Wednesday, 2 December 2020
IMARC 2016: Andrew Scott, Senior Director – Digital Mining, Barrick Gold

IMARC 2016: Andrew Scott, Senior Director – Digital Mining, Barrick Gold

The first session on day two of Austmine’s technology stream at IMARC saw mining and METS experts speak on integrated mining and data and systems interconnectivity. Andrew Scott, Senior Director – Digital Mining, Barrick Gold was the first presenter of the day and put together a brilliant discussion on the topic of “If only Mining Companies Knew What Mining Companies Knew!”.

Andrew’s talk overviewed the challenges that Barrick and the collective mining sector are facing in sharing information and data on an organisational or industry wide level, summed up by his quote “the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing”.

He touched upon the common problems of information sharing that multinational companies deal with daily, including geographical spread, difference in time zones and language barriers. However, coupling them with the human factor – the egos, personalities and power plays within organisations – can lead to a mentality to retain information rather than disseminate it more broadly.

Andrew stressed that “a lack of connectivity has created creative ways of sharing information”, citing the days gone by where a resource geologist would share a block model via USB, with compatibility issues resulting. Connectivity would alleviate such issues and create processes that are more simple and embedded in organisational culture.

Feeding into this lack of connectivity is the critical issue silos, which have bred from rigid organisational structures that generate distrust and disengagement between business units. Andrew used an example of the number of times that he found himself thinking “do we work for the same company?” when it was clear that individuals were losing sight of the fact that they work for one entity within a company’s context, but also one entity within the context of the industry. Whilst he finds he is questioning this less frequently today as Barrick is evolving, there is still many broader lessons the mining industry must learn.

Andrew then turned his attention to issues that take effect further down the data sharing chain, with information often being misinterpreted or used in a different context to its original intention. The use of metadata was emphasised as key, providing information that will allow for easier dissemination of the original data.  

As mining is cyclical in nature, Andrew depicted organisational change as a major barrier to data sharing and knowledge retention within a company, with senior leadership changes, downsizing and rapid turnover commonplace in the sector. He singled out effective leadership to nullify the range of problems that arise with this dynamism, as it can be used as a mechanism to facilitate information sharing and stability across companies and the industry.

Andrew then looked at issues of process, saying that often the real-world situation can be misinterpreted or perceived in a different way, resulting in the wrong conclusions being drawn from data. This is intensified in today’s busy world where we rely more on using proxies to provide us information despite first-hand experience being optimal.

The Utopian outcome was subsequently presented by Andrew, where we do know what we know. This would result in greater value from our assets, better efficiency and productivity, greater collaboration from within, improved likelihood of success, informed decision making, reduced duplication, less frustration and reduced risk.

So what can we do about it?

Andrew posed this question against the present context of the Internet of Things coming fast and furious, but overloading us and increasing the strain on how we can deal with it. Barrick have decided to focus on data/information to action in order to produce tighter feedback loops and to build decision support systems.  

Whilst this will begin via simple methods – knowledge sharing within companies, internal publications, social media and more cross site collaboration and interaction, there is a need for longer-term strategic methods to be put in place. These strategies will incorporate concepts such as knowledge management plans and procedures, automated data and information capture and an industry-wide collaborative network to share ideas.

Andrew concluded his presentation by looking at what the future will hold in this area and the opportunities that advanced technologies will present for miners. He stated that “the future is continually improving” with cognitive platforms building up corporate knowledge and an industry knowledge base. This will result in data lakes/oceans becoming even more accessible with technology allowing employees to capture knowledge in real time to make smarter and quicker decisions.

It will certainly be interesting to see where this technology will take us in the future.

You can view Andrew's full presentation below:

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