IT in mining tends to fall into two main categories. At an operational level, software and hardware (collectively referred to as process control and instrumentation systems) underpins the various processes that drive the mine, from extraction, through crushing and conveying to processing and refining. Traditionally, these systems tend to be separate from the corporate systems and networks and are typically run by the process or plant engineers.
As a result of the upgraded technology available, more sophisticated, larger organizations are starting to integrate corporate networks and systems with the process control and instrumentation systems to provide more control and visibility over the production process for managers. Companies are also investing in using business intelligence applications, which can also work on mobile devices, to track production progress and highlight any bottlenecks that could cause delays or shutdowns.
The more connected the system, the more susceptible it is to malicious invasion by hackers that could potentially interfere with critical operations. Cyber threats could come from a number of sources:
- Environmental activists that disapprove of mining
- Disaffected former employees
Regulators are also cracking down on organizations that fail to demonstrate appropriate anti-fraud safeguards or do not adequately protect confidential health, financial and other employee records.
Getting the most out of IT
“IT security should be ingrained in corporate culture, with access restrictions to financial, operational and personal data, which should preserve the integrity of financial reports and minimize the prospects of fraud.”
Any outsourced third party that manages IT infrastructure, servers, desktops, mobile devices or confidential data, should be systematically monitored – and audited for compliance – with client procedures and external regulations. These organizations also need to provide documented (and preferably independent audit), that they are meeting appropriate standards.
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