Esri MUGAnyone who believes that Mining, as an industry and technology consumer, is standing by and doing nothing while it struggles through a major downturn, surely did not attend the Esri Mining User Group (MUG) meeting, recently held at the University of Pretoria’s Virtual Reality Centre for Mine Design (link).

Although it is true that the impacts of new ideas and new technologies may not yet have resuscitated the status quo, there is certainly hope, perhaps due to the current economic climate, that these changes to our thinking and doing within operational mining will bring about true business disruption for the greater good.

The advent of true integrating technologies such as ArcGIS as well as other powerful process, analytical and visualisation tools is showing that things need not be what they have always been.

Providing an industry-wide glimpse of new capabilities, Esri partners spoke about some promising new developments including direct geospatial enablement of governance and risk systems (Isometrix), geotechnical integration and analysis with slope monitoring systems (Aciel Geomatics), the blurring of OT and IT systems (OSIsoft) and the new business outlook for Spatial Dimension (Trimble).

Certainly a highlight of the day was the use of the Virtual Reality Centre’s demo theatre; a 360-degree immersive VR cylinder that showcased some initial R&D underway with key partners, looking at how VR can enhance mine planning, production analysis, above-to-underground visualisation and other high value 3D questions in a truly immersive environment. Breaking down barriers of understanding to achieve better decisions and outcomes is the ultimate goal… Watch this space!

But the day was ultimately focussed on our users.

Esri MUG 2

Miranda Muller from AngloGold Ashanti gave some inspiring insights into how to pilot new technologies in an industry that is typically averse to trying cutting-edge tech including drones, IoT and VR.

Theodor Paetzold spoke about how Rio Tinto is trying to resurrect its global user groups that assist in creating a global GIS community for better support and collaboration.

Pieter Mostert at Anglo American gave some create insight into how GIS technology has been used to improve the business of mineral exploration and the entire mining value chain –by creating a single integrated source of the truth for people to access anywhere around the globe.

Finally, Professor Fred Cawood of the University of Witwatersrand rounded things off seriously by addressing some of the pressing questions and ideas needed for moving the mining industry forward in a decline against the backdrop of our socio-political climate.

Carl Bester, from Esri South Africa, gave a ‘mid-term’ update of ArcGIS for Mining and how it has been received by our current users since it has evolved over the past few years. He also provided some insight for new and emerging users on the possibilities of creating an interconnected geospatial platform within a mining operation to deliver the right information, at the right time, in the right way to the people who need it.

It is an exciting space that is ever expanding, leveraging the new tools and capabilities of ArcGIS, and contributing to the changing face of information and data in the mining industry.

All these talks provided some thought provoking concepts that showed how, by embracing digital technology, we can revive and ultimately disrupt the mining industry. The focus is on us, the technologists, to be the agents of change within our organisations to push through new developments that have been proven to be beneficial to the industry.

The Esri MUG is a collaborative forum that aims to bring users with common challenges and experiences together to learn and share ideas. The meeting at Tuks was just one such initiative and we welcome further ideas on how to improve this teamwork approach. Esri South Africa will be hosting more MUG events in future, do join us next time.

Please drop us a line if you would like to know more about the discussions and presentations offered on the day.

– Richard