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The growing importance of communication technology in mining

The mining industry has
entered a phase of cost containment and rigorous capital management in

As a result, mining companies must develop long-term strategies to
increase productivity in the face of continuously shrinking budgets.

industry analysts have pointed to sustainable cost practices and productivity,
innovation across existing operations and exploration sites, and capital
management as areas Australian miners must focus on. 

Communication technologies
have a fundamental role to play in delivering on these three strategic

Increasing productivity

Connectivity, real-time data delivery,
collaboration and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications are critical
technological pillars for the global mining industry. 

These solutions bridge
the gap between remote sites, improving management efficiency and reducing the
time it takes to make important business decisions. 

Australian mining typically
takes place in extremely isolated and remote locations where providing
communication solutions is a constant challenge. Companies must establish high availability connectivity as the
backbone and build a sound infrastructure onsite across different locations. 

With this in place they can adopt advanced communication platforms for maximum
value. Mining site communications is a varied mesh of
different technologies including GSM,
MPLS, VSAT, undersea and surface fibre optic cables. It’s critical to create a
reliable and real-time environment for collaboration in today’s increasingly digital
mining operations.

In order to get the most benefit from digitisation, mining
infrastructure must:

  • Have
    hybrid networking capability to provide cost effective access to the cloud
  • Support
    advanced collaboration services such as video conferencing, unified
    communications and remote monitoring
  • Deploy
    M2M communications for devices within mines to communicate

A robust, high availability communications network makes operations more cost-effective
because mining companies can stay up-to-speed with changes in supply and demand. 

If there’s a sudden drop in commodity prices they
can quickly feed this information, update inventory analysis and make business
decisions that impact the bottom line.

Improving safety

Mining is an inherently dangerous business and communications play a key
role in improving the safety of individuals and increasing operational efficiency.
Technology has enabled active surveillance and remote monitoring. It has even
helped to provide better medical response following major incidents. 

Reliable communication
systems reduce risks by providing constant two-way communication between miners
and their support teams to monitor conditions and ensure timely emergency
response. Remote connectivity could be the difference between life and death in
some situations. Video collaboration, where specialist consultants can provide
remote diagnosis and advice to an onsite medical team that may not have the
expertise to deal with certain injuries.

Overcoming complexity

Implementing these technologies is challenging. Not all mines are the
same and each location has its own set of issues to contend with. There’s no silver
bullet so each solution has to be highly localised yet compatible with centralised
technology systems.

Orange helps Australian mining companies connect remote sites with branch
offices using the latest unified communications tools like instant messaging,
email, voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) calling and videoconferencing.

recently, a cable that sends radio signals through small gaps in copper sheath
was the preferred method. Now technology allows communication systems to work
from anywhere within the underground environment, supporting VoIP phones and IP cameras through a wide area

Big data and predictive analytics are also driving competitive advantage
in resources exploration. Analytics minimises unplanned downtime by ensuring
timely maintenance of oil rigs and other assets. The future of mining is increasingly
digital. Communications technology will continue to improve business processes while
eliminating waste, minimising environmental impact and improving worker safety.

*Kevin Griffen is the country manager – Australasia, for Orange Business Services.

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