image of a mining site vehicle

The success of a mining project depends on the quick, seamless and accurate collection, interpretation, and use of data. Key personnel across a mining site, including engineers, subcontractors, stakeholders, and field managers, make day-to-day decisions and strategies based on valuable insights they obtain from these data. This allows them to see and tackle potential risks and bottlenecks at each stage of the project, increasing site safety and productivity.

Data-driven digital mining management is transforming the industry in ways we never thought possible decades ago. More and more, mining companies now leverage digital technology to build their operational site analytics. Incorporating portable digital solutions, such as mobile data capture, into their methods not only expedites data collection and analysis but also enriches the value of data by filtering out superfluous inputs.

What is mobile data capture?

Mobile data capture is a method of gathering data using mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and autonomous vehicles or equipment. As simple as it sounds, this was only recently considered a safe and reliable data-gathering method in the mining industry, since older mobile devices have typically lacked the necessary functions to gather, sort, and communicate data efficiently. In addition, their network connectivity was also limited, which made remote site access difficult.

Mining operations are becoming increasingly digital, and the ability to capture data and insights on the go is playing a crucial role in making this happen. Mobile-first data collection allows mining managers to have real-time visibility into what is happening on the ground, which helps them make better decisions about operations. In addition, mobile mining management software can be used to track equipment and resources, as well as monitor safety and compliance.

Using data-driven software to manage mining operations has many benefits, including:

  • Increased efficiency: By having real-time visibility into what is happening on the ground, mining managers can make more informed decisions that lead to increased efficiency.
  • Better safety: Data and insights can be used to track equipment and resources, as well as monitor safety and compliance. This helps ensure that mining operations are safe for both workers and the environment.
  • Improved compliance: Mobile data capture can be used to track compliance with regulations from anywhere on site (even in remote areas), ensuring that mining operations are conducted in a responsible manner.

Many modern portable digital devices have similar capabilities and memory sizes to high-end computers. They even have high-definition cameras that produce images and films compatible with BIM software, geotechnical window mapping, and core-logging applications. The advent of mining management software programs, such as PlanRadar, has further substantiated the importance of mobile data capture in mining, as they can now support advanced digital mining management tools, which were once only attuned with select computer operating systems. Digital mining operations are the future of the industry, and mobile data capture methods will play a key role in making this happen.

Applications of mobile data capture in mining

The increasing demand for data-driven mining site operation is best approached using a mining management tool like PlanRadar that supports mobile data capture. PlanRadar is accessible and allows uploading, downloading, sharing, and updating data through all digital devices, including smartphones and tablets. You can even manage document or contract approvals and leave comments for immediate action on the platform. Find out more about PlanRadar by booking a demo.

Mobile data capture has demonstrated the following benefits for the mining industry:

1. Inform real-time decision-making 

Decision-making is part of the daily responsibilities of site managers. Whether putting off drill and blast due to a newfound potential risk or deploying additional equipment to speed up production, they must be firm in effecting solutions on their mining site operations. Previously, mining site managers only obtained relevant information about site problems requiring immediate action after a tedious 24- to 48-hour inspection. Furthermore, formulating a course of action may take another two to five hours.

With mobile data capture, they can see the complete picture quickly as real-time mining operation data is shared on the digital site management platform. It allows them to thoroughly assess the situation live and produce a data-driven solution within a few hours, preventing costly downtime.

Filling in the entire team with the plan is also easier since more platforms also support real-time digital team communication. There’s no need to gather in the conference room. Instead, you can discuss the plan in detail anywhere you are at the site. Responsible specialist trade professionals can even execute commands with the manager supervising them remotely.

2. Build a database of valuable data insights

One of the challenges in mining data collection is identifying valuable data. Traditional methods were notoriously based on the “take note of everything” approach. While seemingly diligent, it is actually inefficient, especially if, in the end, only some of the collected data turn out useful. Remember that decision-makers consider many trade-offs to ensure their decisions are the best. That isn’t easy to achieve if they have to sift through tons of extraneous data.

Documenting incidents or processes at the mining site in real-time is now possible using mobile devices. We’re no longer entirely dependent on written reports and documents, which could contain inaccurate, outdated, and irrelevant data. Images, videos, audio recordings, and digital calculations can now be used to back up reports and analyses. Modern mobile devices also have a feature that allows instant elimination of redundant files, leaving only the original copies behind, which helps sweep off unnecessary files and save storage space.

3. Increase transparency and accountability

Mobile devices can capture and distribute media files instantly. It also provides mobility, which is critical when collecting mining site data from multiple locations (especially more remote areas) on the mining site. If there are issues caused by negligence, it’s easy to collect evidence and submit a report. The at-fault personnel or team won’t have time to cover up the damage and cause more problems down the line.

Making these pieces of information accessible to everyone through the project management platform promotes transparency and deters similar incidents in future. It also helps to instill accountability in the crew, ultimately decreasing the rate of personal injury and property damage on-site.

4. Flexibility and business continuity

One thing that sets digital mining operations apart is the flexibility it offers field workers and managers. Mobile data capture in particular enables project managers to continue supervising on-site operations off-site. More specifically, they can communicate with their team and examine available data through the project management platform on their mobile.

They can even execute commands such as sign-off contracts with e-signature and provide remarks on documents through their smartphones. This prevents delays on the project while giving workers their well-deserved time off or allowing them to multitask. Mobile data capture and the flexibility project management software provides make working together much easier.

The future of mobile data capture in the mining industry

Smartphones, tablets, digital radios, and other commercially available devices are just some of the mobile devices used for data gathering and communication in the mine. The mining industry is continually under pressure to increase efficiency and productivity, while reducing costs. A key part of achieving these goals is ensuring that data captured by mobile devices is accurate, timely and actionable.

Mining businesses should carefully consider their business needs before selecting a mobile data capture solution, as there are a number of different mining management platforms that can be used. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the best solution for a particular organization will depend on a number of factors, including the type of data to be captured, the environment in which it will be used, and the infrastructure that is already in place.

Although still in the works, the next step mining companies are eyeing is to outfit vehicles with ruggedised mobile computers. Robust devices that can withstand the harsh conditions within the mine will break the final wall encumbering data capture. Of course, these new devices should be able to support project management software integration for more efficient data collection and analysis.

Want to find out how PlanRadar can help supplement, enhance and improve your mobile data capture technology? Start your 30-day free PlanRadar trial, or contact us for more information!