Chris Cawood, CIO, OceanaGold Corporation (TSE:OGC)
Mining companies can take you to some far-flung places on the earth, and when I joined OceanaGold in 2013, the company had just commissioned the Didipio operation, a gold and copper asset on the island of Luzon, approximately 270 kilometres north of Manila in the Philippines. Didipio is an open pit mine with an underground extension currently underway and with a mine life beyond 2030. The mine is surrounded by lush tropical vegetation and experiences high rainfall with an average of ten typhoons a year. Getting communications services into the site is a particular challenge.
OceanaGold has a commitment to employ locally and one of our early challenges was to build the capabilities to transition full responsibility for the IT function to Filipino nationals. To do this, we developed a plan to identify local talent, implement technical and leadership training, and phase out expat staff. OceanaGold runs a decentralized operating model to drive accountability, so it was important to get the mix right of local site control and central IT group support and governance. I have worked in many locations over my career— Australia, South Africa, Europe, and North America—and Filipino talent is top notch, with an incredibly positive attitude to their work, plus a strong interest in learning. The commitment of the local team and careful planning enabled us to successfully make the transition from an expat driven leadership to a wholly Filipino run IT team at the mine within a year.
Fast forward to the present, Didipio mine is currently in the process of transitioning to a wholly underground operation. OceanaGold - like most mining companies today—is looking to improve its productivity wherever possible and it is pleasing to see the Didipio IT function delivering innovations and technical improvements to the operation of the new underground mine. Specifically, we are digitally enabling the underground environment with communications infrastructure, deployed throughout the complex, to track and manage equipment and enable real-time data on vehicle and operator activities. In addition, with equipment manufacturers’ software, we are looking to optimize the vehicle fleet and manage complex resource scheduling to enable adherence to the mine plan as well as the productivity benefits. These new innovations will help improve safety by tracking people and monitoring equipment underground. We see this digital enablement as a platform to manage many more aspects of the underground environment and, in time, allow us to build in more capabilities for proximity management, remote equipment control, and automation.
With the local-based team at Didipio now in the forefront of mining technology innovation for our company, shows that building a plan and investing in employee development can pay strong dividends.