Big Data Can Help the Mining Industry, if the Industry Lets it
Thanks to technology, companies are increasingly acquiring real time information that allows them to make faster decisions that directly impact their profitability and expenses. While some of the of the principles of IoT are increasingly reaching the mining sector through specialized tools that measure and process real time data, companies have been reluctant to fully implement this technology, agreed panelists on Wednesday at Mexico Mining Forum 2019.
“Realtime information will become essential to mine operations,” said Cindy Collins, Founder of Mining Technology Partners and CTO of Geosite. “Technology is placing us closer to real time information from the field. We can use this information to make important real time drilling decisions such as continuing drilling or move to another place.” She explained that companies can use real time data to better understand the mineral potential of a site and avoid wasting money drilling in the wrong place. Considering the numerous advantages, she asked panelists: “why has this methodology not been widely adopted?”
Lynda Bloom, President of Analytical Solutions, recognized the potential of new measuring equipment to provide faster information with which to make decisions. However, the information the equipment provides is still not sufficient, she added. Ben Pullinger, Senior VP of Geology at Excellon Resources, agreed. “Handheld equipment allows for precise measuring of small samples but a comprehensive analysis is still required before starting operations,” he said.
Another barrier to the complete implementation of IoT in the mining sector is cost. Antoine Caté, Structural Geology Consultant at SRK Toronto, explained that “adopting new technology requires time and money. If everything is going well in an ongoing project, the company does not want to try anything new. It will only do so if there is a problem, however by that time it is often late.”
The investment goes beyond the acquisition of equipment as companies must train their personnel on the use of the new machines. “Adopting new technology might feel quite threatening because it involves changing people’s jobs,” said Bloom. The problem, summarized Pullinger, is that no one wants to be the first. “Often early adoption comes at high costs, while adopting it later often means that there are more people that already are proficient with the software.”
However, ignoring the data can also be expensive. “With more data, you can make more decisions. So, it is necessary to factor the cost of lacking this data in the operation. Without using the data, companies will spend more money,” said Danté Águilar, Founder and Director of Geotech and Exploration Support. Caté agreed. “By not using this technology we can lose a lot of money. Having this information might allow a company to decide whether to continue drilling or not.”
Once companies decide to adopt the technology, the next challenge to address will be processing all that information. “Information will come from many different companies, all with different ways to upload this data. The mining industry uses a lot of proprietary software, so data collected by one source cannot be read by another,” said Caté. However, once the initial investment is made, data collection will benefit many across the sector. “There will be a large amount of data, true, but different people will want different things from this data. Specific tests can only be used for a specific reason but a single data set can address the needs of many different people,” he added.