IT played a lead role in the rescue earlier this month of 33 mine workers in San Jose, Chile. Technology was central to everything from establishing and maintaining communications to designing and implementing the tools and solutions that were used.
The Chilean government tapped Codelco, the state-owned mining company and the largest copper producer in the world, to help after initial rescue attempts failed. CIO Sweden caught up with Marco Orellana Silva, the CIO of Codelco, in an e-mail interview. The following is an edited version of the transcript:
CIO: How do you feel now after the successful rescue?
Silva: The whole process of rescue has been difficult, long and required excessive coordination. Today, when the miners and their rescuers are safe, one can say the task is actually accomplished. All efforts were made for this spectacular and successful ending. The truth is that now after the end of this final stage, we feel very satisfied as individuals and as professionals, because we remarkable [sic] saved 33 lives.CIO: In what ways did IT aid in that work?
Silva: IT supported this rescue in several technological perspectives: communications (optic fiber, telephony, blogs, microwave, videoconferencing, cameras, etc.), equipment and systems (software) used in the design stages of the solution, which allowed, once theminers were located, to establish telephonic communication at first and then incorporate communication technologies to enable more sophisticated services such as Video Conferencing, Internet ... it was even possible to transmit a soccer game of the Chilean Selection.CIO: Did you encounter any challenges that you had difficulty meeting?
Silva: The main challenge was over 600 meters deep, the point was how we could supply up-to-date technology, small and robust enough to guarantee communications from the time it was heard that the miners were alive. Technology was vital to establish contact as soon as possible and begin the work of counseling and coordinating what was coming thereafter. Another important aspect was the level of humidity inside the mine, which generated an additional stress condition to the equipment that was being selected for use.CIO: Has the accident changed the way you will work with IT?
Silva: I think the accident only reinforces what we are doing in Codelco at all times, which is (to ensure that) mining operations are safe. We do not wait for an accident to implement technology, we must be able to anticipate these risks and use available technologies to design solutions to ensure our workers' lives. This is the way we have been traveling for years now, and this life lesson confirms that we are on the right way.This accident and the rescue work have confirmed our conviction to move towards Codelco Digital -- a mining future built on a solidtechnology base where our employees can perform on high standards both in terms of safety and sustainability with the environment, a context in which information technology is the strategic partner this new mining requires.As human beings we are grateful to have had the opportunity to make more bearable and easier the process of rescuing our compatriots and the Bolivian miner.
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