Big data and how it is changing the mining industry

Interview with John McGagh

John is a skilled motivator, communicator and thought leader. He comes from a diverse and impressive background with over 35 years’ experience in the industry. Some of John’s key interests include innovation, digital transformation, operational efficiency and future trends in the industry.

It was a pleasure to be able to interview John. He graciously answered all our questions and shared his thoughts with us. In particular, he has evaluated the big data services that are currently being adopted by mining companies to improve and optimise plant processes. You can read our interview below.


How is mining different today?

Mining supports the wealth of nations. The mining industry today is bigger than it has ever been because the population of the planet is growing. Consequently, we have got to produce more. These days however, because of the Internet and connectivity, we now can collect data which can go back to the mine sites for productivity improvements.

Mining is also a people-driven industry. Today we have a fantastic opportunity to make use of high-level skills both on and off the mine site by using the best models, best data connections, best systems, and best machine learning techniques. It’s a confluence of forces. All these combined with fabulous expertise ensures today’s mines can extract materials in the most efficient and effective manner.

Why is data important for operations?

 Productivity has always been the challenge of miners. Miners have always tried to extract more with less. All mining companies are looking for ways to improve productivity. At the beginning of industrial revolution, the extractable copper concentrator feed grade was 17%; today it is less than 1%.

We have seen mines, machines and tools that support production getting bigger and becoming more efficient. But now we are into the revolution of data, the revolution of digital. We have the ability to access productive assets and make them even more productive through smarter decisions. The operator can make better decisions and deliver productivity improvements. Data can move anywhere on the planet and it can be turned into extremely valuable actionable information.

How does a business like Interlate assist miners?

As a general manager of an operation your job is to produce the tonnes. It’s a very difficult job. You must think about the next innovation, the next breakthrough. You’ve got to look after productivity. You’ve got to look after the local communities and the environment. You’ve got to make sure that the equipment is maintained, and most importantly the workforce must be safe and engaged. It is a huge job.

What data businesses like Interlate can do is provide a toolkit and a solution that helps operators with their jobs. At Interlate we provide a partnering model which is unique in the industry. Operators see us as collaborators work with them and help to do a very difficult job in a more effective and efficient way.

In addition to this, we can explain, discuss and make the digital enabled journey easy for operators. We take the complexity out so they can use the power of all these modern tools to add value to their operation.

There is a saying of North American Indians “You never understand what a person thinks unless you walked a mile in their moccasins.” At Interlate, we have people inside that have run operations, work with data scientists and engineers. So, we look at the world through the operators’ eyes and the solutions we give them are insightful and timely, aiming to make their life easier and the business more productive.

We then add value with our operations partner through data analytics and a unique set of diagnostics that help them understand “These are the opportunities that you have to do to get fitter, more efficient and more productive.”

What does the future look like for this type of business?

I can see the business remaining connected and advancing its services by adding value to individual mining companies. By combining subject matter expertise with IoT technology, I can also see the business moving into a world where we work with big partners to further advance the technologies. We up-skill people, we bring our technology into the operators’ world, we work together. That can take us to different parts of world. Everywhere is open to us with and we will use innovative partnership models because data can be moved anywhere, this approach can be also applied to other industries.

Interlate is adding value to the mining minerals industry, it’s adding value to the investors in the organisation, and it’s adding value to all the people we are touching. But, importantly also adding value to people who work for us. I see this as a growing community. It’s all about the ethics and the value of business.