Mining companies saw moderate growth in 2010, and the forecast for 2011 is strong as global demand for base and precious metals continues to climb. Prices for these commodities are expected to rise as demand increases.

Mining companies, however, continue to face some major challenges for sustainable growth. A rise in demand, from the developing world in particular, has made performance improvement and cost savings key challenges within the industry.

It is apparent from several case studies that operations at all levels of the industry are exploring opportunities to increase efficiency and improve safety and production via automation. Due to advances in automated tracking systems, control equipment, telemetry and robotics, improvement is expected in the precision and safety of mine machinery. Automation is a discipline involving many variables and equipment that includes instrumentation, sensors, final-control-elements, control systems, networking, and communication.

MineWare developed a dashboard system which allows the mine to monitor all aspects of their operation at a glance. All relevant information is collected in one place. The CEO and top level managers get an overview of their operations by looking at key performance indicators (KPIs) for the overall operation as well as per department. The Dashboard gives them daily and progressive figures at a glance. This information is then filtered through a conditional filter engine to indicate which KPIs need attention, as each department has its own unique KPIs. A key benefit is the fast turn-around time of information, assisting managers to respond quicker and become more pro-active based on trends identified.

Indicators (KPIs) are important for an organization to achieve sustainability principles because they align the organisational activities with clearly defined targets and benchmarks. KPIs are tracked continuously and should be easily interpreted. The Dashboard provides a comparison over time for all key indicators. KPIs allow a company to take a snapshot of ‘before’ and ‘after’ implementation of automated systems, providing an opportunity to make informed decisions and make necessary changes.

Indicators measured and reported in the dashboard include costing, gold, safety and development, quality mining volume and engineering. The dashboard is delivered to clients via Sharepoint, and all reporting is generated through SQL reporting services.

The application of automated systems can make an important contribution towards increasing the efficiency and sustainability of large and small mining
operations. Automation can improve the quality of work for employees by reducing exposure to unhealthy or unsafe environments, and its introduction into mining operations provides opportunities for training and capacity-building. MineWare’s safety suite aligns directly with the needs of any operation with its Safety Game and its Incident and Accident management system.

The safety game can be specifically customised to suit the operation’s immediate safety needs and awareness campaigns. It provides valuable feedback to management on safety awareness per employee, and shows which safety hazards need better explanation. The incident / accident management system provides a proactive method for managing safety hazards, while keeping an audit trail for incident follow up and risk management accounting.