Mining Giant Unearths Geospatial Gold

February 10, 2012 -- Fortescue Metals Group Limited has implemented an industry-leading geospatial mapping system as part of an $8.4 billion plan to triple its operations by 2013.

The cutting-edge new Geographic Information System (GIS) is the result of a landmark partnership between the world’s fourth largest iron ore producer, which currently operates in Western Australia’s Pilbara region, and the nation’s leading geospatial specialists, Esri Australia.

Esri Australia WA Business Manager Tom Gardner said the organisation-wide GIS would provide Fortescue with a new, geographic view of their business, so they could eliminate inefficiencies and maximise mine output.

“More than 80% of Fortescue’s data has a geographical component – their employees, assets and activities are located across multiple sites covering 65,000 square kilometres,” Mr Gardner said.

“GIS technology brings together Fortescue’s data and translates it into the visual format of a map – providing a common operating picture or ‘single point of truth’ for decision-makers.

“It enables staff throughout the company to visualise what is occurring across a mine and removes the challenge of accessing multiple and competing technologies or information sources.

“This will expedite the location and extraction of new resources, the identification of bottlenecks in workflows, as well as guide land management, and risk and safety monitoring.”

Fortescue currently operates: two mines; a 300 kilometre railway; and a deep-water, multi-user port – all in the heart of the Pilbara.

Its expansion plan includes increased port and rail operations, existing mine upgrades and the creation of a third mine.

Fortescue GIS superintendent Jen Thomson said she expected the new GIS to deliver a positive impact to operations across the company.

“We intend to improve all aspects of our business through easy access to data via the GIS’s desktop and web-based interfaces,” Ms Thomson said.

“Esri Australia’s GIS technology enables us to provide better visualisation and distribution of our spatial information to staff.

“Ultimately with this system, we’re aiming for a new, secure and efficient way of operating that will improve our workflow efficiency, enable users to make more informed decisions and broaden the spectrum of users able to make those decisions.”

Mr Gardner said Fortescue are spearheading the resource industry’s expansion of GIS technology into non-traditional areas of mine operations.

“For decades resource companies have used GIS in exploration, tenure, environmental and heritage management,” Mr Gardner said.

“However an increasing number of mines around the world are using the technology in areas such as health and safety, asset management, emergency management and operational mine management, to deliver significant productivity, efficiency and safety gains.

“I anticipate that over the coming 12 months, we will see Fortescue pave the way for a number of other major resources players, by implementing GIS across their business.

“In the context of the current mining boom, it is more important than ever for miners to develop their capabilities by identifying and implementing GIS-driven strategies that will improve their operations and positively impact their bottom-line.”

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