May 17, 2020

FEATURE: How Susceptible is the Mining Industry to IT Security Risks?

Security risks
3 min
FEATURE: How Susceptible is the Mining Industry to IT Security Risks?
The last few years has seen an influx in technological advances for the mining industry. Companies like Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are leveraging innova...

The last few years has seen an influx in technological advances for the mining industry. Companies like Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are leveraging innovative equipment such as autonomous vehicles and simulation technology to their advantage.

However, the one emerging problem no one is paying attention to is breach of information.

In 2013 Ernst & Young Global Limited conducted a Global Information Security Survey and found almost 41 percent of the mining and metals respondents experienced an increase in external threats over the past 12 months. Not to mention, 28 percent experienced an increase in internal vulnerabilities over the same period.

Cyber hacking and breach of information has become one of the biggest concerns to the mining and metals sector. The threat, believe it or not, is real.

"On a scale of one to 10, we saw examples at nine, and examples at one. SCADA [the protocol used by large-scale industrial control systems] is an example where a lot of organizations don't even understand that it's IT," said Mike Rothery, first assistant secretary in the National Security Resilience Policy Division of the Attorney-General's Department, and secretary to the government's Cyber Security Operations Board.

The industry, which boasts one of the largest cash flows on investments, has the least developed understandings of managing IT security risks – and it shows.

According to a recent report by ZDNet, discussion between the Australian government and the mining industry has exposed the sector as a spotty security landscape.

"I've certainly had some discussions with CIOs of utilities who show me their map of their IT environment, and all the controls they have ... and the background checking they do on people that work in the accounts area and the call centre and so forth, and then you say to them, 'There's nothing on here with your SCADA system. Where's your engineering side of it?' 'Oh that's not IT. That's the engineers. That's not a problem, because they're not interconnected’,” Rothery told the Gartner Security and Risk Management Summit in Sydney,

"When you go to see the chief engineer, he’ll say, well they used to not be interconnected, but when they took out all the analogue systems and they needed to put it on an IP-based system, we weren't going to put in a separate IP-based network. We just dumped it onto the corporate network. The CIO doesn't even know it's there'," Rothery said.

The use of automated equipment has placed companies at the mercy of unscrupulous cyber hackers looking for their next big cache of private information. Criminals understand the increasing dependence mining companies have on technology, and are actively looking for ways to threaten the denial of access to data, processes and equipment.

Although cyber criminals have yet to figure out a way to make money from hacking mining databases, the potential is there.

"The number of attacks on SCADA systems that everyone agrees have happened is probably in the 15 to 20 mark, compared to other forms of cybercrime and cyber espionage, it's minuscule, but it's just got this huge potential for the vulnerabilities."

Where there’s a will there’s a way, and cyber hackers are notorious for finding a way.

Look at Target for example. One of the biggest retail hacks in U.S. history wasn’t particularly inventive, nor did it appear destined for success, but it happened. The hack stole 40 million credit card numbers, 70 million addresses, phone numbers, and other pieces of personal information in the blink of an eye.

If there’s a message to be learned here it’s that mining companies need to start paying special attention to their data and how it’s protected. Just like their massive mining operations and infrastructures, companies need to build their IT systems in a similar fashion.

Are mining companies susceptible to security IT risk? In the words of Walter White, “You’re god---- right.”

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Jun 30, 2021

Rio Tinto and Alcoa begin construction with ELYSIS tech

Rio Tinto
3 min
Rio Tinto and Alcoa’s JV project ELYSIS has the potential to transform the aluminium industry, with a significant reduction in its carbon footprint

Eliminating all direct greenhouse gases from aluminium smelting has taken a major step forward with the start of construction on the first commercial-scale prototype cells of ELYSIS’ inert anode technology, at Rio Tinto’s Alma smelter in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec.

ELYSIS has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of aluminium production

ELYSIS is a joint venture company led by Rio Tinto and Alcoa that is developing a new breakthrough technology, known as inert anode, that eliminates all direct greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the traditional smelting process and instead produces oxygen.

The technology has the potential to transform the aluminium industry, with a significant reduction in its carbon footprint.

The inert anode prototype cells will operate on a commercial scale typical for large modern aluminium smelters, using an electrical current of 450 kiloamperes (kA).

The Honourable Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry joined representatives from ELYSIS, Rio Tinto and Alcoa to mark the start of construction and announce a further CAD $20mn financial contribution from the Government of Canada to support the project.

The federal government's financial support will enable the creation of a unique commercial size inert anode technology showroom for future customers and will help develop the supply chain by involving local and regional equipment manufacturers and suppliers in the project.

ELYSIS is working to complete the technology demonstration by 2024 followed by the commercialization activities.

ELYSIS technology at a glance:

  • The ELYSIS technology addresses the global trend towards producing low carbon footprint products, from mobile phones to cars, planes and building materials.
  • The new process will reduce operating costs ofaluminiumsmelters while increasing production capacity. It could be used in both new and existing aluminium smelters.
  • In Canada alone, the ELYSIS technology has the potential to reduce GHG emissions by 7 million tons, the equivalent of removing 1.8 million cars from the roads.
  • ELYSIS will also sell next-generation anode and cathode materials, which will last more than 30 times longer than traditional components.

Alcoa and Rio Tinto will continue to support the ELYSIS development program alongside the Governments of Canada and Quebec.

ELYSIS is working closely with Alcoa's Technical Center, where the zero-carbon smelting technology was invented, and the Rio Tinto technology design team in France.

Alcoa's Technical Center supports ELYSIS in the manufacture of proprietary materials for the new anodes and cathodes that are essential to the ELYSIS process. The Rio Tinto technology team in France is creating commercial scale designs for the ELYSIS technology.


Vincent Christ, CEO, ELYSIS commented: “This is a great day for ELYSIS. It means that we are becoming the first technology company in the world to build commercial-size inert anode cells. While we refine the technology in our R&D Centre, we start the construction of our prototype cells. This shows our confidence in our process and in the know-how of our team. The combination of ELYSIS' zero CO2 technology and Quebec's renewable energy will be great competitive advantage for the future. I would like to thank the government for its support and all the partners for their commitment.”

Samir Cairae, Rio Tinto Aluminium managing director Atlantic Operations and ELYSIS board member added: “Today marks a real step towards the future of the aluminium industry, by progressing this breakthrough technology to cut carbon emissions. Rio Tinto is committed to supporting its ongoing development here in Quebec where we already use clean hydropower to deliver some of the world’s lowest carbon aluminium. Combining this technology with renewable hydropower holds the promise of zero carbon aluminium smelting.”

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