The Transformative Power of Technology in MiningMon, 10/21/2013 - 17:15
Mining activities and technology have come to be inextricable, and there remain very few moments in the whole mining process where technology is not somehow involved – whether it be in geological analysis, communication, or milling processes. “Technology for mining has advanced a lot in the last 10 years, and mining companies are relying more and more on technology,” says Jorge Álvarez, Director General of AdN Consulting. “Today mining companies have access to tools which allow them to virtually design their mines, walk through them, and even predict what the challenges will be in making any infrastructural adaptations. At AdN Consulting our objective is to provide such tools to our clients and complement them with the right consulting and support services so that our clients can get the best return on their investment.”
The company has built a broad portfolio of products and services that look to satisfy mining companies’ requirements across all stages of a mining project – from prospecting and exploration all the way through to the end of the mine life. “I like seeing how small exploration companies grow from the exploration stage and the discovery of mineral deposits to obtaining the resources to build the mine and then put that mine into operation. We have gone through all of these stages with a number of mines and we enjoy being part of their growth,” says Álvarez.
Regardless of the stage at which AdN Consulting becomes involved in a project, its strategy has been to establish a thorough understanding of its customers’ systems and processes, and listen to what they want and need in order to function more effectively. The company’s products and solutions, from internet servers to geological mapping software, have been selected with the aim of doing just that. “We can provide software that assesses the earth’s mineral content and provides a 3D graph of how the minerals are distributed underground. This is a must-have tool for geologists, because it allows them to easily simulate and analyze the potential of the mine from the beginning, thus informing their decision making. When they are looking to raise more capital they can even use this tool to show investors the potential of the mine. Most of the time, at the very first stage of establishing the data center on a new mine site, at the construction stage there will be no power or services at all, so we build communication services as if we were building a city; this includes services like telephone, internet and video conferencing,” says Álvarez.
One particular area in which technology has become indispensable for mining companies is security. As companies have switched from analog to digital systems, companies like AdN Consulting have been able to encrypt their communications channels and email accounts, making it much more difficult for third parties to intercept messages, thus leading to more secure and safer communication. For Álvarez, the ability to communicate between the many different people working in the mine is essential for maintaining safety standards. “We provide the means for communication between everyone inside a mine by creating various channels of communications.” One of the company’s challenges has been to deal with the increasing demand for radio channels in mines which, with the number of staff working in the mine often exceeding 2,000, can become extremely complicated. “We have modified the technology that we use in order to increase the capacity of the system and meet the needs of our clients. Voice communication is very important for operations, and the quality of the radio and visual signals is very important for the safety of the people,” he argues.
Because AdN Consulting understands that many mining companies do not have the expertise, nor often the human resources, to dedicate to managing this type of infrastructure themselves, this is a service that the company provides. “We can supervise any security issues, in addition to administering the servers. We also provide consolidation and virtualization services, so for example if a company has 20 servers we can compile the information from the different servers and make it available online in the cloud,” explains Álvarez. “Every mine is structured differently, and we must be able to connect every building or process on the mine site regardless of that structure and geographical distribution. The power that supplies the wireless network, available throughout the mine, can come from solar panels, wind or diesel fuel generators,” explains Álvarez.
Álvarez is passionate about establishing partnerships with mining companies that take the same approach to innovation and technology as his company does. “We are looking for companies that are willing to invest in technology in order to increase their profits and productivity. If the company does not believe in doing that, then it is hard for us to work with them, because we are technology-focused. The size does not matter, what matters is the company’s awareness of and commitment to technology,” he says.