Q&A with Miranda Wilson of AngloGold Ashanti

Miranda Wilson – Specialist: GIS and MIS, CARO Business Improvement, AngloGold Ashanti – is speaking at 10:00AM on Day 2 of the GMG Johannesburg Forum. We asked her for some more info about her talk, her work, and her involvement in the forum.

Could you describe some of the key points about your presentation on “driving digitalization through geospatial enablement”?

Mining is an extremely spatial business. We have been addressing two key business challenges in one by leveraging off our GIS platform to make the “where” more accessible to end users throughout the organization. By doing this, we are providing a digital solution with a very low barrier to entry that encourages users to follow the correct business processes and drives digitization of those processes. The approach to this work has been to provide a top-down design of our spatial data infrastructure, but develop the individual solutions to our day to day challenges from the bottom up, ensuring that good data management practices are in place for the tools and apps that are implemented to replace paper and spreadsheet-based processes, tedious manual map making processes and address old challenges in new and innovative ways. This has engaged end users and encouraged them to drive their own digitalization roadmap. Digitalization can be a threatening topic for many mine workers as they associate it with the potential loss of jobs, changing work and therefore they resist change. By providing quite simple solutions that encourage user uptake, and solve challenges their day to day tasks, we have been successful in overcoming some of these hurdles. In reality, while we may change the way we work, digitalization opens opportunities for employees to work smarter, safer and more efficiently, allowing them to make a greater impact in a resource-constrained environment.

Why is this topic important for the global mining community and/or the Southern African mining community right now?

We are in the midst of the 4th industrial revolution and companies need to adapt to changing pressures or become obsolete. Drivers such as the need for safer operations and controlling cost margins are pushing mining companies to make the most of the solutions available to them. Geospatial technologies are receiving increasing focus, and the industry is growing rapidly. New, highly cost-effective solutions leveraging of satellite and UAV technology, IoT devices and integrated platforms allow us to make better decisions and identify risks and opportunities in time to take appropriate actions. If there are mining companies that are not leveraging of spatial technologies now, then they should strongly consider doing so.

Based on your experience, what do you think the digital mine will look like 10 years from now?

 I think that interoperability of data is going to be the biggest decider about which technologies propagate within the digital mine of the future. Platforms which limit the accessibility of information are going to become defunct, and a solid data infrastructure will become paramount. None of the technologies that we are looking at expectantly to deliver amazing results can function effectively and add value without interoperable systems and data sources. Currently, we are seeing a proliferation of OEM solutions with their “own” analytics platform. If we expect AI, VR and autonomous mining to evolve then siloed systems and platforms need to be limited in favour of a functional data infrastructure.

What are the biggest challenges to harnessing geospatial technologies in mines?

Establishing a solid spatial data infrastructure with the appropriate resources to maintain and manage that infrastructure is challenging. We have also found that disparate standards between departments and IT/OT alignment can cause serious challenges to data interoperability and accessibility. Educating people as to the value of geospatial technologies is also time-consuming and demanding, especially as technology has evolved greatly over the last few years.

Why did you choose to speak at this GMG forum?

I was offered the opportunity to speak at the event and felt that it would be interesting to share my story with a different forum than established GIS professionals that I usually present to. I am also looking forward to hearing about the work that other members of the GMG will be presenting.