Technology revolution set to boost remote mining productivity


first_imgA Perth-based company is at the forefront of the technology revolution enabling reliable online services to remote mining sites through fast, effective satellite technology. Satellite internet and technology company Orion Satellite Systems has provided internet and telephone services to regional and remote locations across Western Australia for 13 years. But its acquisition by IPSTAR Broadband Satellite – part of the telecommunications giant Thaicom – has seen an increase in its ability to engineer unusual solutions for its customers.Orion Managing Director Chris Ockwell said mining companies had grasped the potential of automating operations, but fast, reliable internet was crucial for customers to get the most out of automation. “Orion is one of only two satellite service providers in Australia to claim end-to-end ownership – from modem to dish to satellite,” Ockwell said.“This means we have both unprecedented access to satellite bandwidth combined with the hands-on know-how that comes from working with mining, construction and civil engineering companies operating in some harsh, remote areas.”Orion has sought to carve out a point of difference in the industry by offering flexible, tailored options rather than off-the-shelf solutions.That includes looking at how the Internet of Things (IoT) might be used to monitor sites that might not be in full production but remain important.“We have one customer who has deployed one of our solutions to 16 different sites to monitor fuel levels at the site generators.”Satellite remains one of the most secure and reliable options for remote connectivity, Ockwell said, but it requires clever and precise implementation. “We frequently talk to people in remote sites who are using VPNs to encrypt satellite traffic for secure communications but who experience very slow connection speeds because of that.“To counter this, we have had great success in developing a number of workarounds for different requirements, all of which take advantage of Orion’s state-of-the-art infrastructure. It means remote monitoring and automation, and even just ordinary work functions and operations, can be delivered quickly and securely.”Another advantage of satellite is that small exploration camps on the move can set up and deploy satellite services in a short space of time.“We have relocatable and portable satellite communications in various forms to suit short-term camps or exploration teams, which is vital if you are on the move,” Ockwell said.As an example, one gold mining customer needed to be able to set up camp and have access to internet services in under an hour, with camps shifting every few weeks.“They need to unpack and have access to phone and data lines to make sure they can get data to and from site quickly and efficiently,” Ockwell said. “When you are working in some of the most remote parts of the world, every hour you are without communications is a cost. We get them closer to where they need to be.”Satellite internet communication had come a long way in the last 15 years and was today possibly more reliable than regional NBN services, according to Thaicom Chief Commercial Officer Nile Suwansiri.“Satellite communication used to be slow and expensive, but with new technology this has changed,” said Suwansiri. “One thing we know is that if clients are using the internet for remote monitoring or other business uses, they need the internet to be reliable. Technology has made an enormous difference.”Suwansiri added that mobile satellite internet technology would be the next major game changer.“Traditionally, satellite services have been fixed but more and more we are wanting mobility services – in trucks, trains and boats. People are mobile, they want to be able to make transactions on the go,” Suwansiri said.“As technology matures, those services will come on line and we will be doing all we can to deliver these to our customers across Australia, Asia and New Zealand.“There is endless application for mobile satellite technology. We have already started seeing driverless trains in resources.”The picture if from international gold producer AngloGold Ashanti. Its exploration teams require flexible, reliable connectivity. “We are looking for gold in the Western Australian desert, sometimes hundreds of kilometres from the closest town,” says Exploration Operations Manager Simon Tucker.“These camps move on every few weeks so we need a service that is not just reliable but also flexible. Orion provides phone and data lines to make sure we can get data to and from site quickly and efficiently.”last_img

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