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Customer Story

Barrick Gold: Standardizing data mining to optimize gold mining

  • Challenge
    Develop Asset Framework templates for energy, water, and plant operations
  • Solution
    Concentrate efforts in energy and water management and maximize training of employees and access to industry experts
  • Benefits
    Realize significant savings in, and consistent approach to, energy and water management

In 2012, after a decade of steady increases in the value of gold, prices took a sharp downturn and have continued to fall since then. At the same time, as quantities of gold reserves have declined, operating costs for gold-mining companies have continued to rise. As a result, Barrick Gold, like many companies in the gold industry, was under pressure to reduce operational expenditures. Barrick knew the solution lay in improving how it used operations and business data. The first step was to sign an Enterprise Agreement (EA), which enabled the company to better leverage its existing PI System.

Digging for data

In 2014, Barrick launched a comprehensive project to standardize KPI reporting for its mines. The project involved codifying procedures ranging from data collection to performance evaluation. Iain Allen, Barrick’s senior manager for mining information technology, and his team knew that standardizing and expanding Barrick’s use of the PI System was a wise move. Signing an EA, all agreed, would best meet the company’s goals for operational excellence and would help with the KPI initiative. But it would be an added expense.

“We needed to justify a significant capital expenditure that was not in the budget in a time when the company was talking about cutting costs, not spending more money,” Allen said. “Jobs were being lost, budgets were being cut, and we were going to ask them to spend money that wasn’t even in the budget. We knew we needed a rock-solid business case.”

If you optimize your plants, you will save money. To optimize them, you have to manage them; to manage them, you need to measure them. That means you need PI.
Iain Allen
Senior manager for mining information technology at Barrick Gold

The case for centralization

Allen’s team began with an internal evaluation of how the PI System was being used throughout Barrick. The company has been a customer since 1998, but each mine had implemented the PI System on its own. Decentralized deployment and inconsistent data-collection methods, naming conventions, and software versions were hampering the company-wide effort to replicate success with the PI System at one mine. The team also discovered that very few employees were formally trained on the software, and it was therefore underutilized.

An EA, Allen and his team realized, would help address all these issues. It would enable input not just of plant data but also of data for mobile equipment, fleet management, maintenance, and fuel systems. “It’s auditable, it’s reliable, it’s always going to be there—it’s a historian, so we can go back in time if we need to; we can analyze trends,” said Allen. “That makes the whole operational reporting approach much more effective.”

To further justify the cost, the team reached out throughout Barrick and found existing PI System users who had reduced costs at their mines. It then analyzed how applicable those improvements would be to other Barrick mines, and how much money that could save the company overall. The team also consulted with departments that weren’t using the PI System on how costs could be reduced if better data was available.

The result was a comprehensive business case that showed how Barrick could potentially save millions of dollars each month. Cost reductions, the proposal asserted, would come from improving mine efficiency and water management and reducing energy and IT costs. Simplifying stakeholder reporting through better use of data with the PI System would also be a benefit.

barrick-web-figurePI Cloud Connect enables Barrick to manage disparate components of its operation, from production sites to smart devices.

Enabling a standardized system

On December 1, 2014, one month before the end of the company’s fiscal year, the team presented its business case for the EA and received approval for the expenditure. After only a few months, Barrick was already seeing the benefit. The company, Allen said, is “using the EA to get off to a running start.”

Barrick began by standardizing deployment of the PI System, training personnel, and extending the system throughout the company. The new standardization soon reduced the burden on the IT department while making data more widely available throughout Barrick. It also allowed the company to focus on optimizing energy usage and improving mine water management.

In addition, the EA gave Barrick new ways to view and leverage data. For example, the company built Asset Framework (AF) models for its various operational areas and supporting functions that standardize data, improve reporting, and provide new analysis options. The company also integrated its PI System data with its Esri ArcGIS platform. “The potential is enormous,” says Allen. “The spatial component is huge for us. If you think about water management, energy management, you can put it on a map—it’s going to mean so much more to people to see it in that context.”

Barrick saw huge potential for the EA and the PI System and quickly outlined next-phase projects. These include targeting process optimization, establishing condition-based maintenance, and improved supplier collaboration with PI Cloud Connect as well as data collection from its drones.

For more information about Barrick Gold and the PI System, watch the full presentation here.
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