Delivering improved decision-making for the mining industry

It is a business irony that an industry with a great need for data-hungry applications and real time communications has to operate in the world's most remote and challenging environments. Yet, this is precisely the situation where the mining industry finds itself.

Monday 13th May 13

The extreme costs associated with exploration, production and operation means that network downtime can quickly affect profitability. One industry estimate suggested that the oil and gas industries alone lose $15 billion each year through poor decision making from lack of access to relevant information where and when it is needed.

There are two key elements to the challenge of effective information provision. First, the company has to be able to establish network communications quickly and reliably. Secondly, it needs the near-real time sharing of important data between the mine site, in-country offices and corporate headquarters.

Timely communications anywhere

Mine sites are continually being explored, constructed, operated and retired. In this situation, satellite communications becomes a very attractive option. Cost is one benefit but speed and flexibility of implementation are equally important.

The maturity of satellite and, as importantly, the ruggedisation of its far-end VSAT equipment, means that the network can be modelled and equipment can be tested off-site. In this way, the installation of the remote network can be accomplished in as little as a few hours. In fact, the entire process from initial planning to full operation is measured in weeks rather than months.

This speed is matched by flexibility. The far-end equipment can be dismantled and reassembled as operational needs dictate. A VSAT installation is highly portable allowing for repositioning that matches the highly fluid nature of the early stages of the mining process.

Data where it's needed

The key to business effectiveness becomes the remote network's ability to deliver efficient two-way communications when and where it is needed. In the past, the large file size of geological scans has seen companies place the scan on a disk and mailed to headquarters for expert analysis. Meanwhile, the on-site team waits for the results. Today, there are a whole range of sophisticated, hugely data demanding applications in daily use by geologists, geophysicists and drilling engineers amongst others.

These applications collect massive amounts of data in a variety of different formats which have to be distributed and shared quickly and securely. For the vast majority of locations where mining is taking place, satellite communications is the only reliable and cost-effective means to achieve this level of data throughput and two-way communication. The result is that decision making can be reduced from days and months to hours or minutes.

Designed for Services

In addition to data, the business services required must be part of network design. If basic internet connectivity is sufficient then solutions to meet these requirements can be implemented. When business applications such as SAP are important, a different design may be required. Couple this with staff welfare services and voice communications and a very specific design emerges.

An industry where time is money

By establishing two-way communications between sites and corporate offices, today's remote satellite communications network is delivering the real-time decision-making necessary for profitability in an industry where time is money.

Find out more about remote communications for the mining industry at www.datasat.com/mining

About the author

Bernie Branfield has designed and managed the build and operation of both international and domestic VSAT networks. He joined Datasat Communications as Technical Manager in 2003 before becoming General Manager in 2006.