De Beers Group Exploration Services
Business Information Manager, De Beers Group Exploration
GIS Manager, De Beers Group Exploration
At the beginning of 2003, De Beers Group Exploration started the long process of standardising all their current systems. Prospecting geologists within the group rely on maps in their day-to-day activities. The IT evolution in the last few years has made it possible for spatial information to migrate from paper to the digital world. This has been achieved with the growth of GIS and other related spatial technologies
Today, the De Beers Group is the largest diamond mining company worldwide. With over 40% of global gem diamonds produced from our mines in South Africa, and in partnership with government in Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania, De Beers gem mining operations span every category of diamond mining. Demand for diamonds is growing and finding new diamond deposits require the use of advanced technologies such as the most recent developments in GIS.
Prospecting Geologists within De Beers Group Exploration rely on maps in their day-to-day activities. When receiving a sample result from a laboratory, the first question would be: where is the sample from – where is the source of the indicator minerals recovered in the sample? Prospecting Geologists find that GIS is a tool to model their spatial thinking integrating various types of information.
A map is the basic tool for decision making using spatial information. However, the IT evolution in the last few years has made it possible for spatial information to migrate from paper to the digital world. This has been achieved with the growth of GIS and other related spatial technologies, such as Remote Sensing.
What is GIS to De Beers?
GIS was originally developed for military purposes and subsequently extended to civilian applications. As such, GIS is viewed as an important tool to develop a firm’s competitive advantage. Bill McKechnie, director responsible for global diamond exploration at De Beers, envisages GIS as a key technology for Group Exploration to achieve its strategic direction and support new diamond demand through new discoveries as well as supporting the notion of “Partner of Choice” using updated technology.
GIS and De Beers Group Exploration
At the beginning of 2003, De Beers Group Exploration started the long process of standardising all their current systems. Due to GIS playing a significant role in Group Exploration’s activities, the GIS project was created. Having a standard GIS is much more than just having a standard tool. Standardisation in GIS requires that standards be put in place for other components in the system, such as:
- Spatial database to facilitate systems integration across the regional offices and data/information transfer among the users
- Map symbology to prevent each geologist from creating their own map symbols, thus making it more difficult for senior managers to “read” the different maps
- Metadata to ensure the users understand their data and know its origin
Applications: a set of custom applications has been developed to optimise the GIS and integrate it with other systems.
In order to achieve the required level of standardisation for GIS, a Community of Practice (CoP) was established, which involved participation from Group Exploration as well as other GIS departments within the company.