Gold miners take a harder look at mine productivity tools

Craig Watkins, Global Marketing support for Cat Minestar System product, says gold miners are increasingly adopting productivity tools.

MineStar is Caterpillar's umbrella term for a suite of productivity tools covering everything from material tracking to sophisticated real-time fleet management, from machine health systems to autonomous equipment systems.

Some of the most beaten down commodities have made the furthest strides to improving mine productivity through automation, but gold is catching up.

"Coal has always had a cost focus, so we have always worked closely with those customers," says Watkins.

"Iron ore has followed behind. We've had a massive uptake from the iron ore industry in the last couple of years. Currently we are seeing the gold producers focusing on those costs now, which means they are leveraging technologies to become more efficient."

Watkins spoke to MINING.com in October.

MINING.com: Who are you?

Craig Watkins: Craig Watkins, marketing and sales support for Cat MineStar.

MINING.com: What is Cat MineStar?

Craig Watkins: MineStar is a set of products and services that enable our customers do more and achieve more in their operations, productivity, safety, autonomy, automation or equipment maintenance or management.

MINING.com: What are customers looking for?

Craig Watkins: The strong drive right now is a focus on safety, on productivity and of course on controlling costs. We are having a lot of discussions with our customers on controlling their costs.

MINING.com: How are customers coping with all the data

Craig Watkins: The vast amounts of data that are coming in to our customer operations; it's getting overwhelming. So what the customers are seeking our help in doing is turning that data into actionable information. So we are giving them broader and deeper knowledge to enable decisions faster so that they can react to decisions as they change.

MINING.com: Can you give me some examples of how people would be using this data?

Craig Watkins: One example would be on the equipment management side. If something starts to go awry with a piece of equipment or you get some abnormal readings or behaviours it's possible to down that piece of equipment and change it out or service it prior to having a catastrophic failure and that can save hundreds of thousands of dollars.

MINING.com: Has there been a difference in terms of MineStar adoption amongst different types of miners or commodity groups?

Craig Watkins: Well in times like this we have seen a trend going through the industry and the different commodities. Coal has always had a cost focus so we have always worked closely with those customers. Iron ore has followed behind. We've had a massive uptake from the iron ore industry in the last couple of years. Currently we are seeing the gold producers focusing on those costs now, which means they are leveraging technologies to become more efficient. We are starting to make good progress with MineStar in the gold industry as well.

MINING.com: What are the trends you see going into 2016?

Craig Watkins: We have an increased focus on automation and autonomy. This really helps with variability and reducing costs in the long run. It's a bigger, long-term play. In the shorter-term we are focused on usability, user experience and making it easier for our customers to be more efficient and achieve their goals.