Every year EY makes an assessment of the risks facing the mining and metals industry. Paul Mitchell, EY Global Mining & Metals leader, details those risks and forecasts the Top 10 business risks and opportunities – 2020. There were a lot of industry fluctuations in 2019 highlighting the challenge miners face in managing ongoing disruption. Geoscientific information, and how it’s managed, has a big part to play in mitigating some of these risks while also opening the door to new opportunity.
Digital effectiveness and data optimisation remain in the top three risks for miners. It’s one topic executives want to discuss, especially as the digital mine of the future is being seen throughout the industry as essential for competitive advantage.
While the report recognises the acceptance of technology in mining as “business as usual”, it also makes the point that technology alone doesn’t guarantee anything in the way of business improvement. EY goes as far as to query whether anyone is actually applying technology in a useful way and says, “the one issue miners are challenged with is how to better manage data to extract value from it.”
So how do miners convert their digital risk into an opportunity? Optimising their geoscience data assets is the first step. According to EY, the best way to approach this is to link data to business process management. EY calls it “process mining” and says, “Identifying the ‘right data’ requires a deep understanding of the data within the organisation to mine valuable insights over transaction data.” This is a view long held by acQuire and it requires an internal champion at the senior executive or manager level to successfully implement.
This total system thinking for the mining value chain gives miners a single source of truth for their geoscientific data. The benefits to having one trusted source of data include:
EY speculates there could be a significant supply crunch in the next 10–15 years. Exploration technologies have made advances as companies explore new digital technologies and resources companies are relying more and more on digital technology to collect data. With masses of sensors churning out data, applying systems thinking to exploration data is going to help companies make sense of all the information they have available and distil it into a useful tool for decision-making.
According to S&P Global, exploration budgets, while improving, are still lower than they were in 2014 and half of what they were in 2012. Major discoveries are harder to find and there are declining grades in existing deposits. Couple these challenges with a growing global demand for resources as a result of an expanding population and new world infrastructure, and it’s easy to see why resources companies need to be more vigilant than ever about the quality of their data.
One growth strategy for companies is to acquire existing projects or mines. A mature geoscientific information management system is useful on both sides of the M&A equation. Having a healthy geoscience data asset is far more valuable than a collection of spreadsheets or disparate sources of data when it comes time to sell. A strong data management foundation also allows for smoother transitions of new data into an organisation in the event of an acquisition. Having a tool like the GIM Solution helps with due diligence for all parties.
Another advantage to having a geoscientific data management solution is it provides innovative ways to find new resources and extract more value from current resources. Applying new technological advances to your original observations and measurements gives you the potential to mine commodities in ways that weren’t available 30, 20 or even 10 years ago. Being able to reference historical data about your project – and knowing you can trust that data – is one of the most cost-effective ways miners can increase profitability and yields.
Innovation is a hot word and often misused. For the purposes of minimising risk in mining, innovation needs to disrupt the status quo. The good news is doing this could bring a much-needed change to the mining sector.
EY says the case for innovation is clear — for some it’s a case of survival, for others it provides an opportunity to thrive and improve return on capital. Productivity gains are made possible by rethinking how work is done and being prepared to change. For geoscience information, this means it’s time to dispense with siloed data sets, manual recording of original measurements and observations, and storing multiple versions of the same data.
We’re already becoming accustomed to radical innovations like autonomous haulage and 3D printing of parts on site. Virtual reality, and real-time planning and visualizations are also becoming the norm. Innovation in geoscientific data management brings much-needed change in key structural issues in the mining sector. GIM Suite 4.1, for example, provides quick field data capture in remote and difficult locations and supports interoperability across a complex operational environment supported by many different vendors.
Innovation doesn’t have to be a completely new function or technology. It doesn’t require radical change. Incremental improvements in existing capabilities, like re-examining your historical datasets for new opportunity, can produce amazing results with very little investment. Having the right systems in place, especially as it relates to your geoscientific information, is going to maximise opportunity while reducing overall risk. It’s a win-win situation anyone can get behind.
Contact acQuire to understand how your geoscience data can insulate your mining operation from risk and put your company on a path to innovation. acQuire’s GIM Solution helps you do all this and provides an opportunity to make better business decisions using your data. Get in touch to find out more.