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Satellite connectivity lifts DRC's mining industry

02 Feb 2018

Satellite connectivity lifts DRC's mining industry

The Kamoa-Kakula Copper Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), described as the world's largest undeveloped high-grade copper discovery, stands to benefit from reliable high-performance managed connectivity services to be delivered by SES Networks.

The site is located about 270 kilometres away from the provincial capital of Lubumbashi and covers a near-surface stratiform copper deposit with adjacent exploration areas within the Central African Copperbelt.

SES Networks announced that it would provide a turnkey solution, incorporating managed services, as part of an agreement secured in 2017 with Ivanhoe Mines, a leading mineral exploration and development company. This forms part of a joint venture between Zijin Mining and the DRC government.

Carole Kamaitha, Vice President of Fixed Data Sales Africa at SES Networks, said the company is using O3b Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites to deliver managed services and 'fibre-like' connectivity to the mining site.

"Because these satellites are located only over 8,000km away from the earth's surface, they offer low latency connectivity. And as they have high throughput capabilities, we can provide an ample amount of bandwidth over the mining site," she said.

The company's MEO fleet has low latency capability because there is considerably shorter time required for the satellite signal to travel from Earth to space and back, making the connectivity experience comparable to fibre.

"In terms of managed service, it just means that we managed the entire connectivity solution for Ivanhoe. We shipped the antennas to the site, set them up, provided signals and ensured that the teleport is will maintained. We also provide a 24/7 constant monitoring of the site, to be able to provide immediate assistance to any issues that might come up," Kamaitha explained.

The companies are happy because they believe the solution will lead to increased productivity on the site.

SES Networks says it will enable operators on site to do video-conferencing with headquarters, use cloud-based applications to access and upload critical data, and improve overall productivity and safety.

"The crew is going to be able to better access data on a cloud, access ERP, CRM etc. and gain efficiencies. The same fast connectivity will also connect mining crew to their loved ones back home, enabling them to be a virtual part of their family life," said Kamaitha.

Steve Amos, Ivanhoe's Head of Projects in the DRC said, "We employ leading-edge exploration and development technologies at our projects, and to make sure that these technologies are applied successfully, we need to get the right information to the right people at the right time."

Although SES Networks could not divulge any figures in terms of cost and ROI, Kamaitha said "the customer is definitely achieving significant OPEX savings."

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