tier you are absolutely thinking about it because

everyone is thinking about efficiency, and digital is a core element of becoming more efficient.

“There are some mid tiers and juniors which are very active when it comes to digital and technology. It’s not as though they have been left behind, it’s how can they extract the

investment dollar to best leverage digital within their organisation?”

Sanders said the tech-focused partnerships that had been formed over the past 18 months were a step in the right direction for miners wanting to extract more value from their digital operations.

For example, diversified miner South32 last year signed a three-year strategic partnership with tech experts, GE, to develop the company’s digital transformation.

With 10 operations across five countries, South32 viewed the collaboration as an opportunity to implement innovative solutions that enhance safety and productivity.

“It’s amazing how collaboration in the industry has transformed over the last 18 months,” Sanders said, “and how more freely IP, people, platforms and so on are being shared to get a better outcome for all of the parties involved.”

“Part of it is doing it smarter, but part of it is actually necessary because as soon as something digital has been created someone is looking at how they can better it — that’s technology.

“The competition will look at how they can better that piece of technology, that operation or that function and leverage that to their competitive advantage.”

This article also appears in the March edition of Australian Mining.

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