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Mining Copper Ore — and Digital Insights — in the Internet of Everything Economy

The Internet of Everything (IoE) is a juggernaut of change, transforming organizations in profound ways. It sows disruption, and it grants enormous opportunities. But this sweeping wave of change is not reserved for what we normally think of as “technology companies.” In the IoE economy, even seemingly “analog” endeavors must be bestowed with network connectivity, no matter how venerable a company’s roots or old its traditions.

In a world where Everyone Is a Tech Company, there are some great examples of older companies that are heeding this new reality. Retail, manufacturing, transportation, and education are just a few of the places where people, process, data, and things are being connected in startling new ways. Companies that are ahead of the IoE transformation curve will ensure their competiveness in marketplaces that are ever more vulnerable to disruption.

Dundee Precious Metals provides a great example of a company that is embracing change. A far-flung global organization, the company, for example, runs Europe’s largest mine in Chelopech, Bulgaria, from which it ships gold-rich copper ore to a smelter in Namibia. Yet through IoE-related technologies, executives at the company’s headquarters in Toronto, Canada, have gained unprecedented visibility into all aspects of their operations.

The end result? A boon in safety, efficiency, and productivity.

Mark Gelsomini, corporate director of IT for Dundee Precious Metals, calls IoE’s impact on his company a “technological revolution.” He stressed that their goal was to develop technology aligned precisely with business needs. In the process, he said, the Chelopech mine went from 500,000 tons a year to 2 million tons, while saving $2.5 million a year across the board due to improvements in productivity and telecommunications.

Much of this, he said, is due to the increased visibility of an underground, self-aware network and the key nuggets of actionable insight that reach decision makers in real time. “We know what’s happening in real time,” he said. “My guys above ground in their office are getting all the data.” Based on this information, the company can make decisions quickly, and gain a competitive edge.

Collaboration tools also drive significant savings in travel costs. Today, Dundee executives can monitor operations from afar, in real time. And if a problem arises, on-site engineers can quickly set up a video session with a remote-expert geologist, metallurgist, or equipment specialist.

Vehicles and miners are constantly tracked and connected with supervisors, and underground air quality is monitored. With frequent underground detonations, any improvement in people accountability has the potential to save lives.

Dundee Precious Metals may be in a traditional industry, but like all innovative technology companies, it is constantly driving new innovations and searching for ways to streamline its operations. Gelsomini sees an opportunity for greater network programmability in the mine’s infrastructure, with the goal of making it even more self-aware. “We are always looking at the technology that we have,” he said. “How do we make it better? How do we evolve to the next generation?”

For centuries, humans have been mining the earth for resources, an often painstaking and dangerous process. But as Gelsomini attests, IoE is creating a revolution to the industry. Chances are, IoE is a driving disruption in your industry as well. The key is to stay ahead of the technological curve with a next-generation infrastructure.

Whether your business is old or new, above ground or below, IoE is the answer to staying competitive in age when every company is a tech company.

What do you think about IoE’s impact on industries such as mining?

Join the conversation on Twitter, @JosephMBradley and #FutureOfIT, or find me on LinkedIn.


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  3. Dundee Precious Metals isn’t the only mining operation leveraging digital to disrupt its business. The Chilean government owned firm, Codelco, is the largest copper producer in the world and they embarked on a digital transformation in 2003. Today, they run four mines with some level of autonomous systems and have radically improved worker safety, productivity, and environmental stewardship as a result. Doubling down, Codelco will begin to deploy robots and more complex cyber physical systems in productive mines in 2016. This is the third phase of a rollout after the systems are first proven in concentrator plants and smelting facilities in phase one and open pit mines in phase two.