Software designed for mining allow companies to do more with less — as in less time, money and labor

By Russell A. Carter, Managing Editor

In military terms, many of the leading software solutions used by the mining industry could be regarded as "force multipliers"—tools or technologies that make a given group more effective than the same group would be without them. It's a capability that's desperately needed by the industry when measured against its skewed workforce demographics, increasingly compressed project planning and scheduling time frames, and rising emphasis on cost control.

A chart of the mining industry's workforce age distribution for most of the leading industrial nations would be roughly hammock-shaped, with a peak at one end of the chart representing senior personnel, a lower peak at the other end indicating younger workers just entering the workforce, and a long trough in the middle calling attention to a scarcity of experienced, mid-career workers, technicians, engineers and managers. In the U.S., for example, Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration data show that 46% of the country's energy and mining workforce will be eligible to retire within five years—and it's likely that there will not be enough younger workers available to replace them, leaving mining employers with an unavoidable need to depend more on technology. It's safe to say that a significant portion of mining's future workforce will be silicon-based devices, not carbon-based life forms, but the need for user-friendly software will be ongoing.

The situation presents both an opportunity and a challenge to mining software developers. The opportunity: Younger workers have grown up on a diet of video games, computer-based educational programs and electronic technologies that seem to advance at a logarithmic, not linear, rate; in other words, they're comfortable working with powerful software-based tools in a way that their more-senior workmates and managers may never be.

The challenge for software providers is to design programs that perform increasingly sophisticated tasks to meet industry needs, without making those programs too difficult to use by staff members who may not have the time or opportunity to obtain extensive training in their use, or the experience to interpret their results effectively. Advances in computing power, graphics speed and storage capacity will continue to drive software capabilities—and the likely results will be a continuation of what the current generation of mining-related software offers: increased modularity in design to allow tailoring of integrated software packages to specific customer needs; new approaches for compiling, reporting and presenting vast volumes of data in more meaningful ways; and improved collaborative capabilities that cater to widely scattered and often remote workforce locations.

Software of various types is involved in every stage of modern mining. In many instances, programs designed for general use are perfectly suitable for mining applications. But increasingly, the demands of a fast-changing industry require capabilities and features tailored more closely to user needs. Here are some examples of the most recent offerings in both types of software products.

Graphics, on the Ground
Eureka, the latest product release from mining technology developer Maptek, is illustrative of the modern software genre. It's designed to help explorationists satisfy the global demand for minerals, according to Maptek CEO Barry Henderson, who noted that the program's ability to allow information to be analyzed and exploited at a very large scale represents a paradigm shift in the way exploration data is used.

"A few years ago, an exploration company asked us for help in viewing seismic sections. Our software was 3-D, the sections were in 2-D and they really needed to see where those sections were in 3-D space. Once we'd solved that problem, we realized that we could bring in other types of data and this was the catalyst for developing Eureka," Henderson said.

Eureka allows large datasets with millions of points such as airborne magnetic and radiometric surveys, space shuttle topography data and imagery to be viewed in a single 3-D environment. Interacting with the spatially located data in context allows geologists to analyze the relationships, and confirm their intuition.

According to Maptek, Eureka offers "much more than a viewing platform." Intelligent tools convert seismic time data to depth without ignoring important drillhole information. Powerful graphics allow geologists to see the big picture over vast regions, and also explore local targets in detail.

The new Eureka Field tablet offers tabular data entry by means of drop-down lists, handwriting recognition or a virtual keyboard. Logged data can be synchronized between the tablet and Eureka desktop application in real time using Wi-Fi or 3G connections.

Meanwhile, MICROMINE recently launched its latest geological field logging solution, Geobank Mobile, with the goal of allowing geological field data to be more confidently collected and manipulated. The software, according to the company, is designed to ensure that data are captured accurately with real-time validation and rich data input controls that minimize errors at point of entry.

Geobank Mobile offers customizable calculated fields, built-in data approval and transfer mechanisms. It also seamlessly integrates with Geobank, MICROMINE's data management solution, and can interface with all standard format databases. The software captures, validates, stores and manages data from a variety of sources.

Geobank Mobile is accessible to clients located on-site, where it is supported on both touch-screen and standard keyboard devices. Additionally, it supports all NMEA standard GPS data, with provisions to support additional devices in the future.

MICROMINE also recently reported that it developed a data connection between its Geobank software and portable geochemical analyzer XRF machines. This functionality allows MICROMINE clients to gain a rapid interpretation of a mineral's properties while in the field.

Steve Bastick, Geobank operations manager, said that, "Information generated by the XRF machine can be seamlessly communicated to Geobank, which provides the ideal tool to manage and make sense of the vast quantity of data generated. Geobank brings all the benefits of laboratory-style QAQC to the XRF machine, and allows users to maximize their investment in the XRF."

Olympus, manufacturers of the Innov-X Delta XRF machines, and MICROMINE have collaboratively developed a "Geobank Export Template" specific to Innov-X Delta XRF machines. The template simplifies the configuration process. Users don't have to configure their own exports and imports, saving a considerable amount of time and effort.

Programs for Productive Planning
As this issue went to press, MICROMINE was preparing for the launch of Micromine 2013, the latest version of its namesake exploration and mine design solution. Micromine 2013, due for release in May 2013, is the 14th version of the software application. The first version of Micromine—a modular package which allows for the capture, management and interpretation of critical mining and exploration data—was released to the market in 1986.

New features offered by Micromine 2013 focus strongly on modeling with the introduction of modules for implicit modeling and stratigraphic modeling, along with rotated block models and enhanced seam block models.

Daria Lvova, Micromine product manager, explained: "[Micromine 2013] is Microsoft Windows compatible and has recently received Microsoft Windows 8 compatibility. This highly regarded certification means clients can upgrade from Windows 7 with the confidence that Micromine will not require any compatibility configuration and will work correctly on Windows 8.

"Micromine 2013 contains a variety of new user benefits and improved, intuitive functionality associated with resource estimation and modeling, pit optimization, annotation layers and scripting, as well as new CAD tools," Lvova said. "These new features have been designed to further improve operational efficiencies and ease-of-use, and are highly relevant to exploration companies."

Micromine 2013 supports rotated block models, which are models with axes that are not parallel to the coordinate system. One, two and three dimension rotations are supported.

Orientating the block to match the orebody means they are a better fit with reality, according to the company, producing a small model and saving processing time and disk space. It is also claimed to make more geological sense and is closely aligned with modern reporting requirements to confirm continuity of grade and geology.

Due to increasingly complex mining processes and diverse user needs, a more sophisticated automation tool has been introduced within Micromine 2013—the Python programming language. Python, according to Micromine, was designed for teaching and is one of the easiest programming languages to learn, with comprehensive mathematical tools.

Through Python, users can create their own solution, developing tools specific to their needs and running their own Python programs on top of Micromine. MICROMINE says Python is supported by many third-party packages and libraries, providing geospatial, statistical, graphic and user interface design tools, among others.

In addition, Micromine 2013 incorporates Seam Block Models (SBM) along with the associated seam modeling workflow. Seam modeling tools simplify the creation of SBMs, including splits, plies, overburden and interburden, even in stratigraphically complex areas.

Micromine said its stratigraphy display helps validate and visualize even the most complex seam hierarchy. Micromine's stratigraphic modeling tools honor the original data, with smart tools that handle seam pinching and missing holes, producing a geologically correct model.

Micromine 2013 includes simple tools for generating surfaces and solids. Using these tools it is easy to create 3-D models without needing a deep understanding of geostatistics and interpolation. These models can then be used on their own as visualization tools, or as templates for a traditional interpretation.

The latest version also incorporates new features and improved functionality related to Vizex, Micromine's 3-D display functionality that allows users to interactively display, query and edit multiple data layers. Micromine 2013 will include seam correlation, annotation layers, seismic SEG-Y, drillhole solid, color/hatch/symbol sets, line styles and stereo 3-D.

Implicit Confidence in Computing
Mintec unveiled several new features in the latest version (7.8) of its MineSight software platform, including implicit modeling technology. The company said its Implicit Modeler is unique as part of a general mine planning software package, allowing geologists to rapidly build models and grade shells directly from drillholes.

Also new is MineSight Reserve, which is claimed to consolidate the power of MineSight's previous specialized reserve engines. Easier to use and with superior reporting capability, MineSight Reserve improves on the former engines with several enhancements. These include a completely integrated reserve calculation and reporting engine. The Unified Reserves Engine (URE) can be leveraged as a reserve calculation tool for scheduling tools throughout MineSight.

URE supports 3-D block modeling and stratigraphic models, as well as greatly improving the ability to classify reserves. Other features include: multiple grouping fields for reporting; dynamic material classification; calculated fields, which allow creation of calculated grade items on-the-fly; an easier-to-use interface; built-in reserve calculation auditing functions; and direct export of reports to Microsoft Excel, CSV, PDF and several other formats.

Customers using MineSight's latest Haulage software now can apply the reporting and charting functionality of ARC, MineSight's Advanced Reporting and Charting tool. Included in the recent release of MineSight Haulage V.4, ARC offers a wide range of reporting and charting options, including pivot reports, detailed reports, pre-defined templates and custom templates.

MineSight 3-D (MS3D) Version 7.8 integrates with Autodesk's RealDWG toolkit, enabling improved sharing of data between AutoCAD and MS3D. The release updates the software's DXF import/export to the latest standard and adds full DWG import/export capability. The inclusion of DWG support means convenience for clients exchanging large projects between AutoCAD and MS3D. Mintec said DWG, a native, binary format, is more efficient than the open, ASCII DXF format. DWG yields files that are several times smaller than DXF formatted data.

Mintec's newest version of MineSight Strategic Planner (V.3.6), also includes ARC reporting and adds improved input and validation for entry of shovels, trucks and destinations and lifts. According to the company, MSSP offers the level of detail demanded by the mining industry for full feasibility studies of new and existing mines. It ensures that the long-term life-of-mine plan can be used effectively by short and medium-term mine planners as guidelines for their work.

MSSP analyzes bench pushback reserves, material destinations and haulage parameters to provide a feasible life of mine schedule that maximizes net present value. It considers all operating constraints while meeting or exceeding project-specific objectives, period production goals and quality targets.

New Avenues for Evaluation
GEOVIA, formerly known as Gemcom Software prior to acquisition in 2012 by Dassault Systèmes, released the latest version (6.5) of the GEMS geology and mine planning software application. The new version, said the company, provides tools that enable easier drillhole design, and then allow users to rapidly produce and evaluate solids from the drillhole information in ways that were not previously possible, freeing more time for evaluation and analysis.

A new Dynamic Shells module allows geologists to model geologic data for visualization of grade data. Fully integrated with GEMS, this tool is designed to save time when initially evaluating deposits and can assist in generating surfaces and solids in moments as opposed to hours. The module interactively creates grade shells from drillholes and sample information. Geologists can select data points directly from GEMS and immediately create implicitly modeled isosurfaces, and analyze several different models simultaneously based on different interpolation parameters.

The company noted that although this method does not replace traditional solids and block modeling, it is a technique that can provide mining operations with a faster and more flexible analysis capability for an ore deposit.

Other features offered by the new version include:

  • A new drillhole design tool that assists with designing and storing new drillholes for exploration or resource extension projects, allowing geologists to create and edit new planned drillholes graphically.
  • Solids validation and error correction that has undergone a dramatic change, and new solids repair functionality that reduces solids validation time from days to minutes.
  • A solids autocorrect feature that locates and fills invalid triangles, and removes and fills the resultant hole(s) with the ability to expand the selection to neighboring triangles to fix more complex error groups.
  • TIN conditioning, triangle thinning, selection and manual repair functions are also collated into the new tool for ease of use.

Rapid Data Translation
RPM (RungePincockMinarco) showcased new and upgraded products at the 2013 SME Annual Meeting & Exhibit held in Denver, Colorado, USA, in February. RPM said its new Block Agg translates geology into mining as soon as new information is uncovered, allowing sites to rapidly move from geological models to scheduling options and production forecasts; while Haulnet, part of RPM's TALPAC mining productivity simulator portfolio, is used to identify the most advantageous haulage routes. It enables users to visualize available haulage paths and choose the most cost-effective routes by interpreting road geometry from mine designs, then quickly filter thousands of data points into haul roads and profiles. The program's graphics features realistically simulate the productivity of haul truck routes at different phases of mine life, in 3-D.

In combination with the features of the Advanced Destination Scheduler in XPAC, its mine scheduling software, RPM said Haulnet allows users to accurately report truck hours for every period by source, material and destination; analyze available haulage options each time a new destination is selected; ensure the schedule does not exceed the truck hours available for each period; and model haulage options in a rigorous, practical manner.

RPM also announced that the latest release of TALPAC (10.2) has had its equipment database of trucks, loaders, scrapers and underground equipment updated to include the latest equipment introduced to the market at MINExpo 2012. The update includes Caterpillar's Unit Rig MT4400D AC and Cat 777G haul trucks, Komatsu's 750E (AC) truck and Hitachi's EH 5000AC-3 truck. The update also includes newly introduced or upgraded equipment from many other manufacturers including Liebherr, Bell, Volvo, BelAZ and P&H.

Alun Philips, RPM's product manager–simulation, said, "We're proud that with this new release, TALPAC has evolved to include a vast database of more than 500 trucks and 400 loaders, allowing virtually any truck and loader combination to be simulated and evaluated."

Dedicated to Coal
RPM introduced Underground Coal, a dedicated product for underground coal mining, at Mining Indaba in South Africa earlier this year. RPM's Regional General Manager–EMEA, Mike Evans, explained that many of the company's clients are dependent on "niche" technical skills. "With a skills shortage continuing to affect the industry, we've addressed these concerns by opening up mine planning to a wider audience," Evans said.

RPM's coal software, Evans said, reduces the need to learn scripting, allowing for more high-speed planning. "By implementing Underground Coal, we remove the risk of loss of human capital from our clients' business," he said.

The RPM product enters the market against GEOVIA/Gemcom's coal solution, which to date has been the only integrated, end-to-end geology and mine planning solution designed specifically for coal, according to Robert Selzler, Gemcom's vice president of marketing. Gemcom released the latest version of Minex (6.1.1) in late 2011, which built on existing underground capabilities to offer a complete underground coal scheduling and design solution. It has since been renamed Underground Engineering.

Further strengthening MICROMINE's exploration offerings is Coal Measure, a software solution specific to the coal sector that enables modeling of coal projects to be executed quickly due to seamless processes, from stratigraphic hierarchy compilation through to gridding and seam block model generation.

Advances in Asset Management
Mining companies interested in reducing maintenance costs and improving plant reliability may accomplish those goals through a solution released in January from enterprise resource planning (ERP) software provider Syspro and enterprise asset management (EAM) software provider Mainpac.

The combined offering is claimed to be unique in the industry, enabling mine operators to take immediate advantage of the latest EAM and ERP technology, according to Mainpac Executive Chairman James Kirk.

"Mining is an asset-intensive business and maintenance can account for anywhere between 30% and 50% of a mine site's overall costs. This makes it a key area in which companies can gain efficiencies and a competitive advantage," Kirk said.

"As well as being asset intensive, mining is also a heavily regulated industry. Equipment is frequently audited to make sure the correct parts are in place and the equipment is well maintained. Maintenance managers must be able to provide accurate records for compliance and auditing purposes. This process becomes much faster and less labor intensive with the use of an effective…EAM system."

According to Mainpac, a recent Aberdeen Group report suggests that a mine's performance is directly affected by the management of its assets. The report said performance can be characterized by overall equipment effectiveness, unscheduled asset downtime, maintenance costs and return on assets.

"Many ERP providers offer a solution that includes asset management capabilities, but the asset management component is usually an afterthought and is often inadequate to meet the requirements of asset intensive businesses. The initial outlay and ongoing costs of these 'all-in-one' solutions can be very high, especially when the purchased solution is inadequate, and the company must return to market to find an asset management solution that meets their needs," Kirk said.

"By partnering with Syspro, we've created a 'best of both worlds' solution. With a comprehensive ERP system and a specialized EAM system working together in a pre-integrated solution, mining companies will start seeing benefits almost immediately."

The implementation process is easier and faster, according to the developers—and is also scalable, so users can start small and expand their use of the system across multiple sites or divisions as needed.

According to Mainpac, substantial savings and operational efficiencies are achieved via the capability of the integrated solution to track and manage asset availability and performance and apply maintenance strategies according to an asset's criticality to the business, according to Kirk.

"The integrated system lets you see everything down to the finest detail so you can make smarter decisions about maintenance, faster," he said.

"You can balance maintenance costs against replacement costs, for example. With a best of breed asset management system in place you can identify warranty opportunities, reduce unplanned downtime and reduce the number of spare parts and consumables held across multiple sites."

Mainpac's software, Mainpac 2011, was developed in consultation with research partners such as the Cooperative Research Center for Infrastructure and Engineering Asset Management (CIEAM). It enables customers to take incremental steps toward best practices, making it ideal for organizations that are still exploring the concept of predictive maintenance.

"Reliability tools within Mainpac 2011, like its Criticality Matrix and Maintenance Strategy Decision Tree, enable customers to quickly identify key assets and develop a maintenance strategy based on practical considerations. It's easy to use with minimal keystrokes, so it won't take long for users to be up and running with the solution," Kirk said.

"As well as integrating easily with Syspro's ERP system, Mainpac 2011 also readily integrates with operational and SCADA systems for greater visibility and automation across the business."

Shaun Butler, Syspro's general manager–Asia Pacific, said the joint offering will give customers control over key assets and enterprise wide business processes in one fast implementation.

"Both Mainpac and Syspro have had a single solution focus for more than 30 years and both have invested heavily in ongoing development and continuous improvement. This partnership now enables Syspro ERP users to gain interactive dashboards; workflow capability across an entire enterprise; accessibility from anywhere and anyhow; flexibility in deployment; total scalability; and a complete out of the box solution that works seamlessly across all areas of the business without the need for any customized integration," Butler said.

In a slightly different vein, Dingo Software, developers of the popular Trakka software tool for in asset-intensive industries, announced that it planned to release a new Condition Intelligence Module in April 2013. The new module, said Dingo, enables streamlined and automatic diagnostics of asset condition through the use of rules-based analysis. The goal of Condition Intelligence is to proactively identify issues with components and assets and then provide the client with recommendations and action plans to correct the problems in an appropriate time frame.

At the core of the Condition Intelligence module is a forward-chaining rules engine which processes and reacts to incoming data and event patterns. When triggered, these rules initiate workflow recommendations, or series of maintenance tasks designed to address an abnormal equipment condition. These rules integrate with the workflow management structure within Trakka, and are applicable to any time-series data across multiple industries. Maintenance or other action recommendations are sent to the client via email and are based on the rules as developed by the client and Dingo.

Dingo offers an Expert Analysis option to the rules-based solution, in which Dingo experts provide a daily review and analysis of component and asset data. Based on the data and their analysis, Dingo provides to the client prioritized maintenance actions either via email or, in emergency situations, by telephone. Along with the recommendations, Dingo will provide unique troubleshooting guides exclusive to the type and model of equipment being analyzed.

Dealing with Documents in the 'Big Data' Era
Aconex, provider of project collaboration solutions for the mining and other industries, announced its selection by Alderon Iron Ore Corp. for use at Alderon's Kamistiatusset (Kami) iron ore project in western Labrador. Alderon, a Canada-based iron ore development company, chose the Aconex platform to manage the huge volume of documents shared among the geographically dispersed organizations involved in the multiparty project.

"Aconex is helping us keep our project on track," said Bernard Potvin, executive vice president of project delivery at Alderon. "It's crucial that all of our global teams, from China to St. John's, have real-time access to current documentation around the clock. The resulting increase in productivity—for administration, information management and personnel tracking and reporting—has shortened document turnaround time among team members, directly improving our bottom line."

Prior to Aconex, Alderon had not deployed a third-party collaboration solution to manage the hundreds of thousands of documents involved in Kami, with 150-plus document types ranging from AutoCad drawings and 3-D models to contracts and procurement materials. Previously, correspondence and collaboration among participating companies had been conducted by email, on various internal servers and over additional channels.

Aconex said Alderon should now be able to more efficiently manage correspondence, documents and workflows after implementation of its solution. An important benefit, according to Aconex, is ease of deployment and local support, which enabled the project team to become fully operational on the Aconex platform in a matter of weeks from the day of implementation.

"In the age of Big Data and multiparty collaboration, there's an increasingly massive amount of information being created, and companies are forced to deal with the deluge or be left behind." said Leigh Jasper, CEO of Aconex. "We've witnessed first-hand how our clients have overcome that challenge to streamline their processes and realize major cost savings and productivity gains, and ultimately improved profitability."

Aconex said its suite of solutions enables project managers to reduce the cost and risk inherent in capital projects of all sizes and improve efficiency, productivity and accountability for all project participants. Aconex claims 280,000 users among its customer base, which includes large mining companies, nine of the world's top 10 engineering procurement and construction (EPC) firms, 23 of the 25 leading global design firms, and nearly all Fortune 500 construction and engineering firms.

Taking another approach to solve a project information management problem, Anglo American selected Intergraph's SmartPlant Foundation to support the information handover process for its Los Bronces mine development project.

Gerhard Sallinger, president of Intergraph Process, Power & Marine, said, "SmartPlant Foundation provides Anglo American the technology and capabilities of the industry-standard solution for information management, used by engineering, procurement and construction companies and owner operators globally. The implementation of SmartPlant Foundation at Los Bronces Development Project gives Anglo American fast, easy and intuitive access to engineering documentation, allowing it to execute projects and operate safer while increasing quality and productivity."

Intergraph, a division of Hexagon, said SmartPlant Foundation has the broadest solution footprint in the industry with capabilities that span the entire project life cycle, ranging from simple document management to configuration management. Its forte is the ability to manage massively interrelated, interdependent and rapidly evolving data that is the backbone of SmartPlant Enterprise, Intergraph's multi-discipline integrated engineering suite, as well as being the platform for integrated applications such as SmartPlant Construction and SmartPlant Enterprise for Owner Operators.

Getting a Grip on Cost Management
EcoSys, a Denver, Colorado-based developer of project controls software, said it has implemented enterprise solutions for more than 250 private and public organizations, and recently assisted Tahoe Resources in a program to help the junior silver exploration and development company gain control of its project cost management.

Tahoe's Escobal project—its first producing mine—is located in southeast Guatemala and offers an estimated life of 18 years at a capital cost of more than $325 million. Construction is under way and production is expected in
late 2013. Given large capital expenses before the mine starts producing and a finite lifespan, the effective control of
costs is imperative to the overall profitability of the project. Consequently, Tahoe sought a streamlined system for cost management on this project which would then serve as the cost controls foundation for future mining projects.

Starting from scratch, Tahoe required a system to support cost control best practices "out of the box," but with the flexibility to meet its specific and unique requirements. They wanted a single system that could support budgeting, change management, commitments tracking, reconciliation of actuals, performance measurement, forecasting, as well as provide an integrated reporting solution.

Tahoe also would need a method to aggregate its own internal commitments and transactions with those initiated externally by its engineering, procurement, construction and management consultant. And, as an international company, Tahoe required a system that could easily support the multiple currencies it regularly uses in its operations.

In conjunction with global construction consultants Turner & Townsend, Tahoe selected EcoSys EPC (Enterprise Planning & Controls) as its project cost management solution for Escobal, which also provided the scalability to grow for future projects.

Tahoe will use the EcoSys system to:

  • Function as a central repository to aggregate data for project controls reporting;
  • Exchange budget and actuals data with Tahoe's Microsoft Dynamics accounting system;
  • Provide detailed budget tracking including original and current budgets on annual and Life Total bases;
  • Implement a budget change management process with an auditable workflow;
  • Manage all commitments within EPC and reconcile against actual costs;
  • Model forecasts based upon multiple approaches including direct, time-phased estimates or earned value methodology;
  • Allow for planning, forecasting and recording actuals in multiple currencies, as well as adjusting for exchange fluctuations and converting foreign currencies into the reporting currency; and
  • Provide comprehensive reporting capabilities (e.g. monthly cost performance, change order logs, 12-month rolling cash flow forecast, earned value by area) and allow endusers to create new reports as needed.

EcoSys notes that Tahoe's now-scalable cost controls system is able to support multiple projects and portfolio level analysis. It provides visibility into project performance with easy drill-down into details to isolate variances, allowing for rapid corrective action. Its automated report generation capability reduces labor and potential errors associated with manual collating and building of reports.

Implementation of EcoSys EPC, said the company, has provided Tahoe Resources with a full-featured cost controls software solution that supports its need for budgeting and forecasting, change management, commitments tracking, reconciliation of actuals, performance measurement including earned value, and reporting. As a result, the organization has enhanced its ability to proactively address project change and variances.

Setting Standards
The Open Group, a global vendor- and technology-neutral consortium that includes among its membership Vale, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group as well as a number of industry-related suppliers of various services and technologies, recently approved the Exploration and Mining Business Reference Model (EM Model) as an Open Group technical standard. This is the first approved standard for the natural resources industry developed by the Exploration, Mining, Metals and Minerals (EMMM) Forum of The Open Group.

The EMMM Forum is a global, vendor-neutral collaboration where members work to create a reference framework containing applicable standards for the exploration and mining industry. The forum functions to realize sustainable business value for the organizations within the industry through collaboration, and to support vendors in their delivery of technical and business solutions.

The EM Model is being touted as the first step toward establishing a blueprint for organizations in the natural resources industry, providing standard operating practices and support for vendors delivering technical and business solutions to the industry.

"Designed to cater to business activities across a variety of different types of mining organizations, the model is helping companies align both their business and technical procedures to provide better measures for shared services, health, safety and environmental processes," said Sarina Viljoen, senior consultant at Real IRM and director of EMMM Forum. "I can confirm that the business reference model was accepted as an Open Group standard and will now form part of the standards information base."

"Using the EM Model as a reference with clients allows us to engage with any client and any mining method. Since the model first went public I have not used anything else as a basis for discussion," said Mike Woodhall, a mining executive with MineRP, a provider of mining technical software, support and mining consulting services. "The EM Model captures the mining business generically and allows us and the clients to discuss further levels of detail based on understanding the specifics of the mining method. This is one of the two most significant parts of the exercise: the fact we have a multiparty definition—no one person could have produced the model—and the fact that we could capture it legibly on one page."

Viljoen said that forum member organizations find the collaboration especially useful, as it drives insight and clarity on shared challenges. "The forum has built on the very significant endorsement of its first business process model by Gartner in its report Process for Defining Architecture in an Integrated Mining Enterprise, 2020.

"In the report, Gartner suggests that companies in the mining industry look to enterprise architectures as a way of creating better efficiencies and integration across the business, information and technology processes within mining companies," said Viljoen.

Gartner highlighted the following features of the EM Model as being particularly important in its approach, differing from many traditional models that have been developed by mining companies themselves:

  • Breadth—covers all aspects of mining and mining-related activities;
  • Scale-independent—suitable for any size businesses, even the largest of enterprise corporations;
  • Product and Mining-method Neutral—supports all products and mining methods; and
  • Extended and Extensible Model—provides a general level of process detail that can be extended by organizations to the activity or task level, as appropriate.

The EM Model is available for free download from The Open Group Bookstore at

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