mine software packages that control mine operations and integrate with business software, along with robots and mine site automation are all set to change the face of mining in Western Australia—and the world.
That is the way ahead according to geologist Dean O’Keefe and general manager of mining software developer Micromine.
The company won the export award for outstanding achievement at the international level at the recent WAITTA awards for WA’s Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) industry.
Australia is seen as a global leader is mining technology services, and the Nedlands-based company is helping maintain that reputation.
It has some 20 offices based around the world and some 12,000 clients in more than 90 countries.
O’Keefe says the key to developing mining software is to make it intuitive.
“There is no point having software that has great functionality and is very powerful—and this happens many, many times—if there’s only one person on the mine site who can use it,” he says.
“So unless it’s easy to use and intuitive you can’t break into markets such as China, Russia and other emerging markets which we’ve able to do.”
He says WA’s mining industry has proved an ideal testing ground for mining software.
“There are some amazing niche companies which have been around for a number of years, because we have an incredibly strong mining and exploration sector,” says O’Keefe.
He says today’s mining software packages have arisen from packages developed in the mid-1980s that were mostly exploration based.
Now there are systems that can control a mine’s entire operations.
“Mine control systems function similarly to an air control system for an airport,” O’Keefe says.
“We have several systems that go through from exploration through to resources estimation, mine design and through to running the mine.”
O’Keefe says there are two key areas that the next generation of mining software is focusing on.
The first is for mining software to be integrated with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems which typically combine data from all parts of a business such as the financial, manufacturing and sales data.
“That way, you can get all your financial measures and all the things you need to see how your mine is performing,” says O’Keefe.
“The other main thing which is the ‘holy grail’ of the industry is automation.
“The larger companies aspire to operate mining equipment remotely in order to minimise the risk to human life and all the rest of it at the mining face.”