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Around the world, the mining industry has undergone enormous changes in recent years.

These include drastic shifts taking place in operational technology, with many mining companies adopting automation and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and applications to manage complex systems, streamline their processes and to coordinate the entire mining value and operational chain.

Such automated mining operations amount to vast quantities of data.

As mining becomes increasingly dependent on technology, the ERP software and applications manufacturers are all jostling for mines to adopt their products. Yet due to the recession – during which the mining sector was also hit hard – many mines have delayed IT infrastructure refreshes.

But with competitive pressures on the increase to perform up to global standards, mining operations are now starting to look for smart, cost-effective replacements for ageing or underperforming systems.

“Mining companies are realising that upgrading to and investing in new applications and software will help them to operate more efficiently, which would actually help them to save money,” says Gerald Naidoo, CEO of Logikal Consulting, a South African-based solutions integration company.

“However, many companies are stalling when they consider that they will have to migrate all that data to a new platform, thinking of how much of a headache it would be for their IT departments.”

The answer, says Naidoo, would be to implement Information Lifecycle Management (ILM). This term, which has become a buzzword in the data storage industry, actually describes how a company/organisation deals with the process of managing their information (data) through its various operational stages, from initial capture right through to archival. The various aspects of ILM include backup and data protection, disaster recovery, restoring, archiving, long-term retention, data replication and application retirement.

Naidoo’s firm, Logikal Consulting, recently struck a deal with Solix Technologies, a global leader in providing specialist Enterprise Data Management and related technology solutions, to become its sole distributor in South Africa.

“We are introducing the Solix Enterprise Data Management Suite, Solix EDMS, of software that will enable mining operators and clients in other industries, to implement various aspects of ILM.”

Putting ILM systems in place has already helped a major mining company in Latin America to cut back on its own operational expenditures. After a decade of investing in acquisitions around the globe to the tune of about $28 billion, business was booming, but the mining company’s IT department was put under enormous strain.

“Every time a mining company makes an acquisition, it inherits the systems and applications of that organisation as well, which can make an already complex IT landscape even more difficult to navigate since it has to be migrated to or integrated with the current system,” says Naidoo.

“Even if some of the data might overlap, you can’t simply get rid of it – or retire it – because it may have to be retained for legislative compliance purposes.”

If nothing is done about those applications, the company would still have to pay ongoing license fees and maintenance costs, including the mounting costs of having all that data stored. “So using a system like Solix for application retirement would free up valuable resources while still retaining the valuable data, and making it easy to access it whenever you should need it,” Naidoo says.

As for the Latin American mining company: eighteen months after streamlining its systems by using ILM applications, it had gained a complete return on investment and managed to save $1 million annually in the operational costs associated with supporting the system.

“If that isn’t a good endorsement for ILM implementation, I don’t know what is,” says Naidoo.

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