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The Transformation of Mining Through Cloud Software

By Lorenzo Núñez | Tue, 07/20/2021 - 12:04

Q: How is RPMGlobal working with clients to reach their ESG goals?

A: We consider ourselves leaders in the industry in terms of software advisory. We have been in business for 50 years and our global advisory business covers everything from how to build or operate a mine to buying or selling one. ESG is important to us because it is important to our customers. Clients need to meet a number of specific and strict regulations and requirements. We work with all mining companies but mainly Tier 1 and Tier 2 companies that consider ESG an essential part of their business. Although we work on ESG on a global scale we wanted to build an ESG company exclusively for mining. To this end, we bought the ESG company Nitro Solution and we are continuing to review a number of potential acquisition targets within ESG in both advisory and software. Our goal is to become the ESG mining advisory company of choice. We want to help our client decarbonize as quickly as they can.


Q: How will the acquisition of Nitro Solutions help you develop a robust technological offering?

A: We really want to build an ESG software platform for mining companies. ESG is about reporting how you are doing against ESG targets and what your goals and objectives are. No other company has the software that can help businesses gather all this information. There are two reasons we acquired Nitro: their ESG skillset and our desire to build an IT platform that can provide these services to the whole industry. Previously, we were mainly focused on due diligence as a software company from a software perspective. With Nitro, we will look at a suite of products and tailor them toward ESG in the mining industry.


Q: How do you simulate the continuous nature of mining operations?

A: We originally started with a desktop product called TALPAC, which would eventually become the standard for simulating haulage and loading in the mining industry. Over time and as new solutions were required, we wanted to build a simulation engine that could build a 3D mine model. We are now moving this technology toward electrification with items such as simulating haulage electrification, placement of trolley infrastructure and battery stations as well as hydrogen vehicles, all with an ESG focus. Once functional, clients are able to easily simulate the differences between diesel and electrified trucks. Interestingly, it was not only miners who ended up buying the product, but OEMs such as Caterpillar and Volvo as well. This has become the standard for companies that want to decarbonize their operations and products.


Q: What were the challenges of transitioning to cloud service and what does that mean for future mining solutions?

A: When you look at every industry, the two at the bottom when it comes to digitalization are construction and mining. When the team and I first entered the mining industry, most mining companies were still using desktop products. This is because if your production and operation are doing well, the last thing you want to change is the software because of the disruption it causes to the mine. For the most part, every other industry is using an enterprise approach. We started this transitional journey about eight years ago and it took us just over five years to build an enterprise planning framework. At the beginning, we did not get the acceptance that we had hoped for. Once COVID hit, companies suddenly had the need to operate remotely. This meant moving everything from the desktop to the enterprise and then to the cloud. This is what the big miners want now: a complete cloud service. The reason our software sales have risen significantly is because we are so far ahead in this area.


Q: How does RPM manage and protect its clients’ data in the cloud?

A: While we do not hold our clients’ data per se we do have very strong security controls, and we are well advanced towards obtaining our ISO 27001 accreditation. Security has become vitally important. Ransomware and cyber criminals keep everyone on their toes when it comes to security. The last thing we want is for somebody to get their hands on our clients’ data, so it is critical for us to have the right security partners and measures in place.


Q: How is RPM working to help traditional mining companies transition to technological and zero-emission solutions?

A: We provide advisory consultations where we discuss with our clients how they can reach their zero-emission goal. Mining companies really have two key objectives: identify the resource then they need to dig it up and ship it both profitably but also sustainably. All of this requires a great deal of mining equipment and a lot of moving parts. You also have the maintenance control systems, such as those used by Caterpillar and Hitachi. There is a great deal of data coming from the big machines from their maintenance systems, that can be combined with the simulation. We can help mining organizations to put it all together and make sense of the data. We are doing projects on batteries, electrification and we just started on the addition of hydrogen vehicles to the platform.


Q: Based on your research, what metals should Mexico prioritize in the short term to fuel an overall industrial recovery?

A: Copper is going to be the future metal and companies are going to be investing big time in copper. A copper shortage is also expected. According to some articles, in the future, there will be more copper mines than the current number of total mines worldwide. These will however be more difficult to mine so software, data and ESG is going to play a critical part in mining these deposits profitably and sustainably.


Q: What does the mining of the future look like for RPM Global?

A: The mining of the future will have fewer people. Technology is going to continue to get increasingly stronger and in order to do that we will need data and connectivity of systems on an enterprise level. Today, for example, people are able to operate a mine remotely and you only need people to service the equipment. In 20 to 30 years, with mines in the middle of nowhere, automation might be the only option left and for that you need data to make decisions.


RPMGlobal specializes in consulting and advisory services for the mining industry worldwide.  

Lorenzo Núñez Lorenzo Núñez Junior Journalist & Industry Analyst