Global mining leader Barrick Gold is at the forefront of digital transformation. The organization, headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, is focused on becoming a 21st century company – a priority that drives Barrick Gold to integrate technology into everything they do.
Look no further than Barrick’s recent partnership announcement with Cisco and Great Basin College in Nevada for proof of this focus. The company is investing nearly $400,000 over three years to “bring digital and information technology skills development courses, free of charge, to groups in the community” through Cisco’s Networking Academy curriculum. The company doubled-down on this announcement by stating they plan to expand the program to every community in which they operate – including in Argentina, Canada, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Peru, and Zambia.
I recently sat down with Ed Humphries, Head of Digital Transformation at Barrick Gold to understand more about the company’s focus on digital transformation, their flagship deployment in Lander County, Nevada, and being a 21st century organization. A portion of that conversation is below.
Jennifer Rideout: What inspired Barrick Gold’s digital transformation?
Ed Humphries: The mining industry, generally speaking, is one that is resistant to change and slow to generate the technological breakthroughs that can lead to industry-wide disruption. We knew we could lead the industry in this space, so we embarked on a journey to transform Barrick into a leading 21st century company.
Getting to this point, however, meant changing perspectives around how mining operations are managed and assessing the possible application of digital solutions in our mines. To start, we worked extensively with Cisco and other technology partners to establish our vision and the outcomes we wanted to achieve through digitization. We then assembled a comprehensive multi-year strategic communications plan to reflect the efforts required throughout each step of this transformation – at the local mine level in our Cortez, Nevada, site, and within the broader organization – to prepare for the implementation of digital solutions.
JR: What have been the results of this transformation so far?
Ed Humphries: Our digital transformation has only just begun onsite at Cortez, but we are already seeing tremendous results.
For an example, we have introduced an underground short interval control system at Cortez. This system allows in real-time our people to see the locations and work status of different personnel and equipment which helps with planning. It helps us avoid sending equipment to a heading when it isn’t ready or is already being worked. It has the ability to control workflows and condition of equipment through apps, helping to increase efficiencies.
We are also implementing a digital work management tool at Cortez. The tool lets our technicians check what maintenance work is scheduled for the day, its status and any issues or delays—all in real time. In addition, it lets technicians quickly order replacement parts that they require via a tablet, reducing the time it would have normally taken them. Meanwhile, supervisors can track the progress of maintenance tasks on both mobile and stationary equipment, to better manage their workflow and staff.
In addition, the underground tele-remote system that we’re piloting on several loading vehicles at the Cortez mine allows an operator to sit in a specialized chair at surface to control the loader. This makes loading ore faster and more efficient. The operator could use a larger vehicle and a sensor-guided system to operate that vehicle much faster than he could have if driving it. More importantly, it makes our operators’ jobs safer, by reducing their exposure to the exhaust, dust or any potential rock fall.
We have been developing these digital solutions using an agile development method. Agile uses short work cycles called sprints, where user feedback is collected, prioritized and new features are built into the software in response to that feedback. This allows us to update software at a fast and steady pace.
Some of the more dramatic results have been in how we’ve evolved the way we work as a larger organization. Collectively, our teams have undergone a massive shift and are actively exploring how to connect previously disparate operations. This approach has led us to develop direct collaboration between mine operators and technology developers in the field, which will be instrumental in finding solutions to novel problems as we continue on this journey.
I could go on, but the impact of this transformation comes down to the ability that these digital solutions have to help us improve the quality and flow of information, enabling our people make better, faster, and safer decisions. On a mine site, those are outcomes worth their weight in gold.
My thanks to Ed Humphries for taking the time to share his thoughts.
Read more about the transformation of Barrick Gold’s Cortez mine now, and leave a comment below.