The mining industry has traditionally relied on software that is heavy, difficult to set up and typically have long learning curves for full-scale utilization, not to mention they are extremely expensive and can be afforded by only a handful of larger organizations. With cloud computing and mobile technology taking various industries by storm, it makes perfect sense for mining technology to move to more lean, fast and lightweight applications for better efficiency and progress tracking and data management.
Disadvantages of Traditional Methods
Let's take exploration as an example, apart from the tremendous amount of work that goes into actually discovering a mine, specialized professionals like geologists spend over 65% of their time managing their exploration and sampling data, timesheets, budgets, claims and other such processes. Moreover, exploration teams still rely on legacy systems or spreadsheets to manage and maintain their critical datasets.
This has numerous disadvantages:
1. The data that is collected and maintained in legacy systems do not often adhere to strict validation rules. This leads to a huge amount of time being spent on rectifying and standardizing datasets that are a result of exploration programs.
2. Migration of data from legacy systems to modern applications is a nightmare and typically takes months in transition.
3. The transfer of data from the field to the office for further modelling and mine discovery has a huge lapse period which directly reduces the efficiency of exploration teams.
4. Multiple software packages or systems are used to manage different processes. For example, some teams mobile applications for sample data collection and MS Access and Excel spreadsheets to manage their drilling datasets.
How Digitalization can help in Geology
With modern advancements in material sciences and the focus on specialized minerals, exploration is finally getting its due importance and it will not be out of place to say that the need of the hour is to increase the efficiency of special skills like geology. Simple digital intervention can save tremendous amounts of time for exploration teams and increase efficiencies of exploration programs multi-fold. Some examples are given below:
1. Cloud-based data logging applications can help teams in multiple locations to stay connected and collaborate on the data that is generated during exploration. Through simple connectors, the data can in real-time be visualized at the office to monitor progress and quality. Using cloud-based technology lets all your mines; whether in Alberta or Angola, connect to the same integrated systems as your office. Mines can input their data and generate reports directly in the online system. Top brass doesn't need to chase down information, it's all waiting for them in the cloud.
2. Consistency in data can be improved with configurable validations. While changing data validation rules can be painful in legacy systems, applications built on a modern technology stack can give the power to the users to set up their own validations. Most mines use an array of sensors, software, and telecommunications to ease some of the load. Regular practices like automated dispatching and drill-hole placement can thrive because of these systems.
3. Modern platforms offer a high level of customization capabilities. You can customize your entire data collection and management without writing a single line of code.
4. One app to rule them all. With the rise of no-code technology, the same platform can be used for sample collection and dispatches, drill hole logging with different forms inter-connected with each other, photo logs, managing and maintaining references and rock libraries on a single platform, budget and progress tracking and a lot more things.
Cloud, mobile and analytics have now progressed to impact specialized fields like geology. Constantly decreasing costs of data storage and ease of implementation of mobile technologies have enabled creating a more connected and dynamic geological workforce. Modern-day geologists have the tools that can enable them to spend more time in the field collecting groundbreaking data than ever before to positively impact mining ROI and outcomes.