Mining, Meet the Cloud: Five Critical Business Benefits

Cloud technology is poised to be the next major growth driver for the mining industry. In a highly competitive industry dealing with fixed resources, mining companies that shift to a cloud services model can gain significant returns on investment and operational improvements while lowering overall business costs.

Although cloud technology is a relatively new phenomenon for the mining sector, the cost of devices and connectivity is expected to decline over the next year, leading to more near-term investments in the Internet of Things and cloud technology for mining equipment, according to Gartner.

The five critical business benefits of cloud technology in the mining industry include:

  1. Lower Costs: Faced with increasing pressure to grow their business while cutting costs, mining companies are turning to the cloud to significantly lower total cost of ownership (TCO). By eliminating the burden of ownership on non-core mining assets and reducing start-up and operational costs, cloud technology makes fleet management systems more affordable, especially for smaller mining operations.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP), laboratory information management systems (LIMS), work planning and scheduling, graphical and spatial information systems (GIS) messaging, information business portals and business intelligence can all be shifted to the cloud to reduce costs.

  1. Increased Efficiency: Cloud technology simplifies operations and reduces the number of manual tasks associated with mining through automation. Many mining processes can be automated completely, as seen with some organisations that are using the cloud to power driverless trains and autonomous trucks. This reduces the risk of equipment failures and ensures consistency, while offering operators detailed instructions and equipment usage statistics that they can use to optimise equipment efficiency.

Cloud technology also enables more efficient use of existing and future hardware infrastructure while lowering time spent on IT infrastructure requests.

  1. Standardisation and Centralisation: Although mining companies have historically owned and operated applications onsite at each individual mining location, shifting to the cloud will consolidate maintenance and operations across multiple, disparate mine sites.

By consolidating the mining applications used at individual sites, mining companies can take advantage of economies of scale offered by sharing physical infrastructure, support personnel and software applications.

  1. Lower Environmental Impact: Private cloud environments can offset an IT environment’s carbon footprint. Microsoft Europe and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative estimate that cloud computing will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 95 per cent, reducing the mining industry’s carbon footprint and saving companies more than $2.2 billion.
  2. Improved Flexibility and Agility: In an industry with significant market volatility, cloud computing enables companies to be more agile thanks to greater centralisation and standardisation. The cloud offers flexibility that helps companies adapt to constantly changing technology needs. Cloud services can also be tailored and changed easily to meet specific reliability, availability and security demands at any given time.

As more mining companies understand the potential benefits of cloud technology, we can expect a significant uptick in adoption. When starting out with the cloud, it’s important to have a strong strategy in place for your transition that aligns with critical long- and short-term business goals. Cloud adoption success will also require close collaboration between IT, engineering and operational departments, as each will be directly influenced by this new technology.