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The mining transformation: Trends to watch in 2017 and beyond

Published: January 6th, 2017 By: ITBusiness Staff

It’s been a turbulent year for miners, with metal prices starting near multi-year lows as executives drew from a common playbook: slashing spending, costs and debt. Then came Brexit and the U.S. election and gold and base metals diverged.

What does 2017 hold? Industry analysts like Bloomberg have asked the heads of some of the biggest producers including Barrick Gold Corp., Newmont Mining Corp. and Teck Resources Ltd. Opinions vary, but there’s broad agreement that gold faces near-term headwinds from the Fed; that industrial metals have bottomed out but the dizzying 2016 rally may falter; and that miners will begin to spend more, possibly on deals, while keeping an eye on balance sheets.

So where does one turn in a market turbulence and currency turf wars? To survive and thrive, mining companies need to work smarter, not harder, and use digital technology like autonomous vehicles, IoT, Big Data, Analytics, remote control centers, predictive maintenance and wearable technology.

The time to act is now, says Sean Bredin, National Lead for BDO Mining. Canada’s leading mining companies, from Vancouver to Halifax, are using data and analytics at a rapid pace. “This adoption is already shaking up multiple industries, and the effects will only become more pronounced as adoption reaches critical mass—and as machines gain unprecedented capabilities to solve problems and understand language.” Mining and Metals organizations who harness these capabilities effectively will be able to create significant value and differentiate themselves, while others who do not make the shift will find themselves increasingly at a disadvantage as uncertainty on almost every front has now become the new norm.

As we have seen with BDOs mining and metals clients, Bredin stresses, “the need for digital transformation, new ways of innovating, more integrated IT and operational technology, cyber security, and the rethinking of corporate collaboration should all be top priorities for Miners in 2017 as they look to harness the power of new digital platforms from Microsoft, OsiSoft, and IoT players like CISCO”. Mining companies don’t need to fear being the early adopter. The inner workings of how your business operates might be unique, but typically the adoption of analytics can be cross pollinated from one industry to the next.

In reviewing IDC’s recent Mining Predictions report the BDO Mining Technology team sees a number of commonalities that were being slotted for upcoming IT budgets in Q4 of 2016. “IT spending in Mining is taking on a new resurgence not seen at this pace since 2009 and many of the new ideas are leveraging digital platforms and advanced analytics.”

Technology is changing the business case for the transformation that mining companies need to be making in 2017— remaking the connection between innovation and digital mining operations. The Mining transformation will require relooking at the interconnections, processes, and structure across the systems. It will take a balance of people, process and technology along with some strong leadership from a trusted Partner.

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