With 30,000 kilometers of high-capacity terrestrial fiber between all of Australia’s mainland capitals and regional hubs, the need for mining companies to move to remote operations has resulted in a high demand for Vocus services.
EThe importance of staying connected cannot be understated, especially over the past two years, as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced international and interstate borders to close.
For those who work at remote locations, a strong internet connection allows people to stay in touch with family and friends, which can be vital on long trips.
Vocus, the leading specialist provider of fiber and network solutions, continues to connect the Australian mining industry.
In August, the company announced it would deliver a new Darwin-Jakarta-Singapore (DJSC) cable, a $ 500 million system of high-capacity cables to improve connectivity to the Pilbara mining region.
This followed the announcement of the Horizon project in May, which will provide fiber infrastructure from Geraldton to Port Hedland and then to Singapore via the Darwin-Jakarta-Singapore cable.
Andrew Wildblood, chief executive of the Vocus company and government, said the global COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of staying connected.
“We are all aware of the crucial role the Internet plays in our work and home environments,” said Wildblood.
“But throw a global pandemic into the mix, and it has become clear why having a stable and reliable connection in remote areas is essential to maintaining employee productivity, as well as mental health and well-being during times of business. stop.
“COVID-19 has been one of the most significant disruptors to businesses in recent memory; to stay safe, we had to stay apart.
“For workers in the mining industry, this meant extended time away from loved ones and uncertainty around travel. This can lead to a period of loneliness, ultimately affecting the mental health of workers, especially when working in isolated areas. “
In addition to the mental health benefits, the technology and the connectivity behind it provide workplace benefits for mining workers.
Equipment such as connected headsets with augmented reality or streaming video to expert offsite support can enable workers to repair and upgrade systems more accurately and efficiently.
In vehicles, image recognition can detect driver fatigue and trigger alarms when a driver closes their eyes for a longer period than normal.
With the well-being of the employees in mind, Northern Minerals contacted Vocus to explore the possibility of connecting one of its yards.
The company’s Browns Range pilot plant is located in northern Western Australia, 160 kilometers southeast of Halls Creek. Operating in such a remote location makes attracting and retaining employees a major challenge for the business.
At Browns Range, where a small team of around 55 are on-site at all times, the internet is their connection to the rest of the world.
In remote areas of Australia, providing connectivity is easier said than done. At Browns Range, telecommunications coverage is limited and has not been constant in the past, presenting challenges for Northern Minerals to improve services to employees.
Wildblood says having consistent connectivity provides a lifeline for FIFO workers and can help overcome the stresses of living in a remote environment.
“Much more than just a catalyst for a mine’s operational productivity, reliable, high-speed connectivity can enable employees, especially those in remote locations, to stay in touch with loved ones, partners. , their family and friends, and what is happening in the world around them. ,” he says.
“Mining companies that build comfortable housing also take into account the need for high-speed connectivity.
“Mining workers who travel by air often say that the two key things they look for in a potential employer are the quality of the food and the availability of entertainment, such as services like Netflix, to take advantage of downtime between. shifts.
“This is why broadband internet on site is no longer a ‘good to have’. It’s an invaluable must-have for businesses looking to attract top talent and take care of their mental health.
Vocus was originally recommended to Northern Minerals by the company’s IT service provider. Due to the location of the site, Vocus has suggested Business nbn Satellite Service (BSS) for Internet access.
This service enables retail service providers like Vocus to offer regional and remote businesses outside of nbn’s fixed line network the ability to benefit from professional quality network services via satellite.
During a trial period, Northern Minerals tested the satellite solution to see how it performed against the existing satellite service. Right away, the benefits were clear.
“There was an immediate improvement in the quality of internet service at Browns Range when the nbn satellite service was brought online and morale improved,” said Robin Jones, COO of Northern Minerals .
“Being able to stay in touch with people at home is extremely important to all employees. The ability to reliably use internet apps or bring your own content through streaming services makes a huge difference in a remote location like ours.
“Our employees can use FaceTime and talk to their loved ones without the service giving up or being overloaded.”
Jones said productivity had improved at the site as well.
“The remote systems, including our data historian and our accounting package, are performing quite well compared to the new satellite service – this is a significant improvement over the previous service we had,” he says. .
Wildblood says as resource companies look to the future, they can now factor reliable broadband connectivity into any plan to ensure employee well-being.
“And while the threat of COVID-19 will eventually subside over time, the need to be connected is here to stay,” concludes Wildblood.