Advancing Together With Barrick Gold

Mining Building Barrick’s big data infrastructure

Where we’re going, we won’t need roads

In the immortal words of Doc Brown from Back to the Future II, “Where we’re going, we won’t need roads.”

That’s the spirit conjured up by Barrick Enterprise Architect, Daryl Novak, when he explains what the Consolidated Data Platform project will do for Barrick’s digital transformation. While the platform won’t actually beget flying cars and trucks, it will serve as a digital highway that can quickly move vast quantities of data around the Company.

“It’s the highway, roads and the sewers of the digital transformation effort,” Novak says. “Ultimately, the other digital projects couldn’t do what they do without something like this in place.”

The platform will assist with modeling, validating, and integrating massive amounts of raw data generated by various databases across Barrick.

Barrick has reams of critical information housed in databases at its mines and offices around the world. Accessing the data quickly and using it to analyze and compare performance across sites is no easy feat. Database software incompatibility often requires a call to the database provider for support. The same data is sometimes recorded differently. One site, for instance, might measure tonnage data in pounds while another may measure it in kilograms.

The Consolidated Data Platform will help to break down these data silos. While it won’t physically store data, it will act as a conduit—a highway—that brings information quickly to end users across the Company from our myriad databases. This will, for example, reduce the time business improvement personnel take to arrive at data-driven insights.

“People were frustrated that it would take too long to pull basic data, such as tons moved or water usage data at a given mine site,” Novak says. “The platform will resolve that and make it much easier for us to analyze that data.”

The way it works: the platform pulls data from various databases, such as the Pi system, into a “data lake” where users can pull the data they need. The data can’t be changed there—it’s a one-way transaction with the user, Novak says. This maintains the integrity of the data, allowing users to access it across sites but not to alter it.

The platform will assist with modeling, validating, and integrating massive amounts of raw data generated by various databases across Barrick. This information can be plugged into business intelligence reporting apps and machine learning algorithms, which in turn will help improve things like fleet utilization, financial modelling, energy and water usage, mine processing and overall productivity, among other things.

“This will help with integrated planning because our users will be able to draw on information from anywhere within the Company without having to know that special person to ask where to find specific information,” says Peter Perez, the Product Owner for the Consolidated Data Platform project. “They’ll just be able to do it.”

A key challenge

One of the key challenges that the platform will indirectly address is how to establish congruency between data measurement, such as temperature, weight and volume, measured using the imperial or metric system depending on location. To address this issue, the platform team will work with a data governance group to establish norms and decide how to standardize data as it’s incorporated into the platform.

“It’s putting the processes and standards in place so we can get some things like common definitions for the data from mine site to mine site,” says Perez.

This will remove silos that existed within Barrick between operations and various functional areas, such as finance, whose data is stored in disparate databases. It will help with “what-if” analyses and allow the business to adapt more rapidly to changing circumstance. Because the volume of data generated across the Company is so voluminous, Novak readily acknowledges that it is one that won’t ever be fully resolved.

“And while that may sound discouraging, this will be an ongoing process and data that has material impact will be prioritized for standardization across the business,” he says.

Perez, who previously worked as an Enterprise Data Architect at Nike, where he helped the sneaker giant through a digital transformation not unlike Barrick’s, says he relishes the challenge and continuous improvement opportunities that it offers.

“I like the way we are all encouraged to step out of the normal way of doing business and innovate new, more creative solutions for Barrick. It reminds me of my days at Nike where we just did it—whatever needed to get done.”