Remote WA mine enjoys high-speed internet with Vocus solution

Andrew Wildblood, Vocus chief executive – enterprise and government.

A Vocus network connectivity solution has helped boost coverage and speed at Minjar Gold’s remote Southern Cross mine in Western Australia.

When Minjar Gold was looking for a way to improve network coverage and connectivity speeds across its remotely located Southern Cross operation in Western Australia, the company exhausted almost every option before finding the Vocus solution.

The Minjar operation is centered around Marvel Loch, approximately 400 kilometres east of Perth and nearly 40 kilometres away from the Southern Cross township.

This meant the site had no access to the National Broadband Network (NBN) and relied on a limited-speed telecommunication network through a local service provider. 

“We wanted to ensure that our employees had consistent and reliable internet access to be able to remain connected with their loved ones while working on the site, as well as to provide them with better entertainment options such as on-demand video streaming,” says Sean Kocis, Minjar Gold’s senior network and systems engineer.

The remoteness of the mine, however, made connectivity at the level that Minjar expected to achieve highly challenging, as the team found out in its research.

“We went through every possible connectivity solution, from microwave technology to fibre connectivity, satellite internet access, 3G and 4G network. Each of these either had certain limitations for our project or was too costly,” Kocis says.

After a comprehensive search, Kocis says they finally found a solution that met the mine’s requirements.

“We chose to work with Vocus because their solution was not just cost effective, but also could support our goals going forward,” he says.

“While the wellbeing of our staff was the key motivator for us in this project, we were also looking to be able to implement more automation and remote fleet monitoring in the future and the Vocus solution could deliver that.”

As a specialist in fibre and network solutions, Vocus has years of experience providing high-speed broadband connectivity to remote sites across Australia, including to mines and gas fields.

The Vocus team’s solution for Minjar Gold consisted of working with its partner company GoldNet to implement a microwave technology solution to connect the mine through line-of-sight wireless telecommunication to the nearest town of Southern Cross.

In the town, high-speed broadband connectivity relies on nearly 400 kilometres of Vocus fibre running underground to Perth.

As Vocus chief executive for enterprise and government, Andrew Wildblood explains, the solution was the most economically viable for Minjar Gold.

“If we were to rely only on fibre connectivity, it effectively meant carrying out heavy engineering work to bury kilometres of fibre in difficult terrain between Southern Cross to Marvel Loch,” Wildblood says.

“While our engineering team is absolutely capable of doing that, it would not have been the most cost-effective solution for our client.”

Through weeks of planning and feasibility studies, the Vocus engineering team delivered a private network to Minjar that offered over 10 times improvement on their previous connectivity speed, boosting it from about 40 megabits-per-second (Mbps) to nearly 500 Mbps.

Kocis says the benefits of the successful project delivery are multi-faceted.

“It’s hard to put into words the positive impact that this project has had, not just for our own employees, but also for the greater community of the town’s farmers and local businesses that are offered access to our private internet network,” Kocis says.

“It makes us proud to see that our employees and the town’s residents are now able to enjoy on-demand TV, FaceTime with their families or order their required equipment for their farms online.”

Part of Vocus’ success owes to the strategic partnership it has with Fixed-IP Wireless partners, according to Wildblood.

“We have a national fibre network that spans 30,000 kilometres of remote and difficult terrain, both in the north-west and eastern shores of the country, as well across the Northern Territory from Darwin to Adelaide,” Wildblood says.

“Through our strategic partnership with other providers, our network is further expanded across Australia, New Zealand and into Asia Pacific.”

With mines often working hard to find the right employees, Wildblood believes the improved connectivity on the mine is definitely an advantage when it comes to Minjar retaining its workforce.

From his own experience at Minjar Gold, Kocis concurs with Wildblood.

“Our staff tells us they actually look forward to coming back to the site as the internet speed here is now better than at their own homes. We’ve also seen improved productivity among the team as we remain better connected through video-conferencing,” he concludes.

This article also appears in the August issue of Australian Mining.

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.