The Digital Future of Mining and Resources

How digital innovation is transforming Australia’s mining industry

Guy Danskine
The Digital Future of Mining and Resources

The mining and natural resources industry in Australia has a lot to look forward to.

The most recent edition of the Resources and Energy Quarterly predicts resource and energy exports will hit a record A$296 billion in 2020–21, easing slightly to A$288 billion in 2021–22 and remaining stable through to 2025–26.[1] This strong forecast is largely due to an increased demand for iron—particularly in China[2]—and select commodities such as lithium, nickel and copper. Given the mining and resources industry contributes around 10% of gross domestic product and makes up more than half of Australia’s total exports, it’s no wonder the Australian Government dubbed it an “essential industry” to continue operations even during the pandemic.[3]

But the challenges are numerous too: volatile prices and demand, supply chain disruption, production pressures caused by delays due to temporary mine closures, as well as related health, safety and sustainability concerns. On top of this, mines are experiencing falling productivity levels, with worldwide productivity still around 25% lower today than in the mid-2000s.[4]

Technology, data and digital innovation have the potential to overcome or alleviate many of these challenges. Accelerated digitalisation through automation, data analytics and artificial intelligence can also add value to the industry by increasing productivity, safety and cost-efficiency.

For mining leaders, the question isn’t when to digitalise—it’s how.

The digital future of mining

Today’s modern mining ecosystem is more than just the physical connecting of roads, railways and ports. It has transformed to become a digital one, the success of which is built on the prompt collection and analysis of big data within public or private connections as well as multicloud exchanges. This new mining digital ecosystem will see a massive surge in data volumes, and mining leaders need to prioritize investing in the right network infrastructure─one that is scalable and cost-effective to handle the load.

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Pipes and buildings of a nickel refinery covered in dust

The digital mine of the future

Today’s mining ecosystem is more than just a physical network of roads, railways and ports—it has become a digital one, the success of which is built on the timely collection and analysis of big data via public and private connections, as well as multicloud exchanges.

Mining companies have begun using more sensors across their operations to capture and process large volumes of data for real-time analysis. This can generate an incredible amount of data—recently, an Australian customer from the mining and resources industry sought to shift about 12 petabytes of data, a feat eventually achieved via Delfi, a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution created by Schlumberger and powered by Equinix and Dell. A real-time enterprise-level view of a mine’s operations via a fully connected, cloud-enabled platform can help streamline complex processes and standards, allowing for optimised decision-making and collaboration between organisations for more accurate risk assessments.

Bringing together data and analytics via Equinix’s platform also provides insights that could potentially answer some big questions for the natural resources sector: fault predictions, ways to reduce waste, the ability to recognise trends in customer purchasing behaviour and the detection of anomalies to name just a few.

As mining activities ramp up, so do the associated safety risks. However, integrated automation, such as using robotics and drones in operations or autonomous vehicles for drilling, is a game changer and vital to the ongoing success and safety of mining operations. Uptake of tele-remote and assisted-control equipment is improving as well, and autonomous systems are already making their presence felt in haulage and other processes, whilst improving worker safety.

With rapidly changing requirements and a dynamic future landscape, mining leaders need to invest in long-term digital solutions. With the right digital infrastructure—one that is both scalable and adaptable—leaders can remain competitive by adopting new tools, apps and technology as these enter the market.

Digital infrastructure in practice

To illustrate, here is a recent use case. An engineering firm in Sweden agreed to collaborate with a mining company headquartered in Perth, Australia. However, they needed to reduce latency and lessen the time and cost inefficiencies of the traditional long-haul connectivity required to transfer data end-to-end – into and out of multiple clouds.

Leveraging Equinix Fabric™ and our ecosystem of data centres in 63 major business markets on five continents, they were able to reduce latency and transfer costs by routing data through the nearest Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centre in Stockholm, resulting in a much faster, lower-cost and easier alternative to traditional end-to-end connectivity models for data transmission.

By using Platform Equinix®, Equinix Metal™ and Equinix Fabric—and by designing a distributed and interconnected architecture with a single source of truth at the edge— our customers achieve better performance at a lower TCO, with 30% minimum reduction in latency, 70% lower cloud connectivity and 60% lower network traffic costs.5

A hybrid multicloud architecture with edge connectivity could be the answer

With legacy data systems and regulations requiring mine data to be held for extended periods of time, most mining and resources companies find themselves juggling an assortment of data storage devices, platforms and even cloud networks. Data egress charges levied by cloud platforms can be much higher than anticipated, making it expensive and inefficient for companies to access data from multiple sources.

To securely transfer, store and use large volumes of data to enhance and improve business operations, it’s time to re-architect digital infrastructure onto a globally distributed interconnection platform. Integrate operations, IT systems and devices across partner and customer ecosystems. Equinix provides connectivity to cloud providers; on top of that, we facilitate the largest density of network service providers anywhere in the world. In the case of Schlumberger’s Delfi, the customer now has the ability to connect to any network they need, as well as the flexibility to connect to their cloud provider(s) of choice. And they can do this rapidly and at scale.

To achieve maximum efficiency and provide insights that mining leaders require to address their pain points, a strategic partnership with the right digital transformation experts is critical. By building an agile, fully integrated and easily managed digital landscape, Equinix is the perfect partner to help the mining industry overcome barriers, accelerate digitalisation, and build opportunities for future growth. Find out more by reading our whitepaper or request a tour of our Perth IBXs.

[1] Resources and Energy Quarterly, March 2021

[2] Su-Lin Tan. “China-Australia relations: is this the start of ‘mining boom 2.0’ as Canberra rakes in cash from iron ore rally?,” South China Morning Post, May 18, 2021

[3] Jessica Casey. “The importance of mining,” Global Mining Review, December 1, 2020

[4] Gauthier Canart, Lukasz Kowalik, Mukani Moyo and Raj Kumar Ray. “Has global mining productivity reversed course?,” McKinsey & Company, April 27, 2020

[5] Forrester Total Economic Impact of Equinix

Guy Danskine
Guy Danskine Managing Director, Australia