The constant evolution and innovation of technology have prompted mining houses to move away from “disparate” legacy systems and pursue integrated and easy-to-use software tools instead, global consulting and technology company Deswik South Africa MD Ian Lawler tells Mining Weekly.
Lawler indicates that integrated operational planning, data management, control and decision support are rapidly becoming competitive differentiators, and mining companies are under pressure to revisit and review operating assumptions to optimise operations at every level.
Owing to the increasing use of drones and underground scanning devices, survey departments from software companies are starting to use and gather substantial amounts of point cloud data from mining operations.
Deswik’s South African office has a survey team that uses drones to do mappings, and produces signed-off surveys for pits, stock-piles and tailings.
The company foresees the use of drones and underground scanning as a growing trend, and is well poised to handle the use of this data, Lawler claims.
This trend presents opportunities for companies involved in mining software, mainly ‘fixing’ and replacing legacy systems, and integrating the data emanating from multiple sources, which Lawler notes is a critical element.
He elaborates that these twofold opportunities are centred on certain drawbacks and specifications of legacy systems. Firstly, the real cost of running legacy software is high and, therefore, integrated systems can be designed to beat this cost.
With legacy systems usually less resistant to cyberattacks, harmful programs and malware, integrated systems will have to be designed to offer either the same or a higher level of protection.
Thirdly, there are lost business opportunities – by investing in legacy software support and maintenance, clients leave less room for innovation, Lawler notes. “Businesses bound to legacy systems lack organisational agility to adapt to the upcoming challenges.” Therefore, using new software systems can be circumvented.
Lawler posits that most mine chief information officers spend the majority of their time managing the day-to-day business of mining operations, rather than promoting and building future business. “Deswik software is, therefore, well positioned and integration-ready by default to direct and develop innovative proof of concepts and pilot projects to address this innovation curve and generate differentiated value for clients.”
Deswik delivers efficiency-focused solutions across the mine planning value chain, for all mining sectors from openpit metals and underground metals to openpit coal, underground coal and bulk minerals.
The company’s core mining software product is the Deswik suite, which is a fully integrated platform that enables mine planners to complete plans and scenario analysis in one continuous workflow. It provides seamless and accurate information exchange between the various elements of a mine plan (for example, geology, design and scheduling).
The core products of this suite are the Deswik.CAD (design) and Deswik.Sched (scheduling). Several task-specific modules are available that plug into these products, notes Lawler.
He indicates that the Deswik.MDM (data management and governance) underpins these core products, and controls and shares data among them.
A unique feature of the suite is the Deswik.Enviro, which enables mines to accurately determine their rehabilitation expenses. The feature is fully integrated with the rest of the Deswik suite and, as such, allows mining companies to account for the cost of closure when doing a life-of-mine plan. “All mines are going to close one day. Being aware of these costs can make a significant difference to the shareholders’ value.”
Moreover, the products Deswik.OPS (operations scheduling and tracking) and Deswik.GeoTools (operational geology) are currently under development, Lawler says.
“Integration is a key principle that all our products are built on – our software has been designed for data to flow seamlessly across all core products and modules.”
The Deswik suite is currently used at several mining operations in South Africa, with each of these operations enjoying remarkable success, Lawler enthuses.