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Leveraging BIG DATA in the Mining Industry

Information like speed, fuel consumption and route planning can be optimised

‘Big data’ is increasingly becoming a central buzzword in many industries and mining is no different. Due to developments in the economy and the mining industry over the past six to eight months, the key focus has shifted back to reducing the cost of mining operations and improving efficiency across the board.

With every phase of a mining company’s value chain producing large amounts of data on a daily basis, big data plays a crucial role in achieving better decision making processes backed with business analytics and predictive analytics. However, in order to achieve this mining companies need to identify how to manage the diverse range of the data at hand, which data to collect and how to prioritize it. They also need to create interfaces to make big data analytics possible to improve day-to-day operations. 

Big data, if used effectively can be used to monitor mining activity in real time and thus help companies achieve competitive advantage. In fact, a number of critics are pitting big data as the element, which will see some companies leapfrog others to become best in class in 2014 and beyond.

Data is woven into every sector and function in the global economy, and, like other essential factors of production such as hard assets and human capital, much of modern economic activity simply could not take place without it. The use of big data — large pools of data that can be brought together and analyzed to discern patterns and make better decisions — will become the basis of competition and growth for individual corporations, enhancing productivity and creating significant value for the world economy by reducing waste and increasing the quality of products and services.

Mining Global considers five ways to leverage big data:

1. Unlocking data to improve business operations

Big data has the capacity to facilitating faster and more responsive business decisions based on business analytics and predictive analytics. Mining corporations capture vast amounts of data on a daily basis and big data analysis can help them make sense of this information quickly. Mining firms can use this information to predict market demand and optimize supply.

2. Reducing down-time and boosting efficiency when it comes to equipment

Managing equipment is one of the most important aspects on a mine-site. Any down time, repairs, or poor logistical planning can have a huge impact on the efficiency and thus the profitability of a mine. Big data can shed light on equipment management to help mining operators drive total efficiency. Furthermore, data such as tire pressure, scheduled repairs, faults and driver information (routes on site, speed, proper use) can all be captured, analyzed and reacted to.

3. People management and operational excellence

Big data can help site managers collect more accurate and detailed performance information on everything from product inventories to sick days and therefore expose variability and boost performance. In fact, some leading companies are using their ability to collect and analyze big data to conduct controlled experiments to make better management decisions.

4. Big data and continuous improvement

Big data cannot only be used to control current operations, but also leveraged to improve operations in the future. Mine site managers can get an understanding of the most productive site days and look into the conditions surrounding them. These conditions can then be replicated for greater productivity and efficiency in the future.

5. Minimizing risk

Sophisticated analytics can substantially improve decision-making, minimise risks, and unearth valuable insights that would otherwise remain hidden.

Implementing big data

When rolling out the use of big data its important that you consider the potential teething problems and stumbling blocks that could occur early on, such as legacy systems, IP and privacy aspects as well as storage and security challenges.

Mining corporations also need to ensure that employees are fully equipped with the tools required to manage the volume, variety, velocity and value of data from across the business. Big data bring with it a wide variety of advantages, including the ability to utilize data to operate mines proactively rather than analyzing data and results from the past. However, in order to do this effectively the people on the ground need to be given a solid understanding about how to best define rules around how data gets procured, stored, maintained and used to achieve the best business outcomes.

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