Falling commodity prices, weakening economic conditions and uncertainty regarding our energy future are just some of the challenges facing the mining industry at the current time. The market has changed rapidly over the last 3 years and has shifted to a more operational phase after the halcyon days of construction during the boom. These falls in commodity prices, consequent softening of investment in new projects and focus on operations means looking more closely at how you’re working in order to stay agile, take advantage of new technological opportunities as they arise, and importantly, remain competitive.
Add to this the complexity and global scale of operations and the importance of having the right infrastructure to support rapid technological change and agility become paramount. The beauty and promise of Big Data analytics and the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) – being able to capture accurate and nuanced measurements, then respond in a smart way to changing conditions in real time – is within our grasp. This will allow for remote management, monitoring and control of complex mining operations. But without safe, reliable, scalable, fast and secure infrastructure such as a data centre with the right capabilities, these opportunities for innovation and efficiency will be lost.
When it comes to data centres, there are minimum benchmarks that need to be met in order to take advantage of these efficiencies and run a fully digitised mining operation. Data centres can be classified using the Uptime Institute’s Tier Classification System. Essentially, data centres are classified into four progressive tiers according to their capability for reliability (or uptime), with each higher level incorporating the requirements of the lower tiers. Infrastructure costs and complexity also increase with each level but it’s important to choose the right tier for your operational requirements.
For an operation like mining, where the ability to constantly monitor your operation and respond in real time to dynamic conditions, you really need to ensure that your data centre has the right amount of uptime. That means it has enough redundancy and concurrency to offer assurance that maintenance can be carried out without impacting on your IT operations. In this case, that means choosing a Tier III data centre, where every necessary component of the data processing system can be shut down and maintained without impacting your operations.
This assurance and reliability is also increasingly important for supporting critical mining operations and programs, such as Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) risk management (enabled by technology such as enhanced video collaboration and monitoring applications – appropriate data retention with regard to the area of HSE is also a key requirement of providing a general duty of care as a mining employer).
For miners the reasons for moving to a Tier III centre are obvious. As a case in point we can look at the opportunities offered to miners in WA by the 2,000km North West Cable System, projected to run between Port Hedland and Darwin.
The cable system will provide the ability to move high-bandwidth, high-speed data between remote off-shore locations, data centres and business headquarters. The remoteness of operations had previously limited the ability of the many LNG companies working in the area to take advantage of the efficiencies of fully digitised systems. Now Perth, the capital cities in the east or even the rest of the world, with their data processing capabilities and expertise are just a high-speed cable away. But with assurance that you can reliably link your mining operation to your business headquarters, and perform data processing without interruption, the potential gains brought by the project are unlimited.
In this case, the top 5 reasons for moving to a Tier III data centre are:
None of these capabilities are available without the right data centre infrastructure. The ability to monitor and manage your mining operations more remotely can bring huge efficiency gains, but it doesn’t come without risk. Capturing the right data, and being able to generate meaningful reports that illustrate your operation’s compliance with a changing regulatory landscape will also become increasingly important. Ensuring that your IT processing operations are always on, always available, is a necessary prerequisite to a modern mining operation and a key to staying competitive.