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IoT risk
management in
the mining industry

Author: Poornima Apte

The mining industry is continuously searching for the next mineral deposit or oil source. Boosting output and profitability requires improving efficiencies. The industry at large is turning to the Internet of Things (IoT) to drive those improvements—but it must also implement proper IoT risk management to get the most out of them.

IoT for mining industry

Because so many pieces of equipment can connect to it, the IoT can benefit several facets of the mining industry.

  • Seam exploration guidance. Sensors embedded in the ends of drilling equipment send out acoustic waves and measure the signals received. Seams rich in ore return stronger signals, letting miners know where to dig next.
  • Worker safety improvements. Wearable devices can measure dangerous gases in mines and alert workers and managers about potentially hazardous conditions.
  • Efficiency improvements. Telemetry options for fleet management can analyze data to optimize extraction schedules, assign the right labor to the right job and proactively download necessary operational tasks.
  • Operation automation. Mining companies are deploying fleets of autonomous vehicles.These vehicles can be especially advantageous in hazardous underground conditions, and they enable monitoring by feeding data to a central controller.
  • Predictive maintenance. Mining equipment fitted with IoT sensors can facilitate predictive maintenance by sending alerts before machines fail. Predictive maintenance limits downtime and keeps fleets running efficiently.

The cybersecurity question

The IoT can help companies in the extraction industry reap additional dividends, but it introduces a new set of internet-ready operators—which, in turn, increases the number of cyberattack vectors. According to the 2020 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report,  attacks in the mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction utilities sector are mostly motivated by financial gain or espionage. If cybercriminals steal your intellectual property, extraction data or other intelligence, they could sell it to a competitor—and give them a competitive advantage.

The mining industry's cybersecurity challenges can be especially complicated. Their assets are often rigidly kept in separate silos: information technology (IT), or the computing and storage side of things; and operational technology (OT), the industrial control systems that do the work. Additionally, industrial control systems are often made up of legacy equipment, with only specialized engineers qualified to operate them.

Security might be last on the list of priorities. Mines are often decentralized; some are portioned off to third-party contractors, each with its own approach to connectivity and data security. While 67% of respondents in a 2020 Inmarsat mining industry survey had implemented at least one IoT-based project, only 34% said that they regularly fortified their defenses by patching their networks2—and unpatched vulnerabilities are eminently exploitable.

Robust IoT risk management solutions can address these issues, and a comprehensive approach, accompanied by a security-first culture, can reboot the discussion about IoT security. Unifying IT and OT monitoring under a single security office can provide centralized oversight. Security credentialing platforms and similar solutions can secure devices and apps, encrypt data and authenticate devices.

The IoT can be a godsend to the mining and extraction industry, and the increase in intelligent endpoints doesn't have to keep executives and site managers up at night. Robust cybersecurity solutions can promote safe and efficient use of the IoT.

Learn how Verizon IoT Security Credentialing can secure your smart devices.

CNBC, Mining looks to electric, autonomous vehicles to reduce costs and improve efficiency, July 16, 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/16/mining-looks-to-electric-autonomous-vehicles-to-improve-efficiency.html.

Inmarsat Research Programme 2020, The Rise of IoT in Mining, https://research.inmarsat.com/2020/.