connectivity matters
Moving Data August 10, 2012  |  Written by

Moving Earth, Moving Data

To the layman, which includes most of us, mining operations are a gritty, noisy, dusty and often perilous undertaking involving huge machines and intrepid men burrowing deep into the earth to access and remove valuable materials.  It’s all mammoth trucks, scoops, conveyor belts, drilling and explosions – carried out in rugged, remote locations.

Ultimately, it really is all about moving lots of earth to extract the target material – be it coal, gold, copper, lead or countless other economic ores.  But beneath the surface, modern, efficient mining is more a carefully orchestrated ballet in which fleets of multi-million dollar high-tech vehicles and equipment are dispatched, managed and monitored using sophisticated hardware and software running over advanced broadband networks. The terrestrial shovel and drill are guided by GPS satellites orbiting miles above. It’s where the dump truck meets the data center.

The shovel, truck and dragline are all integrated with voice-video-data networking on a 24x7x365 basis to optimize mine efficiency, production and safety.  Those enormous haul trucks loaded with tons of rock? Advanced software and sensors on each monitor hundreds of conditions – from tire and oil pressures and temperatures to fuel consumption, load balance, and more.

Maintenance on these critical assets is one of the biggest expenses in mining.  A single haul truck costs over $4 million and a shovel runs as much as $15 million, so removing one from the fleet for maintenance directly impacts production. Pre-emptive condition monitoring allows mine operators to flag equipment issues before they become catastrophic failures that impact operations – and profitability.

Mine dispatch systems deploy equipment to locations where it’s best utilized.  Mine operations – and the overarching mine plan – are governed, fine-tuned, analyzed and optimized with applications designed specifically for mining.

The backbone of this complex operation is the network. It is the linchpin on which the productivity, safety and profitability of the mine relies. Bandwidth is precious. Downtime is unacceptable. Application data, voice and video flowing over the network are as essential as the fuel in haul trucks.

Mines all over the world are transforming their operations – not only with more efficient extraction technologies, but through network infrastructure and application upgrades. In the coming weeks, I’ll share some of the best practices and lessons learned through our many engagements with leading mines around the world.

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