Mining must bolster "patchy" cybersecurity strategies
New research from Inmarsat has found that the majority of mining organisations are struggling to meet the security challenges presented by IoT as they look for ways to harness the technology.
Despite a significant growth in IoT adoption across the sector in recent years, the continued lack of attention on cybersecurity means there is a heightened risk of projects failing before benefits can be realised.
If mining businesses are to truly manage and deliver IoT initiatives in a secure way, they will need to raise cybersecurity higher up the company agenda, while addressing skills shortages across different leadership and key stakeholder positions.
These findings are taken from the 2020 edition of Inmarsat’s research programme into IoT trends, The Rise of IoT in Mining. The research found that, unsurprisingly, respondents were very aware of the damage that a cyberattack could trigger and the range of threats they are now facing as they ramp up IoT adoption. In particular, the insecure storage of collected data (56%), employees misusing data (54%), insecure network links to external infrastructure (49%), and ransomware and malware (45%) were the most highly-ranked security risks.
Despite awareness of these challenges, the industry’s response has so far been minimal. In fact, 53% of mining organisations reported that cybersecurity has not been a priority for their IoT solutions and could be vastly improved. Although some are taking steps to protect their IoT solutions by partnering with cybersecurity specialists (50%) and implementing 24/7/365 network monitoring (41%), it was worrying to see that 11% of mining businesses have not taken any steps to strengthen their approach to IoT security.
Commenting on the findings, Nicholas Prevost, Director of Mining, Inmarsat, said: “The mining sector stands to make considerable gains by leveraging IoT. However, as IoT connects more parts of a mining company’s operations and infrastructure to the internet, this will inevitably create more access points for potential security breaches.
"Although most organisations are aware of these new dangers, the measures that have been introduced to address them have, so far, been insufficient. Considering the sector’s reliance on data for its operations and productivity, it is particularly worrying to see that some mining organisations have not taken any action to ensure they have an adequate cybersecurity strategy in place, as any security breach or compromise of data would likely grind an entire operation to a halt.”
The research also revealed a clear need to address a growing gap in security-related skills across the sector. Over half (64%) of respondents reported lacking the level of security skills required when it comes to successfully delivering IoT-based solutions.
Prevost concluded: “Our research clearly showed that mining businesses are not upskilling their staff to securely manage and deliver their IoT initiatives. If there is a shortage of skills in key stakeholder positions, there will almost certainly be an absence of awareness of the importance of cybersecurity.
"This goes some way to explain the lack of action when it comes to improving IoT security. For those organisations that are striving to become pioneers in digital transformation, upskilling current members of staff and getting the right talent in place, at all levels of seniority and stakeholder positions, simply has to be at the top of the agenda.”
Rio Tinto and Alcoa begin construction with ELYSIS tech
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.”