Newmont: making technology the future of mining
Newmont’s considered implementation of technology is a key part of the digital journey towards operational efficiency and sustainability across its global operations. Chief Information Officer, Luis Canepari, is championing the company’s digital transformation efforts as it seeks to embrace automation and electrification.
“The era of manual processes in mining is over,” states Canepari. “Blasting, drilling, hauling, the processes at mills – all will become increasingly automated over the next 20 years. Whether we like it or not as an industry, that's where we're going to have to go if we want to remain competitive.”
The process of automation is well underway at Newmont’s Boddington Mine in Australia, which will be the first open pit gold mine in the world with an autonomous haul truck fleet (AHS). Boddington’s autonomous haulage trucks feature rigorous safety controls to reduce employee exposure to potential vehicle interactions. Newmont is also executing a robust people strategy at Boddington, providing opportunities for reskilling and redeployment of haul truck drivers to other roles supporting the AHS.
“Artificial intelligence and predictive analytics go hand-in-hand with automation,” adds Canepari. “Access to data is key for our operations. Correlating our drill data with the block modelling allows us to make faster decisions based on real insights. If you look at the success ratio for exploration in mining, it's pretty low; if we can improve that by a couple of percentage points, it will have a significant impact on our reserves. With data being generated across our organization, the ability to use artificial intelligence to tell us where our next drill site should be is a game-changer.”
Compared to other industries, mining has been slow to adapt to new technologies. Canepari pledges Newmont is aiming to rethink the mining lifecycle. “We’ve had a huge success with our first electrified mine at Borden, and we’re taking all the lessons learned from projects like these, and making them part of our Newmont mining model. Every new mine we're building, we're trying to re-create that digital transformation experience from our other mines.”
Rapid Discovery with IBM
Digital transformation has been a major undertaking for the IT department at Newmont. “The partnership with vendors like IBM, supports our work to consolidate our systems and further realize the synergies we have across the business since the acquisition of Goldcorp in 2019.”
IBM was brought in through a rigorous RFP process. “We demonstrated to Newmont that we would bring top talent, and keep them there, to effect the changes needed successfully and bring these two companies’ systems together across finance, master data and supply chain management,” recalls Gene Allen, a Partner at IBM Global Business Services. “We had to learn how to dance together. We are both 100-year-old companies, but we used Rapid Discovery, an Enhance Program Launch and Agile methodology to help us deliver successfully together smoothly and efficiently.”
IBM implemented Rapid Discovery to support this delivery. “We were looking at the five-year roadmap for Newmont to plan how everything should be sequenced and budgeted to accelerate this digital journey together,” explains Allen. Because change is rapid in the mining industry, it was important to identify the different constituencies in Newmont and how the move to a digital core should be sequenced to modernize, eliminate redundancies and sequence their systems changes in years to come.”
Canepari highlights that Newmont piggybacked on IBM’s M&A experience to place all systems into one single landscape. “Rapid Discovery was about bringing our key stakeholders together across every business function for the most optimal outcome.”
Operational & Technological Alignment
Canepari’s team are focused on catering to all stakeholders, from the mining sites to the back office. “We build trust and reliability. For us to enable automation, AI and push forward with this digital transformation our system needs to be reliable, even during a global pandemic, and our networks need to remain operational at all sites, no matter how remote their locations,” he says.
The pressure of the global pandemic has allowed Canepari’s IT team to test out new ideas. “With so many of us working remotely it's been the biggest experiment for remote operations that we’ve ever had as a company,” he notes.
“We have thousands of employees working from home. It has completely shifted the mindset from the idea that we all needed to be sitting at the mine site. This past challenging year has given us the opportunity to learn how to make our operations more efficient. Everything we’ve invested in, is beginning to pay off. We have resilient networks and a reliable infrastructure backbone that allows us to work remotely. And now that we have tested them to the fullest, we can factor these into our operations.
Working remotely is also enabling Newmont’s IT organization to attract a more diverse workforce and overcome the challenge of what Canepari identifies as the misconceptions around the risks of a job in the mining industry. “By widening the net for outsourcing we’ll be able to attract even more talent to our IT organization.”
Consolidating the approach to partnerships since the merger with Goldcorp has been vital for Canepari and his team. “At the end of the day, more than half of my IT organization is outsourced,” he says. “Therefore, it’s really important to work with the right partners to create lasting collaborations that can support ERP and our business transformation. Our partners are helping us drive the outcomes we’re expecting in the short term.. They allow us to scale and de-scale, depending on our needs. Just as important is how they culturally fit with our organization. We aim to work with companies who can easily adapt to our style and understand our requirements for a higher level of detail. It is that higher level of detail that keeps our employees safe.”
To leverage automation and artificial intelligence, a robust and stable network is key. Newmont is working with Starlink and other private LTE providers to enable connectivity across all areas of its mines and at remote exploration sites across the globe. “Starlink doesn’t rely on traditional ground infrastructure,” says Canepari. “This type of satellite connectivity can deliver high-speed broadband internet ensuring the low latency that can support our efforts in remote locations.”
Innovation in the cloud
“The migration to SAP S/4HANA and bringing our infrastructure to the hybrid cloud has given us more agility; we can deliver projects faster and move more rapidly,” reveals Canepari. “It also gives us the opportunity to experiment with proven tools from other industries. We’re getting out of the infrastructure business and re-training our team to move away from supporting servers to focus on finding opportunities to make our operations more efficient.”
Canepari adds that cloud adoption is driving value by allowing him to deploy his team on more meaningful projects. “With the migration of all our systems to the cloud, we’ve managed to shut down five data centers already. We're starting to explore the possibilities of Edge Computing and what that means for our mines.”
Technology is the future of mining
Mining companies are becoming technology companies and Canepari is excited by the chance to both boost production levels as well as ensure the safety of employees across the globe. “With more and more sensors and devices connected to our operations we can analyze the data via the cloud in real time to improve efficiencies and safety at every level. The role of a CIO has changed significantly; from providing systems to providing the value that delivers safer working conditions.”
Canepari also sees it as his team’s responsibility to enable the company to meet its emissions reduction targets and allow operations to become more environmentally friendly. “As CIO, system abilities are part of my DNA and I believe as a company, we need to leverage technology to develop our systems to better harness energy management, emissions controls and water management as they will be significant drivers in terms of the success of a mining company over the next 20 years.”