Mar 17 2023

How satellite broadband is modernizing mining operations in the Asia Pacific region

Effective satellite communications are set to transform the mining industry in the Asia Pacific region by enhancing exploration, production, and worker welfare.

Digital transformation and modernization are heavily dependent on the availability of fast and reliable broadband internet connectivity. This fact applies to any industry sector, but mining is one area that has proven slower than most to adapt to the modern world. As recent as 2015, the natural resource sector was investing only around 1% of its budget on high-tech solutions, compared to an average of 5-7% across all industries.

Given the criticality of the mining and raw mate- rials sector to global supply chains, it has never been more important to take modernization steps to boost efficiency and productivity. The Asia Pacific region itself extracts an immense wealth of raw materials, such as coal, natural gases, nickel, and manganese, all of which the global economy has become highly dependent on. As such, modernizing mining operations with digital transformation is vital for local economic growth, as well as fueling the global economy.

Satellite internet has become a critical enabler of universal healthcare. With 99.9% availability and coverage over anywhere on the planet that has a line of sight to the sky, geostationary satellites can help bridge the gap and enable the delivery of more equitable healthcare.

Why the mining sector needs broadband connectivity
Connectivity is the number-one enabler of digital transformation which, in the case of the mining and raw materials industry, has some profound implications. And despite operational improvements over the past decade, productivity in the mining sector remains 25% lower than it was in 2000.

This is partially caused by a widespread lack of high-tech modernization in the sector, which partly boils down to a lack of broadband connectivity. After all, most sites are large and located in remote areas far away from any existing fixed-line or mobile infrastructure.

We broke down the operations of mining into several parts to explore exactly how can connectivity positively impact each of these activities.

1. Prospecting – a crucial part of the mining process. Unfortunately, it is also one of the least profitable, since it becomes more expensive the longer it takes to locate a viable site. However, with connected systems at a mining operator’s disposal, it is possible to instantly communicate real-time drilling and prospecting data and even use connected drones for mapping potential sites. This is one of the key ways the Internet of Things (IoT) promises to transform the mining industry.

2. Extraction and production operations can also benefit from broadband connectivity. Internet-enabled equipment can be monitored and controlled remotely, For example, ore stockpiles and waste dump volumes can be safely monitored remotely from afar. The detection of toxic emissions can be automated to ensure worker safety. Real-time weather analytics can boost the efficiency of renewable energy generation. Real-time data can even automate the tracking of shipments of ore and minerals and provide intelligence into things like smelter utilization or stockpile inventories. From exploration to selling and shipping, every area of the mining supply chain can be enhanced with the power of universal broadband connectivity.

3. Worker welfare is another area that is often overlooked. Many people spend days and even weeks at a time on-site, thus, the ability to keep in touch with loved ones and enjoy online entertainment as they could back home is important for their happiness and wellbeing. With internet connection that is also available for recreational purposes, mining firms can attract and retain their valued staff.

4. Even more importantly, connectivity can improve safety and emergency response times and handle health issues quicker and more efficiently. For example, connected monitoring systems can provide early warnings of impending mine collapses or buildup of toxic chemicals.

How mining operations benefit from satellite broadband.

Mining is different from other industries in a variety of ways. Many sites are usually large and remote and have no local broadband infrastructure. Even when mobile networks are available at a site, the quality of the connection may not be consistently high throughout the site.

Moreover, prospecting camps and construction sites are regularly relocated, making it unfeasible to lay on fixed-line broadband for just a few weeks or months. For too long have these limitations hampered the modernization of the mining industry, but times are changing.

Given these unique characteristics of the industry, satellite internet is the logical match for the mining sector. It is also much faster and more cost-effective than many people think, especially now that the cost of launching a satellite into space is a fraction of what it was just a decade ago.

Bandwidth and internet performances are better than ever too, thanks to Ka-band technology and high-throughput spot beams from geostationary satellites like our Kacific1 satellite which covers Southeast Asia and the Pacific. By reusing frequency in 56 spot beams for Kacific1, Kacific was able to be more efficient with our band- width and reduce the cost per megabit.

Most importantly for the mining sector, satellite broadband and connected drones can provide off-grid communications across large areas. Compact VSAT terminals can be set up to create local hotspots at prospecting camps and construction sites or even mounted on large vehicles to provide internet coverage on the move. So long as there is a line of sight to the sky, there will always be a connection. This can aid myriad mining operations, such as geo-positioning services and environmental monitoring, and autonomous mining.

Case Study: Kacific connecting CSTS’ oil exploration sites to enable better operations and communications.

Kacific supports CSTS oil fields in Tangguh, Papua by connecting their operation sites that are located in hard-to-reach and isolated regions. Prior to connecting with Kacific, CSTS faced difficulty providing high-speed and reliable broadband to support their 8,000 to 10,000 employees on their gas exploration sites. By deploying Kacific’s FlexVNO service, CSTS connected their operations and communications network with speeds of over 180 Mbps.

Thanks to the broadband network deployed by Kacific and its local partners, CSTS’s communication and coordination at their oil field locations are more effective, increasing the overall efficiency of the company.

With satellite broadband connectivity provided by Kacific FlexVNO and Kacific Mobile Backhaul, mining companies can greatly enhance productivity and reduce operational costs.

FlexVNO is a highly flexible, low-cost dedicated bandwidth solution which allows the customer to tailor their own packages and spread bandwidth across a large fleet of terminals and sites.

Kacific Mobile Backhaul provides 3G and 4G coverage to end-users, especially useful for those in remote areas with weaker cellular coverage, connecting them to any small cell or regular mobile tower. With a small cell license, any mining company can easily deploy 4G connectivity to ensure the productivity and efficiency of their operations and the well-being of their miners.

At the end of the day, the key ingredient that enables these benefits is data. In fact, it is safe to say that satellite broadband will trigger a deluge of data that will ultimately bring about enormous change across the mining sector in the Asia Pacific region and beyond. From exploration to extraction to the final sale of raw or refined materials, the mining sector can leverage satellite broadband to enhance security, productivity, sustainability, and communications.

Kacific is a next-generation satellite broadband operator providing coverage throughout the Asia Pacific region. We are committed to bringing universal connectivity to the mining industry using compact and cost-effective VSAT terminals.

Contact us today to find out more.